Never take opportunities for granted

My first in-person Speech and Debate tournament since the pandemic

It was a Saturday morning and the time on my phone said 5:15 a.m.; I rolled my eyes, let out a sigh and thought Gosh, it’s way too early in the morning. Then, I got ready for the day; I put on a black skirt, a red blouse and a green sweatshirt over it; I never thought that I could wear my formal attire from head to toe. After getting dressed, I placed my laptop in my bag along with electronic chargers, red and blue pens, printer papers, water bottles and my black blazer. I also had a small bag that stored my tan-colored heels. 

After preparing the things I needed for the day, my parents and I went to the car and drove to another student’s house to pick her up. She too wore a black skirt, a red blouse and a black jacket. She not only carried her bag but also her black blazer. Yes, we intentionally matched our outfits because we’re debate partners. 

On Saturday, Sept. 26, San Diego Imperial Valley Speech League held its first-ever in-person Speech and Debate tournament at Helix Charter High School after about a year and a half of virtual tournaments. Online tournaments were the sudden consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic; they felt distant and perpetuated feelings of disconnectedness. It’s as if they robbed speech and debate competitors like me from the full experience of competing. 

As a senior, I felt ecstatic, yet a little anxious to be back. I was so accustomed to competing at tournaments in the comfort of my own home. Looking back, I never understood the value of competing face-to-face prior to remote learning.

However, feelings of excitement outweighed my worries. In-person tournaments allowed me to bond with teammates, socialize with competitors from other schools, interact with judges and have that complete experience of competing face-to-face. 

Before the first round, the team came together and did our “hype circle”—a team tradition. Our team president went around and gave high fives to each team member. As the officer in charge of debate, I expressed my sincere gratitude and pride towards fellow teammates for competing, despite the tournament being held during Fall Break. 

I then shared a few words of encouragement to the rest of the team, reminding them to enjoy every round, not focus too much on winning and instead, prioritize self-improvement. Afterward, everyone gathered towards the middle and stacked their hands on top of each other with their palms face down to do our pre-game chant. 

Bonita Vista High’s Speech and Debate team gathers in a “hype circle” prior to the first round of each tournament where officers get to say a few words to the rest of the team and also do their pre-game chant.

“Bonita on three, Bonita on three,” I yelled. 

“One, two, three, Bonita!” Everyone else shouted, while quickly swinging their arms upwards. 

Competitors and judges are required to properly wear their masks when indoors, and in every debate round. During each round, the face mask made it difficult to communicate because it felt exhausting and I constantly found myself losing my breath. 

After every round, I had the opportunity to immediately speak to my fellow teammates and ask how they felt about their performance during their round. 

To celebrate the conclusion of the tournament, the team and I went to In-n-Out for our “team dinner”—another team tradition. Team dinners allow the team to commemorate our overall success, regardless of the wins, losses or overall records of competitors. Most importantly, team dinners give everyone a chance to bond and spend quality time with each other. I saw bright smiles, heard laughs and listened to interesting stories from my fellow teammates. 

I went home feeling exhausted, but most importantly, appreciative and fortunate. I looked at my phone to check the time and it said 9:15 p.m. Overall, I felt extremely grateful for the experience. For the past year and a half, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was confined in my room and debated online. I wore the upper half of my debate attire since virtual rounds can only capture my face and my shoulders. I couldn’t do hype circles and pre-game chants with the rest of the team. I couldn’t debate with my partner in the same room. I couldn’t bond with my fellow teammates after each round. I couldn’t attend any team dinners. 

We should appreciate every single moment and opportunity since we never know when it will be the last ”

— Laurinne Eugenio

For the longest time, I longed for social and in-person interactions to achieve a sense of comforting normalcy. And yesterday’s tournament was the first step to this. Due to in-person tournaments, I’m able to experience the moments I couldn’t when we were in remote learning. I look forward to competing at future in-person tournaments and I aim to not take advantage of this privilege.

Oftentimes, we aren’t able to appreciate opportunities until they’re taken away from us. We must not take anything for granted. Instead, we should appreciate every single moment and opportunity since we never know when it will be the last.