Jimmy McDermott has gained more from speech than two national titles

By Jack McDermottJimmy winning Nationals
Executive Online Editor
Freshman Jimmy McDermott walked into the national speech competition in Indianapolis as a seventh grader with no prior experience as a competitor in a tournament.  He did, however, have certain advantages over his competitors: the guidance of his father, Associate Principal and 21-year speech coach Scott McDermott, and the years of watching and learning from high school speech competitors coached by his father.

This advantage was great enough to negate his lack of personal experience, and he beat out all his competitors, earning the title of national champion in the speech category of Declamation, an event where a performer will take a previously delivered speech and deliver it again.

“One of the great thrill of being a parent is just being able to see [Jimmy] take [speech] and do some amazing things with it that some kids will never do in their lifetime,” Scott said.

The amazing things that Jimmy has gotten to do because of speech, in addition to travelling to Indianapolis, include winning nationals again in eighth grade, travelling to Alabama, making friends from all over the nation and gaining the priceless ability to start a conversation with anyone at any time all because of speech.

The latter of Jimmy’s abilities, being able to start conversations, is the one Scott McDermott believes is “second to none” because it will be very useful for the rest of his life and has already proven to be very useful everyday.

“[Jimmy] gets a lot of comments on how people can sit down and have a really mature conversation with him without realizing they are talking to a 14-year-old,” Scott said.

Sophomore Kit Fitzgerald also believes that Jimmy has grown so much because of speech.

“[Jimmy] is probably the most mature kid I have ever met,” Fitzgerald said.  “Just the way he talks, the way he thinks and the way he is super into everything.”

Fitzgerald first met Jimmy at a football game last year but became close friends with him after preparing their speeches for hours together during Prospect speech practices and finally going to nationals together last year.

In speech, his maturity helps him very much because he can not only better connect to the character he is portraying but also better connect to the judges whom he has to impress.

“Good performers are able to not only connect to the audience but become the audience as well because without knowing your audience and who you are talking to, you cannot make any physical or emotional attachments to them,” Jimmy said.

However, according to Jimmy, not all schools realize the importance of this connection, and that is what makes Prospect stand out among competitors.

“A lot of schools think that they have to go in and beat this kid and go to the next round, but my dad and Prospect have the image of going into a room and changing someone,” Jimmy said.  “Success isn’t really as important to Prospect. It’s still pretty fun, but it’s not the main driving force.”

Another key factor that Jimmy attributes to his success is the amount of time he spends preparing for his ten minutes on stage.

Jimmy would practice all year for nationals writing his speech and then performing it so many times that it became second nature.

“Nothing has been handed to [Jimmy]; he works really hard, and that is not always seen by people,” Scott said.  “Jimmy would go home and somehow manage to get all that homework done and then find time to sit down and do some writing.”

In addition to learning time management, Jimmy has learned how to handle stress, defeat and to work for his goals.

“Speech has had the greatest impact of anything on my life so far from the relationships I have made and the places I have been able to go,” Jimmy said.

Dynamic Duoimage (6)

Freshman Jimmy McDermott and his younger sister, Molly McDermott, have performed together in an event called Dramatic Duo, in which the competitors must act out a skit without looking at each other, for the past two years and have become very close after practicing together for so many hours.

However, last year at nationals was the last time they will get to compete together because Jimmy is now attending high school and is now too old to be able to participate in Junior Nationals.

“[The realization that I would not be able to compete with my sister anymore] hit me right after nationals because I’ve competed with her for so long, and I have never done a Duo with anyone other than my sister,” Jimmy said.

Another difference for Jimmy this year will be the fact that he can no longer go into a room right next to his and start practicing with his partner at any time of the day.

“If I do do a Duo in high school, it will be strange not having someone that I am so close with,” Jimmy said.