Gabe Groothuis, Founder & Instructor
In the past six years I have spoken with literally hundreds of Mock Trial competitors, parents of competitors, friends, family, spectators, judges etc. If you can name a group of individuals involved with Mock Trial, I have most likely spent time with them listening to their experience. As I have spent time in the Mock Trial community, I have learned about the many benefits for those who have excelled at this legal exercise. I have also spoken to many outsides of the community who are interested to learn more about the competition and why it is beneficial. During my time competing, coaching and listening to those in the Mock Trial community I have identified 3 lifelong benefits for those who excel at Mock Trial.
Listening. When people think about Mock Trial often, they think the competition is similar to dramatic court room scenarios scene in movies. Unfortunately, they assume the best arguer, loudest voices, or must reactive individual will be the most effect competitor. This could not be further from the truth. Without question the single most important skill an individual can learn from Mock Trial is listening. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how quick you process information or how persuasive you may be. You cannot effectively respond to any court room situation if you are not able to listen to the inputs around you. Many competitors learn this skill through trial and error (no pun intended) and those who excel in competitions are very proficient listeners. Actively listen skills will serve any individual as they progress through their career and life.
Critical thinking. This skill is a very close second to listening. Once you have heard and understand a piece of information a question arises; what will you do with it? Mock Trial students are forced to think critically about the problem they are given in their cases, the objections raised in court, and the arguments made by opposing teams. Individuals who excel at Mock Trial become extremely skilled at thinking critically. They are able to look at problems from many angles and look for information that stands out or may be missing. Unlike online puzzles or standardized testing, thinking critically in Mock Trial is not based off of a theory. Individuals need to find practical ways to convince total strangers that their position is correct. These critical thinking skills will serve competitors well long after they leave the Mock Trial courtroom. Colleges, trade schools and individuals in the workforce are desperately looking for individuals who are able to break down complex problems and critically adapt their thinking to address new and confusing problems.
Teamwork. Team based learning/working has grown increasingly popular over the past decade and so has the demand for individuals who can excel in a team environment. I am a firm believer that in Mock Trial “Your team is only as good as your weakest link.” Any Mock Trial team or program that wants to achieve excellence must first put serious work and energy into developing a cohesive functional team. Although this idea may sound fluid, the results are clearly seen on trial ballots in black and white. Teams that win tournaments are able to compete as one cohesive unit and they always find a way to have each other’s back. Any individual who has excelled individually at Mock Trial can look around and easily see the necessity of a strong support system. The skills needed to excel as a team player/leader are skills that benefit mock trial competitors at all stages of their life.
Mock Trial provides an excellent environment for competitors to learn the importance of listening, thinking critically and working well on teams. Of course, there are many other lessons that competitors will be able to benefit from, but these three will be extremely valuable throughout every stage of life. And why do I love these three skills so much? Not a single one of them is dependent on talent. No matter the skill level of the competitor they can see immediate improvement by focusing and cultivating these three skills. The processes to learning these skills and excelling at Mock Trial is not passive. It won’t happen on its own and it won’t always be easy. But the benefits will be worth it both professionally and personally if you commit to the disciplines of this incredible competitive activity.