Judging Isn’t Scary.
It’s true. Judging isn’t scary. Well, it may feel that way at first, but judging at Speech and Debate tournaments is a great way to help your students and your community.
The only way tournaments can occur is when members of the community agree to judge at tournaments. Without judges, tournaments simply can’t happen. That’s a lot of pressure, no doubt. But I think we can agree that such opportunities for students are important. The acts of practicing and then competing are unparalleled at helping students grow and expanding their perspectives of the world. Knowing how to research, the repetition of rhetoric, working through the struggles of being your best, honing the ability to learn from others, learning from mistakes and then correcting those mistakes—all of these aspects of Speech and Debate are all valuable skills young people should learn. It gives them an edge both in high school as well as when they move forward after high school. So they need you to do this.
But judging seems daunting. What if you make a mistake? What if you don’t know what to say? What if the student knows more about the subject than you? And what if you’re wrong? You could ruin a student’s experience and that means you have ruined their life.
Absolutely none of that is true.
Judges don’t go into a round without discussing what they are about to do. There is training. And you have the perfect people to ask questions of: your students. You can absolutely judge at a tournament! Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a story.
When I competed in high school I recruited my mom to judge at the tournament we were hosting. She asked tons of questions before she ever arrived at the competition. She went to the judge training. She asked other parents about their experiences. She was ready and she was excited. And then she judged her first round.
After the round, my coach asked me to go talk to her. My coach said there was a problem with the ballot. I went into the Hospitality Lounge and there was mom, seated at a table and looking at her ballots. As I approached, she looked up and said, without hesitation, “You can’t make me do this so don’t even try.”
I had no idea what mom was talking about. The issue was this: she couldn’t pick just one person to whom she could award the 1st place. The students were all too good. They had obviously worked hard. How could she possibly say that their work wasn’t fantastic? That they had somehow failed?
I talked to her. I told her to write her thoughts on the ballot, to find things the speakers did well and to think of areas that could use improvement. And I told her that students EXPECTED her to rank the round. That they wanted her thoughts so they could improve. As long as she had a reason and could explain that reason, no one would be upset. So she started writing and then ranked the students. She began to see her role as a bit of an educator, which is exactly what a judge should do.
Judging helps student become better at what they do. It helps our team because as a judge, you can speak to your own child or other team members about what you are seeing. It helps share the wonderfully unique perspective of the Grady HS community as well as your own perspectives. Judging helps grow a group of individuals that sees the potential in young people and helps them succeed in a truly remarkable activity. It is also a chance to see what your child is spending so much time on. I didn’t let my parents see me compete until the last tournament of my senior year. Some students never let parents see them in competition—they get too nervous. By judging, you can connect with your child and appreciate even more the risks they are taking and understand why they are growing into confident, self-sufficient leaders. How great is THAT?!
Judging isn’t scary. Well, at least not so scary that you should avoid it. You’ve got this. I mean, your child is the event and you raised them. Think of it as the apple falling from the tree. You have the same roots, right? You can do this. And I guarantee you’ll love it. Hope you can help us out!