Thursday, March 15, 2018

To the Speech and Debaters Competing at My School

Yesterday, I drove onto my college campus to work on a paper (yes, over spring break). As I drove up the hill, I saw a poster board sign that read: NCFCA. After ten years in the speech and debate community, I was well familiar with the letters, even if I competed in Stoa. 

I drove around campus, dotted with suit-wearing teenagers. It was a window to the past placed squarely in my present. I thought about what I might say to my speech-and-debater self if I could go back to when I was 13, 14, 15 years old. This is what I would say.


Dear Competitor,

You don’t know me, but I know you.

I know the debate boxes you pull across this windy campus. I know the heels that rub blisters into your pinkie toes and the speeches you deliver to the wall. I know the nerves and joy and community.

It’s only been a year since I was you. I competed at my last tournament almost exactly 12 months ago, my hands shaking and heart ready to leave behind the sport. I know that’s hard to hear when it’s something you love so much. I hope you won’t lose that love. This sport you participate in is fantastic. But be careful. Though I’m only a bit older than you, I hope you hear this advice.

Be grateful. Thank first your parents, who gladly take you around the state and country to do what you love because they love you. Thank your coaches, who take the incredible potential within you and refine it into skills that you’ll always use.

Thank your friends. This is such a special, strange place to make friends. Your similarities have brought you together. Your differences have the chance to keep you together. Acknowledge and celebrate the differences. Bring variety into a sport that’s filled with identical suits.

Remember that the knowledge is good, but wisdom is better. You can be the best debater, but people would rather remember the best encourager. Lift up your friends before you compete against them.

Speaking of competition: keep it in the rounds. As soon as the timer beeps after the last speech, as soon as the judge leaves the room, you are just teenagers, not debaters or speechers. Become friends. While you have competition in common, the first thing you have is Christ. You’ll hear that at every tournament, and you’ll read the verses posted all over this campus. Don’t take that for granted.

Have fun! Practice duos in front of your friends, explore the corners of this gorgeous campus, pass notes with your debate partner and opponents during rounds.

With friendships, especially at your age, it’s so easy to fall into drama. There’s little chance to completely avoid it, but I have some experience dealing with it. I’ve made mistakes and learned from those. The first tip? Avoid gossip. If you talk about someone behind their back, it’d better be positive or about the surprise party you’re throwing for them. Forgive when someone hurts you. And if you’ve hurt someone, intentionally or not, apologize. Those are two of the hardest lessons I’m still learning.

Remember that you’re all just humans. Humans aren’t perfect--not even Christian homeschool speech and debaters. Jesus was perfect so you wouldn’t have to be. Don’t put that pressure on yourself or on anyone else around you. Give grace because you have been given grace.

Enjoy this time. Don’t burn yourself out. If your printer starts malfunctioning, it may be a sign that you need to take a break.

Use this time to grow closer to God and to the people around you. Learn and grow up and be a teenager. Don’t do stupid stuff, but if you do, make sure that stupid stuff isn’t hurting anyone else.

You’re a speech and debater, but you won’t always be. Find your identity in Christ first. Never in wins and losses, never in trophies. You are far more valuable than that.

You don’t know me, but I know you.

I know the thrills and sorrows, the friendships and heartbreaks. I came in first place and came in dead last. Your world won’t always be speech and debate, but it’s still important. Treat it well. Be known by your love. Serve others as though they are better than yourself.

You are enough, you are enough, you are enough.

Vote affirmative, because this time is too short to focus on the negatives.

Your friend,
Hadley Grace

Friday, November 17, 2017

8 People You Meet at Every Tournament

Christian Homeschool Speech and Debate Kids are...interesting people. We spend our time researching obscure policies, talking to walls, and celebrating making people cry. Within our group, there are certain people you will surely encounter. After spending my middle school and high school years at countless tournaments, I've noticed that there are eight people you meet at every tournament.

1. The Prepared

These competitors come to the tournament with not one, not two, but three debate boxes. How they fit those in the back of their van the world may never know. Going into rounds, they pull out three six inch binders. And that's just for affirmative rounds. They wrote their speeches in August and memorized them the first week in September. Chances are, if you need a brief for your round, they will be able to provide.

