Why Are There State-Run Speech Organizations When The NFL Exists?

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When I was in high school, I competed in speech through the IHSA (Illinois High School Association). I never knew that there was a National Forensics League (NFL). My school’s team was ridiculously small and staffed by teachers who I doubt even were in speech when they were in school. Thus, I don’t think them getting involved in the NFL was a priority. Once I got older and went to college I became aware of the NFL. Never learned anything beyond it existed, but at least I was in the know. Writing for The Forensics Community has forced me to learn more about the NFL and has got me to wonder--why the differences in speech? If there is an NFL, then why would states bother creating their own organization and rules for speech?

I’ve been perusing cyberspace to try to find answers, and I have found none. Like most things speech, finding any information on the internet is laborious and often disappointing. I have found out that in order to compete at the NFL’s Nationals you need to be a member of the NFL and compete at tournaments that qualify for NFL points. I also found out from leafing through the IHSA’s speech handbook that a panel is chosen to act as overseers to state run competitions—they make the rules, guidelines, and provide the framework for tournaments (I’m assuming the same basic guideline are in place for other states with their own speech programs).

I am not positive of the rationale behind not just using the NFL for nationwide regulation, but I can guess that individual states’ high school activities boards think they know what it best for the students of that state. Or they want to be different or have control over events in that state. If the NFL was the only thing allowed, it’s sort-of a monopoly, and if money can be made (which I’m sure is the case), then states would want their share.

Part of me is upset that the NFL was never an option. It’s a drag that a national competition was never possible while competing in the IHSA. And it just sounds official and important to say “I’m a member of the NFL.” All I can say is I was on speech. Whop-de-do. But, the differences in competition structure the IHSA offered was fantastic. We had more events (Humorous Duet Acting, Dramatic Duet Acting(okay, not more but split), Original Comedy, Declamation (a standard event for all ages), and Radio). The rules are slightly different (contact in Duo and an 8 minute time limit for instance), and I like the rule alterations when compared to the NFL.

I guess it really doesn’t matter where you compete as long as you’re competing and enjoying it. What are everyone else’s thoughts on this; or does anyone know why precisely states choose to be different? If I discover anything, I’ll let you all know!

Maybe part of the answer is that the NFL could never realistically administer the necessary number of tournaments for all high schools across the country. That's why the state-run leagues are needed. It's a tiered approach to qualify for Nationals. But I'm not entirely clear myself and often wonder why there are so many organizations! As you note, having different rules within states doesn't make sense and complicates the competition.

Yeah lis, I never understood the need for two different leagues. Im sure that its different for all states, but in pennsylvania, it seemed like no one (staff and judges) at the state level. The national level was much more competitive and brought a broader group of competitors (obviously) to the table.

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