Mock Trial Turnout Unexpectedly High

Mira Bohannan Kumar, Copy & Opinion Editor

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At the first Mock Trial meeting on Friday, August 25th, returning members were shocked: every desk in the room was occupied, and people were sitting on extra chairs and sprawled on the wood floor. Over 40 students had squeezed into history teacher Jason Schumann’s classroom, twice the number of the 2016-2017 teams.

“We went from having two teams last year–about twenty students–to this year, we’ve had about fifty to sixty students express interest in being part of Mock Trial,” Schumann said. “That would be somewhere in the ballpark of three or four teams, so we’ve almost doubled.”

Jessica Sheffield ‘18 has been a member of Mock Trial for three years and had thoughts about this sudden growth.

“When I was a sophomore it was really, really small,” Sheffield said. “I think [the reasons were] posters, word of mouth, and we started becoming more competitive and doing better at Regionals and the state competition. I think that alerted people to what we’re all about.”

Schumann detailed two possible causes of the change. “The students that we have had in the past have just been fantastic–I think they’re leaders in their various classes, and I think they have had fun with the activity and they’ve spread the word that it’s enjoyable,” he said. “I think it’s a great learning opportunity for students. Our attorney coaches are some of the best, most fantastic attorneys in the state of Iowa, and so it’s a great opportunity to learn from people in the legal profession.”

Whatever the reasons, new members like Yardley Whaylen ‘20 certainly were drawn to the program. “I heard that it’s a lot of fun and a lot of different learning experiences,” Whaylen said. “You learn how to think on your feet and analyze situations better, [which] was appealing to me.”

With such a sudden change, both positive and negative ramifications are sure to come in droves.

“It’s certainly going to be harder to coordinate all the different roles and activities and trying to allow for students to work together with their friends,” Schumann said. “We have a range of new students who are freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, so I think it’s going to be really challenging to put the teams together in a way that everyone’s happy with who they’re working with.”

Similarly, Sheffield had concerns about help and motivation being spread thin among the many new arrivals. “It’s hard making sure no one falls through the cracks, motivating everybody, and having everyone accomplish things within a reasonable time,” she said. “That was something that was difficult even with smaller teams was being like, ‘You need to learn this,’ or ‘Oh, shoot, I’ve had a busy week and I’ve neglected Mock Trial, I really have to set aside an hour and spend time doing it.’”

Because of these issues, there have been a few changes to the program this year to accommodate the growing numbers. “We’ve added another coach this year, so we went from having two attorney coaches to having three attorney coaches,” Schumann said, “and we have law students who have expressed interest, so hopefully we’ll be able to take on even more coaches if we need to.”

However, there are also positives to this change. “if we’re able to scrimmage and go up against a couple of different teams, we’ll be prepared for more strategies and ways of doing things, which is how the actual competition is,” Sheffield said. “More experience with different strategies is really important.”

Schumann is excited about the year ahead, despite the daunting prospect of having nearly fifty students in the program. “There [are] two teams that are coming back–one that won the regional competition last year, and one that got third in the regional competition–so we’re hopeful that we can get both those teams to State, and potentially get some of our new teams also up to speed and competing at a level where they can also qualify for State,” he said. “I think we feel really solid about where we’re at and where we’re headed.”

Sheffield is also looking forward to this season and to see the changes in the Mock Trial program at City in future. “I know that my team especially is ready to hopefully win State or at least be top four,” she said. “One thing people may not always realize is that Mock Trial is a lot, a lot, a lot of time and work, but I think it’s definitely worth it.”