2. The Unprepared

The exact opposite of the Prepared, the Unprepared wrote their speech the week before the tournament and memorized it yesterday. They are the LDers who write entire neg cases during the AC, the interpers who cut lines on the way to script submission, the expos-ers who tape things to their board outside of their rounds. Occasionally Always stressed.

3. The Napper

They stayed up late the night before the tournament because they forgot about script submission. Now, in the ten minutes between rounds. this competitor is asleep on the couch in the lobby. Don't worry; they will wake upon the postings stampede and attend their round on time*.

*Punctuality is not guaranteed with the purchase of a "the Napper."

4. The Casual

This person is not competing at the tournament. Most likely, they showed up a couple of hours after everyone else, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, making all the formally dressed teenagers super jealous. This is not to be confused with someone who didn't break and is now wearing the sweats of depression. This is a person who did not ever participate in the tournament, except to make everyone aware of how uncomfortable dress shoes are. Often overlaps with the Alumni, but not always.

5. The Breaker

Also known as the Medalist or the Winner, the Breaker is that one person who breaks in every event they compete in. Most people don't compete in as many events in prelims as this student competes in in finals. In many cases, this person is also the Humble, who never acts like breaking in literally everything (including that event you had no idea they were doing) is a big deal and is always looking shocked during the awards ceremony.

6. The Snacker

Goldfish, Pringles, those organic maple leaf things from Trader Joe's, this kid brought everything. If you're lucky, this person will share their treasures with you. This person knows how to make friends. The key to the heart of debaters is snack food. In that time between meals, hunger strikes. The snack kid strikes back.

7. The Alumni

They show up, Starbucks and ballot in hand. Since their last NITOC, they have grown an attempt at a beard. They wear converse and flannel and joggers. Everyone is overjoyed to see them. The ballots they return have handwriting just legible enough to read the many, many comments they've written. They stroll around the student area with plates loaded with judges' food. Not because they're hungry, but just to show off the fact that they can now eat judges' food*.

*Also, they're hungry. College students are always hungry for free food.

8. The Humble

Typically a fifth or sixth year competitor (though there are exceptions), the Humble is the person everyone says they want to be when giving the devotional at club, but few people actually are. They don't care what club someone is from, how well they do in competition, how old they are, how fashionable others' suits are--they just care about you. They are friends with anyone and everyone, and are always helping break down the tournament once everything's said and done. They may do well in competition, they may not. But everyone knows their name, not because it's been announced 12 times during the awards ceremony, but because this person made an effort to be loving and friendly with as many people as possible.

Vote affirmative, so I can be the Breaker.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

NITOC this year

Rain drips from the clouds, signaling the end of the ballot party. My last ballot party.

After countless debate rounds, speech rounds, postings stampede rounds, my forensics career is over. I'm loath to leave my friends and drive back to the hotel. I'm quiet on the way. I work to keep my mind from going over every single memory from the last five years.

Five years. Nearly 40 tournaments. Three clubs. And so many people.

Nothing made me cry more but nothing made me laugh more. From junior competitors to judges. From California to Carolina. From 13 to 17. From crying at the thought of speaking in front of people, to being passionate about sharing my words with others. Nothing has grown me more than speech and debate.

No, competition was never my strength (except impromptu but that's an old story). My strengths were more of the "horribly awkward and embarrassing" variety. Pushing boys over on accident, wearing slippers into rounds, thinking I was subtle when I had a crush (hahaha no), going into the wrong competition room, and spitting gum into my hair about twelve seconds before my debate round started. Not to mention the gum incident.

But those moments turned me into a storyteller. What can you do with the awkward but turn it into funny?

A week after the March tournament, my club has its end of the year party. The drive is two hours long and I have nothing to do but think. I don't think too much because I don't want I ruin my eyeliner. I do think about all the times people asked me why I switched clubs.

"Was it closer?" they asked.

I almost laughed. "It's about an hour and a half away."

"??????" they responded.

I was never sure what to say but the vague, true answer. It just felt right. Sometimes, you stop fitting into a place and need to move. No loss of love led to my decision.

At the party, I wear my favorite dress and red heels. My knees shake and I can barely walk. But it's not just because of the three inch stilts. It's because I'm about to say goodbye.

