Barnes Balances Debate and Basketball

Noah Symes


While the winter sports and activities season winded down, one student stood among the top. Senior Amaya Barnes has shown unparalleled success in the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) postseason and has managed to reclaim her basketball skills after being off the court for nearly two years.

Within the last few months, Barnes has seen astronomical success in the world of speech and forensics.

“Forensics is competitive acting… It is the sister to debate, english teacher and forensics coach Hope Klotz said. “We do events where students are taking pieces from plays or books or even poetry, and they compose an 8-10 minute piece, where students will create characters and act out a scene.” 

Forensics — also known as “Comp-Drama” — is a part of the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA), one of Barnes’ many activities

“May started out as a freshman wanting to do a varsity event in POI — Program Oral Interpretation. It involves taking a subject you’re really passionate about and giving it a voice,” Klotz said. 

The NSDA POI event is recommended for varsity only and involves taking different types of media and splicing them together into one coherent storyline.

In the past, Barnes’ speeches have had to do with issues regarding culture, blackface, and many issues to do with people of color,” Klotz said.

Barnes said, “This year, my POI is about the origination of the n-word and how it has evolved in the black community.” Barnes will use movies, speeches, and tv shows, such as The Boondocks, to explain her topic to a judge. 

“She’s always been successful. She’s gotten first at a lot of tournaments since she was a freshman. She has this amazing drive where she has to succeed,” Klotz said, “She puts in more dedication than any other student I have despite everything else she has going on.”

Not only has Barnes received multiple first place finishes and qualified for both nationals and state for POI, but she is receiving similar success in another event.

Her other speech is an original oratory over the same topic as her POI. An original oratory (OO) is a persuasive speech written completely by the student about a topic of their choosing. Barnes has seen multiple first place finishes in this event, as well as her POI. She would take home 2 first place trophies at the Neosho tournament.

“Neosho is one of the toughest districts in Missouri, and I’ve always told her to be prepared for people not to like her pieces, just because it’s such a different area than Kansas City and they aren’t usually as accepting of her kinds of topics. So for her to get first in both events is really amazing,” Klotz said.

Barnes has double-qualified for the NSDA national tournament and will compete in POI this summer in Phoenix, Arizona. 

On top of being a two time national qualifier, Barnes has reclaimed her love for basketball.

After being out most of her sophomore and junior years due to stress fractures in her fibula, Barnes has returned to the court…

Girls Basketball head coach Jared Broughton said that he has known Barnes from the start of her high school career. “She has been in and around our program for the last four years or so.” 

Barnes has emerged as one of the star players on the team, being, what she calls, a “power guard.”

“As a player, she’s versatile… she can play on the perimeter, but she can also get inside and kind of bang around and get physical,” Broughton said.

“We did have a problem with fouling, but now we’ve got it under control,” Barnes said.

“She does a little bit of everything, and she’s continuing to grow as a player every time she steps in the gym,” Broughton said.

A large part of the team’s success can be attributed to Barnes and what she describes as her “off-the-basket work,”

“She works incredibly hard at trying to be the best basketball player and person that she can be,” Broughton said

After her injury sophomore year Barnes hit a wall.

“I kind of just completely stopped basketball for like a whole year, so I had to almost reteach myself.” 

“We won our conference, and May was a big part of that,” Broughton said.

Barnes was named First Team All-Conference and plans on pursuing a possible career in sports management for women’s basketball.

“Every day I wake up it’s just, go go go go go, there’s always something going on… and I’m ok with that because I love everything I do,” Barnes said.

“She’s very driven, she’s intuitive… she’s helpful, she’s a leader, she’s just a special person who will always go above and beyond,” Klotz said.