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With the month of May coming to a close, final competitions like NITOC and the NCFCA Championship are right around the corner. Regionals was an exciting time to see people make well-earned accomplishments and qualify to the national championships of various leagues. Many of you reading this article were likely at those regional events and had front row seats to watch this happen. On one hand, it may have been very exciting. On the other, there may have been a strong temptation to be discouraged when watching your friends earn slots to Nationals while you did not. If you relate to that feeling, then this article is for you. For those who did make it to Nationals, congratulations(!), and I would still encourage you to continue because much of this advice will still be relevant to you. 

I have three reminders to offer debaters and competitors who did not make it to nationals. These reminders are important because they have the potential to frame the success of your upcoming season. 

Reminder 1: Review and Reflect on Your Season 

Unlike all of the competitors who are going to Nationals, you have an extra month or two of time to begin prepping for next season. My encouragement to you is to not let this time go to waste. One strategy that I have found to be helpful for myself and students I coach is to sit down and evaluate the previous season while establishing expectations and goals for the upcoming season. This is important because if you don’t have an outline for what you are driving for in competition, then you will struggle to feel like you have achieved your goals. In evaluating the previous season, create a list of questions that you want to know the answers to. I wrote a couple out to help get you started: 

  1. In terms of competition, what was a highlight and a lowlight from your season?
  2. What round/event did you feel like you performed the best in (regardless of actual results)? Why? Could the reasons for why become a metric to help determine future success? 
  3. What were the goals that you had for the season, and in what ways did you achieve them? 
  4. Looking back, did any of those goals turn out to be unreasonable? How should you adapt those goals for the future?
  5. A question to ask your debate coach/partners: What is one thing that I did really well this year, and what is something that I really need to work on?

*With the final question, remind the person that you genuinely want an honest answer. (And be ready to receive that answer with humility!) 

Once you have created your own list of questions and processed through your answers to them, establish three specific goals that relate to a skill that you want to achieve. Finally, write out a couple of specific metrics that you can use in order to determine if this goal is being achieved. Here is a quick example of what I mean by this: 

Goal: Improve my organization in a debate round. 

Metric(s): Am I recording/catching all of the arguments on my flow? Am I sorting those arguments under the proper stock issues? Am I vocalizing those arguments to the judge with articulate organization? Do I consistently provide an outline of my speech during its introduction? Do I follow through with that organization? 

Reminder 2: Utilize Your Time 

Especially if you are a debater, the time that you have gained from not having to prep and compete at nationals is valuable time that you can spend exploring the new resolution options. Identify any general negatives that you may want to prioritize and start searching for affirmative case ideas. In this process of researching the resolution, a great exercise is to set a goal of crafting 1-2 affirmative case ideas from scratch. 

Reminder 3: Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice 

In the book of Romans, Paul reminds us to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (12:15). This principle is as essential to high schoolers in the 21st century as it was to the ancient church in Rome. Don’t let this become a time that you look back on with regret because you did not encourage and celebrate the achievements of others. Instead, choose to be the person who pushes others toward the greater discipline of using their gifts for the glory of God. Additionally, if you want to have people encouraging you in your moments of accomplishment, it is important to learn how to do the same for others first. If you feel disappointed with your performance from the season, a great way to help reorient your attitude is to reflect on what God did give you this past competition season. If you are struggling to come up with anything, here are a couple that I often have to remind myself of: 

  1. The gift of opportunity. Don’t forget that many people in this world do not even get the chance to consider doing something like speech and debate because it is an opportunity that is never placed before them. Praise God for the fact that he has given you this chance to even compete and learn about speaking well!
  2. The gift of skill. You may not realize it in the middle of the season, but the honest reality is that you have completed this year of speech and debate with more skill and knowledge than what you had at the beginning. Take some time to think about the type of debater you were at the beginning of this year and the ways that you have improved. 

Paul reminds us to “give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thess. 5:18), and there is no better time to start this than now!

Jala Boyer has earned numerous 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals and competed at the NCFCA National Championship in five categories. As an intern on the Student Advisory Council of the NCFCA, Jala worked alongside the executive director, Kim Cromer, to learn the inner workings of competitive speech and debate, helping students create long-term and meaningful success. Jala is currently an Honors student at Liberty University studying communications with an emphasis in politics. To book a coaching session with Jala, follow this link https://www.ethosdebate.com/ coaching/book-coach/

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