Good Ballots, Bad Ballots, and What We Make of Them

We write a lot of them as parents (or alumni).  Competitors get an envelope of them after every speech and debate tournament.  And sometimes we have more to say about the ballots than we take away from the ballots!  What are these ballots, and how can both judges and competitors use the ballots to best effect during the competition season?

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Guest Post- 2016 NCFCA Impromptu Champion


Abbey Lovett competed in Speech and Debate for many years, before becoming The NCFCA National Champion in 2016. Abbey is also a fellow blogger, you can visit her blogs at: Here is her perspective from The NCFCA 2016 National Championship last year…

I waited backstage for the moment to come. My heart was racing. I couldn’t decide if I was about to pass out or throw up. This was it, the showcase of excellence. I walked onstage to greet a cheering audience of 1,500 people.

Continue reading “Guest Post- 2016 NCFCA Impromptu Champion”

Parents Perspective- NC- Largest NCFCA Qualifier

Almost 400 competitors.

Over 50 staff.

128 timer people.

11 different speech categories

3 types of debate

1000’s of judge slots

Heather says: Have you ever thought about how many different perspectives goes on in a Speech and Debate Tournament? I usually work- seeing the tournament from whatever perspective I am in, or where I am at. This time I judged, witnessing things I might not typically see. However, God is working through us all- students, parents, staff, the facility workers, community judges, etc. It takes a community of people to do what we do! Because I judged this tournament- seeing it from a new perspective, and I was reminded how we each have our own perspective. I watched nervous competitors walk into rooms, I saw kids praying with each other, I saw stressful situations, I sat with other parents while filling out ballots, I had conversations that touched me, I saw tears, I saw joy…Through it all God was there. It’s always nice to get a new perspective, but I think sometimes I know I need to remember- my perspective isn’t the only one.

Kristi says: In North Carolina I judged a LOT. And I learned some things that informed me, inspired me, delighted me, challenged me. Mostly, what I learned is that there are a LOT of kids out there who are working hard for a better
future. They are preparing themselves to be researchers, policy makers, and
leaders who are governed by values that transcend today’s desires. I
learned anew how much I love investing in that effort with my own feeble
attempts to help them along the way by writing ballots. I learned that kids
can get to my heart faster than anything else. And I learned that there are
lots of other moms and dads out there talking, talking, talking to today’s
youth, pouring heart and soul into encouraging them, and coming together as
a big community to stand together for what is hopeful.

We asked friends from around the country…

What did God reveal to you while at one of the largest Speech and Debate Qualifiers this season?

V- (parent)- I saw again this year what a “family” NCFCA is to us. I served on staff and arrived later than I had planned. The teenage son of dear church friends had fallen 50 feet from a cliff in a terrible hiking accident on Sat before the tournament was to begin on Monday. He lay unconscious and in critical condition in the hospital. During the tournament week, my husband called to tell me that another close friend had died of melanoma–not a complete surprise–but much sooner than expected. This friend also had teenage sons. So our church (and particularly our youth group) was really hurting.

All that to say, the burdens I was bearing–with and for my church family–were also shouldered during the tournament week by my NCFCA family. My staff group cried out to God with me for my dear friends at home. They also tenderly prayed for me–that I could complete the tasks the Lord had given me to do in Black Mountain. Most graciously, they offered to cover my tasks if I needed to leave.

I’m always telling my students and our club members that NCFCA isn’t just about the competition. It isn’t even just about learning communication skills. But God reminded me of that reality again in a powerful way at Black Mountain by giving me sisters in Christ who fulfilled the command to “bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”

S- (parent)- Although it is easy to be swept away into the excitement of competition, once again I was reminded of why we participate in NCFCA. Our children are stepping into a terribly confused and desperate world. The purpose of this speech and debate training is so our children will be well prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks them to give the reason for the hope they have — and to do so with gentleness and respect.

J- (parent)- Stepping out of your comfort zone! Trying something new and trusting the Lord will provide the means, the way, and the joy. You just have to put in the effort, let go of the outcome, and give the glory to God.

V- (parent)- As I walked the grounds of Ridgecrest, during the National Open, I was struck by the overwhelming love of the kids praying for one another, in little alcoves, outside doors, and then in a massive group hug, our Region, prior to the awards ceremony. Two pervasive thoughts ran through my head: (1) Proverbs 16:3 Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts shall be established. and (2) And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? God is at work in NCFCA in raising up the remnant of believers to have His heart, His truth and His voice. Just as Moses was given a voice through Aaron, NCFCA is raising up God-loving believers as orators of the Truth in a lost world. What I witnessed in North Carolina was a real, tangible example of Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. NCFCA is raising up Kingdom builders, that love God, one another and speak truth to a world where relativism and deception abound.

