Forensics and "Grit"

Posted on March 18, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

A recent NPR story began examining the role some educators believe "grit" plays in a student's success. As Tovia Smith points out, "Experts define grit as persistence, determination and resilience; it's that je ne sais quoi that drives one kid to practice trumpet or study Spanish for hours — or years — on end, while another quits after the first setback." Remember that old adage that failure isn't falling but refusing to get back up? It's very similar.

Megan Koch, Assistant Director of Forensics and Director of Individual Events at Illinois State University, pointed out just how crucial grit is in our activity:

"It amazes me how often educational researchers "realize" that there is one more super important thing that we aren't teaching our kids in schools....that Forensics has fostered all along. Here is one more. It turns out that it is important for kids to be "gritty," or learn how to succeed despite failure, setbacks and long odds. Anyone who has spent time trying to translate and adjust to judges' ballots, coaches' advice and teammates' pressure knows EXACTLY what this is."

Perhaps our new forensics adage should state, "The triumph isn't in the trophies but in the trying nonetheless."

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A Sort of Homecoming

Posted on March 13, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

For an activity that loves movies, it is always fun when a movie comes out about the activity!

A Sort of Homecoming is coming of age drama tells the story of a young woman's life-changing pursuit of a national debate championship. It stars Laura Marano, Parker Mack, Katherine McNamara, Michelle Clunie and Kathleen Wilhoite. The independent feature film recently finished production and is raising funds for marketing and distribution.

Want to make a contribution and earn some cool stuff from the movie? Check out their page on Indiegogo!

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Learning to Make Small Talk

Posted on February 27, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

In his post for Inc., author Jeff Haden received some great advice for dealing with his shyness. When attending a conference, he found himself uncomfortable in a room full of strangers. After another participant seemed to effortlessly strike up conversations, he asked what his trick was. His response:
"Look around the room. Pick someone who looks uncomfortable. Pick someone who seems to feel out of place. Pick someone just like you.
"Then go talk to them. Make it your goal to make that one person feel more comfortable. Then you'll feel more comfortable too."
Don't worry, there's always someone who feels shy at tournaments. It's great practice for life after high school or college when you're forced to enter "the real world."

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Being Competive and Remaining Cordial Between Speech Teams

Posted on August 05, 2013 by Stephanie Alderdice

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?

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