Speech and Debate- Coaching versus Mentoring


I get asked all the time, how did I start coaching, what is the process I use to coach, etc. Although I consider myself a "Speech Coach", I actually think I am more of a "Mentor". Lately I have been analyzing the difference between coaching and mentoring, and what approach I have, so that I can help you become a better coach (or mentor). Maybe what I do is more of a hybrid method...

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Guest Blog: Grappling with Grendel: Seeking Growth above Trophies

I had the priveledge of coaching and working with Alexander Kidd (along with the other amazing members of his club in Ohio) this past year, and specifically witnessing his speech journey. I asked him to share what he learned this year. As you are grappling with what events to participate in, I hope you take heart Alexander’s message….

From my first days as a Speech and Debate competitor, I considered myself, first and foremost, a debater. My categorization of speeches could be generally understood as follows:

1. interps are great for amusement (from the Latin: a + musa or without thought).

2. platforms are not for me.

3. limited preps are worth doing to avoid timing them.

Perhaps, I overstate my mindset, nevertheless, I most certainly viewed speech as something to pass the time between debate rounds. Yet this past year, which also happened to be my senior year, I had something of a mindset switch. Now please don’t misunderstand me, none of this new revelation in anyway dampened my passion for debate. But it did cause me to view my involvement in Speech and Debate through a different lens.

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Your Season’s Over… Now What?

For some competitors the last Qualifier or Regionals may be their last stop in their "Speech Journey". Other students might have the opportunity to compete at a National Championship. Regardless of when the competition ends... It will end, and the season will be over. Now what? Not everyone can walk away a "champion". In fact, when you think about it- the riding off into the sunset with a first place trophy at Nationals doesn't happen to everyone. But is this why you started this journey in the first place- a big trophy? Were you motivated to learn about a certain subject? Did you have something to share? I challenge you to remember where the journey started and why...Where did your Speech begin? Why did you write it?

Your Speech does not have to stop at your last Qualifier, Regionals, or even Nationals! Was your Speech only made for competition? I doubt it! I bet there are many audiences that would benefit from hearing your Speech!

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Guest Blog- When There is No Next Season, By: Matthew Harper

My first exposure to speech and debate was six or seven years ago. My dad judged Lincoln Douglas debate while my ten-year-old self and my little brother huddled in a corner, awed by the big kids in suits. They possessed so much more swag than me. As they discussed weighty concepts, wrestled with philosophical objections, and tried to persuade my dad to vote for their side, I said to myself: this is so boring! At least the hospitality food’s good.

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Guest Blog- A Letter to the Disappointed, By: Anna Johansen

This article was originally posted on ethosdebate.com by Anna Johansen. Anna is an NCFCA Alumni with a great perspective! She wrote this article after a Regional Championship.  I am blessed to be able to share her message with you all… I think this is a message that needs to be shared, especially after Nationals…

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National Championship: Arrive in the Right Frame of Mind

I've traveled with groups of teenagers to many an outing, school trip, or competition.  One of the most important things I've learned about getting there with some mental margin and physical peace is to lay out a very deliberate approach plan.  This is one that worked really well with a special group of six kids I traveled with one year.  We set aside the ten days prior to our departure and we were deliberate about performing that day's tasks.  Here's what the task list looked like:

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Happy Mother’s Day from Lasting Impact!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! We applaud you and thank you for everything you do to help students become better communicators for Christ! With out you…. your efforts to run tournaments, work at tournaments, coach students, run clubs, make your kids practice, edit papers, drive all over the country to go to tournaments, judging at tournaments, or simply to have your children participate in Speech and Debate… With out you-  this all wouldn’t be happening! Your kids are doing amazing things, all because of your efforts! Thank you! We appreciate you!!

PLEASE NOTE- Take more pictures of you and your kids at tournaments… Before there are no more tournaments. The video is of Rick Daniels. He gave the devotion at Region 6 Regional Qualifier.

Approaching Regionals in a Manner that Glorifies God

Post-season play is always exciting on a whole different level, isn’t it?  There is the thrill of just being part of that playoff season, and there is much more at stake every time you take the field.  If your sport is speech and debate, the same is true as you approach regionals….and there is a proper way to approach your post-season if our mission is truly to glorify God.

First of all, be glad.  Wear the thrill of being there all over your face, and enjoy – really enjoy – the fact that you are there.  Your Regional Invitational Championship is invitational  – you’ve had to earn your way there.  Don’t lose the weight of that!  Don’t forget that you’ve competed well just to be there! While I never advocate gloating, I do think it’s important to recognize that attending the regional championship IS an accomplishment in itself.  Many seasoned competitors forget that.  They treat regionals as that next tournament on the way to Nationals, and frankly, if that is your mental attitude, you are making some big mistakes.  Approaching Regionals in a manner that glorifies God means starting with “it is good” to be here!  THIS is GOOD.  Hold that thought.  Dwell there.

