Tournaments Are About You by Ethan Tong

Tournaments are about you.

That’s the plain and simple truth. Tournaments aren’t for your parents. Tournaments aren’t for your siblings. They’re for you. Parents may enjoy socializing, yes. But how many parents do you know who still come to tournaments once their children are graduated? Hardly any. Once you’re not in the league, Speech and Debate doesn’t mean much to your parents. Why? Because tournaments are for you.

And when tournaments are about you, it’s hard to put the focus on anyone or anything else. You go throughout your day trying to win ballots, speaks, and ranks. No one goes into a debate round hoping the “right” team will win. Everyone goes into their rounds hoping that they will win. No one goes into a speech round hoping that the judges will be positively influenced by any speech. No––we hope they’ll be influenced by our speech. Judges are seen as a means to an end. The end of our own trophies, our own success, our own glory.

So here’s my question: where does God fit in to the picture?

If tournaments are all about ourselves, how can they also be about God?

Or to put it more pointedly, what makes our Christian tournaments any different from a secular tournament? Sure, we have devotions, we do apologetics, and we mention God in our speeches. But what is different around the halls? In conversations behind our judges’ backs? In how we treat our opponents?

Competing in collegiate Mock Trial has provided a unique opportunity for me to compare the Christian homeschool competitors with secular competitors. Surprisingly, I found little to no difference. Sure, some Mock Trial people are more cutthroat than my high school league. But for the most part, it’s all the same. College Mock Trial competitors—like high school competitors—complain about “dumb” judges and “bogus” ballots. Mock Trial competitors—like TP or LD Debate competitors—hide their cases from each other in the name of “winning.” While they certainly say hi to their friends, Mock Trial competitors—like Speech and Debate competitors—don’t interact with the small schools or social outcasts. Cliques, negative gossip, and a win-first mentality are prevalent.

As Christians, we’re required to do more. We all know the famous lines of Jesus to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” but do we do it? Do we love the people who committed 2AR abuse against us, or do we badmouth them? Do we pray for those who brag about beating us, or do we secretly pray they get a taste of humble pie?

A lesser known verse just three verses down is even more pointed. “If you love those who love you,” Jesus declares, “what reward do you have?” So I ask you this: who do you love at tournaments? Do you love those who love you back? Or do you love like Jesus loved: without discrimination?

I know I’ve felt guilty during tournaments for placing the focus on myself. But there’s an easy way to get it off of yourself: put it on others. Love others. As Jesus pointed out, loving your friends doesn’t count. If that’s all you do, Jesus would say you’re no different from a tax collector. Instead, choose to do something difficult to show your love to others. Give a team your case before the round, even if they’re your rivals. Go out of your way to say hi to a novice. Purposefully choose to not badmouth an opponent (which is so hard to do, but try it!!). Do something hard for the Lord.

It’s easy to be nice to your friends, but no one ever said Christianity was easy. Jesus gives us a radical call to love even those whom you struggle to love––to go out of your comfort zone to love your neighbor.

Tournaments are about you. But they don’t have to be.