Before we begin this article, let us introduce you to Hope Turner. She has been going to Speech and Debate Tournaments before she could compete, and hit the ground running when she was 12. She has been to a plethora of competitions during her Speech and Debate years, which culminated in 2019, her senior year, as Moot Court Champion with her partner, Hope Rawlson. If you want to know how to survive the long days of a tournament, read on…
You wake up at 6:00am each day. All night you toss and turn, aching feet and racing heart keeping you from sleeping well. You down as much coffee and sugar as you can to keep you awake. You eat a grand total of one (1) potato chip for lunch, and maybe three bites of pizza for dinner. During rounds, you bounce your knee, your stomach is in knots, you feel nauseous, and your head is pounding.
If you’re like me, you’ve experienced this more times than you can count. You live off of caffeine and adrenaline at tournaments. You don’t eat, don’t sleep, and kind of just survive until the tournament is over and you can crash for the next few days.
I get it.
I did that too, for a long time. But then, in 2017, I competed at Nationals in the most events I had ever qualified up to that point. It was a 6 day tournament. Too long for me to make it by the usual means. I realized that something had to change if I was going to not only survive, but thrive at that tournament.
I had to take care of myself.
From that tournament on, I made it a priority to take care of my body, my mind, and my heart. And guess what? My tournaments got a lot more enjoyable. I wasn’t as nervous. I performed better. I had more fun.
But more than that, I prepared myself for the future.
I want to share with you a few of the things that I learned about taking care of myself at tournaments. These things helped me feel better, perform better, and have a better tournament overall.
What I’m about to tell you may come as a surprise. You may not believe it. But I promise that it’s true.
You don’t have to wait until mealtimes to eat.
It’s ok, I gasped too. Before you shake your head in disbelief, hear me out. I actually found it helpful if I made myself eat something little after every round (so every 2ish hours). It doesn’t have to be big. A granola bar, an apple or two, a sandwich, or a salad is enough to boost your blood sugar and give you energy for the next round. That way, if you miss a meal, it’s not as big of a deal (try not to do that though).
I know that the food at tournaments isn’t always the best. If that’s the case, bring your own food. If your tournament has a vending machine, try to get snacks with more substance than Skittles, like peanut butter crackers or Snickers (but be aware of allergies).
Sometimes you have five minutes to eat between rounds. That’s ok. Eat anyway. In college, there are times that I have five minutes to eat before class starts. Thanks to those fast-paced moments at tournaments, I’m used to eating a whole meal very quickly. Try to pick foods that will stick with you longer. Instead of a cookie, ask for an extra slice of pizza.
Our bodies need food. It’s a necessity.
I remember one tournament where I felt especially horrible. My head hurt, I had no energy, and I couldn’t focus. I complained to one of my friends, and she asked me how much water I had consumed. I said none. She made it her personal mission at that tournament to remind me to drink water, and it turned my tournament around.
There are two points to this story. One, friends are the best. Hold each other accountable to taking care of yourselves. Even if you’re willing to trash your own body, typically you will make your friends take care of themselves because you love them. They feel the same way about you.
Two, you MUST drink water. Period. No excuses. Sprite doesn’t count. Gatorade doesn’t count (although it can be helpful once or twice during the day). Coffee DEFINITELY doesn’t count. It actually dehydrates you. Carry a refillable water bottle with you, or bring a pack of water bottles.
Dehydration will wreck your tournaments. Drink water.
3.GET IN THE RIGHT HEAD (AND HEART) SPACE
Time for story #3: Nationals 2019. My moot court partner, Hope Rawlson, and I had been doing this all year, but especially at this tournament. We wanted to do well. We wanted to win. Who doesn’t? But more than that, we wanted to glorify God. Before every round, we would pray together (and with our opponents when we could). We prayed that God would be glorified. We prayed that His glory would be our goal; not winning, not our own personal glory. We prayed that we would have fun. We prayed that He would be seen in us. And we meant every word. Every round we went into, I felt peace. I felt joy. I felt ready. Stress and pressure paled in comparison to the presence of God inside of me. I was reminded of famous runner Eric Liddell’s words, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” My head and my heart were in the right place.
More than anything else, we should be competing to glorify God; to grow closer to Him; to worship Him. When we give Him our tournament, give Him every round, do our best and leave it all up to Him, we accomplish those goals.
In conclusion (wink wink), I’m sure you’ve heard that “speech and debate prepares you for the future.” You know in your head that it’s true. At tournaments, however, you are just trying to push through, do the best you can, and move on. Competing that way will still prepare you, but not nearly as much.
When I started taking care of myself at tournaments, I was actually doing my future self a favor. I was learning how to deal with stress. I was teaching my body how to eat in the mornings (which I never did before) so I had fuel for the day. I was practicing being intentional about what I did and how I lived. Now that I’m at college, I can see how those things have helped me. When I wake up early with a full day ahead of me, I can make myself eat (even when I’m not hungry), drink enough water, and calm my racing heart with prayer and Scripture. I’m actually focused and living in the moment; I’m not just trying to get through the day.
Eat. Drink water. Be in the right head space and heart space. If you really take these things seriously, you will have better tournaments, your future self will thank you, and you will glorify God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Remember, you got this… cuz He’s got you!
Hope Turner is part of the Lasting Impact! Team. Hope, presently attends PHC, and is continuing to debate.