Ok the title is a little bit of a lie. The King County Journal published a story today that the Auburn Sr. High (AHS) Forensics team (debate and competitive speech) was going to be inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) Hall of Fame. This will be the first non athletic team ever to be inducted.
AHS was a three year high school when I attended it and I participated in the program from 1986-1988. Despite the fact that the newspaper article talks about rewarding the program from 1981-2000 I really think it was the years that I was there that the program really started to take off. The WIAA sanctions high school activities in the state. When it comes to speech and debate there is also a national body called the National Forensics League (NFL). In 1986 we established the AHS chapter of the NFL and my name is one of the 15 names or so on the charter. 1986 was also the year that the program won its first first place trophy in a tournament. My debate partner Nathaniel “Nate” Moore and I won an end of the season tournament at the novice level at Everett High school. It really was not much to write home about but a program has to start somewhere and we were the first to get a first place trophy out of the way in debate. The program also had seen many other trophies but mostly in speach that year.
Rosanna Esposito who is quoted in the story is a good friend of mine and was also in the program the same years I was. Her debate partner Joann Toneason, Nate, and I all represented the school at the state tournament that first year. In policy debate you have a two on two competition and to give more people an opportunity to compete we took two sets and switched up the teams between rounds. Nate and I were there the next two.
Debating and competitive speaking was a great experience. The article talks about the benefits. Thinking back more than anything else I learned the skill of listening. You need to listen to what others are saying and at the same time be formulating your viewpoints and responses. I think I really learned how to make mental notes and it was a great exercise for my memory. I find even today I take less notes in meeting that may of my fellow coworkers and I tend to retain this information for longer periods of time. Learning to speak in public has also been helpful in my life. I am not sure I would have held leadership positions in high school, college, or even as a lead or manager in the workplace without many of the skills I learned while debating or competitive speaking. These skills to do seem to translate to writing as much for me for those of you that read this blog might have noticed. Maybe I should be doing podcasting instead of blogging.
Tournaments take place at high schools and also at college campuses. College debate teams will host a tournament primarily as a fund raiser for their debate team as would high schools, I suppose. Because of this I got to see a lot of colleges in the Northwest and in essence make college visits all through out my high school years. This really helped me decide where I should apply for college. My first year in the program a set of us piled into a 15 passenger van and made the trip across the state to Spokane to debate at the Gonzaga University debate tournament. The next year we took a whole greyhound size charter bus just as an example as how much the program had grown. My senior year a set of us even flew down to the Bay area to compete in the tournament at U. of CA, Berkley. The process itself was fairly time consuming. Unlike a sport season which would only last a few months you could start debating in November with tournaments every weekend up until the state tournament in March, effectively taking up all of the fall quarter and winter quarter along with half of the spring. Our program was never wealthy and would have to man the concession stands at sporting events or selling candy bars. While other schools would be able to send their teams to summer research camps at one of the better college debating schools in the country when I was in school we would be lucky to go to some local camp where the instructors were high school coaches. I did spend part of at least two summers in libraries at the University of Washington. I think at times we had to work twice as hard as a school district with more money or a private school where they had funds for better supplies and resources.
All in all it was a great experience. I went to the state tournament all three years in debate, speech, or both. Nate and I were one round away from qualifying for the NFL national tournament from our region our senior year. After high school there were also benefits. I was able to return to the program and judge tournaments while in college. That was great money on the weekends and I got to see friends that were in colleges that the team competed at. One of the highlights for me was that I got to be one of the three judges in the state finals the year after I had graduated from high school. I made a lot of friends in the downtime at tournaments in people at other high schools. These friendships lasted into college. It is not suprising to me that many of the people in leadership positions in the company I work for were the same people I was debating against years ago.
Congrats to coach Mike Burton and the AHS program. I am very happy for them (and myself) and that we are now part of the high school state history as part of the Hall of Fame.
PS. If anyone knows how to get a hold of Nate Moore I would love to chat with him. We seemed to have lost track of each other a few years after college. I am fairly certain he is still somewhere in the Seattle area and doing something with software or computers.