Monday, January 23, 2017

How to Start a Movement...Or How I Lucked into Building a Speech Team

The CG Speech Team - 2010

So, you have how many kids on your speech team? 65!?! How do you have 65 kids on your team? This question is a common question I am asked by my colleagues and friends on the speech circuit and one that I was posed with again this past weekend. Having a large team is certainly a wonderful situation. We fill a bus (and several times - two buses), practices are lively and busy, and finding an audience to practice in front of is never a problem. A team this sizable requires A LOT of coaching time (each student needs to perform individually), organization, effort, and careful planning. To compensate for the lack of time and multiply myself, I watch film most mornings, coach every day of the school year starting in August until the end of February, and sacrifice sleep (and sometimes my sanity) to do so. While some people might initially think considerable roster numbers guarantees success and makes the acquisition of a team trophy easier, I assure you that having a substantial number of students means having to coach and care for said students. The "big team" paradox is at times best described by the Notorious B.I.G. when he suggested that with, "Mo' money [comes] mo' problems."

When I started coaching, a mere two students were on the Speech Team. Two. The task of growing a team seemed daunting, and my 22 year-old-self did not know where to begin. First, I thought I would approach the task of recruiting students by zealously and enthusiastically talking to English classes. If I show how passionate I am about a cause, some student is bound to demonstrate some interest, right? This approach did work, and we ended the year with about 15 students. With this 15 students, we competed in the group event - Performance in the Round and then later competed with the same students in Group Interpretation. These two group events created a sense of unity and allowed students to forge relationships with one another. Once relationships and bonds began to form, momentum began to build. Relationships are essential to the success of any organization or group. Friendship leads to an increased sense of commitment, a desire to support others, and accountability to furthering a cause. When my students became good friends outside of the team, I saw numbers grow, performances improve, and confidence emerge. Once that foundation had been laid in year two, I began to consider how to start increasing scores and develop talent - a topic that I want to reflect upon in more detail in a future post.

As I reflect upon the idea of "starting a movement," I am reminded of the three-minute TED Talk by Derek Sivers. In it, Sivers notes that a movement does not begin with one person, but rather it starts with the first follower. A movement truly starts when one person stands up and takes action with an instigator of change. I lucked into finding the right students who were willing to take this journey with me and forge a path for countless students in the future. Together we created traditions and students have been working to perpetuate those traditions year after year. The first students I worked with are now teachers, enrolled in graduate school, and making positive impacts on the world. They are adults finding their own paths and continuing to use their voices and their energy for good.

Lack of sleep aside, I am incredibly grateful for what the last decade has taught me regarding igniting passion in others, teaching students to be the best people they can be, and learning to cope with adversity (both personal and with my students). As I reflect, I return to the aforementioned question. How did two students become 65 students? How did the speech team momentum start? Fervor, passion, grit, or unabashed commitment to a cause? The real answer lies in a love for kids, a desire to see them grow into incredible people who will make a positive impact on this world, and a culture that celebrates hard work and loves to have fun.

I am so grateful to have watched students grow as performers and speakers, discover the ability to stand tall in the face of failure, and show vulnerability in front of a crowd of people as they share ideas and messages that they hold close to their hearts. Our words are powerful, and our connections and the relationships we build allow us to accomplish extraordinary feats.

The CG Speech Team - 2017

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