It’s been a while since I’ve written; dancing on the edge of burnout will do that to you. In the last six weeks I’ve helped run tab at four tournaments: Princeton, University School, our own at Newton South, and then Big Lex this last weekend. Now I’m prepping out Columbia, where we have a great pool of judges and our room situation gets less bad by the minute.
We had the Holly cancelled — surely more stressful for JA, SD and AP than me — and rescheduled. I got two awards — one for coaching, one for mentorship, which isn’t quite the same thing — which are the first awards I’ve gotten in this activity since, well, I was a student. I wrote 18 rounds worth of extemp questions for the Crestian. I somehow managed — haphazardly, I’ll admit — to get the camp applications for Summit up and running.
And at work I moved the machine room and offices and phones to our nice new digs four blocks from the original office, with all the fun that entails. That also meant giving up most of the break the company gives between Christmas and New Year’s. Whenever you move, everything gets slower; I can’t find anything, there’s lots of stuff that needs doing, and I can only have one top priority at a time. It’s a pain, that. But I’ve been coming home from work these days more tired than usual. It happens.
There have been highlights. The Florida trip was a good time; it was good to see Steve and Jenny and Dave and Dario and Jon, and meet some new folks — I never really hung out with Ernie Rose before, and never met the personality-filled Jen Kwasman or the folks who worked with me in Tab (Dean Brooks, Travis Kiger, Carol Cecil) at all. I got to hover at the edges of the SEC Championship Game. I couldn’t help but mutter “Roll Tide” just to see the looks on their faces, but I was happy to see them happy when the Gators won. Since I come from a school whose football team would have trouble with some high school programs, and a part of the country dominated by its professional teams, I’m out of my depth with big college games. I did cheer for the Gators in the championship game, which they won.
The tournament itself suffered a little from neglect, though not what you think; the coaches and hosts did a marvelous job, to say the least. The food, the awards, everything was planned to the hilt. No, the neglect was on the part of the attendees — a lot of coaches went elsewhere for the weekend, so we had the assistant coaches or volunteer parents running the show for a lot of schools, and man does that show. Judges wandered in and out of the tournament as they felt like, leading to all kinds of fun in subbing them. The U School kids were very helpful, if a little clueless on how to do things at a big tournament; that takes some time to learn, and experience. I’ll be bringing in the concept of the majordomo next time around; it works too well in the Northeast not to be exported.
In Florida, they also post speech schematics round by round, which I find doesn’t work well; if you tell the judges up front what their weekend is, they tend to appear more often; plus, you also tend to find out if someone has a conflict with a round enough in advance to do something about it. We’ll fix that next year. Debate cannot work that way; powermatching means things have to be done as we go through. But for the first year of a tournament I was very happy; we ended nearly on time. I think it’s a good start.
The other neglect it suffered from was on my part. They gave me a mentorship award they started in Jenny’s name this year, an inaugural event, and I found myself blushing and not knowing what to say at that. Then, this past weekend, a wide ranging conspiracy gave me the longer standing Lexington Coaching Award, which I gather is named for Michael Bacon now, for a coach in the debate community who is not a classroom teacher, as I am not. Again, words failed me. I’m not good at accepting compliments, never mind honors. And as Jim said, the Lexington honor was probably one of things he’s proudest of, for good reason. I’m friends with a lot of the folks who are past recipients and it’s humbling to join them.
The Jenny Cook award means a lot to me, too, in a different way; to start out a tradition, and one with such a personal connection — it’s not something I can get used to easily. It feels like moving around a bunch of bits on a screen at tournaments, and yelling at a few adolescents in a hopefully constructive manner, is insufficient to merit that kind of recognition, even as everyone keeps telling me it is.
Surely a lot of this sudden acclaim rests on the service I give to the community. Certainly I’ve served the debate world in particular far more in service than in coaching; I coached LD sporadically at Milton, and our PF program at Newton South is only a year and a half old. In speech I have a much deeper coaching experience, granted. But at the same time, on the service side, I’m finding that I’m not doing any of the jobs I currently hold down all that well. I did a competent job at U School, but not a super job, and a new tournament deserves a super job out of its tab director. In particular, I neglected the planning stages; I can get away with less obsessive planning at the college tournaments, since I know the lay of the land there, but I really should have put more time into this one. If I had planned things out a little more carefully, I wouldn’t have had to be the crazed idiot in the tab during the tournament. The book for EXL remains unwritten. I have no idea when the MFL 501c3 app will be completed. And I need a true vacation, that doesn’t involve catching up on anything, or running anything.
So I begin the process of shaving off responsibilities that can be handed to others. I think I have a couple candidates in mind of jobs I can pawn off on others. The ones remaining will benefit for it, and the ones I give up will benefit too, since someone with more energy can spend some attention on them.
The last six weeks contain a silver lining too. I did take an extended weekend to visit Josh in DC, which I had a good time at. I saw the National Gallery, the Botanical Gardens, and the American Indian museum, all for the first time. We had a series of very good meals, and one raucous night getting double-servings of good scotch from a cute bartender. I came back better than I left, and Josh for once got to play host, not guest. I’d not be friends with Josh if it weren’t for this crazy world of forensics; I’d not be friends with Jenny, or Chavez, or the Honeymans, or Sarah & Amanda, or Jim Menick or Joe Vaughan or any of the dozens of people I’ve raised a glass to or a ballot with in Lexington MA or Lexington KY or wherever else this little world takes me. There are new folks, like Sara at Lexington, whom I’d like to know more — and old friends, like Caitlin who came to judge at Lex, who I’m glad to see more of.
So no, even though everyone is giving me awards these days, I’m not retiring.