Returning home from a weekend on the road, the UCA Debate and Forensics Team felt the gratification of weeks of hard work after defending its state title for the third consecutive year at the Southern Forensics Championship in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Despite being a smaller school in competition comprised of a tight-knit eight-person team, the win feels all the more satisfying according to junior Braxton Johnson.
“It feels absolutely amazing. Especially UCA being such a small team. Our funding isn’t the best, and we’re not very popular on campus, so everyone involved is super committed to the event. Winning the state title for the third time in a row really gives us that feeling of being valuable that we’re so thirsty for,” Johnson said.
The team competes across the country in debates and forensics with limited prep time. In competitions such as these, teams are not given much time to review topics and are often left to their own devices to present and debate in an eloquent and efficient manner to beat out their opponents. UCA is often considered an underdog against much larger universities with bigger budgets and teams.
“Having the opportunity to travel and have a network of friends from universities around the country is absolutely amazing. I love being able to say that I’ve been to Idaho and Virginia to debate and beat schools like Yale and Morehouse. The people on the circuit are amazing, and extremely intelligent,” Johnson said.
Preparation for a tournament isn’t always so easy to follow. While teams compete in events that are a little more in-depth, competitions often feature high-velocity events that push one’s ability to organize and present in a time crunch. Senior Joanna Averill employs different techniques for each type of event.
“When I prepare for a debate tournament, I read the news for one hour each day. That way I know which topics might come up in a round,” Averill said. “When I prepare for the events where I have 1-2 minutes to write a five minute speech, preparation looks a lot different. I think of favorite books, celebrities, inspirational figures, short quotes, anything that might come in handy. I even quoted Dr. Seuss in one round.”
Though successes, as those that the Bears have experienced over past semesters, contribute to the reputation of both the Debate and Forensics team and the University of Central Arkansas as a whole, the skills learned by team members roll over into their lives after graduation.
“Speech and debate has honed my ability to think on my feet. In my career, I’ll be able to respond quickly and not freeze under pressure. I’m also familiar with current global events, so I can use this broad understanding to help my company,” Averill said.
The Bears will be back at it twice more before the month is out and preparation for its home competition, the annual End of Hi-BEAR-Nation Debate Tournament, will be kicked off at a time that has yet to be designated. The Bears will then prepare for the IPDA National Championship after spring break.