If I could change anything about my first season, I would tell my past self what I wish I had known: being in a club, especially an online one, is one of the best things you can do for your journey through the world of speech and debate…
I started my journey with Speech and Debate in the 2017-2018 season. At the time, we weren’t affiliated with a club, and I knew maybe 2 or 3 people our league — I’m not even sure they knew me! Needless to say, my mom and I had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into! Our lack of guidance and knowledge lead us to think it was a great idea to choose the National Open in Black Mountain, North Carolina as our first tournament. Boy, were we wrong! If you’re unfamiliar with what Black Mountain is, it’s one of the biggest and most competitive tournaments of the year — perfect for a first-year student, right?! But of course, since my family wasn’t really part of a club, we had no clue how huge it would be, and how lonely we were about to feel.
During my first season, I was an LD’er, and the only local club did Team Policy! We knew online was our only option if we wanted to get involved in any kind of debate or speech club. The next year, we kept hearing great things about an online club called “Lasting Impact,” and its phenomenal leader, Heather Neumann. We thought it was worth a try! Boy, were we right. I joined the general speech club on Tuesdays during the fall and took a few of the 6-week courses as well (both through Lasting Impact!)
I gained a LOT from these clubs, and I wanted to share with everyone why joining an online club is one of the best things you can do for yourself or your Speech and Debate student!
If you’re like me, you usually don’t realize how soon a deadline is until, say, a week before the assignment is due. For a lot of high schoolers, procrastination is a huge problem, which is why a club like the ones Lasting Impact! provides are super beneficial! Having a group that I met with once a week gave me tangible, reasonable deadlines for things. There were many times this fall when it would have been easy to blow off finishing a speech and think, “Eh, I can write that next week,” but the commitment I had made to presenting in club pushed me to start my tasks sooner rather than later.
Additionally, I found the experiential diversity of the group was unlike anything I had ever seen! Some were brand new students, others had been competing or around the league for years and years. Some people had their speeches written and memorized, and some were still trying to figure out what categories to compete in, but all were encouraging with every step of the process. Having a speech club gave me the accountability I needed to meet my goals and deadlines in a reasonable time frame, and a place where I could get constructive feedback on my pieces.
Speaking of feedback, when I started in the league, I wasn’t sure where to go to get comments on my speeches (besides close friends and family), and I mainly relied on the ballots I was getting back from tournaments for all of my constructive criticism! While I do recommend going over your ballots and truly listening to the feedback the judges give you, there’s also a lot of improvement that can come from performing for a group. In both of the speech clubs that I’ve participated in, I gave my speeches at least once, and the comments I received, on things like blocking, content, and affect, were invaluable. My peers and coaches saw and heard things in a way I never would have on my own.
A Way In!
Lastly, you might not even be looking for feedback or a community of people your age ready to listen. You might be just like I was at the beginning of my tenure in Speech and Debate, just looking for a way in! Whether you have 5 speeches ready to go or you’re not sure you want to do any at all, joining an online club is the most helpful thing you could do for yourself.
The first time I really discovered Impromptu was at a tournament in Cleveland, Tennessee. I sat in the finals room, watching some of the most poised and professional young men and women deliver on-the-spot speeches with ease. It was there that I decided I wanted to really give it a shot, but it wasn’t until I got into a club and was able to express my fears, doubts, and nerves, and got reassurance and guidance from leaders and peers that I felt confident enough to actually give it a try.
It’s really hard jumping headfirst into an activity you have no experience with or knowledge about in the slightest. I have many friends who did the same thing, who tried to feel out their first season on their own, without any idea what they were doing. I owe a lot to these clubs, to Ellen Neumann, and most especially Mrs. Heather Neumann. Without them, and without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today — and I’m not just talking about my participation in NCFCA. These people have surrounded me with love and helped me grow as a person, as a speaker, and as a follower of Christ. For that, I am forever thankful for Lasting Impact.
Joining an online club lights a fire underneath you, an excitement to start the season rather than a nervous anticipation, and provides you with a guiding light so that rather than feeling your way through the dark, you have tools, resources, and people to help make your season, whether it be your first or your fourth, the best one ever.
Good luck friends!!
Check out the 2nd Semester Online Clubs… https://lastingimpact.info/product-category/clubs/