When we last left our team of creative kids and their fearless (and tired) leaders, they had just won 1st place in the Capital Region Destination Imagination tournament and advanced to the Texas state competition. We had been so ready for DI to be over for the year, but that win completely excited the kids (and us) into getting ready for the state competition.
The kids had a little over a month to prepare for State. We immediately knew that we would go in as one of the top teams to beat. The Capital region is the largest region in the state, so we essentially had to beat the most other teams to qualify. The kids knew that they were now “kinda a big deal,” so they starting talking about going to Globals (the competition after state), They just knew they were going to go. As managers, we kept encouraging them to produce “Globals ready” work for the State competition, but it was more a ploy on our part to teach them that they can do really hard things if they are persistent. They upgraded their costumes, props and backdrop and made a new structure to take to competition.
We are really lucky to live in a school district that is supportive of DI. The district paid for our entry fee into the tournament, hotel accommodations for the kids and even gave them a stipend for food while we were gone. We rented a U-haul trailer (their backdrop was huge) and made our way to the state tournament in Dallas.
The State tournament was a completely different experience for us than our experience at Regionals. NOTHING seemed to go our way. The tournament site was pretty hectic and disorganized. The team performing before us had some kind of rules violation and ran like 30 minutes long, so our kids were standing in the sun in their costumes getting more and more anxious about what was going on. We saw other team managers repairing their team’s props and helping put on costumes (which is a HUGE no-no in DI). When we were trying to check-in, another team manager brought his team up behind us and they were singing and clapping so that our kids couldn’t hear instructions (I mean, c’mon). So many other teams were in the audience of our performance room that there wasn’t room for Tom and I to even sit down.
And then there was the performance itself.
Our team did just okay. Their performance was fine, but some little things went wrong. A sign was upside down. Zack’s hat was itching him, so he kept taking it off and throwing it on the floor. Our structure creaked and cracked like it was going to come crashing down. And our prop that was supposed to transform (I talked about that in Part I) just flat out didn’t work.
We came out of it feeling pretty bummed. The kids had worked so hard, but at this level, little mistakes are costly. They did very well in the Instant Challenge part of the competition, but we didn’t think they had done well enough to make up for the mistakes.
At the awards ceremony, we told them that we hoped they received a medal, but that we just didn’t think it was in the cards. We told them that win or lose, we were so proud at how much they had learned and accomplished. We told them that we couldn’t have asked any more from them and they gave it our all. We told them that they were bright and funny and we knew that they would accomplish big things. And we took one last team photo for the year.
And then somehow, they won 6th place. If Tom and I would have had a video camera on our faces at that moment, it would have been the most hilarious thing you’ve ever seen. Excitement. Shock. Fear. Panic. Why? Because since Texas is the largest affiliate in the world, they get to send more teams to the Global Finals than most other places. And this year, the top 6 teams got to go.
WE WERE GOING TO GLOBAL FINALS.
This is the pinnacle of everything in the DI world. And y’all, not only were we going to Globals, but these kids are the first team from our school district to ever qualify.
But, going to Globals isn’t as easy as just getting in the car and going there. In my next installment, I’ll tell you all about that craziness and the time(s) I cried in front of the kids, the parents and district administration.
Have you managed (or coached) a team of kids in a competition like DI or a sport? What did you learn from the process?