Every member of Cedarville’s forensic speech team brought home a trophy after competing in the National Christian College Forensics Invitational in California in early March.
The team placed first in speech in Division II out of 26 other teams and first in sweepstakes, which is uncommonly good according to Rebecca Adams, freshman business management major and forensic speech member.
“All seven of us broke to semifinals or finals and that’s not a common thing. It’s pretty unheard of, so we recognized the blessing that we were able to continue to compete,” she said.
Derrick Green, assistant professor of communications and forensics coach, said the team was committed to God and that they could have received no trophies and their mindset still would have been the same.
“I feel blessed that God choose to honor that commitment with competitive success,” he said.
Forensic speech is an umbrella term that encompasses competitive speech and debate. Speech is broken down into individual events within three categories: limited preparation events, public address, and oral interpretation of literature.
Speech tournaments consist of nine events: prose, drama, programmed oral interpretation, poetry, extemporaneous and impromptu, public address, informative, persuasive and after dinner speaking.
Each one of the team members competed in at least one of the nine events at Nationals.
Green compares speech to track and field. One team competes with individual team members competing in individual events to contribute to the overall success of the team.
Being on the forensics team is just like being on any team, said Rae McKee, freshman journalism major and forensic speech team member.
“You all become really close family – it’s a group effort,” McKee said. “You have to be there for and support each other. You can’t go at it alone.”
Cedarville’s speech team consists of seven members: five freshmen and two seniors. According to Adams, the five freshmen team members have lovingly been nicknamed the “Fab Five” by their coach and by the two senior members of the team.
Green said the team began developing its mindset for the Christian National tournament at the beginning of the year. For Green, doing as competitively well as the team did came as a result of the team’s commitment to honoring God.
“It’s too late when you get to a competition to decide what your focus is going to be on,” Green said. “We talked about it from day one of the school year that when we get to the Christian National Tournament that we will have developed a mindset and a spiritual maturity that says that every round is the best we can offer to God.”
Commitment to God is the key, according to Green, especially when there are so many things that are out of the team’s control in tournaments. For example, one judge can end a team member’s tournament, but the team can’t get caught up in those kinds of possibilities.
“What we want to get caught up in is giving our best to God, because then it doesn’t matter that you didn’t clear the higher round, because God is pleased and you get a higher reward there than what you’re going to get for clearing finals,” he said.
When every team member was able to compete in at least one semifinal or final round, Green said he was happy to tell them that all of them would be competing on Monday, the last day of tournament, and that all of them had at least one more event to compete in.
Doug Malcolm, senior theatre major and forensic speech team member, describes the moment he and Green read the names when the results for semifinals and finals were posted.
The postings about who broke to the next round of completion weren’t posted until late at night, according to Malcolm. Most of the team members went back to the hotel room, but Malcolm stayed with Green to wait for the postings.
“When they finally posted the list, I see my name and Derrick gives me the biggest bear hug. And then we see someone else’s name and someone else’s name,” he said.
When Malcolm and Green saw that every team member was moving on, they went to the hotel room to tell the other members about the results.
“When he walked into the hotel room, everybody grew really quiet and Derrick said that every single one of them needed to have their game face on because they had all moved on, and everyone went nuts,” Malcom said. “It was so exciting to share that with them.”
After the tournament was over, McKee said there wasn’t a big celebration after placing first in Division II. Instead, she said the whole tournament was a sort of celebration.
“We weren’t focused on winning,” McKee said. “We definitely wanted that, but winning wasn’t why we were there.”
Adams said God was able to work in ways where the team was able to set aside the worry of competition and have peace over whatever happened.
“The whole tournament was a total act of worship to God,” she said.
For Green, the winning moment didn’t start with seeing the names on postings of the final rounds.
“The moment started when I watched this young group of students commit to honoring God, and then as a result of that commitment, God honored them with competitive success,” Green said.
Adams said that anything, whether academic or extracurricular, that is performed at such a high level is a wonderful experience and something that probably not many people have experienced.