S- (parent)- I think what I most learned pertained to my own children. I got to see their character in action. I got to see them respond to trials, I got to see how much they can press through and when they need to stop and recharge. Being amongst fellow believers on a big but safe campus really allowed me to give my kids a bit more space and watch how they handled it. I judged continuously, but checked in with the little kids and big sis babysitter between rounds. I also got to watch other people’s children and see how they responded to trials. NCFCA kids are very impressive; they aren’t perfect but none of us are. I am most impressed by students who are aware of their surroundings and want to engage the world for God’s sake. Students, who stand out, are the ones who greet moms on the sidewalks or who befriend future competitors or novices. Students who see beyond the moment and spread God’s love wherever they are the ones which lead me to lift up praise to our Lord. Engaging like this is so so challenging for introverted children like mine, but it’s what the Lord calls us to, and I challenge my children that they are being prideful if they succumb to protecting themselves in an introverted fashion when the should be reaching out to share the love of Christ. May God give us grace to keep growing in love toward one another and Him!

A- (parent)- A LOT! From praying with parents to encouraging students, and sharing my experience of laughing so hard I cried during an impromptu round…God was present through it all.

H and L (parents)- North Carolina was a very special tournament for us this year. What a blessing it was to be with all the other families and to have a chance to hear speeches from so many students. The setting in itself is a picture of God’s creation, as we enjoyed the rolling hills and the sunsets as each day closed. We especially enjoyed watching from our window as a small tribe of young students climb the hill behind the conference center to place their chosen Bible verses at the foot of the cross on the top of the hill. We are so thankful for the families we have met and the special friendships that we have developed across the generations, not only in our own region, but across the entire country! What a blessing to see God working to build relationships and develop talents for His glory!

P- (parent)- As a parent who was judging, it was fun to sit at tables with new faces, meet new people from other parts of the country! A National Open is a unique opportunity to meet and connect with a larger group of homeschoolers across the country. It’s enriching to experience being part of that larger group of people. There are many people like you, and you might meet some like-minded folks and establish new friendships.

Help your kids recognize that judging styles vary from across the country: people see and judge differently. One debate ballot said they didn’t like it when the debaters said at the beginning of a cross-ex, “I trust you’re doing well today.” The judge thought it sounded insincere, and voted off of that. There is no way to know what judges are going to think about things like this. Another judge may find it rude if you don’t ask. Be yourself and be sincere (and of course do be polite). That is all you can do. 🙂

S- (parent)- The NC Open is one of my favorite tournaments each year! This year I was reminded of the NCFCA Mission Statement of “…addressing life’s issues from a biblical worldview in a manner that glorifies God.” I was challenged to make sure I was doing that in my daily walk with Christ and actually living it out, not just asking students to do it at a tournament. Taking the focus off “my tournament” to walking it out from the lens of one focused on serving Christ caused me to be more patient, concerned more for others and way more loving! I had the true joy that only comes from Christ even during my most tired moments. It was good to go back to the mission statement and live it out.

photo credit: Julieanne Photography

Starting a New Speech… Mid Season

You went to the first tournament and got inspired watching a Duo or Open Interpretation... OR... You just aren't feeling the piece you developed over the last four months... OR... You are suddenly motivated to Persuade people... OR... You have the most epic idea!! What do you do?! Do you wait until next season when you have more time to develop a new Piece? Do you rally to create what could be the next National-level Speech? Before jumping in... Here are some things to think about...

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One and Done Speech?

You think you have a good speech... No it's going to be a great speech! You have big plans for this speech, you can't wait to sink your teeth into it. It's going to be the most epic speech ever! You get sick, or something else unexpected happens (it's called life), and you don't have as much time as you originally thought. The Speech Tournament is just around the corner. Ahhhh! Panic begins to set in. You don't get as much time as you want to work on your speech. You head to The Speech Tournament with wishful thinking.... But the speech falls flat, you stumble through it, it doesn't go as planned... You don't break. You want to give up. Do you forget all the plans you had for it? Will this be a one and done speech? I think you know by now, what my answer is...

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Why Participate in Speech and Debate


Why should you or your student participate in Speech and/or Debate? Every year I love to ask my students at club or at a camp this question. After I get some of the typical responses out of the way, “my mom made me, so I can debate my siblings better, etc.”, we arrive to some pretty fabulous answers.

Public speaking is a very common fear. In fact, most of us who participate in Speech and Debate realize that statistics show the majority people would rather be dead in the coffin, than giving the eulogy! Speech anxiety can lead individuals to feel helpless as well as incapable of communicating with others. One of the best ways to overcome glossophobia is to develop confidence, which only comes through practice. By participating in Speech and Debate, a speaker will have the ability to learn a wide range of different speaking events, ranging from interpretation speeches to persuasion and impromptu speaking.

Below are some of the reasons my students and I have come up with why they should participate in Speech and Debate….

