Tag Archives: speech and debate

Forensics Rumble


Today, dear readers, I’m going to go back in time.

I’m going to go back to a time in my life when getting up early on a Saturday was a weekly occurrence. Back in the day when I’d don a short skirt, hose, and heels and climb on to a bus headed for destiny. Back when talking to walls seemed perfectly normal, and was actually expected. Back when my worth was determined in the space of ten minutes with a thirty second grace period.

Back when I was in Forensics.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about (“Crime scene investigation? In heels? What?”), allow me to explain. The National Forensic League is an organization dedicated to the development of the performing and speaking skills of American teenagers. Its members, mostly high school aged kids with a few college students thrown in, compete against each other in debate (Lincoln Douglas and Public Forum), public speaking, and interpretation (otherwise known as acting). The students spend the week practicing pieces and perfecting cases until Saturday, where they drive out with their teammates to compete against other schools at a hosting school’s tournament. A typical tournament runs four rounds, each an hour long, where the contestants perform their pieces in front of a judge who’s armed with a ballot and a stopwatch. Awards are given based on the amount of points gained and how the students rated against each other in their rounds. It’s intense, it’s stressful, it’s life-altering…and it’s a ton of fun.

For me, it was three years of learning. Learning how to compete in a sometimes hostile environment. Learning how to make friends with people whose backgrounds were so different from my own. Learning how to stand on my own two feet. Learning how to lead. Learning how to win. Learning how to lose.

I almost didn’t join the team, though. My freshman year, the idea of being on any kind of team stressed me out. I was a pudgy girl through junior high and elementary school, not to mention uncoordinated, and I had never belonged to a team of any kind—soccer, softball, basketball, volleyball, Bucky ball, none of them. I couldn’t handle it.

But my mother told me I should join. “You love speech and drama,” she said. “Besides, you need to get involved while you’re in high school. And who knows, you might meet some nice boys.”

Well, I ended up accomplishing one of those, anyway.

I remember going to my first tournament and being terrified. Lost in a strange school, surrounded by strange people in suits, with nothing but a poorly-drawn map to help me get to where I needed to go. My piece, the opening from Jane Eyre, was neatly typed and clipped into the mini black binder clutched in my hot little hand. I was entered in the Oral Interpretation event, a sophomore at the bottom rung. At the end of the day I had a second-place trophy, the nickname “that Jane Eyre girl,” and an intimidating reputation for blowing people out of the water. That day was one of the first of many challenging and exhilarating days in the world of high school speech and debate.

Fast forward three years, and I was the team co-captain, a seasoned competitor with countless tournaments under my belt, and a qualifier for the national tournament. All of that unimportant stuff aside, I had forged friendships which have lasted even into college (shout out to Sterling H., my fellow O.I.- and D.I.-er, and my roommate Lynn, O.O.er extraordinaire.), hardened my personal convictions, grown as a performer, learned both how win and how to lose graciously, blossomed as a person, and saw God turn me into a leader. The gang of girls who joined the team my senior year dubbed me “Forensics Mommy” almost from day one. Even now, every time those girls see, me, they still call me “Mommy.” My chance to reach out to them and the others on my team is my most precious memory of all.

Back to tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be serving as a judge at the Anytown Academy Annual Speech and Debate Tournament. Tomorrow, I will be the one with the stopwatch and the ballot; I will be the one that makes the judgment call. The wheel has come full circle.

What a difference four years have made.

So now you know. I will probably write about my experience in the NFL (that’s right. National. Forensics. League. I’m a member of the NFL. Isn’t that grand?) quite frequently. It was a long and noble chapter in my life, and so much wonderfulness happened that I cannot help but write about it. And tomorrow I’m reentering that world in search of inspiration.

Even two years after graduating, I still can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.