For entirely self-indulgent posterity, here is some documentation of my involvement with a forensics league that did more than any other high school activity to shape who I am and what I care about. (How's that for scary?) Here is my history in NCFCA.
"Rabbit Hill" by Robert Lawson, OI
I was twelve and really nervous, met a lot of nice people, got inspired, and I caught the bug.
"Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw, DUO
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln, OrI
Florence Nightingale, OO
I was thirteen and all I remember about this year is 1) visiting the Fellowship, 2) it snowing, and 3) signing up for two speeches the night before. You can imagine how that went.
"The Art of Being Persuasive", DUO
"The Princess and the Kiss", OI
Robert E. Lee, OO
TP: medical malpractice year
I was fourteen and I broke for the first time ever. I qualified for Nationals and felt so terrible about it that I didn't even want to go.
"The Last Leaf" by O. Henry, DI
"The Butter Battle Book" by Dr. Suess, OI
The Futility of Wealth, ThI
Sanctity of Life, OO
LD: overvalued democracy year
I was fifteen, knew everyone in the league, and placed in sweeps for the first time.
"The Glass Castle" by Jeanette Walls, DI
"Frog" by Vivian Vand Velde, HI
Judges 4 - 5, the story of Deborah, OI
A Different Kind of Recycling, PERS
The Beijing Olympics, OO
LD: isolationism year
I was sixteen, got my first first place, and went to my very favorite tournament of all time: the Virginia Open at Regent University.
More than a Piece of Paper, OO
"Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti, OI
"Cinder Elephant" by Jane Yolen, HI
Lessons I Learned in the Dark, DI
LD: idealism and pragmatism year.
I was seventeen, stretched my limits with four weird speeches, and got my only first place debate ranking.
"The Choice" by Claire Luckham, DUO
"The Odd Couple" by Neil Simon, HI
Floss to Save Your Life, PERS
TP: environmental policy reform year.
I was eighteen, and it was my very last year.
When I first started, I was terrible. All the kids in my club would break and I would get straight fifth and belows. In TP I had a straight 3-3 record, and when I started LD it dropped to 0-6. But randomly, I really liked it. Speaking and debating. I neglected a lot of my real schoolwork a lot of the time to work on speech and debate. And eventually, with some practice and mentoring, I got a little better at it. And my friends were happy, because they no longer had to feel awkward when they broke and I didn't, because finally I was breaking, too.
The first time I qualified for Nationals, I felt sick about it. I didn't want to go, and I didn't want to talk about it, I was so ashamed because I felt like I didn't deserve it. And my mom had to explain to me that only rarely do we deserve what we get, that qualifying was a God-thing, and that I needed to square my shoulders and make the best of it. In retrospect I can't believe she took me and my siblings all the way to Purcellville, VA for that one speech.
Do you know, my second round I made the mistake of waiting in the room for my turn, and what's more, the girl who went right before me, directly before me, she did the same exact piece? I was a mess, I was so nervous. I never got my ballots from that Nationals, we left early and whoever collected my ballots for me lost them, and I never saw them. But clearly someone in the room needed to hear that story. Needed to hear it twice. It sounds silly, and mystical, but, I was then resolved, that every speech I gave needed to have a point.
This is why apologetics is my favorite event of all time. Something that forces me to know my faith and explain it concisely. The first year, especially, through my laborious prep I was forced to see doctrine and illustrations and devotional implications everywhere I turned. Research spilled over from the class into my life, seeing truth everywhere in a whole new way. I read Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology cover to cover; it was a pain, but I'm the better for it. I could probably write a solitary blog post solely on what I've learned from apologetics. But I love to be handed six minutes to dwell on truth.
We shell out money for these platforms, we pay a hefty price for three sets of three people to listen to what we have to say for ten minutes. We might as well have something worth saying. And now that I see how meaningless these seven years were, I'm so glad that none of those speeches were a waste of time. That every word I labored to memorize was worth saying.
Not sure I can say the same for debate. Bleck. But where speech failed to breed in me any sort of refinement on the platform, debate taught me actual skills. Speech you might do for years and years and only learn a little. Debate is baptism by fire. Most good speakers were first debaters. [And I guess, those who excel in speech without any debate involvement, are naturals.] Debate forced me to do what I hate: think fast and talk directly. I still have so much learn, this skill still needs so much refinement, but I am boundlessly grateful for the jumpstart NCFCA gave me here.