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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

So we talked.

I am a Speech and Debate coach.

More or less in name only.

Only, occasionally, I feel like I might actually be learning a thing or two.

Last weekend, I accompanied the lone varsity competitor to her half of the tournament.

Mostly, it was me sitting around bored and doing my homework.

But after she finished her rounds, we had a good chat.

She is an excellent captain and leader.

She is also a consistently unsuccessful competitor.

Performance doesn't come naturally to her.

This year, she has a lot of anxiety about leading a team when she has never won.

So we talked.

We talked about how much perseverance she has.

We talked about her commitment to her own success.

We talked about leadership and what particular skills that entails.

We talked about her college plans.

We talked about how she could NEVER disappoint her coaches by continuously trying despite failing.

We talked about how to choose events and pieces.

I believe she needs to worry less about winning and more about finding pieces to perform she is passionate about.

She is struggling to focus on this.

She feels like she is running out of time.

And she is, but rushing forward with a performance piece she doesn't love is unlikely to help her win.

I think, I hope, our conversation helped her gain some small measure of perspective.

Hopefully, I can at least help her make peace with her weaknesses and capitalize on her strengths.

Then this week, I got to see what real coaching for competition looks like.

I won't say I contributed, but I was there, and it was pretty awesome.

We have three novice teams in an event called Public Forum.

The last day before Thanksgiving break, all six showed up for practice.

We sat around a table and explored the new topic for this month.

The students discussed their background knowledge, did a little on the spot research, and challenged each other's initial opinions.

The actual coach (my former student teacher and amazing colleague) gently prodded them with strategic questions.

It was encouraging to see them think critically, support each other, and learn a little something.

They all agreed to do homework over the break.

They exchanged contact information so they could work together.

I still don't know how to do that.

I don't understand or know the rules for most events.

I'm not sure of the priorities for improvement.

I am not a competent coach of this activity.

But I feel like I can be a pretty good cheerleader.

Like maybe, having judged many times, I can provide an outside perspective.

Like maybe, this whole Assistant Adult in charge thing is kind of fun.

I took this position because I needed the money, plain and simple.

Enjoying it is a good thing.

Not entirely unexpected, but a good thing nonetheless.

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