In addition to committing the tournament to Christ, Green set another goal for the team for Nationals: to pray before every round and specifically for every member of the team before they competed.
Even though the Christian National tournament consisted of Christian schools, Green said he wanted Cedarville’s team to be the most prayed-up team at the competition – especially before semifinal and final rounds.
“We competed in a lot of final rounds at this tournament, so we had to do a lot of praying,” Green said.
Whenever other team members weren’t competing, they would pray for their fellow team members who were competing.
“I wanted each member to have a sense that they were being prayed for during that time period that they were delivering their piece,” Green said. “That spiritual aspect is something we are committed to.”
Adams said that the team always prays before rounds in all of their tournaments, which is a tradition they carried into Nationals.
“We intentionally circled around each other and just went around in prayer and had a conversation with God and he blessed our efforts,” she said.
McKee said that the environment at nationals was pleasant because all of the members were relaxed and having fun and all of the members got to know each other better as a team.
“All of us connected,” McKee said. “It was cool to see how God brought us together to work as a team and that’s why we have so much fun at tournaments. We just had a lot of laughter the whole week. The atmosphere of what our team is like is very joyful.”
Some of Adams’ favorite memories from the year occurred when the team was driving back to Cedarville at the end of a weekend after competing at a tournament.
After competing all day, Adams said that everyone was usually tired and excited and probably had had too much caffeine. Green found out that the “Fab Five” liked Taylor Swift, so he would play Taylor Swift songs after tournaments.
“The whole team, including Coach, sings Taylor Swift songs at top of our lungs,” Adams said. “We have so much fun with something so mundane as playing a Taylor Swift song. It is a fun memory and something our team will always enjoy doing together.”
Green said his favorite parts about coaching the forensics team are being able to build relationships with students, having the opportunity to coach and mentor students, and watching students learn how to represent Christ well.
He said that although it’s nice to win awards, the bottom line is that they are temporary.
“The lasting thing is how to help a young person to become a mature believer who can represent his or her faith well. That’s the most important thing.”
This is especially important when Cedarville’s team competes in environments that require a strong witness and where it is important to represent Christ well.
“As a result of representing Cedarville and Christ well, Cedarville is a well-respected school in intercollegiate speech competition,” Green said. “We don’t compromise our values, we don’t compromise who we are, but we respect our competition and they respect us. Watching students develop those relationships that often lead to opportunities to present the Gospel is the most important reason why we do this at Cedarville. We as a team are committed to the testimony of Jesus Christ in intercollegiate competition. That’s our goal. That’s our model.”
Adams said that competing in speech has shaped every aspect of her life and will continue to do so as she has grown individually, spiritually and in her relationships with her teammates.
“I can’t think of a better thing to be doing. It’s something that will help me in business but it is also something that is a good skill to have – the power of communication,” she said.
Green said, “You can’t go pro in competitive speech. This will pass away. It’s going to be the other things in your life that are going to be the things to impact where you are after graduating from Cedarville.”
Green said his hope is that being in speech will help his students in other endeavors in life and for it to not become the end-all be-all of their life.
He said he stresses that being a successful member of the speech team is not all-consuming.
“In serving God, it’s important to save room for Him to do other things with you other than speech,” Green said. “All seven of my students have very active lives outside of competitive speech. In some cases the competitive speech helps them in other areas of their life.”
Green said there are some tournaments where there are competitive results that are not paired with the spiritual maturity level of the team.
Other times, there are tournaments where there is a high spiritual maturity level but not necessarily competitive results.
“This is a situation where by the grace of God where we ended up with both the competitive results and the great spiritual results,” he said.
Cedarville’s forensics team was able to add new trophies to its collection this year.
“These trophies are a result of hard work,” Green said, “but they are also a result of our commitment to honoring God with our abilities and he has rewarded us with competitive success.”
Bethany Brock is a senior journalism major and reporter for Cedars. Coming from Denver, she had never seen a cornfield until her first visit to Cedarville.