Day one of any tournament usually left me wandering around, exploring the new environment and staking out ahead of time where my rounds were going to be. I was careful, oh so careful, to make sure I knew where everything was. And yet without fail, every round, I would get lost. I would be wandering around in circles miserably, not understanding how this could have happened when I spent all that time scouting the lay of the land!
I'm oblivious. That's how it happened. So while I now know my way around a handful of campuses across the States, I still get lost at my own university. It doesn't matter that I've explored every square inch of the place, that I give upperclassmen directions, that I've all but memorized the campus map. I still walk into strangers houses and end up 15 minutes late to class and step off the bus feeling disoriented. You know why? Because I'm oblivious.
I thought I wouldn't miss the thrill of clicking refresh on the NCFCA website moments before registration opened, the rush of typing out all my events as fast as possible, and the futility of willing my browser to go faster. And I don't miss it. Because that's exactly what class registration is like. I found myself logging on each day leading up to my registration time, watching the number of available seats in the classes I wanted shrink and shrink. Depressing.
And just like kids whose parents have tournament jobs get to register before everyone else, here athletes get the first pick. It's a an equitable system, if not a fractured one. I now know how it feels to be on the other side of priority registration. It's lame. I feel like I need to write apology notes to anyone I've ever pushed out of an event I was PQ'd for.
I'm stuck on campus five days a week, usually for 14 hours a day. And while hopping from class to class to work to meetings doesn't really compare with the strain of three-rounds-6-events-plus-debate, the whole college does feel a little bit like a tournament. Downtime when you find yourself alone, running late to rounds, not having a chance to grab a bit to eat, early mornings and late nights. Lots of strangers who seem to all know each other running around. Just, it all lasts a little longer than three days.
I'm kind of a pansy by nature, and while all this is very much the reality of American culture [basically until I retire, or die] I'm glad I had a chance to experience a more demanding environment, instead of going straight from the couch where I did my school to this fish bowl.
4. Script submission
If you thought the pile of strict and confusing script submission rules were entirely illegitimate, once you come to college, boy, will your mind be blown. Formatting rules are nonnegotiable. No exceptions, no excuses, no mercy. One and a half inch margins [the Microsoft Word default, mind you] will land you a zero. Ariel instead of Times New Romans? You're a goner. All my giant classes grade the homework on format instead of content, so if you don't follow instructions to the letter, you don't get the sympathetic smile of a submission person and a "Go to the library, fix it, come back." No, you get a ZERO. So don't whine about script submission; follow instructions.
And don't say I am lacking empathy, either! While it's true I survived nearly my whole career in NCFCA without a single script glitch, I did experience the sinking panic when I left a single word unnecessarily bolded at the most recent national tournament. I could have cried. Script problems are awful, one of the most traumatizing of all tournament issues. I understand. BUT. The emotional pain and stress is worth the lesson you learn. Follow the freaking directions, fool.
But, of course you already know this. It's why we do NCFCA. To learn the skills. You know this by heart: never underestimate how important it is to be articulate and well-read and logical and a sociable converser and a gracious winner. Or loser, as the case may be. Everyone has to learn these skills eventually. It's just easier to have the jump on it all.
I didn't think it was possible to be more grateful for NCFCA than I already was, but the appreciation grows with the scope of my experience. It was the most useful thing I've ever done. Thanks Mom.