That title didn’t make sense did it? Let me explain.
Last spring, I joined an organization at my University that is a competitive team on campus known as Mock Trial. The American Mock Trial Association writes up a case every year and students compete in tournaments around the country on the road to Nationals. After joining this organization, I soon learned how to avoid cross questions as a witness, the federal Rules of Evidence as an attorney, and the art of public speaking. The team was filled with aspiring lawyers and politicians. What more could I ask for? I had found my people.
It was our first baby tournament and St. Thomas just one month into the season and as a first year on the team, I was not prepared. I did surprise myself though. I realized I remembered more that I thought I would for a newbie and learned to be likeable as a witness on the stand. We went 4-4 that tournament. I was pissed because I did believe we should have won one of the other rounds and I also complained about the judges. I also doubted myself by the end of the tournament. My coach was not pleased with my way of thinking. He always said he did not want to hear any comments about judges and never wanted to hear that we did not have the confidence to do something.
I should have just been thankful that I was on A-Team my first year on the team.
Throughout the semester, I worked on my confidence when objecting in the round and how to hold my ground when I was being cross examined as a witness. It did not make it any easier that we did not receive any funding from the school so we could not hire a coach and our captain/coach was a senior competitor himself. Closer and closer came the next tournament and we began the drive to Waco, Texas for the Baylor Green & Gold Invitational.
As an attorney, I excelled but as a witness, I constantly questioned my ability and confidence and my coach, again, was not happy with this attitude. The goal for this team was to make it past Regionals for the Open Round Championship Series this year. For the past years, our program had never made it past Regionals but Shane, our coach, was determined to change the pattern.
Eventually Regionals came around and although I was on A-Team, I was not given the attorney role. I questions his decision and was not ready for the answer he gave me. He said I had excelled faster than any other first year he had ever seen but still lacked confidence when the situation does not go as planned when portraying an attorney but also mentioned that I play better than I practice. Why didn’t I make attorney then? Given the age of team (most of them graduating this year) he did not want to take the chance. I understood where he was coming from. I may have been a great first year attorney but not the best on the team. I was thankful to be on A-Team to begin with and I knew this team would be the one that would make it past Regionals. But I wasn’t confident as a witness so I did not feel as though I would do well for the team but he was willing to take the chance.
I needed a confidence booster as a witness though. So in order for me to do great, I had to feel great and look great and take the negative thoughts out of my head. So I did. I played a Psychologist with a British accent in a black suit and a bright blue hijab. On the defense, I Olivia Pope-esque American CEO in a white suit and a powerful red hijab with the perfect red lips. But I felt as though I had went from an attorney on the team to the least important characters in the case. And I was upset. But I sucked it up. And I competed. And I placed. And I made it.
Shane was right. I was a great witness, I just had to believe it and this tournament taught me that. We made a demonstrative for court to make a character more interesting and I have to say that it did go very well. I went through this tournament feeling worthless and disposable. Like the team really didn’t need me. I was there just because I exist. This feeling changed. It changed when we advanced for the first time in history.
I remember sitting in closing ceremonies next to Delaney, my partner, as the AMTA official began announcing the schools that received bids for ORCS. “Our next bid goes to our friends down south,” Oh, shit, Rio Grande Valley got this one. “The Houston cougars!” And in that moment, no one but my team existed. Finally, Delaney had earned something she had worked so hard for as the President of the organization. Shane, as captain, goes down to receive the bid and UT rises and then A&M rises. Out entire team stood up at the exact time clapping with big smiles on our faces. MIKA’s “We Are Golden” is playing in my head as if the camera is panning over the cheering crowd at the end of a movie.
In that moment, I realized it. We would not have made it if I was not there. If I had not played those witnesses, we would not have accumulated enough points. If I had not held my ground, we would not have made it. I was just as important to the team as anyone else was. I helped get us there. I’m a great witness and I know that now. We made it to ORCS and are on the road to Memphis.
I’d like to believe that maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of my journey to the courtroom.