Three years ago I filled out my very first contract, signing on to become an assistant speech coach for Columbiana High School. Now, in less than one month, I will once again be traveling to the National Tournament with our team, to Birmingham, AL. Only this time, I will be taking my very own National Qualifier to compete against students from all over the country! It still doesn’t feel real to me.
Looking back, the NSDA tournament – BIG Districts – feels like it just happened last weekend. Hell, every time I think back to the awards ceremony I get all emotional and feel goosebumps crash over my body. If you’ve ever been around Speech & Debate, this is standard issue when discussing the tournament. But now is not a time to reminisce and look to the past – it’s time to get excited!
If you’ve ever been around Speech & Debate, you know just how important this opportunity is. Not only because it means that the students you coach are some of the best students in the district (or District Champions, for that matter) but that they get the chance to compete on the biggest stage of their careers. As a coach, having the chance to give that opportunity to someone and help mold them and push them on their very own journey has meant more to me than I ever could have imagined. It’s like all of the energy I spent wishing for more time when I was on the team has vanished and has been shaped into something new. Now, all I can focus on is giving my ‘Dancestors’ all of my energy and more opportunities than I ever had when I was in their shoes – or ‘suits’ for that matter.
Leading up to this tournament has been a whirlwind for both me and Mandy, my National Qualifier. It’s as if all of her hard work and dedication has been renewed and is flourishing more than ever. This is exciting! As her coach, I couldn’t be happier for her or prouder to bring her to Nationals and show her what I’ve wanted to for so long. This is a chance to be fully submerged in the passion and culture of Speech & Debate. It’s truly an opportunity that we as coaches wish all of our kids get to experience at least once. Quite honestly, there’s nothing like it. Plus, spending a week with your team and getting to just let go and enjoy what you love to do is pretty glorious, in my opinion.
There will always be areas to improve on and there will always be room to grow. But the best part of Nationals is simply the experience of it all. Giving it everything you have no matter what happens, leaving every part of your soul in each and every round, and staying true to your talents and strengths. The rounds, the downtime, the anticipation of dropping numbers. Everything adds up and makes this a remarkable opportunity for anyone involved. I am very blessed and fortunate to have the chance not only to attend the tournament, but to bring my own National Qualifier and give Mandy this experience. My only other wish is that I could bring all of ‘The Dancestors’ to Bama’ with us!
I’m beyond excited for what #Nats2k17 will bring. Again, this is the experience that every coach wants for their students more than anything. To be able to spend as much time as possible with some of the most important people in my life will always be a blessing. Not only can I not wait for June 16th to get here, but I can’t wait to breathe in every moment that Nationals will offer. This is a moment that truly epitomizes our team’s “Dare to Dream” motto. But it’s also a moment that embodies everything my ‘Dancestors’ have preached all season long.
That is, to… BABA!
Originally published 5/22/17