Swales Discourse Community Essay

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Cross country is more than just a sport. There is the obvious mental and physical toughness, but there is also raw emotion that is evoked. Coaches and teammates have the utmost respect for one another. When you run for your school, the final year becomes something memorable. For me, running in high school my senior year was the most illustrious year of running for me. I had been running under the same two coaches since the beginning (freshman year of cross country) and all the success I had during my high school tenure was coming to an end. My final cross country had me in tears as I painstakingly crossed the finish line. While I still had winter and spring track, something about crossing the line that day made it seem like everything I had done in high school was over. All I could do was reminisce over all my success from all four years. But, something was missing. I felt like there was a void that needed to be filled. Luckily, just like every previous senior class, I had my chance to fill that void.

Allow me to explain just how cross-country runners live out their lives in our little running community. This will better help you understand the importance of wanting to fill that void after my last high school cross-country race. The obvious goal of my high school’s cross country team is to win as much as possible and to be the best runners that we can ever be. We have goals that expand beyond just running including respect, learning to be a respectable teammate, and being a better student. Just like John Swales explained in his essay about The Concept of Discourse Communit[ies], we have “mechanisms of intercommunication [amongst ourselves]” (221). We use group chats, texts, calls, emails, and verbal ways of communication to bring ourselves closer to one another as more than just teammates, but also our own family.

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We had/have a tradition for every senior runner of Highland Regional High School’s cross country team (men and women) to write a commemorative letter to our coaches for all that they have done for us. It was/is sort of a bittersweet way of saying, “Thanks for everything, but now I won’t be running for you anymore.” (Well, maybe not sounding so stuck-up). The letters (at least for mine) included every cherishing moment of cross country, from freshman year to senior year, and the hard work it took to get from the beginning to now. Amongst ourselves, we runners never really spoke to each other on a personal level; it was more fun and joking around, so writing the “Thank You” letters kind of deviated from how we communicated, granted that they were for our coaches and not amongst ourselves. The letters were more personal. Especially since we seniors were expected to read our letters out loud at our cross-country banquet, the emotions were/are noticeable. This is an example of how even though we may joke around and focus on success, our cross country focuses on giving back to those who have helped us out through the tough times and best of times.

The banquet for the 2018-2019 Highland Regional High School Cross Country team (and only the cross country team) was held on December 13th, 2018 in the school’s cafeteria. Members included family, friends (for some), coaches, and ourselves. The usual routine included the coaches introducing the members of the team, presentation of awards (Varsity, Junior Varsity, team titles/trophies, All-Conference plaques if anyone got them, etc.), and then the reading of the “Thank You” letters. The introduction of the team and awards has always begun with the girls.

Typically, the impact (emotionally) of each read letter is dependent on the way the speaker (a senior on the team) articulates his/her voice, the audience’s reaction (whether it be the team, family, the coaches, or anyone in the cafeteria), and overall presentation. They’re examples of what English professor at Utah State University Keith Grant-Davie calls “constraints” (356) in his essay about Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents. If the speaker’s voice is too soft, the audience may react with the typical “Can you please speak up?”, diminishing the aura of appropriate emotions within the audience as well as the coaches. If the speaker’s presentation includes him/her just reading words off the letter, the coaches (and possibly the audience) may think that the speaker wrote the letter because he/she was forced to. Usually, in a commemorative speech (even though it is a letter), rather than focusing on chunks of information about the person(s) being honored, the speech should make reference to the emotions of the audience and respect those emotions—whether directly or indirectly.

My letter read almost like a narrative, going in chronological order of every important meet and workout. For the seniors who ran all four years since freshman year cross country, like myself, it was even more emotional. I was one of only two men to have run since freshman year cross country. The letter’s purpose was pretty self-evident; it was to thank my coaches for being my coaches for all my years of running at Highland Regional High School. It was meant to show just how much the coaches meant to me. It was supposed to bring out the emotional side of me from being a runner.

While the focal point of the letter was for the coaches, it also targeted coaches who may want to think of ideas of how they should be thanked for their hard work by their team. Thinking about it now, maybe people thinking about starting running could have used my letter. Since the letter details all the runs and workouts I did, maybe non-runners pursuing running can see what they should expect.

Referring back to John Swales, “a discourse community has developed and continues to develop discoursal expectations.” (221) The seniors are to also play a role. Besides leading the team, they are to show respect to the coaches with the “Thank You” letters. The need for us seniors to write the letters came from our hearts and traditions. The tradition of having seniors write the coaches “Thank You” letters and reading them at the banquet was set since the beginning. No senior class ever broke the tradition of writing “Thank You” letters, so the expectations (you could say) were high. Those letters showed the deeper aspect of the sport of cross country. It exemplifies the respect and character it builds.

Works Cited

    1. Grant-Davie, Keith. 'Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents.' Writing about Writing: A College Reader. 3rd ed. Eds. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017, pp. 264-79
    2. Swales, John. “The Concept of Discourse Community.” Writing about Writing: A College Reader. 3rd ed. Eds. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017, pp. 217-29
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