MONMOUTH, Ill. – Senior Anthony Adams recently capped off a stellar career on Monmouth College’s forensics team by placing third in the nation in impromptu speaking at the National Forensics Association National Championship Tournament.
What’s even more remarkable is that the communication studies major form Chicago entered Monmouth as a forensics novice.
“The coolest thing for me is that Anthony started with the team as a freshman and had very little experience,” said Monmouth coach and communication studies instructor Rebecca Buel Young. “He’s had just a phenomenal amount of growth. His achievement is very well deserved.”
Overall, the Monmouth forensics team placed second in its class at the national championship tournament, held in April in Oshkosh, Wis.
“Last year, we placed 10th, so second place was huge for us,” said Buel Young, who also served as director of the national tournament.
Junior Sarah Hunt of Pekin, Ill., and senior Britt Parker of Washington, Ill., also qualified to compete in Oshkosh.
“They did extremely well in the preliminary rounds, which was instrumental to our second-place finish,” said Buel Young.
The six-person final round in impromptu was the seventh round of the competition for Adams, who Buel Young said competed against nearly 200 individuals from “universities of all shapes and sizes.”
Overall, Adams qualified for the NFA national meet in six events. He also placed in the top 12 in persuasive speaking and the top 24 in extemporaneous speaking to rank 23rd overall among nearly 500 competitors in Oshkosh.
Buel Young said some speakers choose to master impromptu speaking by drawing upon a “bank of evidence” they compile.
“The other way is, you just do it,” she said. “It’s sort of like an athletic skill. The more you practice it, the better you get. So Anthony did a lot of practice impromptu speaking by himself and with me.”
Like an athlete who tinkers with his mechanics, Adams experimented with impromptu. That led him to a place where his confidence grew and he knew he could be successful.
“At the end of my junior year, I felt like I was really having fun doing impromptu,” he said. “I was doing it my way. … I was performing in a way that I thought matched the way I think.”
When Adams was in the round with 48 speakers, he said he felt he reached “a turning point … it dawned on me that I could do something special here.”
Of the seven “prompts” that Adams and the other impromptu speakers received, some were single words and others were ethical dilemmas. The speakers drew an ethical dilemma in the semifinal round, and Adams faced a dilemma of his own in the final round.
When the single word “fail” was revealed, Adams had a choice, and he went for it.
“I talked about how speech fails to be inclusive,” he said. “I knew it wouldn’t win a national championship, but it was the speech I wanted to give for my last performance. … It wasn’t a speech about winning. It was a speech about voicing the anger that I felt from so many other competitors. That was my gift to all the people that speech hurt.”
When he was a freshman, Adams was interested in debate, but he gradually grew in forensics and, eventually, impromptu speaking.
“There’s nothing saying that you can’t criticize the activity,” Adams said of impromptu. “Quite frankly, the fact that you can, from such an off-the-cuff form of delivery, is to me the best part about impromptu.”
Although his third-place speech in Oshkosh was his final one as a college competitor, Adams will continue to be part of the college forensics scene. He will attend Minnesota State University this fall and help coach its speech team while completing a master of fine arts in forensics. After those three years are complete, said Adams, “It’s off to find a (college) program that’s willing to have me.”
Looking ahead to next fall for Monmouth’s team, said Buel Young, “We’re losing some powerhouse seniors, so we’re really hoping to bring in some new faces next fall. Anyone interested should just stop by my office.”
Not only will individuals be joining a program with a history of success, but they’ll also be part of group that was recently honored on campus. At last week’s Highlander Leadership Awards, the Monmouth forensics team received the Excellent Organization honor.
And Adams said newcomers can’t ask for a better coach.
“Rebecca’s been an amazing coach, she’s been an amazing teacher, she’s been an amazing mentor,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll find anyone who’s come into contact with her who isn’t incredibly grateful to know her.”
Rebecca Buel Young and Anthony Adams stopped by the AM 1330 WRAM Morning Show studios to share their experience in Osh Kosh, WI. Click HERE for that interview.