Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Debate coach provides insight into stage fright

February 13, 2002

Steve Harrell knows all about stage fright.

But the Tonganoxie High School debate, drama and forensics teacher who has led five consecutive teams to state debate championships, told those who attended Thursday's chamber of commerce meeting that stage fright isn't necessarily a bad thing. He noted though, it's a common affliction.

"Some people are intimidated by math, and some people are intimidated by English, but speech has a different take to it when asked what is one thing feared the most, about 30 percent of all people say death and about 33 percent of all people say public speaking," Harrell said. "Which means I get to teach the one thing that some people consider as a fate worse than death."

Harrell said he hopes that everyone suffers from stage fright at least once in a while because that means they are stepping outside their comfort zones.

Stage fright, he said is caused by the desire of success and the fear of failure.

"The chasm that's created between those two is a tension gap," Harrell said. "That provides potential energy."

The trick, Harrell said, is to use that stage fright, or that potential energy, to make a positive difference.

Motivation, which has two facets wanting to achieve goals and then after they are achieved wanting to "stay on top" is key to enhancing the value of stage fright.

Goals are more likely to be reached if a person visualizes what it would be like to achieve that success and the pathway to reaching that point. Harrell advised everyone to write their goals on paper.

"If you don't write it down, most experts will tell you that you won't attain your goal," Harrell said.

And, Harrell said, it's important for people to be confident, but not so over-confident they fail to prepare enough to achieve their goals. Teamwork is important, too, he said.

"Be realistic when you're on top of the mountain," Harrell said. "Remember that you're not going to be there forever and plan for that eventuality. Look around, maybe others can be winners, too."

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