Last weekend I made a beautiful chocolatey cake. Quite honestly it was fantastic, so my roommates and I ate most of it, then left the rest of it out on the counter. After a few days of the last bit sitting out, it got stale on the outside. What had once been melt-in-your-mouth fresh was suddenly too hard to be a really good chocolate cake anymore. For many, that’s what this time in the competition season feels like. You’ve fought for so long to do well, suddenly it doesn’t feel as urgent anymore. This used to be your dream, but now your mind is on other things, and suddenly you just don’t care what happens. So what do you do when you feel that way?
- Sit in a puddle and mope. No seriously. Rethink all your life choices.
The best thing to do at this point is to let it all out. Do you really hate debating? I mean who wouldn’t hate a sport where you have to show in business formal and talk to other people the whole day?!! Imagine liking that! What kind of twisted person would you have to be?! So the answer is to sit in a puddle and rethink every decision you’ve ever made in life. You’ve chosen to drive to tournaments hours away from you, walk into shiveringly cold or hot-lava-mimicking buildings surrounded by people who really just want you to leave so they have a better shot at winning, to dress in the most choking tie possible, to pour your life energy into something that in four months will be completely over. Yup. Totally normal.
So now that you’ve taken some time to mope, you need to ask yourself whether you actually want to get out of this pit. Ultimately I can write any number of tips here on how to shake this feeling, but if you’re not willing my words will fall on blind ears. If you decide you do actually love debate deep down, then, by all means, read on!
- Talk to your partner- Diagnose the issue.
Your next step is to diagnose the problem. There are a couple of different ways to do this. Talk to a parent, your partner, or a coach, or maybe just talk to yourself facing a wall. However, you choose to accomplish this, ask a few questions. What are you trying to accomplish by competing in speech and debate? Have you achieved it? If yes, what new thing are you working towards? Is the thing you’re trying to achieve a progressive thing, that will get better the longer you keep competing? If no, you haven’t achieved it, what can you change about the way you’re competing now to achieve it? If you can’t even think of a reason you’re competing in debate, then honestly I’d encourage you to go back to the basics. Talk to someone you know is passionate about debate. I mean have a real conversation. Get inspired!
- Set new goals. Make them SMART!
After you’ve regained a smidge of motivation, you need to find new ways to motivate yourself, including new things you hope to achieve! This works hand in hand with the earlier conversation you had, what are you hoping to achieve while competing? Including speaking goals, wanting to break, receiving top ten in an event, going to Nats, being able to give a debate speech without prep time, getting a perfect 30 in speaks, etc. Always make sure your goals are SMART. Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Timely. Once you have these goals set, or maybe if you’re struggling to come up with ideas for goals, get in contact with a coach!
- Get Coaching!
Coaches are great at helping you find goals to motivate you. Keep in mind though, that it is 100000% necessary that you are willing to put in some work. If you’re not ready for that, go back a few steps before approaching a coach. They’ll give you suggestions, drills, tips for practicing, but if you’re not ready to work on your speaking, nothing will be any better. If you’re in a club, and already have a coach, but still feel like you’re in a speaking rut, definitely look outside the box at other coaches who can help! Even if you’re completely happy with your current coach, a new perspective is always incredibly helpful, especially if things, in general, are feeling stale. Having that variety of feedback will mimic the wide variety of feedback you get from judges, and will refine you even more. So don’t contact a coach unless you feel ready to push yourself.
- Try new things, and never stop pushing yourself
Just never quit! If you have even a tinge of knowledge that debate is good for you, keep working through it! Find ways to improve yourself, and push through the staleness! Try new techniques, debate new people, think outside the box, and just focus on having fun! Sure, debate isn’t for everyone, but if you’re already in the thick of it, you already acknowledge the worth of it.