Hoping for 11 years

MUNCIE, Ind.(NewsLink) -- Ball State University’s Speech Team is competing at the Indiana Forensic Association State tournament this weekend. However, this is not just any old state tournament: this is the team’s chance to win for the 11th year in a row during a COVID-19 world. 

Ball State Speech has won this state tournament for 10 years in a row now, and they are hoping to snag their 11th straight win. The speech team's faculty advisor is Ashley Coker, who also competed on the team from 2005-2007. She is the director of the tournament as well and has said that COVID-19 has changed the way speech operates at the collegiate level. 

“Things look totally different this year,” Coker said, “Normally we would travel to one of the universities in Indiana, and now we won’t be doing any physical traveling.” 

Coker added that the format of the competition is completely different as well. Beforehand, competitors would compete in front of a live audience and face to face against other colleges. Now, competitors submit their speeches via YouTube or through a speech platform called Yaatly. 

Although this is quite the difference from previous years, Speech Team President Natalie Thomison said her team is adjusting well and still gets to remain connected with other teams. 

“We have been able to connect with other teams through social media,” Thomison said. “When we get to have tournaments via Zoom, it’s in real time, so we still get that interaction.” 

Thomison also noted that to stay connected and build bonds, the team practices in pairs or small groups. She also mentioned how this can be a challenge in itself, too. 

“The biggest struggle overall has been finding motivation,” Thomison said. “I think this is true for everyone in all different contexts, from classes to other organizations. It’s definitely different from what we are normally used to.”

With the state tournament coming up in a few short days, both Thomison and Coker recognize the challenge ahead but are hopeful for the outcome. 

“This is a big part of our history,” Thomison said. “ We call State 'Mars' here on the team, because anything can happen at State. This is also our time to interact with other teams in our state...which is different this year because of COVID.”

“ This [competition] is special,” Coker said. “This is the time we go head-to-head to head with other Hoosiers. It’s like a love fest, with fierce competition. And now it’s going to be just as hard and a little more special because of the virtual format.” 

With all the hardships that virtual life has brought on, the speech team does not plan on holding back. Thomison said that although it's virtual for this competition, everyone will be together. 

“The team will be occupying individual rooms in the Letterman Building to keep with safety protocols. And the team will be able to do their warm-ups and pre-competition rituals.” Thomison said. 

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