It’s no surprise that almost everything is at least a little different in college. This applies to speech and debate teams as well, which surprised me when I joined the forensics team at my school this year. College speech teams usually require students to enter multiple events (my coach required three events, but some meets were more flexible than others). Also, the amount of time that I was asked to dedicate was much higher than I expected.
Meets themselves are also different at the collegiate level. Most meets that my team went to this year were swing tournaments, which is basically two separate tournaments put together and held over a weekend. My team entered teams in parliamentary debate at tournaments as well, which made every tournament weekend a three day affair. We usually traveled from one to five hours to the schools that hosted tournaments, and our team hosted a tournament as well. While staying in hotels and missing Friday classes was exciting, it was a big time commitment and didn’t leave a lot of time for resting and catching up on homework.
The meets themselves were much more competitive than I expected. Interpretive events, like Duo and Poetry, utilize black books, which are small black binders that hold the scripts for the performers. Competitors are required to have them and use them during their speeches, but it’s sometimes frowned upon to rely on them to check your lines in the middle of a performance. Some speakers use them as a part of their blocking, or their actions and gestures during their performance, and others simply hold them steady. As someone who had never performed a speech with a script, using a black book well took a lot of practice. While I loved getting the chance to try new categories and spend my weekends suiting up and giving speeches again, I also really enjoyed seeing other students perform. The wide variety of topics and scripts (many of which would have been ranked in last place on the high school circuit for the subject matter alone) made every round exciting and interesting.
The team atmosphere is the one aspect of being on a speech team that didn’t change very much from high school to college. The team still had inside jokes and weird stories that didn’t make sense to anyone else, but on a college team, I don’t see my teammates in my classes very often. We all came from a wide variety of majors, backgrounds, and friend groups. Speech and debate are our common denominator, and I’m thankful that I joined the team just because it introduced me to so many people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I got to hear advice and learn how to craft a great introduction from the senior team captains, and I got to brainstorm ideas for next year with freshmen and sophomores who will be my teammates for the rest of my college career. I also got to travel to new places and meet students from other schools that I would never have had the chance to talk to without being on the speech team.
Making the decision to continue something as challenging and time consuming as speech and debate in college can be difficult. However, the benefits of having a team and support system are great, and should definitely be considered.