What’s a Swing Entry?

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You’ve probably heard the term “swing entry” before at a small tournament – you know the one, where the posting for one event is curiously smaller than all the others. Often, speech and debate enthusiasts like you are thrown haphazardly into the fire of competition so that others have the opportunity to perform. This honor is reserved for students whose coaches know they are capable of quickly memorizing and performing a piece – or improvising hilariously.

Swing entries often find out that they will be participating in an event after they’ve arrived at the tournament, so there is usually not enough time for them to actually memorize a complete speech piece and perform it. To be sanctioned, an individual interpretation event in speech must have at least ten competitors – thus, there must be at least two panels with five speakers each in every round. If some students don't show up for a tournament, the event is in danger of being forfeited, which means no one will get a chance to perform their pieces. This usually happens at small tournaments, especially on weekends during which other events were already scheduled. That's when the coaches call in a swing entry.

In events where students can look at a script, such as Duo or O.I., swing entries have it easier, but in most cases, they end up making up a piece on the spot. While swing entries are held to the same rules as all other competitors at a tournament, they are almost expected to improvise and misbehave in rounds simply because that guarantees they’ll get last place, allowing the other students in the round to progress to Finals. At my high school, one Duet team famously pulled a cell phone in the middle of a round and started making calls.

Of course, this is not the same thing as “throwing” a round, which is what happens when a regularly entered student shows up to the round and doesn’t actually perform a full piece for personal reasons. If you’re a serious competitor, you should avoid this, but it can honestly be really funny. I've seen people deliver Mitch Hedberg one-liners and then sit back down, accompanied by awkward applause. Some people go to the trouble of memorizing a couple of minutes of a monologue or the lyrics to a song, and then "finishing” their piece, asking to be excused. But again, the only time you should ever really “throw” a round is if you are a swing entry or if you forget your piece in the middle of a performance and want to go out with a bang.

If your coach ever asks you if you’d be willing to do a swing entry, you should definitely do it! It’s fun, it’s a good experience, and it will help out other students at the tournament who otherwise don’t have a shot at competing.

I don't know if I could ever be a swing entry. To begin, I would be full of anxiety from not KNOWING the piece. Also, I guess I fall into the serious competitor category. Not that placing is all that matters to me, it's not, but I do go into a round prepared, and ready to compete.

I'm slightly envious of those who can do this and have fun!

I would memorize a bit from George Carlin just to prepare to be a good swing entry ;)

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