Regionals is the end of your season with your regional friends.  Most of our NCFCA regions kick off this last tournament by acknowledging their graduating seniors.  There are always one or two who aren’t even there at the tournament.  There are always a few who will be a tremendous loss of leadership to your region when they’ve moved on.  Once the tournament is over, you may not see many of your speech or debate friends for months!  So, recognize the closure that this tournament brings to the season.  Soak up the time you have with these friends at this stage in your life.  Make happy memories that you will look back to years from now.  I promise, the funny moments from the student hangout will glow longer in your mind than any walk across the stage.  The people you share this tournament with have helped you be there.  They’ve sharpened and challenged and judged you to make you better.  Be in it WITH them.  Fellowship deeply and rejoice in the relationships you’ve built.

Regionals is also a tournament designed to reduce the competitive field.  You can think of it as the ultimate semi-finals!  Every round matters so much.  One mistake I think many people make – both competitors AND parent judges – is to look beyond those rounds to the larger chess game of moving pieces – especially, I fear, on the debate side of the house.  At this stage, I think the big-picture perspective can be harmful.  All of us, parents and students alike, think we know who our “best” people are.  We think we know who we should send to nationals, and we are sorely tempted to expect the pieces to fall just that way.  But at Regional Championships, every round is its own battle.  Every round must be approached, competed, and judged on its own merits.  It must!  If an underdog has worked and worked and arrived much improved, I want that weighed in.  If a seasoned veteran is cavalier enough to think s/he can win on ethos alone, I beg to differ.  Because the stakes are higher at regionals, there always seems to be a good bit of “clutching” on the part of BOTH students and parents at what are perceived to be “my” slots.  We cannot approach this tournament this way if we are indeed trying to glorify God.  All of the regional slots to nationals are up for grabs in every round.  If you are looking at the whole chess board and who has to get where so this or that can happen over here, you lose sight of your mission in your own round.  Speakers, you have to get all the small things together for every single presentation.  Parents, you have to judge small things happening right here, today, in this round.  We all have to shut out yesterday as well as tomorrow and be present in the NOW to compete with excellence at Regionals.

So, do we forget the big picture?  No.  AFTER the rounds are over, then we all must step back and take that larger perspective.  Every year unexpected and wonderful things happen at regionals.  They do!   Every year there is that one surprise person who gets in there with a slot to nationals – the one nobody saw coming.  There is both cheering and sneering in the wake of this:  cheering on the part of a family who may be seeing real success for the first time, and sneering on the part of those who were “clutching” that slot earlier, claiming it as their own and feeling that they deserved it and it’s been unfairly snatched away from them.  Approaching Regionals in a manner that glorifies God means being ready to be one of those who is cheering no matter who wins the slot.  It means admitting that God knows what He purposes to do with all of your hard work from the season and all of the hard work of those other students too.  It means – now that we know who has won slots – trusting that God knows what He is doing, even if judges don’t!  Glorifying God here means really letting Him, not us, have the glory of this moment.  THAT is exceedingly hard and our response will be impossible to camouflage or justify away with any amount of rhetoric.  It will be painfully obvious whether you fall into the cheering or sneering camp!

And, every year at regionals, there are disappointments.  There is an end of the road for the speech you DID work hard on that didn’t win a slot.  There is bitter regret over the one mistake or the one thing you should have remembered.  Those disappointments are going to sting for a while.  If you are not feeling them, then I guarantee some of your friends are.  And they hurt.  They do.  Be honest about that, but don’t be self-indulgent.  Don’t wallow.  Wait to see what your ballots said.  Expect that God is doing something in your world that is bigger than this.  It is very easy to see NCFCA as your whole world when you are staring at a loss at Regionals, or when you are ONE person below the line where the slots were given and you know it won’t roll down.  It’s easy for me as a grown up to say, “let it go…buck up…see past this.”  I am years beyond high school speech and debate!  Some of my own children are years beyond high school speech and debate!  There IS life, lots of it, beyond high school speech and debate!  But I know too, that such words don’t soften or appease those disappointments.  They actually hurt.

What I DO know is that being self-focused is not the way in which we glorify God.  Not ever.  As parents and as students we have a lot of our own persons at stake when it comes to Regionals.  If we are truly going to approach it in a manner that glorifies God, let us relish the joy of being there, let us run with excellence every round we face, let us respect the providential results in a way that proves we are truly HIS and not our own.

Wishing you ALL well this season!

Guest Post- Elizabeth Tomaszewski – Courage, Dear Heart

Elizabeth Tomaszewski  competed in Speech and Debate for five years! She didn’t break until her third year- her junior year in high school. Her senior year she broke in LD for the first time. She ended up bringing six speeches and LD to Regionals (Iron Man), qualifying to The NCFCA National Championship in Impromtu and Apologetics. She was the 2013 Region Six Apologetics Champion.

Elizabeth states, “for two years I competed without breaking, but my mom encouraged me to keep trying and I knew I still had a lot to learn. My biggest challenge was being comfortable in my rounds. If I forgot a line- I stood there until I remembered it. I used to think public speaking was being able to deliver a speech perfectly from memory, now I know it is sharing a message. My advice to younger competitors is to enjoy your speeches. You are sharing a message with people about something you care about. Put the competition away for a minute and focus on why you are giving this speech. There is more to public speaking than first place. Believe me, I’ve been there.”

Below is Elizabeth’s encouragement to competitors struggling to break and who want to throw in the towel….

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