Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sylvania - What a Weekend!

Sitting at a McDonalds off the turnpike late Saturday night surrounded by the six debaters I took to the Sylvania tournament, I finally felt the passion I have for coaching that has been missing most of this season.

For the non-debate audience, the Sylvania tournament is in a suburb of Toledo, easily the biggest tournament of the year in Ohio with over 1,000 high school students competing, and the only overnight (stay in a hotel) tournament for the Copley team this year. The tournament starts Friday afternoon and ends sometime Saturday evening. In order to compete at tournaments, each school has to provide judges. For debate, the basic ratio is 1 student: 1 judge, 2 students: 1 judge, 3 students: 2 judges, 4 students: 2 judges. You get the idea. Because the distance away, we can't really ask our local judges for the time commitment and the expense of driving out there to help our team. We rely on coaches and parents who are willing to judge. Consequently, we just can't take our entire team. In debate, we can traditionally take two entries in each debate (Public Forum {PF}and Lincoln Douglas {LD}). This year, we also took a couple of kids on the speech side of the team, but because of the way the tournament is set up, I didn't really get to see them.

2 day tournaments work like this: the kids debate 4 rounds on Friday, then they debate 2 more on Saturday. After those 2 rounds, all kids with winning records (4-2 or higher) break into a partial double-octa bracket. At that point, it is single elimination until you have a champion in the final round.

Last year, we had a very successful Sylvania tournament. We took our senior and our only second year LDer and our senior and junior power house PF team and two sophomores. We left the tournament with the senior LDer winning and the power house PF team taking 3rd. Yeah, it felt good! The kids who didn't place had good tournaments, and we generally had a good time.

The decision of who to take this year wasn't all that easy. In PF, it was pretty simple, I only had two established teams, but in LD, it was pretty tough. Ultimately, we decided to take a sophomore over a junior because of that sophomore's level of dedication. The junior was very upset with the decision as were his parents, but ultimately, the decision stood.

For the first time in several months, I was in the judges pool. For the first round, I judged PF, and it wasn't a very interesting round. One team was quite weak, but showed some potential, while the other team was good, but I was more impressed (and distracted by the murals drawn on the ceiling).

For the debatisms:

From there, I judged LD the rest of the tournament. The second round had one of the funniest cases I have ever heard, which takes some effort because the topic is "Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a deliberate response to repeated domestic violence." The topic doesn't really lend itself to humor, but...

The negative (arguing it's wrong for the abused to try to kill their abuser) used a case touting the power of peace and reconciliation. When he mentioned that women in Saudi Arabia can't drive cars, they couldn't possibly kill their abuser," I nearly lost it.

Ironically, this kid wasn't the only one running this particular case, as another judge told me, "I just heard a case that was just too catholic...and I'm catholic."

In that same round, I heard the phrases:

"something as arbitrary as domestic violence"

"There's a difference between domestic violence and your spouse killing you."

Later on in the tournament, I heard:

"What you can do in your home is different than what you can do in public. You can kill someone in the privacy of your own home, but not in public." Be careful folks when someone invites you over for dinner, you never know what might happen.

Now, for our hotel room, I was sharing a room with our parent judge and my sister. Last year at the state tournament, I tried to "share" a bed with my sister but woke up shivering as she had wrapped the blankets around herself and had proceeded to push me to the very edge of the bed. I decided just to take a sleeping bag and sleep on the floor, which was fine except cement floors covered in carpet just aren't comfortable. I ended up waking up at 4:45 and going and hitting the elliptical in the hotel gym.

There were some other funny stories. My two boy PF team shared a hotel room, and apparently, the one kid is quite the snorer. When the judge walked into their first round on Saturday morning, he commented that all of the students looked quite tired. The judge then said, "the first one who snores loses," and the one boy immediately pointed to his teammate and said, "HIM!"

Because of an internet server issue, the tournament didn't go as planned, they could only run 3 rounds on Friday and consequently broke only the topic 16 kids rather than all of the kids with winning records. So, the 5 of my kids who had winning records did not break, but they at least learned a lot from the experience. My sophomore was one of those kids with a winning record, and he was through the roof excited. This kid doesn't speak well. He gets pretty nervous and tends to stutter. This stuttering problem caused him barely to win a round last year. He seriously won 3 out of 20 rounds at his last four tournaments last year so for this kid to win 4 at one tournament for the second time this year just shows how hard he works and the passion he has to improve.

Now, the drive home had one noteworthy story. Sylvania is right off the turnpike so we along with nearly every other school from Youngstown, Cleveland, Akron, and Canton drive the turnpike home. While we only took 8 students, most schools take 20-40 kids. Well, we left the tournament around 7:30 Saturday night. Now, my sister was in a van and got a head start on the bus and told us to to skip the 1st travel plaza as it only had one restaurant open and to go to the second. Well, the Wadsworth coach had a bad feeling about that plan, so we stopped at the 1st travel plaza. My sister called me screaming to get back on the bus, that the 2nd stop had 5 restaurants. Since it wasn't my bus, I told her to call the Wadsworth coach. After 5 minutes, she convinces the Wadsworth coach to re-load the kids on the bus and head to the travel plaza 15 miles down the road.

As we are driving, my sister sends me a text that a school bus pooled in: it's Wooster, then another 2 from Youngstown, and then another 2 from Canton. By the time we got there, there were 7 buses and that all the restaurants but one were closed. Frustrated, we didn't stop and decided to get off the highway and hit up a McDonalds.

It was at that McDonalds where my debaters sat around me, and we talked about our team. I talked about why I liked the kids in the past so much, how they helped build the program I coach because they understood the importance of a team and the reputation of that team to their underlying success. Some of them were around for part of that, while others never knew that Copley didn't use to be a power debate school, that it was through their former teammate's hard work that people started taking our team seriously.

Taking a day off work and being in a high school with about 300 high school students for two days might not be how most 30 year olds spend their weekends, but it works for me.

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