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Speech team rules apply to life as well

For the past four years, there are three rules that I have lived by as a member of the Detroit Lakes speech team.

Rule number one: Have fun. Rule number two: Don't embarrass Mrs. Burnside. Rule number three: Mingle, mingle, mingle!

As my senior season picks up and I find myself preparing to leave an activity forever (once again), I've been reflecting on my experience with speech and how these rules are not just good for speech, but also work for life in general.

So, rule number one: Have fun. It is said that America's number one fear is the fear of public speaking (formally known as glossophobia) so to an outsider, it seems kind of strange that our coach expects us to enjoy ourselves.

We rise well before the crack of dawn to make sure we look presentable in order to hop on a bus to compete at huge tournaments where we are forced to partake in at least three rounds of competition in a school that reeks of body odor and self-consciousness.

So where does the fun come into play? On the bus, of course, where we dictate our speeches to our teammates, eat Pop Tarts, make jokes, apply makeup despite the treacherous nature of the bouncy ride, and go through silly voice warm ups.

For some speakers, the fun comes with getting to express themselves or show everyone how well they can present material and engage an audience. For others, like myself, who compete in extemporaneous categories, there is a certain satisfaction that come from creating an argument and then defending it well.

As far as life goes, rule number one is certainly a rule to live by. We may be faced by intimidating challenges that kind of make us want to run as far away as possible (like public speaking), but we have the choice to make the most out of those scary situations and to have a little fun with them.

Rule number two: Don't embarrass Mrs. Burnside. While all of the speech team members are perfect in every way (note the sarcasm), sometimes we need to be reminded to keep our behavior in check. In the context of speech, this rule means always applauding for other speakers, never being rude, losing/winning with grace, trying your best, and never whooping like you would at a sporting event even if you are incredibly proud of a teammate.

It is always a good meet when Mrs. Burnside tells us on the bus ride home that we made it through the day without embarrassing her. The basic etiquette that we learn to employ at speech meets is definitely something that every person can keep in mind. Politeness, hard work, and dealing with losses and wins graciously are all skills that are highly transferrable from speech into real life, and I'm very glad I've had the chance to employ those skills during my time with the DL speech team.

Finally, there's Rule Number Three: Mingle, mingle, mingle! This is my least favorite rule.

After a stressful round of speaking, the last thing I want to do is chat with my competition, or anyone, for that matter. But, Mrs. Burnside knows what's best. Reaching out and mingling with others at speech tournaments allows us to learn from our competition and also connect with others who share our passion.

In life, talking to new people can be painfully awkward but ultimately rewarding. We may not want to bother to do a little chatting but if we get over that initial hurdle, we can meet some amazing people and learn some incredible things.

By participating in speech, I have not only learned how to apply Mrs. Burnside's rules to my life, but also developed great confidence in my speaking abilities and met a lot of inspiring fellow speech enthusiasts. I will miss my team, the quiet of the draw rooms while we wait to give our speeches, the long wait for the list of those who qualified for final rounds to be posted, giving (and getting) pep talks, the sound of high heels clicking down the hallway, and the sense of accomplishment I get after every meet. I truly do not look forward to leaving the team and activity that has been so close to my heart for the past four years.