Two weekends ago, I found myself sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon and I felt very weird about it. I felt like I ought to be doing something - specifically, listening to a bunch of high school students talk.
That's because from January until early April, if I didn't have a work or family obligation, most of my Saturdays were spent judging at speech competitions around the region. And now that speech season is over, I'm a bit lost.
I've been a volunteer speech coach with the Denfeld High School team for two years. I used to be a speech kid back in the day. I was a member of the Eveleth-Gilbert speech team for six years, throughout middle and high school. When I graduated, I went back to volunteer at the home speech meet and judged a couple of times, here and there, when needed.
But I started to regularly work with the Denfeld team after I interviewed students who were headed to the state contest in 2016. I was working for the Duluth Budgeteer at the time and made it my goal to make sure speech kids received some coverage in their local newspaper. Coach Jill Lofald invited me back to volunteer and I took her up on the offer.
Two years later, I couldn't be happier to spend my winter and spring Saturdays listening to these brilliant students tackle character voices, dramatic issues and high caliber political discussion on a weekly basis. I love writing critiques and giving the students some praise, a note of something to polish, and something to ponder.
But what do I do now that speech season is over? How do I fill this hole in my calendar and my mind?
Admittedly, I still find myself wanting to critique speakers. At an event a few weeks ago, after a speaker made a joke that fell flat, I felt my inner speech judge awaken. I wanted to go up to the speaker after the event and say, "Hey, that was a pretty good joke, but the timing was just a little bit off. Next time, I'd recommend pausing a little bit more before delivering that final punch." I didn't. But I definitely thought about it.
I've also found myself incorporating some speech team traditions into my weekly routine. While driving to the radio station on Thursday mornings to record the Lake County News-Chronicle headlines preview segment, I've started doing some vocal warm-ups.
Every Thursday at practice and Saturday morning on the speech bus, I listened to the kids go through various tongue twisters and alliterative sentences to prepare their speaking voices. I have to say repeating "Betty Botter bought a bit of butter" and "Moses supposes his toes are roses" aloud have helped my enunciation a bit.
I've also found myself cheering at any mention of anything speech team related. For example, while digging for Lake County Past items two weeks ago, I might have punched the air in joy when I found a story about Two Harbors students going to state for speech.
Twenty-five years ago, Two Harbors not only had a speech team, but had a storyteller who spoke well enough to take first place in that category at state. And the local newspaper was there to cover her.
It's a perfect combination of things that I love and that helps fill that speech-shaped hole.