It was just a simple, two-step math problem that I knew how to do. “Factoring is easy!” I thought to myself. But as I walked up to the white board to explain to the rest of the class, my legs trembled. My voice choked up and I stammered.
It was a group video project. “My partner is counting on me!” I told myself. All I had to do was speak into a mic on a computer, and we could get the recording and be done for the day. I paused between phrases, and couldn’t finish a sentence. It took us all afternoon. We got a B.
It seems weird to think about now, but I was a shy, quiet kid throughout elementary and middle school. The above instances occurred in the 8th grade, and to be honest, I’m not sure why I was so timid. I remember my 8th-grade English teacher telling me (after the 15th or 16th take of my two-sentence blurb for our video project) that I had the voice of a news broadcaster. At the time, I thought it was just a ploy to boost my confidence. I mean, could I really be a guy like this?
But at the beginning of 9th grade, I took it to heart.
A walk with two of my best (and more outgoing) middle school friends and a massive trifold conspicuously placed at the front of the school propelled me into the NFL.
What? The NFL? This guy must be crazy.
I’m only half-crazy. What I’m talking about is the other NFL.
The National Forensics League.
More popularly known as Speech & Debate, I joined the club the first week of my freshman year of high school. The basic premise was that we travel to schools across the region and compete against other high school students in various public speaking events. I would be competing in front of as many as 7 people in a room, plus a judge. It was sure to help me conquer my stage fright.
The catch? We had to wear suits and ties. And many of our tournaments involved waking up at 5 a.m., in the freezing cold, waiting to fill a busload of kids ready to ride 2-3 hours to do battle with their words. Yet there were 50 of us on the team. And thousands more of insanely competitive (emphasis on insane) kids like us across the nation.
It made for some of the greatest experiences of my life.
In my four years of high school, Speech & Debate taught me a lot. It taught me time management – performances had restraints on how long they could be, so I had to carefully adjust my talking speed and material to make time – otherwise I’d get disqualified. I also learned to be more outgoing – I met a lot of people and made new friends simply by speaking to them about their performances afterwards. There’s simply too much about the entire experience to sufficiently fit into one blog, so I’ve gotta split it up. TL;DR I wouldn’t be the way I am today without Speech & Debate, and I’m incredibly grateful for it.
So, even though I would have liked to break tackles and throw touchdown passes on the gridiron and make millions, I’ll would take this other NFL any day. Plus, this kid is much better-suited for the job anyway: