Introducing Kaitlyn Butts, National Champion, Lasting Impact! Coach

We are always thrilled to have amazing people part of our Lasting Impact! team! We thought you might want to get to know one of our newest coaches a little better. Kaitlyn Butts is from North Carolina. She has had an amazing Speech and Debate career-a few of her highest accomplishments include 2016 National Apologetics Champion, 2017 National Biographical Narrative Champion, and 2017 National Sweepstakes Champion…

How long did you participate in Speech and Debate?

I participated in the NCFCA for six years.

How many tournaments did you go to throughout your career?

Something like 20-25 tournaments!

How old were you when you started?
I was 12.

Tell us a little about your family dynamic (do you have siblings, are you the oldest)?

I’m the oldest of six! We have five girls and one boy in our bunch. When I first got involved with speech and debate, we didn’t attend many tournaments, but I always looked forward to those special times with just my mom. The dynamic certainly changed as my sisters began competing and my little siblings occasionally tagged along, but it was also a positive shift. I’m happy that my entire family became so passionate about tournaments.

What was your favorite moment?

My favorite moment actually occurred twice while I was competing! My sister Allyson is just two years younger than me, and we are the best of friends. We always enjoyed preparing together and discussing apologetics. When we placed 1st and 2nd in Apologetics at a qualifier, we were ecstatic. It was such a special time for both of us, and we were absolutely thrilled to experience the same circumstance the next year at the Regional Championship.

What is your biggest regret?

I regret missing opportunities to invest. Caught up in jam-packed rounds, looming fatigue, and my closest friends, I missed many opportunities to leave an impact on those younger and less experienced than me. In the name of “saving energy” and “making sure I got to extemp on time,” I fear I was sometimes the cold and focused face in the hall instead of the warm initiator of prayers and encouragement.

What was your favorite event? Why?

Apologetics. I’ve always loved the idea and practice of Limited Prep speeches because they model real-life scenarios. Apologetics was my favorite speech event because it allowed me both the comfort of familiarity and the challenge of a deeper understanding. Throughout the five years I competed in apologetics, I was able to memorize the list of topics and most of the common Bible verses that could be referenced, allowing me to walk into competition rooms confident and comfortable. At the same time, I grew from year to year in my knowledge of the theology behind the questions and additional evidence that a six minute speech would never have time for. I adapted the quotes used for powerful conclusions and explored creative introductions. The study and delivery of Apologetics speeches was always my favorite part of competing.

What do you tell people who are apprehensive about starting Speech and Debate?

I ask them: “when in life do you want to be apprehensive?” Do you want to be deathly nervous for your first college presentation? When you are asked to deliver a speech at a wedding or a eulogy at a funeral, do you want to experience gripping panic? If you get the opportunity to share your mind on a policy or defend your faith, do you want to scramble for coherent sentences? Wouldn’t you rather experience butterflies while you deliver a ten minute speech in front of adults who want you to succeed? The apprehension surrounding public speaking is universal and to a degree unavoidable. I experienced it. But I learned to conquer it as a teenager, and as a result, I walked into a group interview at my dream college about the ethics of mandating infant vaccinations with zero nerves.

What about Speech and Debate will stay will stay with you forever?

Because of speech and debate, I know how to deal with 95 degree weather in business suits, 16 hour days, and a plethora of demands on my mental faculties. But the practical skills I’ve gained are far outweighed by the lessons I learned about friendships and myself. I hope that I will continue to hone the strengths I discovered in my character, but I’m incredibly grateful that the activity of competitive forensics revealed my flaws. The relationships I developed with people from my league taught me crucial lessons and handed me memories I’ll treasure forever.

How did you prepare? Any rituals?

Once a tournament was underway, I prepared in different ways unique to each event and the time of day. A 10:00am apologetics speech called for an entirely different preparation ritual than a 10:00pm informative speech when the tournament was running late. Before I entered a room, I mentally prepared for the specific circumstances I was about to encounter. I always asked myself a series of questions. What type/size of room was I speaking in? How would that affect the acoustics for my vocal delivery? How were my energy levels and how would I compensate for exhaustion? Like the Olympic skier who closes their eyes and envisions every curve on the course before they head down the mountain, the observant competitor should close their eyes and envision how they will walk through the door, greet their judges with a smile, and begin a great speech. I’m also a firm believer in a swig of water and power poses at the last minute! Each person will have slightly different rituals, but I think that competitors should never disregard the minutiae.

What is your favorite Speech of all time?

It was during March of this past year that I found myself sitting at a local coffee shop with a pile of books, finally excited to write. I’d read the stories and sketched a rough outline, but I was nowhere close to a Biographical Narrative script that would be ready for the National Open that began less than a week from that day. Four hours later, I left with the most beautiful script I have ever written and a speech that I’d fallen completely in love with. A speech that proceeded through an undefeated season at that National Open, my Regional Championship, and the National Championship. I loved my Biographical Narrative on Fanny Crosby for its deep personal connection to my life and passions. The lyrical transitions and rich vocabulary made it a joy to deliver, and the incorporation of hymn lyrics throughout the speech helped me bring Fanny Crosby to life. For the first time in my speaking career, I never tired of a platform script. I hope that it was a blessing and encouragement to many who heard it. The inspiring message gained momentum from the first sentences I typed and continued to challenge me through the entire season.

Any embarrassing moments?

Actually, yes. Lost water bottles, missing extemporaneous cards, spilled food on a clean cream suit, blundering comments at the end of the long day. But I’ll share the story that takes the cake as long as you don’t tell a single soul (or let it damage my coaching credibility). I was 14, and I’d discovered the power of curling my hair and adding some mascara and lipstick to my “competition look.” I’d even gotten a friendly smile from a rather attractive older competitor. I noticed him sitting at the bottom of a flight of stairs with his eager circle of admirers as I sailed out of an impromptu competition room. I was walking gracefully down the hall, my tall heels clicking an even beat along the floor. I stopped at the top of the flight of stairs, carpeted in rich navy, which led from the hall to the lobby below. We made eye contact for one exhilarating moment and I imagined parading down the stairs to chat with him. I took one fatal step onto the first step and my shoe gave way beneath my ankle. Unfortunately, I fell to my knees, swung about wildly clutching for the handrail, and rolled halfway down the flight of stairs. The end.

To check out the rest of the Lasting Impact! team, click here!

Photo by: Jean Rule