Are you going to state this year? If so, congrats! Also, fair warning: the State UIL meet is insanely stressful. Trust us, we've been there. We know newbies and veterans alike could use a little crash course on making it through the contest. Here's our best advice.
Make a list
You will have that lingering feeling over you of forgetting something. It's inevitable. Make an exhaustive list and stick to it.
Yes, of course, take fun photos with your students. But what we mean here is take pictures of all important documents. This may seem silly, but you’ve got a camera right there in your hand! Take a photo of the contest schedule, documentation, map of the campus and whatever else may be important. You’ll thank me later.
Download the UT Austin App
It’s the best way to get around campus. You can search any building and it will integrate into your smart phone's navigation system to show you the best way. It's on the app store.
Have a Driver
No, we don’t mean a limo driver. But having one of those would be pretty cool, right? On a serious note, you will probably need someone who can drive around campus and isn’t afraid of walking a bit. The parking situation on campus is slim to none, so don’t hold your breath waiting on a parking space. This is especially useful for students that may be competing in two events. There’s usually quite a bit of overlap in OAP and Speech UIL kids. We’ve seen kids in heels sprinting across campus from OAP rehearsal to perform a prose piece. Don’t be that kid. Arrange for parents or a school employee to drive people safely across campus
Any speech coach knows documentation can make or break your contest. Put original speech documentation books and paperwork with you. Make copies and put a set with each speech kid and any other adult going on the trip. With the fast-paced stress of the state meet, being over prepared is never a bad thing.
Keep a stash of meds with you for yourself and students. I keep Tylenol and sinus medication on me at all times and make sure I have cough drops as well. You never know what a kid may get at State. One year, our lead actress got strep throat AND an upper-respiratory infection at the same time the night before our state performance. We were in the ER for hours. I also like to keep snacks and water in my hotel room for my students. Make your students stay hydrated! Walking around campus all day can drain you.
While your school may have strict guidelines on the communication between coaches and students, we find the easiest way to keep track of everyone is through text messages. I keep a group text of just coaches and another for all students and coaches open at all times to stay in touch.
You will be walking a lot. The University of Texas campus is enormous. If you have a student competing who needs to wear heels, make sure they have a pair of flats to change into. It will be a lifesaver. Also, my students and I learned the hard way about the ‘shoe rule’ of state OAP. It was our very first year at state, most of our girls were wearing flip flops, and let’s just say moving our set was a mess. There’s a reason UIL prohibits open-toed shoes backstage.
With all the communicating you have to do to keep up with coaches and students, you’ll be using your phone a lot. Keep a charger on hand and plug in whenever you can. I’m serious! You’ll regret skipping over that plug in the hallway when your phone is dying and you’re lost somewhere on the UT campus.
Remember Why You're There
We, as UIL coaches and directors, do this to inspire students’ learning. Too many times, we get so caught up in winning, (or worse, simply beating another coach we don’t like without thinking of the students at all) we forget to enjoy this journey with the students we’ve grown so close to. Take a moment to cherish these little victories with your kids whether you win or lose.
Need to stay in touch with all the UIL happenings? Follow us on Twitter! We'll be live-tweeting the whole meet.