Rivalries are everywhere: Coke vs Pepsi, Oreo vs KitKat, Mayonnaise vs Miracle Whip. Even computers and search engines get a bit edgy. It’s the nature of competition – two sides destined to meet toe-to-toe in a battle for victory.
When it comes to college rivalries, the public often immediately thinks of either athletics teams or institutional prestige. In its special feature on America’s Top Colleges, Forbes magazine decided to touch on spirited rivalries between colleges. While athletics, academics, (and some personal history) were at the heart of many of the rivalries, we were a bit surprised to see two speech teams listed – Bradley University and Western Kentucky University.
Part of it is the novelty in seeing major news outlets reference speech teams.
Another part of it is the word rivalry. It seems laden with animosity. One almost pictures audience members with painted faces and foam fingers screaming antagonistically during a heated D.I. round, “YOU CALL THAT A TEASER!?!” The idea of fans bringing vuvuzelas to an extemp round is terrifying.
It’s not uncommon for two teams that frequently cross paths to engage in a competitive tug-of-war. This happens frequently on both the high school and collegiate circuit. Some inter-school competitions are based on proximity, size, or any other shared variable.
The key to discussing Bradley's and WKU's speech teams, however, is the notion of being competitive and remaining cordial. The teams have battled it out for the AFA-NIET and NFA National Tournament championships for years. While both teams share a drive for success, it does not prevent the competitors and coaches from being gracious, polite, and courteous to each other. Countless connections, both personal and professional, have blossomed between members of the two teams.
Forensics teaches us many things. We learn how to be articulate and analytical. We refine our work ethic and open our minds to new ideas. We figure out what to do when we achieve our goals or fall just short of them. However, this may be one of the most difficult and rewarding lessons we can learn from the activity: our competition is not our enemy.
Competition can be wonderful. It can push us to think creatively, perform whole-heartedly, and dedicate ourselves fully. Competition can unite and inspire a team. If we focus too much on it though, we lose sight of everything else. There is much we can learn from our fiercest competitors. But when we are too preoccupied with “beating the other team,” we can’t see all the positive attributes that makes our opponents successful.
Life after forensics is full of competition. Channeling a competitive spirit in a positive way is a crucial skill to learn. What better place to practice it than in the emotional, articulate, intelligent, and fairly quirky confines of forensics?