Taking your Competition to the Next Level

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Oklahoma HOSA State Leadership Conference. It was the first time I’ve been able to attend my home state’s SLC since 2013, so it was wonderful to reconnect with past state officers and see HOSA competition at the state level. I also had the opportunity to judge a couple of competitive events, and I was reminded of my very first experience with HOSA (competing in HOSA bowl) in 2010.With these experiences fresh on my mind and having seen HOSA competition as a competitor, as a staff member, and now as a judge, I thought now might be a good time to discuss elevating your competition to the next level. Maybe you’ve recently placed at SLC and are on your way to Orlando for the 2017 ILC. Maybe you didn’t do as well as you hoped and want to up your game for next year. Either way, let’s discuss a few ways that you can increase your scores and rise to the top of the pack!

My general advice for someone competing in a HOSA competitive event always begins the same: study the event guidelines! Everything that you need to know about your event will be in the guidelines. Not sure what will be on a round one test? It’ll be in the guidelines. Need to get study materials for the event? The materials that HOSA uses to write the scenarios are listed in the guidelines. If you are being judged during your event, you can often even find the judges’ rating sheets within the guidelines. Many health professions and emergency preparedness events are essentially scripted – you must simply memorize the procedure for each possible scenario and execute the one(s) that HOSA has decided to use on competition day. A careful reading of your event guidelines in full will prepare you for success and guarantee that you’ll be able to do your best. Information is power! For those of you looking to do better than you did last year or looking to do better next year than you did this year, your rating sheets are nearly as valuable as the event guidelines. These often contain comments from judges that will tell you specifically why you may have lost points, and they nearly always show you the areas in which you did best and worst. Get these after the competition if you can!

Of course, reading the event guidelines won’t make you perform any better if you’ve chosen the wrong event. Doing well in an event and enjoying the competition process go hand in hand. When initially selecting an event, play to your strengths. If you did great on the ACT or excel academically, a knowledge test may be a great way to go. Are you creative and teamwork-oriented? Take a look at the leadership and teamwork events. I’ve often found that HOSA members stick with the same competitive event throughout their time as members. If you aren’t getting the competition results that you want, though, don’t be afraid to change things up next year!

My last piece of advice is to practice efficiently for your event. Practicing is a common-sense way to increase your competitive event score, but simply answering questions about yourself for family or friends won’t adequately prepare you for the high-pressure interview portion of events like interviewing skills or job seeking skills. A better way to practice in this case is to be interviewed by your instructors, who will be able to ask you informed questions about the position for which you are applying. The best way to prepare for this, however, would be an interview with another instructor – somebody you don’t know. In this way, you’re most accurately recreating the environment in which you’ll be competing on competition day. Note that it is important to brief these people on the specifics of your event (this is, again, where the guidelines come into play). It is also important to thank these people and follow up with them after you compete!

HOSA competition is daunting. Whether you’re making a speech for judges for the very first time or taking a test for the 100th time, the pressure to perform well is intense. Equipping yourself for success is important to doing well – you will thank yourself at conference for putting in the work to make sure you can do your very best. Even if you don’t take the stage and receive a medal at the end of the competition, you will have gained something much more valuable: experience and confidence. HOSA’s primary goal isn’t to award first, second, and third place. It’s to equip you to be the best health professional you can be. By doing your best during competition, you’re ensuring that together we’ve done just that.