Dear future Speech and Debate members,
If you have been at Pine View long enough, you have probably heard about Speech and Debate. You most likely know somebody in Speech and Debate. We’re kind of like Pine View’s solution to not having any sports teams.
I joined Speech and Debate my sophomore year, honestly because I was enticed by the idea of getting to travel. But over the past three years, I realized (thankfully) that Speech and Debate is way more than the tournaments. Speech and Debate is a lingo (pretty much an alphabet soup: HI, DI, OO, OI… you get the picture). Speech and Debate is a family. Speech and Debate is an outlet for creativity and expression. Speech and Debate is a home. So for all of you future members, and even potential members, here are some tips and tricks for making the most out of your years in Speech and Debate:
For speechies, 10-minute speeches aren’t as bad they seem. Public speaking terrifies some people. Numerous studies have shown that a majority of people view speaking in public as worse than death, which is exactly why the skills you learn in Speech and Debate are so important. I know that being able to comfortably speak in front of other people has helped me to succeed in everything from club elections to college interviews.
Ten minutes go by pretty fast. I am notorious for actually running out of time for my speeches. And since all speech events are memorized except for extemp (no script, just a laptop and your brain), you really don’t have to worry too much about not knowing what to say. Just be confident in the material that you have put together and that you have practiced, and nothing should stand in your way. And if you ever need help (or practice), your event captains are always there to help.
Don’t be afraid to try out different events. I started in Humorous Interpretation (a 10-minute humorous piece cut from a book, play, or movie) and hated it, but I was afraid to leave the event because I didn’t think it was okay to switch. I almost quit, but then I took a chance and started visiting the other event rooms and found Original Oratory (a 10-minute speech on a problem in society that is completely self-written). I fell in love with the idea of getting to write my own speech and never looked back. Now while Original Oratory has remained my main event, I’ve also tried my hand at Dramatic Interpretation, Group Interpretation, and even World Schools Debate. Doing multiple events has truly allowed me to better appreciate Speech and Debate as a whole and realize that there is more to it than just “speech” or just “debate.”
Try Double-Entering (or even Triple-Entering. I’m looking at you Jack Fitzgerald). This is pretty much along the same lines as the first piece of advice. Double-entering is when you do two events at the same tournament (often only seen at Nationals). While double-entering can be exhausting since you are practically doing two events five times, it’s something worth doing at least once in your Speech and Debate career. I recommend it especially if you love more than one event and are worried about having to choose one or the other (now you never have to, at the low cost of your sanity!).
Go to as many tournaments as possible. This is something I really wish I had done earlier in my Speech and Debate career. Because I was doing MUN and Speech at the same time, it became really hard to balance both commitments (and afford both commitments), and I ended up choosing MUN over Speech during my sophomore and junior years. But after attending the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Dallas the summer before my senior year and having probably the best time I had ever had at a tournament or conference, I started to realize that I wanted to get more involved in Speech and Debate. Now, I’m not going to say that one is better than the other because it honestly depends on who you are as a person and what you are looking to get out of the experience, but Speech and Debate tournaments were always enjoyable for me, both inside and outside of the competition rooms.
You will only be able to improve your speaking skills by going to tournaments. Practicing in front of a mirror is very different from doing your speech in a room with other people. Tournaments are also where you will get the necessary critiques for your speech. You also get to watch some really good people (and some not-so-good people) and learn from them as well. Outside of actually competing, tournaments were really where I started to bond with other members, especially those people who weren’t in my events. They were also where I got to meet speech people from schools across the country (where Speech and Debate is even bigger than at Pine View). The food options vary from gross to amazing (if you ever go to Yale, you have to go to Claire’s — some of the best food I’ve ever had at a tournament, though I might be a little bit biased since it’s all vegetarian). I’m not sure how important food is to you, but food is my life, so if that makes you stay in Speech and Debate I’m all for it (just kidding, but seriously — food). And finally, spending late nights in hotels with some of your best friends is pretty hard to beat.
Don’t let money stop you from attending tournaments. PV Speech and Debate has a pretty generous scholarship fund, so everyone who is a member of the club has the opportunity to attend regardless of financial status.
Make friends with the historians. Speech and Debate historians have to take at least one picture of every person during the season for our end-of-year video, which is a huge order. Now while you can always document those important speech memories with an iPhone camera, there’s nothing like getting your picture taken with a Canon (or even a Nikon). It’s an unspoken rule that friends of historians get their own photoshoot at Speech and Debate tournaments. If you are hankering for a new profile picture or cover photo, get to know one (also get to know them because they are all awesome people who truly care about Speech and Debate).
Try Group! Group Interpretation is a twenty-minute piece cut from a book, play or movie that has anywhere from 3-10 performers. What’s awesome about this event is that you don’t have to be in a speechie to do it (my group had two debaters). You get to bond with a couple of people who you will be bound to in a love/hate relationship for about three months. Be prepared for tons of hard work, teamwork and memes (or bad SCIs).
For speechies, don’t write your pieces the night before. This should be an unspoken rule, and one that I ignored more than once. Writing and cutting your piece far in advance is important to ensure that you have the time to memorize and practice. Cramming all that work into one night will most likely drain you of all the energy you need to survive the next day (unless you’re William Wang…then you’re good).
Hope you or a friend have a birthday either during a tournament or on a Thursday. Mrs. Dodd will bake you heavenly treats that are just for you. She also bakes the team treats in general for tournaments, but it feels more special to have treats made especially for you.
It’s not all about breaking. “Breaking” is the term for when you move into out rounds (ex. Quarters, Semis, Finals) from the prelim rounds (usually 4 or 5 for speech and about 6 for debate). Now while I feel like a mom by saying winning isn’t everything, your life shouldn’t revolve around breaking. Breaking feels awesome, but is not something that should be expected in the hyper-competitive world of Speech and Debate. If you do break, celebrate because that’s awesome! If you don’t, see where you went wrong and work on it for next time. Celebrate with the people who did break and go watch their rounds. Your time will come if you are always committed to improving yourself and your piece. (And a secret plus of not breaking: more time for food.)
The memories and friendships I have made in Speech and Debate will last a lifetime. I am so happy that I got to be a part of this club for the past three years. No matter what event you do, you are bound to learn a lot, have a lot of adventures and get some bomb profile pictures. Celebrate your successes and failures. Cherish the time you have in the club. And try as many as Mrs. Dodd’s treats as possible.
Grace Wickerson, Class of 2016
Original Oratory Captain and Speech and Debate Webmaster