Thursday, June 28, 2012

Handling Odd Ballots

I saw a poll on Facebook once that asked CHSADKs whether they loved or hated speech & debate ballots. The overwhelming answer was "Both." Which seems pretty accurate to me. The speaker and debater in each of us wants desperately to improve, and listening to ballots is generally a pretty good way to do so. And honestly, some ballots are gold. Maybe the judge ripped your speech up and still ranked you high enough to break. Maybe it's from a favorite alumni of yours and is therefore genius. Maybe it's extremely insightful and helpful regardless of ranking. Whatever the case, I've had some pretty good ballots in my day, and you probably have to. However, every once in a while a ballot may slip into your fingers that brings the debater in you right out, and not necessarily in a good way. So how do you react to your ballots?

Sometimes, we simply slip into a phase known as "denial."
"What?" you say to yourself. "How could he possibly say my characters aren't distinct when the last ballot commended me for just that? He clearly doesn't know what he's talking about. Sure, my characters were kind of similar. I mean, yea, they all had the same accent, were about the same age, and did a lot of the same things. But still, they were totally different. This judge is crazy." Then part of you starts to think that maybe he's right, and maybe you should've done whatever it was better, and maybe you should take any advice you can get from this ballot- but, no. That's ridiculous.

Or, we could react with a witty comeback. I once got a ballot that said very little other than, "Your plot was vague. 5th & Below" to which I replied, "Ha! Your ballot is vague!" And the ballot had nothing to say to that, I'll tell you what.
Frankly, there didn't really seem to be anything I could learn from this ballot, because there wasn't really anything wrong with the plot. So I got a little argumentative. I'm sorry. But it's true. And I amused myself, so I was okay with it.

Alternatively, you could laugh at ballots (as opposed to your own responses to them). Haven't you ever got a ballot that you read and wondered what the judge was thinking? I mean, some of those are the ones you can't even read. Other times, you get a ballot and wonder if they got you mixed up with someone else, perhaps the kid who went before you in an IE or the fellow you were debating against (or your duo partner. I think that happened to me once), because their feedback doesn't appear to have anything to do with you. Or sometimes ballots are just really silly. I got a particularly interesting ballot recently, which began "I DO NOT LIKE THIS STORY" and then complained of all the misery in my DI. But instead of being upset, I laughed. I thought it was funny. Well, not at first. But then I wondered if he wrote than on every ballot. I mean, someone who doesn't appreciate being saddened is not the kind of person one would think would volunteer to judge DI. He must have really hated that 96 minutes. Sorry, man.

In fact, all of the ballots I received that round were odd. My mom decided she didn't trust those judges and I should just ignore them. Another excellent strategy at times, to be used sparingly.

On many occasions, ballots are so odd that you feel obligated to share them with other people, like I just did. I've heard of some pretty funny ballots before. Sometimes, the comments are just really obvious- like a ballot that ranks you first speaker in a debate round and says, "I thought you were the best speaker in the room." Or a ballot that has you in 4th place in an IE and says, "I liked your piece, but there were three others ahead of you." Those are always amusing. Maybe there are certain comments you get a lot, such as remarks on your poise, correcting pronunciation, commending your accents for the 25th time, or "What a big voice from such a little girl!" (I get that last one a lot.) Other times, remarks from judges are funny because they're actually trying to be funny, and those are the very best kind. If you share odd comments with other people, things tend to be a lot more fun.

Honestly, ballots can be frustrating sometimes: a judge votes you down for an argument the other team never brought up, claims you didn't have a thesis or roadmap when you did, disagreed with your platform and didn't want to be persuaded, decided your interp was actually not an interp... whatever the case, we've all been there. It's easy to get angry with these ballots. Is it fair? Yea, maybe, sometimes. Not always, but not never. Is it worthwhile? Nope. Is it more fun to laugh? Always.

You're homeschooled, which explains why people say weird things about you.


  1. I know this doesn't have anything to do with the above article {don't you just love comments that start this way?}, but - I'll continue anyway - I just wanted to tell you how amusing your "confessions" were...I've only attended one debate this past winter, but your points made me laugh all the same. Can't wait to join STOA next year...maybe I'll be lucky enough to bump into you at those massive tournies? What club are you from?


  2. Hey Grace! I'm glad you enjoyed the Confessions. :) I'm in Veritas, in southern California. Hope to see you around!