Scrambled: Surviving My First Year of Mock Trial

Flashback to about seven years ago: I was in the seventh grade, and my social studies teacher announced that at the end of the week, we would be doing a “mock trial.” They told us that this was a fake court case that would last a single class period, and everyone would be assigned a role. These roles included being an attorney, witness, judge, or jury.

I was assigned to be a part of the jury, but a last-minute complication placed me in the role of a witness: the defendant’s mother. Now, the details of the case, I can’t remember; all I know is that I very much enjoyed that class period, and I wished we could do it more often.

Back to the present: I’m a freshman at the University of Tennessee and a first-year Mock Trial member. If I could go back to my seventh-grade self and tell them that in a few years, I would be dedicating most of my free time to UT’s Mock Trial Organization – well, I’m not sure what seventh-grade me would think, but present-day me thinks that I hit the jackpot.

My joining of Tennessee Mock Trial was an unexpected, very-much-appreciated stroke of luck. I came incredibly close to changing my mind and not auditioning. Since I became involved with this organization, I found friends in some of the best people I’ve ever met. I can honestly say that making the decision to audition for Mock Trial has changed my life in positive ways that I can hardly even describe.

Being a first-semester freshman in Tennessee Mock Trial and having never participated in a high school mock trial was interesting. I met my first team: a group of people who quickly became a family to me. As a timid first-year, I was willing to do whatever my captains told me to do because I obviously had no clue how to be a successful team member.

As it turns out, I had no reason to be timid at all because my captains were incredibly talented and helpful. To this day, even after having been on other teams, I still think about how lucky I was to have been on my first team. As a witness, I learned what to say on the stand, what I could probably get away with saying, and what I should never say. For a long time, I barely knew anything about the case except for bits and pieces of my own character. The rest of the case was a blur.

As my first team went to invitational competitions, I was so nervous that I could barely sleep before these competitions. Despite preparing our case for months and competing at invitational tournaments, I don’t remember exactly what happened during the trials. I don’t remember what my team or anyone else said on the stand, aside from a few outrageous exceptions. The parts I remember most are the inside jokes, the notes we would pass during a trial, the memories that I made, and the bonding that we all experienced as a team. Experiencing the excitement, the stress, the exhaustion, and the hilarious (and sometimes disastrous) mistakes we made during the trial, I made a decision to stick with Mock Trial, through thick and thin. This organization has taught me so much, not only about objections and courtroom presence but about myself and my ability to be a part of something that is so much bigger than just me.

This reflection has been scrambled, and I suppose this is appropriate. My first semester in Mock Trial was scrambled. I began the semester afraid of talking to my captains because they were so intimidatingly talented, and I ended the semester grateful for everything they did for me and everything they taught me.

I think what I’m trying to say is Mock Trial is an organization, yes, but most importantly, it’s a family, and I couldn’t possibly imagine a better group to spend my freshman year with.

 

Alex Wampler

kwample1@vols.utk.edu

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