Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Getting a First on a Ballot

Once at a tournament last year, I was at an awards ceremony and had just been in finals in an event. I had actually just taken second place, and I was pretty excited. I began walking around the church where the ceremony was held and saw a friend of mine reading his ballots. It was his first year, and he hadn't broken in his speech. (Broken? Breaked? Break-ed? I'm not really sure what the past tense ought to be.) I felt a little sorry for him, but as I soon realized, I shouldn't have. He called out to me:
"Chandler! Someone gave me a first!"

I stood there for a moment, holding my overly large trophy and feeling ridiculous. For an instant, I wondered if this was his first First. It probably was. I smiled and wholeheartedly replied, "Congratulations."

One of the zillions of things I love about new people is how excited they get when they realize they got first place on a ballot. I know I can get too wrapped up wondering why I'm not winning events to realize how cool it is to get a high ranking from a judge. But it's good to realize. It's good to remember. Sure, a circled number 1 on a ballot is not the most important thing about speech and debate. But isn't it cool?

It's good to know that hard work is being recognized. I mean, those who want to do well are going to put a lot of work into our speeches (especially in late May). We write a lot of Apologetics cards, do a lot of extemp research, rewrite our platforms a lot, work a lot on character distinction, practice a lot with Expos boards with the hopes of avoiding dropping too many things in the round, and all that is when we're not working on debate. Which is also a lot. Just last night I was talking to a friend of mine who recently became a non-novice. She was telling me about how extemp was a lot of work and stuff. I could only nod and pretend to understand, because I don't do extemp and now you know why. (but I do other stuff so I can still sympathize.) Anyway, she also told me about how somebody had given her a first place once. I was really proud of her. Even if she didn't qualify, even if she didn't break, even if she had only gotten 5ths & Belows except for that one judge (which was not actually the case), I was proud because she works hard and somebody noticed. It's a good feeling when that's recognized.

Having someone give you a first is fun too when no one else does. Not all speeches are worthy of a first place, as a lot of first-time observers and indecisive judges would have you believe. Not everybody can get first. So lots of times, you don't. And then sometimes you do. I don't know if you've noticed, but ranking speeches is incredibly subjective and results can be all over the hypothetical map. I had a speech earlier this year that was in finals in one of those little tournaments where they only qualified the top 4 or so. I took 7th. My five ballots consisted of four 5ths and Belows and one 1st. I still remember who gave me that ballot. Why? Because I felt really special. I ended up dropping that speech later on and doing another instead, but I still fondly remember that one time when someone liked it. Thank you, anonymous judge, for making me smile.

Additionally, receiving even one first place on a ballot is an excellent self-confidence boost. Think about it: out of seven or eight kids who are brave enough to do this public speaking thing too, somebody liked your speech best. That's pretty exciting. You can only go up from there, right? So at the end of the day, as those debaters are so fond of saying, it's important to remember that competition isn't everything and not get too caught up in it. But don't forget how great it feels to get a first. You worked hard for that thing. It's cool.

You're homeschooled. You win.

1 comment:

  1. Chandler, this is such a wonderful post, and so true! A kid doesn't even need a 1st circled to be excited. After his first year of receiving nothing but 5th & below on his ballots, my son was thrilled, absolutely THRILLED to have a recent round with 2nd circled on one of his three ballots. "Mom! NO ONE gave me a 5th and below! That means I'm getting better!" Made my day. :-)