The high school team started in the fall of 1989, and under the direction of Chuck Nicholas won the 1990 S.C. state championship in its very first year of competition. High school social studies teacher Michael Murphy came on as an assistant coach and eventually became the team coach. Mr. Murphy also directs the middle school’s newly re-instituted mock trial program.
The middle school competition begins in November, and the high school competition is held in the spring. BJA’s high school team has won the state championship six times (1990, 1995, 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2010) and finished as runner-up in the state four times (2000, 2007, 2009, and 2012). They finished ninth in the nation in 2003 and won the national championship in 2004. These are especially impressive achievements when you consider that the Academy competes against schools that are five to six times larger in student population.
Side benefits are seen in recent years’ invitations to other local teams to practice in an unofficial tournament (scrimmage) here at BJA. According to Mr. Murphy, the scrimmages have been a great opportunity for us to get to know and build bridges with other teams and coaches and to introduce them to the BJU/BJA campus. In addition, through the hours of practice over the season, students develop lifelong friendships. They take time to read Scripture and pray together as friends outside of their team meetings. Mr. Murphy is grateful that the team can be a source of spiritual encouragement and help to one other.
Interestingly, very few of our mock trial alumni go into law. The ones who do are successful in their pursuits, but most go into other areas of ministry or vocation. While the educational aspects are valuable (learning about and appreciating the legal process, improving critical thinking skills, improving listening and writing skills), the spiritual lessons are even greater. Students learn the value of teamwork in the body of Christ, the unpleasant consequences of sin as they work through their competition’s case situation, how to be a better witness by presenting the evidence for their faith, how to defend a position better when under attack, and the value of being honest and forthright.