This past weekend I took about twenty Exeter kids to Harvard for a mock trial training weekend. The weekend has two main components: lectures by the Harvard students, in which they explain some of the basics of mock trial, and a scrimmage among the various high school students, in which they get a chance to practice what they have learned. I suppose the third, most important aspect of the weekend, is preparing for the scrimmage, which occurs between the lectures, and especially in the hotel rooms on Saturday night.
Almost all the kids that I took this year were novices; they had never done mock trial at all. Most of them were what we call at Exeter preps and lowers, ninth and tenth graders. The case they learned and tried, in the Sunday afternoon scrimmage, was not the most complex, but it was not simple either; it is never simple to turn the words on the page into convincing trial theater.
I watched one group of six Exeter students in the scrimmage, and saw some good elements, along with some embarrassing errors. But that is to be expected when you have new students trying, in a weekend, to do what more often takes weeks of preparation. More exciting was how excited many of the new students seem about mock trial.
One of the Harvard students said, in one of his lectures, that mock trial was a cult, and I realize that that is somewhat true; and that I have fallen into the spell of the cult. I cannot wait to get the state case, start working on preparing to win the state championship in February.