Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mind Over Muscle - B-E-E

They're broadcasting it on ESPN, so I feel as if I'm entitled to talk about a topic that isn't exactly a physical sport, but a massive sport of the mind. There are some tantalizing memories behind the topic, but some don't realize how intense it can be on the human body. Ladies and gentlemen, pull out your dictionaries. We're gonna study.

You are probably wondering why I'm even talking about something that isn't considered an official sport. Believe me, if you haven't experienced something like this, you probably don't understand completely. You see, I've been there. It's intense. Spelling words is no easy task. That's kind of obvious, considering that most people will type a word into Google just to see if the word is correct.

That's right, my friends. It's Bee Season.

Just as there are competitions for chess, knowledge of geography, and heck, let's throw poker into that mix too, spelling bees have been around in schools and in major competitions around the country for decades. For those who aren't exactly physically coordinated for a sport, this (along with music) is something that students could take up and master. While one doesn't train the body, the brain is the main focus of this action. A different kind of training is involved, and it involves the choices of study and the kind of diet that you choose. That's right, I said diet. To get the optimal usage of the brain, the correct diet is needed, such as proteins and omega-3's, and plenty of sleep. Other means of training include reading dictionaries and foreign-themed encyclopedias. If you have watched a spelling bee before, words and terms can be all over the place. For example, words can be from Hebrew, to Greek, to island origins, and they can even have an unknown language of origin. If you have seen the word before, there's a chance that you can survive and make it through the round. If not, there are always strategies that are available to the speller.

Don't worry, just as in a usual sport, an effective strategy is key to uphold memory and knowledge of words and cases. Mnemonic devices are an obvious example of strategy. Also, during the National Bee, a two-minute limit is given for each speller to complete a word. Even when the speller is completely familiar with the word, the speller may ask questions such as the definition of the word, the etymology, the part of speech, and if the word can be placed in a sentence in order to bide time and get the letters together. Time can be used like that until the final 30 seconds, in which the speller must be required to spell the word. Sometimes, when the speller may be confused by a word, these questions asked may actually lead them to using the correct root or suffix in their spelling.

As an adult, this competition makes me feel like a total know-nothing about life. Although I have participated in a few spelling bees (and won one or two, thank you), these young kids are so far advanced in studies and in their knowledge of speech and words and I'm in absolute awe of it all. Although I, as a writer, am incredibly anal when it comes to grammar and proper spelling, these kids take it to the next level and use advanced words in everyday conversation. Everyday. Conversation. Most of us like to keep it real and simple, but through constant study and numerous forms of memorization, the spellers use the language effectively and confidently.

The question asked now is why I have decided to write about this topic. Like I have said previously, most young children aren't inclined to play physical sports. However, that doesn't mean it's the end of the line for any form of competition. Nailing the opposition with knowledge is formidable and quite a feat, considering how linguistics and the ability to communicate with people is a great asset to hold in a business-driven world. Sports teach discipline, and events such as this teach perseverance and increases knowledge and patience in learning a craft. Spelling is a sport for the mind. Working the brain hurts, you know! It's incredibly fun to watch, and I love to pull for these kids when they spell those really scary-looking words. You also catch yourself feeling awful when they miss a word by an incorrect vowel or a missed double-consonant. Jacques Bailly is also incredibly fun to listen to. I don't know about you, but this is a good brain-teaser of a mental sport, and you have to admit that the kids have some wit and you love to watch them spell.

I love to spell words. Call me crazy. My brain has a six-pack, thank you very much.