Tips for New Competitors at a Speech and Debate Tournament by: Gloria Heiss

“I’m walking on sunshine (Wow!)
I’m walking on sunshine (Wow!)
I’m walking on sunshine (Wow!)
And don’t it feel good”

Why, you ask, did I start this blog post out with the chorus to, “Walking on Sunshine”, by Katrina and the Waves. Well, besides the fact that it is a great song, we sometimes have to be reminded to walk like we are on sunshine.

Have you ever felt “meh”, “ugh”, or even “ew” while at a speech and debate tournament? I’m here to tell you that we have all been there; from the seniors who are pros, to the beginner twelve year olds. Don’t forget sleep deprived moms, grumpy siblings, and coffee-needing judges. Sometimes, just once in a while, someone might say, “I wish I wasn’t at this speech and debate tournament!” I know, blasphemous. But true!

Despite all the fun that goes on at a speech and debate tournament we have to remember that a tournament is going to drain us. No matter how much coffee we drink, or monsters we chug, or mini power naps we take we are going to feel that “meh” slipping into our system. And judges can pick up on those less than chipper vibes. So, I’m going to challenge you to do the seemingly impossible….do not let it affect your performance. Just being aware that you are in a “meh” mood can help you prevent it from deterring from your experience.

Here are some suggestions of things you can do to relieve stress while at a tournament:

1. Put in some headphones and listen to music. Tune out to get you tuned into doing your speech. But be careful not to tune others around you out.

2. Make conversation with fellow competitors in the hallway, but remember to do it quietly. Getting to know others can maybe calm your nerves. Maybe you will meet someone who is just as nervous or someone willing to pray with you.

3. Go to the bathroom, look yourself in the mirror, and strike a power pose. I know it sounds weird but scientifically it should make you feel like you are ready to roll!

4. Don’t be afraid to inform others about your mood. Maybe some mom will have an essential oil on hand. (Hehe) No, but really, there are often new competitors that may feel “a little nervous” or “blah” too. If you had a bad round, talking about it, and then moving on is the best approach. One bad round will just make you stronger.

5. If nothing else, find small things to make yourself smile through the day. Play cards with friends, do a spontaneous photo shoot, or go watch speech and debate rounds (just be sure you don’t have somewhere to be).

Another competitor had this advice-

1. The first thing you can do that really helps, is to set aside 10 or more minutes to run through your speech before you go into your room. Find an empty room, hallway, or wall, and run through your speech like you are going to in the room. Might I suggest that you do this by yourself, because friends can be distracting and you should be doing your speech like you are going to in competition.

2. The second really helpful thing that you can do, especially if you are really nervous, is to talk to people. Find someone that you don’t know very well, and just engage them in a conversation. Talk about something that you both enjoy! Talk about sports, movies, anything that will get your mind off of speech! I find this really helpful, especially right before I go into the room to give my speech.

3. The last and most important thing that you can do before you go into your room is to pray.  Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Paul is saying that when you are nervous, anxious, or excited about something, anything, pray to God about it. Pray by yourself, pray with friends, pray with your family, communications staff, which you will find to be extremely friendly, and anyone who you can find before the round. Trust me when I say that praying before each round and even before every tournament is extremely helpful. Now, don’t go in thinking, “I’m gonna pray that I will win the tournament”. Go in thinking, “I’m going to pray that whatever happens in the tournament, God will be glorified.” Try to pray for people as well. I have found that when I pray with and for other people, it helps me to calm down before I go do my speeches.

I have personally found all three of these things to be helpful while I’m at a tournament. I try to run through my speech before every single round to keep it fresh in my head, I am usually pretty social, so for me, talking to people is no problem, and I always make it a goal to pray by myself and with as many people as possible before every single round.

Now with this advice I hope you don’t think I’m telling you to act like everything is rainbows and unicorns and leprechauns at a tournament. It’s the fact that things do get exhausting and dramatic that we need ways to relieve stress in order to function properly before going into competition. I have used these techniques in the past to get myself through a round. I hope they prove to be successful for you too so you can go into your room like you’re walking on sunshine. 😉

The “What Now?” After We Don’t Advance at The National Championship

With NCFCA National Speech and Debate Championship right around the corner, most of us are editing our platforms, hammering down our blocking for interps, and revising our debate cases. The preparation is vital, and I can testify to the importance of putting in the work. However, I think it’s necessary to keep a few things in mind while approaching the end of the season…

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Pace your Race to the Finish

If you've taken a nice hard look at the schedule for the NCFCA National Championship this year, you know that the pace of the tournament is a LOT slower than usual for competitors.  More time is built in between rounds.  Two days are short days of competition.  Including Moot Court, the tournament will last for six days.  In my tenure, this is an uprecedented pace, and it is one you should definitely factor into your own personal approach for stamina and optimum performance.

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The Harms of the Compliance Mentality (JO)

I've been involved with my home school speech league for ten years.  Before that, I taught public school where I coached in a different league.  Before THAT, I competed myself in yet another league.  All of those leagues have operated  with rules.  Honestly, no one really loves rules.  We understand the importance of them in maintaining a level playing field, but we don't really love them.  Our human nature longs to kick against them and give ourselves more room.  And when we do, we are in error.  Becoming hyper sensitive to rules and every potential violation of those rules is the equal but opposite error.  It creates a litigious environment where we are on the look-out for rules violators we can haul off to the compliance team to be punished.   There are some dangerous harms in leaning to that side of the balance...

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You’re Heading to Nationals… Now What?

WORK!

It sounds simple, but so often than not, the goal is met- you made it to Nationals!! Some student’s breathe a sigh of relief and they think, now is the time for a well deserved break! Stop! That is not the attitude to have! In fact, now is when you need to rev up the engines and really start working! Here are Heather’s top tips to help you prepare for National Competition in Speech (and even Debate)…

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Watching Speeches: A Challenge to You by: Gloria Heiss

I know. It’s hard sometimes. You just want to sit and chill with your friends, or you think it will make you nervous, maybe you have three speeches this category and just don’t have the time. I get it. I have faced the same struggles when it’s suggested that I go watch speeches while at a tournament. Watching speeches on Youtube in my free time is a whole other thing compared to being at the tournament and trying to find the time (and courage) to go sit through an entire 10 minute speech. I understand. However, did you know some leagues REQUIRE you to watch the room you compete in?  Not a bad idea… Here are some reasons why…

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Judges and Cell Phones

I was recently at a speech and debate tournament- almost 300 competitors, three days of competition, students from across the country gathered together to give their best. During each day of the competition I heard of situations involving  judges with cell phones. How could this be? During judge training judges are clearly asked to silence cell phones, not to text, or to take phone calls. Perhaps it is early in the competition season, and judges need to get back in the groove?! However, I thought I would give a friendly reminder that judges…

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Speech and Debate Tournament Series – A Novice Perspective (part 4)

 

I asked a couple “novice” friends, in other words, a beginning speech students, to recollect on their first year. This was their very first competitive experience with Speech and Debate (not counting junior tournaments). This was their experience and perspective on the tournaments they participated in their first year…

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Speech and Debate Tournament Series- Fundraising (part 2)

In our last article we discussed the costs of a typical Speech and Debate Tournament. I know quite a few families that budget their season and each year they do fundraising to pay or help pay for their costs. Below is an article written by one of our competitor interns that fund raises for their tournament expenses- travel, registration, clothing, etc.

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