New season brings new coaches and new members to mock trial

October 12, 2014 — by Cassandra King and Isabelle Tseng

After weeks of uncertainty the mock trial team has found a teacher and a coach, and now they can begin preparing even more seriously for the year.

The person to step forward to host the team on Tuesday nights and help coordinate the team’s schedule is history teacher Matt Torrens with the additional support of Dr. Hugh Roberts, a retired attorney and former teacher at Saratoga High.

Roberts has a great deal of experience with mock trial and was responsible for the founding of the Santa Clara County Mock Trial program as well as the Saratoga team that began in 1983. He has been helping to coach mock trial on and off for around 30 years, stepping in to assist faculty members when necessary.

This year, he will be focusing on pretrial — which involves a debate on the nuances of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures, arbitrary arrests and surveillances — and on helping ease the team into the new season. As a retired attorney, Roberts has expertise and knowledge in law that greatly benefits the team.

Torrens saw the team was having difficulty finding a teacher-coach and volunteered his time and classroom. Because he has experience from coaching a form of mock trial at a previous school, mock trial members are expecting a smooth transition.

Torrens said the club is “pretty much self-run” because of  strong leaders, seniors Max Chang and Michelle Luo, but agrees that “[the students]’ll need some mentoring that Dr. Roberts will provide. I’m just going to learn first.”

Returning members said the captains have been crucial for keeping the season going despite the difficulties finding adult leaders.

“It was hard for us to get back out there without our coaches from last year, but [Chang] and [Luo] made it happen,” said junior Neeki Tahmassebi.

Chang has been participating in mock trial throughout his four years at the school and has found that, in the last two years especially, the team has been “rich with raw, untapped potential.”

Chang has invested much of his high school career to the activity.

“I guess a part of me wants to help develop their talent while sharing my passion and enthusiasm for mock trial,” Chang said.

The team held an informational meeting late September. In attendance were 35 students from all grades, including both veterans and new faces.

An official meeting followed the next day. After an introduction by Chang, Roberts offered an overview of mock trial: its history, what the activity entails and general tips for a successful season. Students were then assigned roles for the following week’s auditions.

Returning member junior Karthik Padmanabhan sums up the season as: “Different teacher, different room, new captains, new people. It'll be good, it’ll be fun.”

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