Screen shots: Speech team takes chances in online competition


“Fail big.” 

This is a phrase preached by speech team coach Mrs. Sukow. Being part of CG’s speech team means learning how to embrace failure instead of fearing it. Being on Cary Grove’s speech team requires a person to work hard so that they have an amazing performance, but part of that experience is making mistakes. Maybe forgetting a sentence or two, or freezing up. In the end, the thing that matters most is that you put in the time and effort and did your very best even with a few bumps along the way.

This year has been different due to the pandemic in how the students prepared and delivered their speeches, how they “attended” their tournaments, and what COVID-19 means for their club and other extracurricular activities.

Each year, 14 different speaking events are held, but this year, that number could be shortened to six or 10.  Each contestant can have one to three speeches prepared, depending on how many tournaments there are. You can enter into any category ranging from acting to radio speaking, or you can even compose your own speech. 

Anybody can join speech team, even if they are super shy, but everyone comes out of the club as a more confident and outgoing individual. 

All of the members, including the ones who did not participate in the first speech tournament of 2020, prepared their speeches in many different ways. Hadi Salim, a new member who did not compete in the first tournament, loved memorizing and putting a spin on his own speech.  A couple members, freshman Julia Prantalos and senior Caitlin Barcy, wrote and recorded their speeches. They both had to type up a ton of drafts and record a lot of takes over many hours. 

All of the contestants, such as sophomore Christine Perkins and junior Braden Wall,  had the same task of reciting their speeches, choosing what parts to emote on, and using their body language to convey their message or feeling. One of the speech team members Braden Wall said that this takes hours of practice and hard work because they have to constantly  “refine their skills” and find ways to improve their pieces as they recite them. 

One other aspect of preparing for the speeches was finding a private space with good lighting and minimal distractions to rehearse their video. Prantalos said that dressing in formal wear and having a charged chromebook was a must in preparation for her speech. 

For Mrs. Sukow, coaching over “late night zooms and google meets” was “harder,” because everyone is “used to being in the same room.” That being said, she is impressed by how the club members continue to be so “passionate and resilient” throughout the whole process.

When it came to competing “at” tournaments over Google Meets, there were an even amount of pros and cons. Veteran team members were happy to sleep in and not have to get on a 6 a.m. bus ride. When it came to submitting video speeches, you could record as many times as you wanted until you had the best take as long as you had it submitted by the deadline. 

 On the flip side, they missed socializing with their friends and team members. Many of them found it challenging to have to stare at their camera for the whole duration of a speech, whether it was recording or performing them live. There were a few tech issues where people could not get into the Google Meet, or whole videos getting deleted off FlipGrid. This was frustrating for many kids, but only motivated them to do even better the next time. 

Almost all the members and the coach felt that being part of the club and participating in the tournaments are just as rewarding as last year, but some naturally feel that it isn’t as fun. There were a few tech issues along the way and some students are concerned about how people might take advantage of the new format and cheat. The tournament platforms will change in accordance with the events, but according to the participants, they are grateful for what they have and are looking forward to normalizing these new learning standards. 

Throughout this pandemic, all of these kids will grow together as speakers and better learn the unfamiliar etiquette of online competition. Practicing and competing online is better preparing all of them for the future workforce and Mrs. Sukow is “excited” to be on the forefront of that.

Although this year has been unlike any other, there are many good things that have come from it. Preparing and delivering their speeches online along with the impact that the coronavirus has had on afterschool clubs has provided a great outlet for kids and teachers to connect. 

Of course, everyone misses being together as a team, but this experience of being online has and will continue to teach these kids important life lessons. These can be very lonesome times, and it’s beneficial both mentally and physically to be involved in activities that motivate you.