For the longest time, I practiced tennis year-round, with private lessons and tournaments on the weekends. When I was in middle school, I tried out for our school’s tennis team, twice. Not once did I make it. I have long since quit not just tennis, but sports in general.
From the start of sixth grade to my junior year in high school, I tried out for All-State, a state-wide violin competition. Every summer, I dedicated my practices to scales, etudes, and one solo piece that I painstakingly perfected for months. I went to private lessons, but I never got past the second round of auditions.
Of course, I played in other out-of-school orchestras, but I eventually stopped trying for All-State, collapsing down to my school’s orchestra, which I thoroughly enjoy.
I know that around this time of year, many debaters will be nearing the end of their high school career. We’re all different; some of us want to finish the semester strong and go out with a bang, and some have already fizzled out of the activity.
Some know for certain that they will be continuing their debate career in college, and so the summer is nothing but a month or so of break.
Others aren’t sure, uncertain of if the college that they will attend will even have a debate program.
Wherever you waver on this line of decisionmaking, you’re fine.
If at this point, or some point close in the future, you’re going to have your very last debate practice, then don’t view it as quitting. You aren’t abandoning the activity.
Like with my violin career and my tennis career, this is a bittersweet progression. You’re moving on with life; you’ve got better things to spend your time on.
Looking back, moving on from competitive tennis and violin helped me to buckle down and invest more time in high school debate, and the same could easily apply to you, if you’re distraught about the finish line that is now visible from here.
Take care though! This is not to say that debate is merely one of life’s many stepping stones, or that you haven’t used your time wisely, or that you haven’t amounted to anything.
What are you looking around for? You don’t need trophies, medals, or awards to feel like you’ve given it your all.
Make peace with saying goodbye; the benefits of your time invested are still tangible – your friends, your files, your pictures, inside jokes, and new insight. I’m not kidding – you will leave the activity with a brain full of all sorts of new insights.
These are your decisions; this is your life. Do not let others influence the choices that you make; in the end, only you can make them in your own best interest.
If you are a senior, this is just the beginning…of the end, that is. Get ready to say goodbye to what your routine has settled into for the past few years, goodbye to the sports practices and flute recitals and weekend morning routines. (But hello to many more exciting things!)
Sometimes college ruptures high school traditions, and sometimes the end of high school ruptures high school traditions. There’s a difference. Going to college means you can’t physically attend a practice, or no longer have time to do so.
But recognizing that your high school career (for anything, really) is drawing to a close stirs something inside you. It’s the end of a chapter, the conclusion of a lifestyle. Truly bittersweet.
When you leave though, leave the door open. And don’t forget to remember. Take something with you, internalize what debate has taught you. Or rowing. Or yearbook. Or orchestra.
I’m not done with high school debate yet, nor am I done with college debate before it’s even started.
Where I’m going to college, they offer a fantastic debate program. That alone should be enough to convince me to continue, but I’m still on the fence. And that’s totally okay.
I don’t know how I’m going to spend the next four years of my life. I’ve hardly even decided what I’m doing over the summer yet. However, I’m excited for whatever’s in store for me.