The Fruits of Following Through-Thomas Szymanski

To be perfectly honest, I joined my debate team so that my history teacher, who was a coach of the team, would like me better. Who in the right mind would spend their weekends at a high school arguing? My plan was to quit right after freshman year and leave the activity for good.

Before my escape, my partner and I qualified for the novice state tournament by placing 6th out of 8 teams at a local tournament. While we never had a winning record, there was something else about debate that was addicting. Maybe it was the distraction from school work, or the opportunity to hang out with my friends outside of the classroom. For whatever reason, I decided to cancel my plans of quitting and give debate another shot.

Returning to debate was probably the best decision I’ve made in high school. I arguably peaked sophomore year; winning a semis bid tournament, the state tournament, and qualifying to nationals are all accomplishments I have yet to repeat. My career has plateaued, stuck in a cycle of octos bid after octos bid. I’ve never believed anyone who told me “it's not about winning.” We all do this activity to win and succeed, and anybody who says otherwise probably loses a lot. But looking back at these last four years, from my 6th place certificate to where I am today, I’ve realized that there are so many other things this activity provides than just trophies.

The kids that claim to be in speech and debate for college (avoid these kids like the plague) never fully understand how this activity can change your life. Public speaking still gives me anxiety, but for someone who could barely order at a restaurant without stumbling over his words, the change in confidence is extraordinary. Now, walking into an outround in front of dozens of people is like a walk in the park.

I’ve learned to think outside the box. Debate pushes me to find unique arguments, different ways to solve problems, and to be more creative. The hours I’ve poured into research and case writing greatly outnumber any class I’ve ever been in. I owe my above-average research skills to debate, which have helped me both in and out of the classroom.

Most importantly, the speech and debate community has given me friends that I would’ve never met otherwise. The group of people that choose to be a part of the forensics circle are supportive, caring, and brilliant. Almost every time I’ve needed a flow or a card, one of my friends is there to help. It shows that this activity is not all about winning, but also involves sportsmanship and camaraderie. Many of my best highschool memories are from traveling and being with my team at tournaments.

I want to stop answering the question “what even is speech and debate?” Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in speech and debate, and enjoy the same experiences as I have. I have complete confidence that teachspeech will accomplish this goal. I’m going to cherish every moment of my last few months in my favorite activity.