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 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.)

Interps


HI


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!"


DI


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."

Duo


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!"


OI


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."

Debate


Parliamentary


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."



Monday, March 28, 2016

Competitor Stereotypes 1 : The Fourth Year Confessions

With 12 events plus a wildcard or two, Stoa has a lot of options for all us little teenagers to compete in. From HI to LD to Extemp, there's a wide variety of events. And therefore, there is a wide variety of people who do these events. Here's what we think of them:

Limited Prep


Apologetics

Those who dare put their foot in the door an apologetics round are truly brave. They risk their theology being ripped to shreds because of a 6 minute speech that they may or may not have prepared a card for. They have literal buckets full of Bible verses and C.S. Lewis quotes. Apologetics competitors can frequently be found having theological discussions outside of their competition rooms and probably somewhere reading their Bibles.

"What's your opinion on predestination?"

Extemp

Once the confusion between extemp and expos has been cleared up (this usually takes the entire first year), it is easy to determine who is an extemper. They are usually panicked about making it to their draw time, while also having several other events in the same pattern (dear tournament schedulers, please do not put extemp and duo in the same pattern. This has proved disastrous on many occasions).  DO NOT approach an extemper on his or her way to the prep room or their competition room. Approach them after the round to discuss what topic they pulled and learn how they couldn't find a single article on their topic so they just made everything up.

"Can I go before you? I have to do duo with my partner RIGHT NOW so I can make to my draw on time."

Impromptu

Probably a novice, or an advanced competitor who really wants impromptu to be a NITOC event. You'll see many impromptu-ers pacing outside of his or her competition room, going over examples and points and stories and trying to remember what relevance the sticking out of the thumb has to the structure of a speech. While we all wish impromptu were, yet again, a regular event, the leaders of Stoa have not yet announced any plans on restoring our great event to its former glory.

"What does 'NITOC Break-Out Event' mean anyway?"

Mars Hill

Found reading books, listening to *gasp* secular music, and discussing the latest Hunger Games movie. These students are excellent at "Jesus Juking" conversations, but often choose to refrain from doing so because that's awkward. They carry binders full of song lyrics, movie plots, and book blurbs. If they aren't carrying these binders, they are running around the building looking for these binders so they don't crash and burn in their round because they didn't know the lyrics to "I Can't Get No Satisfaction."

"Katniss offering her life for Prim's is like what Jesus did for us."

Platform


Original Oratory

These competitors are unpredictable. One minute, they'll be deeply emotional and moving, the next they'll be reciting endless facts and statistics, the next they'll be cracking jokes about some obscure topic. They're constantly thinking of new topics, and are prone to Mid-Season Change Syndrome, a condition which causes students to write and rewrite various speeches of different topics, which leads to the student cramming ten minutes of words into their heads on the journey to the tournament.

"I memorized my speech my this morning...I've totally got this.."

Persuasive

If you want to hold firmly to your opinion on a controversial subject, stay away from those who compete in persuasive. They will stop at nothing to sway you to their position. They use emotional stories, shocking statistics, quotes from a multitude of highly accredited persons. Do not argue with these people. You will lose. They know more than you. They are deeply passionate about whatever subject they have chosen. When forced to abandon their speech at the end of NITOC, they are often lost because their passion has been temporarily drained. But once the summer is over, they are back at it, being smarter and more well read than you could hope to be...in that one specific subject.

"I can't believe you didn't finish that water bottle. There are kids in Africa who would give everything the have for one drink of that."

Expository

Expository competitors are most often found with tape and/or glue in hand, desperately trying to repair their boards before the start of the next round. They lurk in the deep reaches of the expository storage room, a place non-expository competitors fear to tread. DO NOT touch the boards. DO NOT touch the props. DO NOT touch the easels. You will NOT survive the encounter.

"Gotta go. My boards are falling apart. Again."


Since my timer is about to go off, you'll have to wait until my partner's next speech to see the rest of the event hasty generalizations. For now, I encourage you to vote affirmative, and stay away from extempers on their way to rounds. It's for your own safety.

Next time on Competitor Stereotypes: Interpers and Debaters



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Debate It Off

(To the tune of Taylor Swift's Shake It Off)

I stay up too late
Working on so many briefs
That's what coaches say (mmm mmm)
That's what coaches say (mmm mmm)
I'm doing too much speech
But I can't make 'em break
At least, that's what coaches say (mmm mmm)
That's what coaches say (mmm mmm)

But I keep speaking
Can't stop, won't stop, tweaking
It's like I got great case in my mind
Saying neg will never win

Because advanceds are gonna break break break break break
And the judges will be late late late late late
Baby, I'm just gonna de-bay-ay-ay-ate
Debate it all, debate it
when the judge votes on that argument you
made up in the middle of your speech
I may never break break break break break
But I will never hate hate hate hate hate
Baby, I'm just gonna de-bay-ay-ay-ate
Debate it all, debate it

I never miss a line
I'm lightning in my speech
And that's what they don't see (mmm mmm)
That's what they don't see (mmm mmm)
I'm speaking in OO
Make a judge cry as I go
That's what they don't know (mmm mmm)
That's what they don't know (mmm mmm)

But  I keep flowing
Can't stop, won't stop tagging
It's like I got this great speech in my mind
Sayin' "I'm gonna be just fine"

Because advanceds are gonna break break break break break
And the judges will be late late late late late
I may never break break break break break
But I will never hate hate hate hate hate
Baby, I'm just gonna de-bay-ay-ay-ate
Debate it all, debate it all

I, I debate it all (xLike 12)

Hey hey hey
Just think while you've been getting down and out about the judges and the dirty, dirty negs in your round, you coulda been getting down to this parody

My partner dropped an argument
I'm like oh my gosh
But I'mma just debate
And to the novice over there
Who's stressin' over breaks
Come on over, newbie
Just debate-ay-ate

Cuz advanceds are gonna break break break break break
And the judges will be late late late late late
I may never break break break break break
But I will never hate hate hate hate hate
Baby, I'm just gonna de-bay-ay-ay-ate
Debate it all, debate it all