I get invitations to graduations I know I can't attend. I hear "see you laters" I know I can't fulfill. I give hugs that aren't enough to say how I feel. How do I feel? The gratitude is too much to say without crying. How can I say thank you to the club that welcomed me in, laughed at my jokes, named my camera, became my long-distance friends?

Almost two months after that, NITOC begins. I scroll through Facebook and Instagram and see dozens of pictures announcing arrivals in Jackson, Tennessee. And I'm not there.

Three years ago, I didn't go to Nationals and my heart was shattered because of it. The week was an awful mess of looking at pictures and wishing I were there more than anything.

This year, I chose not to go. Despite the melancholy, I knew my time in speech and debate was over. I don't regret that decision. I knew my place was ending and I wasn't going to kick and fight over it. I only wonder. I wonder if I made the difference I was so hopeful to make. Did I impact people? Did awkward first conversations make people feel loved? Did the words I spoke encourage? Did I leave a legacy?

I always said I didn't want to be known by my competitive success (and that sure won't happen), but by my love. So here's one last love letter to Stoa--and the people within.

Thank you.

I would not be the person I am today without you. You, who watched my speeches, debated by my side, made me laugh so hard I spit water onto the floor, who took out the trash with me every night after club, who taught me how powerful my words could be, who danced the night away with me, who didn't freak out when I messed up our duo, who reminded me who I am, who ripped up that one awful ballot, who was the friend I needed, who gave me the grace I didn't deserve. You.

With you, I experienced overcoming fear and lies. I experienced first love and first heartbreak. I experienced hurt and forgiveness. I experienced laughter in one of the worst times in my life.

Even though my time with you is mostly over (I still be around to coach and give snarky comments), I'll never forget these years, and I promise I'll look back on the time I spent with you and smile.

And though there are many things I didn't get to tell you, these things I will: Thank you. I love you. And please, vote affirmative.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Speech & Debate Crushes - The Fifth Year Letters

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. So does being around someone for 3-4 straight days, including early mornings and late nights, eating meals with them, and being high strung on emotions because you haven't gotten enough sleep in two weeks.

Tournaments are one of the best ways to get to know someone. You see everyone at their best and worst, and also see everyone in their suits which increases attraction by at least 60%*. It's no wonder why so many find themselves with tournament crushes. Hormones run high, tournament nerves run even higher than usual. If you find yourself looking after a suit-clad cutie, I have a few A+, very subtle crush tips**.

*According to no scientific study ever.
**As an older and wiser homeschooler I cannot legally recommend having a crush because of the Law of Homeschooling. Go find some edgier homeschooler to give you dating advice.

1. Postings Stalking

After eluding the stampede of teenagers who haven't gotten enough slept, stalking postings is the first step in proper tournament crushing. This step is vital to many other parts of getting to know your crush. Having conversations at tournaments hinges on knowing what events the other person is competing in and when they're competing in them.

2. Item Placement

When coming into the student area in the morning, hang around until your crush has placed his or her debate box/brief case/stringed instrument at a table. Casually stroll over (being careful not to attract extra attention to yourself by tripping over chairs/debate boxes/juniors) to that table and set your belongings down.

3. Casual Conversing

Before just straight up talking to your crush, you must first find a group conversation in which he/she is participating in. Enter the conversation if AND ONLY IF a good friend of the same gender is in the conversation. Otherwise your crush will totally know you're stalking him/her. This is totally foolproof. Totally. 100%. Recommended times: during/just before meals, while waiting on judges outside of your round. Which reminds me...

4. Hallway Lurking

This is where stalking postings comes in handy. Find out where your crush is competing, and see if another friend is competing in the same area (statistically speaking, this is very likely). Go to watch your friends speech but oops the friend isn't here/already went. When your crush shows up, start a conversation by asking what event they're in this hallway for (even though you already know because postings). If it is for a prepared speech, ask about the topic/piece. This leads to the crown jewel of tournament crushing/flirting.

5. Round Watching

As your crush is standing up to go into the competition room, ask if you can watch. There's a high chance the response will be yes. Watch the speech. Afterwards, compliment the speech, mentioning specific things you liked about it. Ask if he/she wants to watch your speech later.

