So you come from a small school?

4 replies [Last post]

One of the things that has always fascinated me over the years of competing has been the difference in the size of teams within the local district. In my district, there were schools who had only 4-5 competitors and there were a couple of teams who had more than 100. Although the team sizes varied, one thing seemed to always be a constant - a lack of confidence among competitors from smaller schools. Well, here is some encouragement - my graduating class from high school was 9 people. Yes, you read that correctly - nine people! In addition, my forensics team only had about 8-13 members on it during the four years I competed. If you ignore the numbers (which are completely arbitrary) and focus on these two aspects, I guarantee that you can succeed. How?...because I did.

First, you must realize that the size of your team means nothing when you are competing. Judges aren't judging you on the size of your school; they are judging you on your performance. The first thing you must have in order to perform well is skill. Although it seems obvious, skill is something that must be refined. Your ability to hone your skills in speech or debate focuses in on your personal drive; not how large your team is. You must realize that whether you are in speech or debate, your success will come from the practice you (and your partner) put into the final product and that is completely within your control.

The second and final quality that allows for any individual or pair to succeed is a good coach. Although some might argue that the bigger schools have access to more coaching resources, the reality is that it only takes one good coach to make a difference. At my school, I had a great coach and she was able to help me with drafting my oratory piece and finalizing a fresh presentation. My coach and I were very different, but when you coupled together her knowledge and my desire to succeed, I was able to do very well at district, state and national tournaments.

The bottom line is this: the size of your school has very little or no impact on how you do as a competitor. Your will to succeed coupled with weekly discipline is going to be the foundation of your success in any category. While those from small schools shouldn't be intimidated, those from larger schools shouldn't forget that even though you walk into a tournament with 100 other teammates, only one person can walk into a round and win it and that is you!

Students and teams are often so concerned and focused on themselves and their own performances, I bet they rarely even take notice of the size of other teams. And judges probably care a lot less than we might think. It's true. There's nothing to be insecure about with regards to the size of your team. It hardly matters. I remember competing against a debater from a team where he was like the only debater. He was amazing, though, and I feared competing against him nonetheless. Judges and competitors hardly take notice.

i have to agree with you, brian.

i'd like to emphasize your last point. i personally came from a rather large team, at some point pretty close to 100 members.

when being on a big team its very easy to feed off your teammates. you learn from each other and try to match each others skills. in debate we would always work together and pick up each other's slack.

when facing a small-school opponent (i did debate for all four years), it is a clear difference that the work was 100% authentic. the debater really knows what he's talking about. and i have to assume it translates to speech to some extent as well.

Like you said, no matter what school you are from or how big your team is, you are the only one that can change how well you do in the end.

I came from a small speech team, and I think the first two years I was on it we had about a solid eight that competed throughout the year. We were mostly already friends from outside of speech, but those of us who weren't grew close at tournaments.

Our speech team really didn't have fantastic coaches; they were good and very enthusiastic, but I doubt any had prior speech experience. But we worked our tushes off. We placed and did well for a small team competing against fairly large teams and schools with brilliant speech/theatre/Group Interpretation programs. Sure, we knew we were a small team but we went to have fun and win. And we were respected.

My point is, if you let being a small team rule you, you will feel the pressure. If you go into it giving your all and for the fun, then size doesn't matter and you'll most likely not even let it be a factor for you. To me it came down to a competition between myself and 5 other people in each round, and that's manageable. Oh, and a daily competition with myself to improve.

As I am from the same team, I am going to agree with you, haha! We all kept one another in high spirits. That's part of it too; being with people you mesh with. If you have a cohesive team it doesn't matter if you are small, you feel like you can take anything.

Post reply