Mock Trial Team Aims for Another Strong Performance


Victoria Kerins, Writer

The Central Regional Mock Trial team, the “Legal Eagles” are giving high school students the opportunity to partake in an activity that gives them a taste of the legal system, upon which justice in America is based. The Mock Trial team, which has been active for years, aspires to provide students with roles that show how a real courtroom would be set up. And, it provides an opportunity to experience both civil and criminal trials, alternating each year. The coaches of the Mock Trial team hope to help build confidence in students and give them an idea as to what goes on in a trial in the court of law.

The team has no plans as to the number of people they would prefer to stick around as “permanent” members of the team. But, what they do hope to gain is members who are devoted and who will put in the work to make the hours of preparation for the competition all worthwhile. Of course, the doors are open for anybody who wishes to join, and nobody is, in any way shape or form, obligated to stay. It is a hefty obligation, with practices until 6-7 two to three times a week and having to do a lot of work outside of the classroom in the students’ free time. It is not a club that is joined to simply put the name on a resume, but rather a club that builds character, teamwork, confidence and good work ethic. Of course, there are a few fun antics that occur over the course of practices.  And, the team becomes almost like a second family, it builds trust. It’s a club that will leave a lasting impression and the memories made will follow (and affect) you for the rest of your life.

“When I first was hired at Central 13 years ago, I replaced a teacher who went to the guidance department. This teacher was also the mock trial adviser. As a new teacher in the district he asked if I wanted to volunteer and help out. I did for three years and loved it. When he left the district, I was asked by the principal the if I wanted to take mock trial over as the full time coach/adviser, which I said yes! I was also teaching the high school law class so that helped,” replied Mr. Alfano when asked why he decided to coach the team. And, it only goes to show the commitment he has for the team and what it means to him.

“As a former member of the team myself, I am very proud of the work and commitment shown by every member of the team today,” replied Mr. Andrew Fantasia when asked about his thoughts on the mock trial team.

And, when asked about any moments that stood out to him from the time he has been coaching the mock trial team, Mr. Fantasia stated, “The moment that stands out to me the most from the time I’ve been coaching has been when we won the County Championships last year. The sheer elation the entire team felt simply can’t be replaced. Other than that, there are other moments from practices and competitions that we still look back on in practices today.”

Along with the coaches seeing the progress the team has made, the comraderies that have formed and the lessons learned, students from the team have seen progress themselves and appreciate the impressions the team has left from years of participation. One thing that can be seen in Mock Trial for certain is that hard work does not go unnoticed!

“Yes. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun to analyze the case and come up with your own stances on it. You get to see the case play out and have a good time with good people. The competition is a lot of fun,” said Isabella Triolo when questioned on whether or not she would recommend joining mock trial to others and why.

Isabella also commented, “It’s a really fun activity. It’s a lot of work but it pays off. You get to have fun, build confidence and expand your knowledge. I’m very proud of the team for remaining undefeated in counties and making it to states. I hope we get to go even further this year,” when asked on her opinion and if she had any additional information to add regarding the mock trial team.

And, the future of the Central Regional Mock Trial team may hold a lot of potential, as this is the second time the team had won counties. Of course, winning counties and moving onto states takes a significant amount of work, and the assistant coach, Mr. Fantasia, has stated numerous times that he plans to make it past states this year. In order to achieve this goal, just as every other year, the team will put in hours of practice. The team has improved vastly over the past few years, as confirmed by sources including the head coach, Mr. Alfano. And, the coaches and the team continue to put the same extraordinary amount of effort forward even with school and work. It has been commented on as being “admirable” that the coaches and team dedicate all of their time to the club by staff, again including Mr. Alfano, the head coach of the Mock Trial team.

“I gain a lot from coaching. I learn new law related things as well as understanding how my students who I taught in middle school are faring in high school. I learn commitment from the students. Watching kids spend hours learning about a case for a one day performance is incredible!” expressed Mr. Alfano when telling about what he has gained from coaching.

And, it also makes for an enjoyable atmosphere for the assistant and head coach and anyone who has ever had the chance to sit on and listen to a practice or attend the county competition at the Ocean County Courthouse, which usually occurs in late December. Performance in the competition allows the coaches to see all of their hard work, time and dedication they have invested in the team be made worthwhile. The competition is based largely on the performance of the team arguing the case, but without exemplary coaches who truly care and are passionate about the well being of the kids and the team, the team will only go so far.
The teams that do make it past counties are teams that have the best coaches, coaches who will support, encourage and challenge the students. Coaches truly are one of the largest factors in the success of the team, outside of the team’s performance on competition day itself, so dedicated and passionate advisors are key.

“When I was a member of the team I led a complete turnaround of the program that turned us into perennial contenders for the County Championship. Now that I have graduated, I wanted to be able to keep helping the team be the best it can be, so I decided to become a coach. I gained the pleasure of being able to watch my students become better people, as well as better competitors, from coaching. The good feeling encompassed here is simply indescribable,” explained Mr. Andrew Fantasia when talking about why he decided to coach the mock trial team and what he has gained from coaching the mock trial team.

Mr. Fantasia added, “I am very proud to be able to call myself a coach of the Mock Trial team, and am very grateful to have been fortunate enough to have such exemplary students who have completely bought into the program and fully invested themselves in it.”

These statements, as contributed by assistant coach, Mr. Fantasia, only further prove the passion the coaches have for the team and the encouragement they provide for their students. And, it also describes how Mock Trial will stay with team members even after high school. There is a bond that is formed in the team along the way that makes Mock Trial unlike any other club Central has to offer. It’s a two way street, and students will still be able to reflect on lessons learned and memories made years and years down the road. And, who knows, maybe become a coach themselves! These unique qualities are what makes the Central Regional Mock Trial team stand out and can be credited for the successes the team has experienced thus far and hopes to keep going further.

“My thoughts on Central’s Mock Trial team are positive. This years team has a chance to go further than any team has before. The amount of work the students put in for this competition is immense and the students deserve a big victory!” explained the head coach, Mr. Alfano when he was asked about his thoughts on the team.

He also added,“The moments that stand out to me when it comes to coaching the mock trial team are the victories. Not so much for me, but seeing the look on the students faces when the judges choose our side is awesome!” when responding to questioning concerning moments he has experienced that stand out to him in the time he has been head coach, which only further proved the support the advisors offer for the team and the bond formed within.

It also provides improvisational opportunities for students who are interested in the club from a performing arts point of view. And, some feel it is more fulfilling than a role in the Drama club, the experience is one of a kind and once in a lifetime. In short, it is special.

Katherine O’ Neill, a seasoned member states, “It’s an outlet for students to find confidence and explore improvisational ability. I wanted a platform to act outside of drama club, I wanted something more fulfilling,” when asked what her opinion was on the mock trial team and to explain why she decided to join.

The Legal Eagles are on an upward path and have a bright future ahead of them due to an amazing team and exemplary coaches. It is a special club, a diamond in the rough. It has many unique aspects. And, whatever the reason is for joining, it will be worthwhile. It takes a lot of hard work, time and commitment, but as commented on by many sources, including that of the head coach, Mr. Alfano, the end will certainly justify the means. The club hopes to spread knowledge of the American court of law to aspiring high school students, while building confidence and conradery along the way. The goal is to provide students with the experience of having a hands on role in the courtroom, and strives to provide them with the best possible means to do so.