While there are many other aspects of tournament flirting (such as adjusting his tie or brushing off her blazer, which is on a whole other level), these five are the basic foundation. Going into this tournament, I hope you have fun getting to know suit-clad cuties other CHSADKs.

Vote affirmative, and remember: speech and debate isn't just about trophies; it's about the community, friendships, and future marriages. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Stoa Olympics

People from all over, coming together for fierce days of competition. Bitter feelings are forgotten, replaces by friendly rivalry. All come together in one grand location for one reason: speech and debate nationals. (And the Olympics too I guess.)

There are many parallels between our forensic activities and the great Olympic games. Not the athletic ability, obviously. There's a reason we're debaters and not football players.

But aside from the coming together of different peoples (you know, Stoa South, Colorado, California, and all those scattered everywhere else), there are other similarities between the Olympics and homeschool speech and debate. Don't believe me?

There's water polo, which nobody really understands (what's polo anyway? I thought that was just a kind of shirt), but people enjoy watching because they'd never do it themselves (sports are hard enough with people splashing chlorine in your face). In other words, it's parli. People who don't do it don't understand and everyone who does do it looks crazy.

Table tennis is a sport that's fun to watch because you're like, 'hey, I can do this.' And then when you actually try to do you realize that yes, even table tennis requires talent. Like the talent not to call it ping pong. It's kind of like TP. You watch it, think, 'hey, that's looks so easy.' Then you try to do it and regret all your life decisions. And calling table tennis 'ping pong' is like calling TP 'toilet paper.'

LD is like the swimming and running. You get all excited while it's happening, and then it's over and you don't know what happened because if all happened so fast. How could anyone go that fast?

I tried to find an equivalent to extemp, but the Olympic events are all pretty interesting. So, uh, I'll just borrow a winter sport and say ... Curling? Close enough.

Gymnastics is the event everyone loves to watch. While no one would intentionally tune in just to watch curling (I mean really, curling?), everyone wants to watch gymnastics because it's fun and interesting. It's like interps. No one wants to watch extemp, but you're lucky if you can find a good spot on the floor in HI finals.

I'd say duo is like synchronized swimming, but synchronized swimming is just weird and duo is awesome.

Vote affirmative, because you'd rather watch duos than volleyball.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Legacy - the Fourth Year Confessions

"When I became a senior, I didn't expect a massive out-pour of love."

I'm going to be a senior next year.

Since a lot of my friends are just barely older than me, I've heard a lot about what it's like to be a senior. There are college applications and ceremony plannings and stress and senioritis. But my best friend Hannah told me something that's stuck with me all week: "When I became a senior, I didn't expect a massive out-pour of love."

Hannah has been in speech and debate since she was twelve, and now she's graduating. That entire time, I've been able to watch her grow into the incredible woman of God she is. I see the people who spend time with her, and I realize that's what I want.

I don't want to be known for a bookshelf full of trophies. I don't want to be known for my points on Speechranks. I don't care about being draped in a dozen medals. Two years from now, I don't want to be remembered as the girl who won a lot of stuff at NITOC, for people's mentions of me to consist of awards. I want to leave a legacy.

Leaving speech and debate and high school, I know the legacy Hannah is leaving behind. She's given the example of being kind to the least of these. She sat with the juniors during the awards ceremony. Not 11th graders, but with those 12 and under who are too young to compete. She spent time having vulnerable, spiritual conversations instead of stressing about her speeches. She gave a speech about leadership and lives it.

I know the impact Hannah has left in our obscure little community because I see it, I feel it, I'm impacted by it.

I can't imagine doing speech and debate without Hannah being there. When I hugged her after the awards ceremony, I started crying because we need her and more people like her. We need people who don't just say they care more about relationships than competitive success, but people who live like that. We need leaders who know their influence. We need wisdom. We need love.

When I'm a senior next year, I want to leave a legacy. I want the people around me to say, 'I want her love, her grace, her leadership.' Not because I'm so incredible, but because I want God to use what little I have to make a difference. I want that difference to spread throughout the entire Christian homeschool speech and debate community. I've seen the difference Hannah and so many of my other friends have made in this community and I'm amazed by how God uses those who are humble, those who know it's not about themselves.

Here we are, at the end of the year. We won't be debating about East Asian trade policy (thank goodness) or education or developing countries. We won't be giving motivationals. We won't even have two LD resolutions. And that doesn't matter.

