Competition Ritual

Pierre Liu – Speech Tournament Ritual

Pierre Liu attended high school at San Marino. While he attended San Marino High, he was on the speech team. The team would travel to different high schools and compete in speech, vocal, and debate competitions and would then be rated by a panel of judges to determine who the best speaker was. The school with the most points would win the match. (I never realized there was such a thing as a “speech team,” let alone a national competition for one.) Where other people might have sports rituals before a football or baseball game, such as not washing ones jersey or wearing the same underwear, Pierre had his own set of rituals he performed before every single speech match.

On Pierre’s third match during his sophomore year, he was in a big hurry to get to his meet. Since the meet was close, he had his mom drive him to the match so he would arrive in time. Because he was in such a hurry, he promptly forgot to tie his shoelaces and caught himself minutes before he arrived at the match location. He proceeded to tie his shoes, and then walked inside. He did not think much of it then, but for every proceeding speech match that came up, Pierre refused to tie his shoes until he arrived. I asked him if he ever broke this ritual. And he replied with a firm “No, not once.”(Liu) He said that he would make this “shoe-tying” event very important. Every time he would stand back up after tying his shoes he would do a robotic dance and say “Nothing can stop me. I am Iron Man.” This was Pierre’s way of preparing for the match ahead.  After his ritual, he knew he was ready for the match.

During the match, he also had a couple different rituals. Whenever there was a humorous round, he said he would shake his whole body to get the jitters out. “Shake it out,” he called it. He would then proceed to say the following words to himself, “It’s better to go all-out and act like a complete dumbass on stage, then to half-ass the performance.” These words pumped him up each and every time he would go out and perform. By his senior year his rituals became second nature and he did them without even thinking twice. He also felt like the rituals subconsciously helped his performance during his matches. By the end of his senior year, the hard work he put into his speech training finally paid off. He attributes a modest portion of his successes to his rituals as well. He believes they helped with his overall confidence level and allowed him to relax. He had made it to the national speech competition on the east coast where his master skills in speech along with his own personal rituals would help him to an 8th place overall finish in the nation; quite impressive.