Editor’s note: Russell is a captain of the debate team alongside his work at the Chronicle. Mr. McBlair is both coach of the debate team and Journalism Advisor
There are hundreds of factors that influence the success of a team: individual skill, communication, leadership, source of motivation, and so on. Many of these factors are overrepresented in our depictions of success; star players get the huge majority of screentime, and support systems like coaching staff get barely a pinch of the recognition that stars do. However, there is an even greater contributor to each team’s chance of success: management. Despite being one of the most forgotten aspects of competition, having an effective organizer is perhaps the most important factor in achieving success.
In my own experience, having a well-organized team makes success not only easier to achieve, but more enjoyable Competitiveness as a team is dependent on being able to attend as many tournaments as possible; thankfully for us, Lizzy Young, captain in charge of organization, got us in to 19 events over the course of the year, in some cases for events across the state. Despite only competing in 2 tournaments herself this year, Young contributed to the ability of the entire team to succeed as a whole at each and every tournament. Her presence was felt not only in encouraging texts or snacks for novices, but in incredibly consistent results; M-A was able to bring teams to tournaments and obtain opportunities we never would have in other circumstances. And, at the end of the season, strong team control payed off: M-A ranked 1st in the National Parliamentary Debate League, beating out teams with more funding and greater records of past success.
Young says “ I was one of the only ones who would take the time and effort to complete this job. I wanted to do it to become more involved in the team, meet more people on the team, and because I was asked to do it.” She has faith in the value of her work, despite its bad rep, stating that “Good organization on a team means that team members can focus more on practicing and does not need to worry about whether or not they will be able to compete. Without good organization a good team cannot reach their full potential and will almost always fall apart.”
Co-Captain Logan Wilson says “Part of the reason M-A has been so successful is that we have been able to bring 7-10 teams to each tournament, and Lizzy is the reason we can do that. I don’t think it would be too much to say that Lizzy is the sole person who has contributed the most to the debate team this year”
This claim has been made before, by grateful champions and reminiscing players from all manner of sport: the most important work is done behind the screen, attributable to those who will never be adequately recognized. Coaches, support staff, driver, GM, all powering championship dreams. Even in cases of the ‘correct person’ getting recognition, it is often for the wrong reasons. Girls Wrestling Captain and repeat champion Lauren McDonnell has seen her fair share of cheers for accomplishments on the mat, but often does not get the same recognition for hours of work done coordinating practice and team functions. McDonnell says that “ I have managed a lot of events during the season, including registering for tournaments, organizing workouts, managing schedules, checking in and checking out gear. A lot of my work comes from things I do for the wrestling club I am a part of, in which I directed workouts, managed attendance, and organized tournaments.” However, for McDonnell, a tight-knit team has made it so that “I always feel appreciated by my team, and I do the work because I love it and I love helping my teammates. What really goes unnoticed [by others] is the amount of time we spend trying to create a family in our team”.
Young’s has “insane follow-through” according to M-A Debate Coach John McBlair, a useful trait in much of her day-to-day. The majority of Young’s daily tasks involve “Registering the team for different tournaments; emailing team members, tournament directors, and parents; getting parents to judge tournaments; reminding the team of upcoming tournaments; finding out which tournaments we are competing in; collecting forms and converting them to PDFs”. Any time someone has an issue which doesn’t have a clear resolution, the burden falls to Lizzy to get it done.
Some might say that most of the burden still falls on the ‘man in the arena.’ While in many cases, the bulk of competition is determined by the competitors, being set up for success is the single most effective way to eke out an advantage. Especially in leagues or arrangements where more is required of a team to establish a dynasty than simply showing up on game day, such as debate or wrestling, strong scheduling allows for the earning of advantages long before a game ever begins. Others might contest such contributions with claims like the classic “those who can’t play, coach”. However, Lizzy’s role as chief organizer was preceded by a year of more competitive debate, at which she was successful. Her role came more as a way to stay involved in debate while spending time competing in soccer. Seeing as how organization influences results, we can all do a little bit more to appreciate those who work behind the scenes, given their record of underappreciation.