BCHS FFA novice chapter team qualifies for state competition

BROWNSTOWN — District contest, first place.

Section contest, first place.

Now, the Brownstown Central High School FFA novice chapter meeting team is headed to the state contest and hopes for another first-place finish.

If it does that, the team would advance to the national contest in November at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.

Team members are freshmen Matthew Rothert, Caden Wischmeier, Collin Downing, Gage Mull, Josh Christian, Taylor Smith and Layla Fritsche. They are coached by Debbie Hackman, who has coached chapter meeting teams for more than 25 years at BCHS, Adviser Blake Hackman said.

BCHS will be among eight teams competing Feb. 11 at Lebanon High School.

A novice team is defined as Greenhand or Discovery degree members, otherwise noted as seventh to ninth grade students, who demonstrate the correct procedures of a chapter meeting, including opening ceremonies, order of business and closing ceremonies.

Following Robert’s Rules of Order, they must be able to use the parliamentary procedure to conduct an orderly and efficient meeting, demonstrate knowledge of parliamentary law and present a logical, realistic and convincing discussion. The team consists of president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, reporter, sentinel, advisor and no more than five other FFA members.

At competitions, they have 14 minutes, 30 seconds to demonstrate a chapter meeting. The top two at district advance to the section event, and the top two at section advance to state.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays since the fall of 2022, members of the BCHS team have arrived an hour before school starts to practice.

“Once we get here, you are given a card as you are at a competition, and it’ll have the main motion, which is what everything is built on,” said Mull, who serves as reporter. “Then it’ll usually have an amendment, and then it’ll have two more motions. Those vary, and then each person is assigned one, and you will just go through those to show that you know how to do them and then how fast you can do them.”

At the district contest in October at North Harrison High School, BCHS was over 17 minutes but still managed to win among the six teams competing.

“I think we all went in there feeling like we knew what we were doing and that we could do this, we could win … but the competition was absolutely horrible. We had a couple mistakes. It didn’t go very well,” said Rothert, who serves as vice president.

For the section contest earlier this month at Hauser High School, Rothert said they worked in practice on knowing the motions better and reaction time.

Mull said they received a scorecard and a recording from the district event to know what they needed to work on to be ready for section.

“We felt a lot more confident going into the second one because we put in a lot more work going into that and we had come a long way, and we knew that this competition, we could do real good, but again, I don’t think anybody went into it saying, ‘We’re going to get first place,’” Mull said.

But they did get first place out of the four teams there.

“Mostly, discussion and the timing were a little bit better,” Rothert said.

Now focusing on state, the team is working on the oral questions that are given by the judges after the meeting demonstration.

“We did really good on oral questions. It was just we weren’t as confident. Now, we’re starting to practice our oral questions and be more confident in answering them,” Rothert said.

“The biggest thing is state, it just feels like it’s going to be a completely different animal from what we’ve handled in the past, a lot more difficult,” Mull said. “Just knowing that these are the best teams that are going into the state, it kind of puts a little bit more pressure on you.”

Wischmeier, who serves as sentinel, said he’s hoping for another team win.

“We’re all close, so that helps a lot with all of it,” he said. “Then it just makes it a lot easier than if you didn’t know each other.”

Rothert said because they are all really good friends, that helps in discussions.

Mull agreed.

“We can knock on each other if we do something, and nobody is going to get their feelings hurt,” he said. “A lot of times, we can know what other people are thinking, and we can feed off of each other.”

Looking forward, the team members can move up to the regular division of chapter meeting beyond their freshman year if they choose to.

No matter what, they will carry this novice experience with them.

“I think it would help with public speaking and stuff like that, just help make you less nervous about it,” Wischmeier said.

“A lot of the rules and stuff and the procedures that they have for this are supposed to be carried out in other meetings,” Mull said. “If anybody was going to actually go out and run a meeting like this again, they would have background knowledge.”