It was almost exactly a year ago when, after running a perfectly wonderful NYCFL qualifier for CatNats down at Stuyvesant, a bunch of us drove up north and had a nice Italian dinner in White Plains before going our separate ways. There was a lot of discussion of how the coronavirus might affect us, all of it extremely speculative.
Now we know.
Needless to say, there’s still a lot of speculation, and no one really knows now next year will play out, but it’s interesting to look at how we handled things in the year just passed. In a word, we coped. In fact, in some cases we more than coped.
We carved out what we think is a good schedule, essentially five single-flighted rounds a day. There were some variations on this, occasionally over our rather vocal demurrals, but that was the basic setup. Rounds started and ended during what one might call the basic workday, to prevent tournaments from bumping up too hard against the family lives of the participants. We found no way to accommodate folks from time zones far away (see 4n6funnies.blogspot.com for 3/8), but to be realistic, some of those folks from the west coast who would, in real life, come to an east coast tournament, probably usually suffered a hell of a lot worst from red-eyes and jet lag than simply having to get up early in the morning. (And my guess is that, IRL, it wasn’t much earlier than the normal school day. Around here, the buses pick up high school kids at around 6:30 in the morning. I doubt if it’s much different in California.) We jumped on the NSDA virtual room software early on, and found that it blended perfectly with tabroom.com. Palmer and Co at NSDA were real heroes with this. I only used competing software once, and while it had some bells and whistles lacking in the jitsi app, the lack of seamlessness was a powerful deterrent: it would take us forever to get into rooms (after identifying traffic lights, buses and motorcycles over and over again), not to mention the missing campus rooms page where one simply saw at a glance the red dots of the missing and the green checks of the present-and-accounted-for.
I don’t think there’s any question that teams took a hit in a lot of ways. One of the values of forensics is its community, and community on a screen is not the same as community in person, not for forensics or anything else. Once we get back to being IRL, teams are going to have a lot of rebuilding work to do. But at the same time, the lack of physical boundaries allowed us to really beef up a lot of tournaments. While on occasion the size of, say, VPF was the same as previous years, the addition of both JV and Novice almost everywhere came close at times to doubling our numbers. VLD was steady, but again, there were JV divisions that had never existed before. Longtime members of the Vast Coachean Army know my feelings about second-years, who traditionally have a really hard time of it against varsity competition; that’s the year a lot of people drift away. As a firm believer that there are benefits in forensics for all 4 years for everyone, I always hated to see that happen. This year, it didn’t. Or at least it didn’t have to.
Overall, I was personally involved in processing thousands of rounds this year. We lost a few things in our activity, of course, but more than anything, we stuck with it. We created one of the few student activities that could go on all year, slightly but not drastically changed. I would imagine some of the interp activities suffered the most, and I feel for them, because I love them too—half of me is a Speecho-American at heart. But they’ll come back IRL. It’s in their genes. If you love to perform, perform you will, one way or the other.
As I said, no one knows what will be happening next year. Probably we’ll get back on track eventually IRL, but maybe not right away. And some tournaments might stick to virtual precisely because of the lack of room issues. Who knows? In the end, I’m proud of us. We did good work—students, coaches, administrators. We kept this activity vibrantly alive.
We did it.