1. Self Confidence

As long as we are alive we are going to continue to communicate. Learning to speak clearly and effectively will benefit us for years to come. The experience one will gain by standing up in front of an audience with professionalism and poise will help to enhance their self confidence. Self confidence is a huge factor for life. Almost all professions have some level of communication, learning the art of communication will only propel you further faster, because you will learn to become more confident.

2. Organization

In order to give a prepared speech, you need to prepare! Learning to get your thoughts and materials all organized and ready for presentation is a big feat! Preparing effective speeches involves reading through research, and writing effectively.

3. Practice makes Perfect

Very rarely does a person write a masterpiece on their first try. By participating in a Speech and Debate League you will write and rewrite, you will give a speech over and over again. You’ll learn to become conscious of timing – when to pause and how long for. You’ll learn about vocal variety – how to shift through changes of volume, speech rate and tone. Your articulation will be become clearer. You are practicing to become an excellent communicator, not just for a tournament or for a first place… For life.

4. Power

By standing up and speaking, you have an amazing sense of power! You have the ability to speak in a way that will change peoples minds. If you’re able to master the skill- you can change minds AND hearts. By finding your power, whether it’s within you, or in your message, you will be honing one of the major aspects of leadership.

5. Being able to think on your feet

Not every situation allows you the time to prepare or process an answer. Limit Prep Speech Categories, as well as Debate pushes students to think on their feet. Being able to quickly establish well thought-up arguments and ideas are qualities that are vital in being a well-rounded communicator.

If these reasons don’t compel you, listen to a past competitor… Erwin Zhu, a University of California Berkeley, Business major, states, “When I look back on high school, the most rewarding and meaningful organization I joined was the Speech and Debate Team. Not only did it allow me to step outside my normal social and academic bubble, it allowed me to become more knowledgeable as well as proficient in public speaking and communication. Many students today still hold an inherent bias towards activities focused on public speaking and argumentation. What’s important to understand is that these activities are not limited to a singular message, but focus on the development of a set of skills – Speech and Debate help you develop your own unique voice, one that can be amplified in whatever career path you choose to pursue. In a world becoming more digitalized and reclusive, it remains important to remember the power of verbal communication of ideas from one individual to another.”

If you have reasons why you think it’s important to participate in Speech and Debate… Please feel free to write in the comment box below!

Guest Post- Competition- Should we all win? By: Gina Reynolds


As we move into the season where some organizations are preparing for Regionals, others Nationals… Another level of competition never-the-less. Regardless of what happens next it is an accomplishment to make it thus far. Can you imagine if it was all just over- no play-offs, no award ceremony, no finish line… Here is the perspective of my dear friend, Gina Reynolds…

By: Gina Reynolds

I recently encountered an attitude that really frustrated me. I guess I should not be surprised in this day and age of changed curriculum and tolerance. We are supposed to applaud everyone, and there are no winners or losers, right?!!? Seriously, this type of thinking is so flawed.

You may be able to try to take competition out of the classrooms, shelter your kids from the “pain”, work to suppress the natural desire to succeed, or portray an attitude that you don’t care but why would you try to do this?

Competition is not only helpful, the American way and all that, but also a very Biblical principle.

1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”

The writer here is talking about a broader subject but assumes as a universal principle that if you enter a race you do so to win. You are “competing”; it is a given. Our very nature tells us to succeed and do our best. It’s part of life.

We are to strive to do our best. The Bible tells us in 1 Cor. 10:31 ESV, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I’ve had this one up on my kitchen wall for years. And yes, the writer was talking about food for idols but the principle remains. We are to strive to “glorify” God. Does it really glorify God if we don’t “run is such a way as to win?”

God wants and expects our best. No, we will not always “win”, but if we strive for that we are constantly improving and “doing our best”. It’s a principle I like to call Excellence.

It reminds me of the saying, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”

But can we do things “excellently” apart from competition? Sure, it may be possible. But I have to tell you, if I know I’m bringing my Apple Pie to the fair for judging I am more careful that my crust looks perfect than if I’m serving it for Sunday dinner. Maybe it’s just me, but I seriously doubt it!

I’ve seen it in teaching speech to students. When it’s just for a class the students are not as motivated to turn out an “excellent” speeches, but when they are required to give it at a competition their level of time and effort to do well goes up significantly.

So PLEASE don’t pretend you are not competing when you are, don’t pretend you don’t care, and certainly don’t act like you are all spiritual for having these attitudes. Most certainly please don’t criticize others who are striving to win. God does want us to run in such a way as to win, so go for it!

Iron does sharpen iron, so don’t let yourself get rusty.

Gina Reynolds is the wife to Chris for 28 years and the homeschool mother to Logan (23), Taylor (20), Ariel (19), and Lexie (16). She enjoys encouraging and helping other homeschool moms by leading a local co-op, speaking at conventions and women’s events, vrepresenting Total Language Plus curriculum for the states of MI/IN/OH and IL, coaching speech and debate, and blogging on various subjects of interest to many homeschool families (