An Alumni Response to NITOC Cancellation
As you are likely aware, the Stoa Board recently made the difficult decision to cancel NITOC 2020. I know that this decision required many hours of meeting, deliberation, and prayer. I’m grateful for the Board’s commitment to taking the best course of action, no matter how hard. I’m grateful to the members of Stoa, for their support of the Board and its decision.
I can tell you that tears were shed in my home after the announcement. My heart hurts for competitors, especially seniors. As C.S. Lewis would remind us, no one is ever told what might have been. As a coach and an alumna, I consider what my response should be to this situation.
This is a good time to pause and reflect on why I wanted my students to compete in the first place. Was it to get to NITOC? It’s fine to chase checkmarks. It’s fine to want to win. But if my heart sinks when I hear that NITOC is cancelled because I’ve made one tournament the end-all-be-all, then something isn’t fine.
My satisfaction cannot be based on my team’s ranking at one tournament. I cannot encourage my students to wrap up their hopes and dreams in one performance. If I teach my students that NITOC is the ultimate purpose of their competitive endeavors, I’m robbing them of a large part of their forensic education. I’m teaching them to store their treasure, and thus their hearts, in things that will pass away. Don’t get me wrong — I love NITOC! I remember the thrill of competing. I remember the friends and the special moments. But my point is this — There’s more to Stoa than NITOC.
Stoa equips students to speak boldly and change the world for Christ. Stoa develops and rewards excellence in speaking and debating. Stoa glorifies God. These are the purposes of our competition, of our tournaments. This is the point of NITOC.
This emphasis on excellence — that’s what I need to focus on at this time. I need to teach my students to develop their critical thinking skills, delivery skills, speaking skills, and research skills if for no other reason than that they need these skills for the real world. When I rank lifelong and life-changing skills lower on my list of priorities than one performance, I need a gut-check. I need to ask for a paradigm shift and a divine re-ordering of my priorities. I need to spend time on my knees in prayer.
My response to this situation needs to be refocusing my goals on excellence and glorifying God. In my coaching, in my academic studies, in my professional endeavors, why am I pursuing the things that I am pursuing? In this time of pause, let’s pray that we will pursue the right things for the right purposes.