What matters is that we'll still be living with kindness. That we'll still be giving grace. That we'll have joy and love.

If I have learned anything this year, it's that everything will be okay because we will still have love. We still have people who are true friends, who are honest, who are leaving a legacy of Christ-like character.

Whether or not you're a graduate this year, you are leaving a legacy. It's up to you if that is a legacy of love or not.

Vote affirmative, because you shouldn't make a negative impact.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Competitor Stereotypes 2 - The Fourth Year Confessions

While there are no limits on who can do what event (we all know that amazing LDer who also always wins at interps), there are stills certain qualities which belong to those who compete in certain events. These are those qualities. (Continued from here.)



Only the truly, deeply hilarious can have a shot at this event. Their comedic timing is more on point than that one tournament director's. Usually a younger competitor, HIs are typically loud and energetic. But every now and then, the quiet, seemingly serious competitor who usually wins TP will start competing in this event. And winning. All the time. And everyone will be like, 'wow how did you make your voice sound like that and why are you suddenly the most hilarious person I know?'

"I can't believe I missed TP finals breaks because I was still in HI finals!"


While the dramatic interpretation competitors seem like they would be, well, dramatic. You will not find them crying in the corner (unless they're giving their speech to a wall). You will not usually find them telling stories about holocaust survivors (again, unless they're giving their speech). They do not randomly burst into tears while quoting Steel Magnolias. More likely, DIs will be the ones you meet in the hallways, laughing and being friendly. When you ask them what events they're competing in, you'll expect them to say duo or HI. But no. If you go watch their speech, you will cry. Do not try to stop it. You'll only make it worse.

"Anyway, I have to go make all my judges and audience members weep openly with my heart wrenching speech that will make you question your entire life."


You watch these competitors to laugh, and sometimes walk out of the room crying. Those who compete in duo will always be found with their partner (unless their partner is in extemp prep, being late for their Duo round). They constantly play off each other's witty statements. They're likely to be TP partners as well. And they're definitely matching down to their socks. If not, you probably won't see them in finals.

"I can't believe you put on the wrong tie! We'll never get that checkmark now!"


OIs are enigmas. You never know what they're going do next. They could make you throw your head back laughing, or make you break down in tears. They are more creative than you, and probably funnier. And they can also make you cry. Being so unpredictable, it is best to stay away from such competitors and watch from a distance until their behavior begins to make sense. If one chooses to risk being around these competitors, even more unpredictable than OOs, one must always be on one's toes. Watch yourself, friends.

"If you watch my speech, you won't have to worry about DIs and HIs because my speech will make you laugh and then crush your soul."



Parli debaters are, quite frankly, insane. Rather than turning to rollercoasters or rebellion as means of getting an adrenaline rush, they turn to prepping a full debate round in 15 minutes. Some call them brave, others call them foolish. They're probably brave. They're definitely foolish. They are also extremely impressive, and will make you feel inferiors. And they probably have bruised knuckles because Parli is cool enough to create a new way of signifying agreement.

"Well said! Jolly good! Here here! Or is it 'hear hear?'"

Team Policy

Always digging through a debate box (or two), always researching against that one case, TPers are drowning in paper and sticky notes and extensive knowledge about some obscure topic like trade policies with South Korea. Yet out of that mess, they come up with polished speeches that actually make sense even though you aren't exactly sure what they're talking about. They will pick apart everything you say, word by word, outdated evidence by outdated evidence. Stay out of their way when they're on their way to rounds. If you do not, you will get run over by ten debate boxes and debaters lending 50+ page briefs to other competitors.

"I have three responses to your argument about why we shouldn't have Chick-Fil-A at tournaments, each with two sub-points and an MPX."

Lincoln Douglas

Most frequently found with the LD Secret Society, commenting on deep philosophical issues and the immense length of TP rounds. While they don't have a lot of time, they can still take you down on most issues, while at the same time making you question everything you once believed. Everything they say probably has a deeper meaning than you could possibly comprehend. And unlike TPers, they actually have free time and have far fewer paper cuts.

"As it relates to the value of quality of life, we can clearly see that TP does not uphold the criterion of free time, which indicates that LD is the winner of this debate round."