For many speech and debate students and their coaches, the months of May and June mark the end of the competitive season. National tournaments conclude and final rankings are determined. Here’s what I have noticed over the years…
When someone “loses,” others speak for him/her – a lot. Fellow competitors, parents, friends, and even strangers begin to interject all sorts of sentiments. They erupt with voluminous reasons and tidbits like,
“It’s okay. You’ll do better next time.”
“This was your first year after all.”
“This is such a subjective sport, and you’ve had a great season. Don’t worry about it.”
“Did you see who you were up against? You did great considering the circumstances.”
These utterances are understandable. Of course we want people who we’ve been rooting for to come out on top. So, when we sense that someone we care about is met with disappointment, we may even forget momentarily that in competitive forensics there really are no losers – ever. No matter the rankings, anyone who attempts to improve their communication skills will be a winner in the long run, in the game of life.
But I digress. Here is the more delicate issue that is often overlooked. What should a champion sound like after a win? I have just illustrated how others often will speak for those who do not come home with a trophy, but part of our human nature is fascinated with winners. We all wait to hear (with subconscious scrutiny, I might add) from those who take top honors and earn the title of “champion.” Everyone has witnessed this to some degree in athletic arenas, where within seconds of a win, sportscasters race to secure interviews with the victors. The whole world wants to hear what they have to say.
So, a word to all 2014 speech and debate champions:
Speak with brevity, grace, and gratitude. Others will want to know how you feel, how you trained, and how they can become like you in the future. You will be questioned and complimented, sometimes when you feel ill-prepared to respond, and yet because you are now a recognized public speaker, expectations will be high. Therefore, you must speak from the heart with genuine appreciation. Be sure never to deflect, dismiss, or deny a compliment. They are gifts. True modesty allows for a simple “thank you” which will never be perceived as arrogance if it is spoken sincerely. After that, just be sure to live in such a way that we will keep rooting for you in the years to come.
With winning comes much responsibility. Congratulations!