Believe it or not, there is another NFL. And this one has nothing to do with 50-yard marks and touchdowns and buff guys in shoulder pads.
Those of you that have never heard about the National Forensics league are probably picturing crime scenes riddled with blood right now; there are likely images in your mind of DO NOT CROSS tape and an expert taking fingerprints of the scene.
Well, not quite.
The National Forensics League is actually a speech and debate association for high school and middle school students. Over 130,000 students across the nation compete in a variety of speech events year-round: there's the classic debating-behind-podiums that many of you probably thought didn't even exist; there's original oratory, where students must craft a ten-minute speech of their choosing; there are mock congress floors where students debate on proposed bills; there are drama and duo events and so much more.
Yet, contrary to popular belief, speech and debate is not merely for the future politicians of the world. Just look at me. I'm going into mechanical engineering, and that is a far cry from politics. I have met people in forensics that are going into the medical field, the culinary arts, even astronomy; so many of them have not even considered political science. They join forensics not to jump-start a career as a Supreme Court justice; they join because of the valuable skills learned in forensics, ones that are valuable for any person of any career.
In ode to my career in forensics over the years, here is a list of why any teen--not just future politicians--should join the NFL:
1.) You can stop having nightmares about public speaking (and maybe actually get good at public speaking)
How many movies and articles and books have involved nightmares of public speaking in the nude? Too many. If you're one of those teens that can relate to all those movies, articles, and books, then get ready to cheer. The National Forensics League has come to your rescue and you have the opportunity to public speak FOR FUN.
Well, at the very least you can confront your fear. Forensics is perfect if you really are afraid of public speaking. This is no big, important presentation with your job on the line; this is no do-or-die job interview. Forensics allows you to face your terror in a setting with nothing at stake. If you're first speech is comprised of 101 "ums" before you forget everything you were going to say...so what! You'll always have next competition to learn and grow and become accustomed to speaking in front of crowds. You likely won't have the opportunity to say that ten years from now.
Plus, you may be afraid now, but just wait until you're down the road. You'd be surprised at how fun public speaking really is. And there is nothing more powerful in this world than a dynamic, engaging speaker. Becoming comfortable with public speaking is, more than anything, the real benefit to forensics.
2.) You get to learn how to tie a tie (or wear heels for all you ladies)
In forensics, it is expected to dress professionally at every competition. With two or three meets a month, that is just the amount of practice needed to get good at tying ties. And walking in heels (it is an art, gentlemen).
Even if you are not majoring in poli-sci, at least one point in your professional life you will be expected to get dressed up. For some of you, that may even by every day. Better start getting prepared early.
3.) You learn those soft skills everyone is always talking about
To really test your speaking skills, a typical one-day competition in forensics will have three or four rounds of your event. In-between rounds, while the results of the previous round are being processed, everyone is sitting around, waiting.
Though waiting may often be the most loathsome part of forensics, it is also the most pristine opportunity to meet many interesting people. After all, dozens of other people are bored, waiting around with you. Even more than simply meeting new friends, it is a chance to test and refine the soft skill of approaching people you've never met and talking to them; of keeping a conversation going. In a world governed by texting and messaging, being able to meet and talk to people directly and confidently is one hard skill to find.
4.) You learn what it's like to travel on business
I'm not saying you have to jump on a plane and fly across the country for a forensics meet (if you do become that dynamic speaker, however, that day will come). Simply going to a meet a few hours from home and staying at a hotel is a good learning process. You learn what to pack and bring for a professional environment, you learn what it's like to stay up and work while in an unfamiliar environment, and you learn the new aspect of traveling for work rather than a vacation.
5.) You learn about world news and current events (and gain the skill of staying up-to-date)
This may seem like a point that flows to the future politicians of the world, but being informed about the world going on around us is an important trait to have. While talking to future co-workers or a boss or anyone for that matter, you do not want to seem like an ignorant fool should current events arise in the conversation. Besides, being an educated, informed citizen about current political events would be an overarching benefit in general.
Obviously there are many outside benefits to the National Forensics League--and for anyone, not just those interested in becoming politicians. Whether you will be an oncologist or a firefighter or the world's next CEO, public speaking is of huge importance.
So forget football and join the real NFL.