Though every camper loves the many great activities at Champions, another favorite part of camp life is the many camp TRADITIONS. From camp songs to afternoon Inspection to Trojan-Spartan games to Torchlight, traditions add magic to camp and get everyone—campers, counselors, staff—doing things that will help them become true CHAMPIONS!
Though we have many traditions at camp, here are a few of our most meaningful—both old and new—that are VITAL to a summer at Camp Champions!
Yes sir/No sir; Yes ma’am/No ma’am: At camp, campers address counselors and staff members as sir/ma’am—and they’ll do the same when they talk to you. Why? It’s our way of showing RESPECT for one another at camp!
Trojan/Spartan Games: All Champions campers are either Trojans (blue) or Spartans (red). Each Sunday the two teams face each other in the Olympic-style Trojan-Spartan Games! The Games are a great place to teamwork and to cheer on your camp friends—AND they’re incredibly fun!!!!
Flag Raising/Flag Lowering: Each day begins and ends with the raising and lowering of the American flag and the playing of the National Anthem—which gives us a chance to show respect to our great country!
Inspection: Each day after lunch, campers and counselors make their beds, pack trunks neatly, sweep the cabin floor and take out the trash to prepare for Inspection. Everybody’s favorite thing? Nah—but it’s a great way to develop teamwork and RESPONSIBILITY. Besides, if your cabin passes Inspection one day, you don’t have Inspection the following day!
Torchlight: We end each Champions day with our Torchlight ceremony. It’s a great time for the entire camp to get together as a Champions family at either the Lone Star Coliseum or the Texas Forum. We sing, see crazy skits, AND cheer for the day’s Torchlighter. The Torchlighter is a camper who’s shown a true CHAMPIONS attitude at camp—it’s a great honor! You’ll love Torchlight—it’s a great way to end each day!
What we do to stress responsibility?
To begin, we want our campers to be responsible for their possessions and their cabins. With this in mind, we have cabin and personal inspections that assure that they are making their beds, keeping their cabin clean and washing themselves. The campers also take turns cleaning the bathhouses. While we cannot promise that they will continue to do so at home, we can assure you that they do their part at camp!
The campers keep their eating areas clean. They scrape off their dishes and utensils and take them to the washing areas. The wipe off their tables and sweep underneath. Our wonderful cooks, Shirley Ma’am and Chef John, oversee a “Clean Table” competition that awards a weekly winner for both the boys and girls. The winning cabin gets a special meal served to them with table cloths and table service! OK, we are not too proud to provide a little extra incentive.
Responsibility at camp, however, goes beyond just material items. We stress taking responsibility for actions as well. We provide clear rules with fair and understandable consequences. We stress fairness and sportsmanship in our activities. In these ways, we are not unusual compared to others camps. We try to take personal responsibility a step further. For a young camper, this can mean pointing out the importance of helping cabin-mates and avoiding hurtful language.
As the campers get older, our message becomes more nuanced. We want them to understand that they can greatly affect other’s opinions of them. For example, if a camper is struggling with a cabinmate, we might ask her what she can do to improve the relationship. The initial response is usually something like the following: “it is not my fault . . . she is the one that is being mean/won’t listen”. In this case, we will challenge the camper to re-think the situation. We will suggest that she cannot expect the other girl to change spontaneously, but she CAN change her own approach. With this in mind, we might ask her what she might be able to do to improve the situation. Of course, we will be having the same conversation with the other camper as well. While this does not resolve all issues, we think it an important lesson that I can significantly affect how others experience me and, as a result, I can take responsibility for my relationships.
Working with the campers this way reminds each of us that we need to be personally accountable and responsible in all we do. As such, it is a welcome (if not somewhat daunting) reminder.
What we do to stress showing respect?
We want our campers to respect each other, their surroundings and themselves. We do this using a variety of different techniques.
One of the most obvious is our tradition of saying “sir” and “ma’am”. Every camper and every counselor is referred to by his or her first name with a sir or ma’am tacked on. For example, our directors are Shannon Ma’am and Wiggy Sir. This is typically one of the traditions our parents are most likely to misunderstand. Some think that it smacks of a military or excessively formal approach. Let me assure you that this is not the case. Our intention here is to verbally express respect for each other and it becomes second nature. In fact, even when camp is not in session, I call my children Wiley Sir, Liam Sir, Terrill Ma’am and Virginia Ma’am. They call me Daddy Sir. I know this sounds stifling, but it is really pretty fun.
Respect might start with our language, but it continues in all we do. We teach our campers to appreciate and respect the beauty of the land and lake.
We help them with their listening skills (which is important when you are in a cabin of 12). One of the best ways to do this is to model it. Our counselors are good listeners to your children. We hire people who are naturally good listeners and then we hone these skills during orientation.
We emphasize respect for competitors. Our Trojan-Spartan (which occur three times each term) are most notable for 2 reasons: the intensity of the competition and the respect for the competitors. Our campers come to understand that the quality of team is defined by the quality of its competition and by its respect for its competitor.
We also hold dear to the belief that each of us is glorious, each of us has a special life that only we can lead. It is our hope that by believing this about each camper, they will begin to believe it about themselves. When this occurs, they learn to respect themselves.
Taking Reasonable Risks
What we do to stress taking reasonable risks?
In noted child psychiatrist Dr Lynn Ponton’s excellent book, The Romance of Risk: Why Teenagers Do What They Do, she asserts that teenagers are “wired” to take risks and that this is a natural part of developing risk assessment skills. With this in mind, the challenge of parents and educators is to encourage “healthy risks”.
Dr. Ponton distinguishes between healthy risks (e.g., trying out for a team, performing music in front of an audience) and unhealthy risks (drinking, extreme dieting, teen pregnancies).
We recognize that camp is an ideal environment for taking healthy, reasonable risks. In fact, “Reasonable Risk-taking” is one of the 4 “R”’s that we emphasize at camp (the others are Respect, Responsibility and Reaching Out).
At camp, we provide challenging, but safe risks for all ages of campers. For a first time camper, simply coming to camp and having fun away from home is a form of taking a risk. Scaling our climbing wall is another great example. We encourage each camper to set a goal for the wall (i.e., “I will go halfway up”) and we work with them to meet and even exceed this goal. Being 30 feet up can be a little scary. It feels like a real risk, but it is in fact perfectly safe.
In fact, we attempt to craft activities that seem to suggest a bit more challenge and risk than is actually present. For example, we commit ourselves to making sure that every camper gets up on water-skis or a wakeboard. In some cases, this is on a “boom” using special skis, but we make sure every camper gets a taste of success. The risk the camper is taking in this example is dealing with a fear of failure. Many campers are convinced that they will be the one camper who fails to get up. Yet by the end of the summer, they have proven this fear wrong.
Taking reasonable risks extends beyond our scheduled daytime activities. Participating in a cabin skit, publicly acknowledging the acts of a counselor or fellow camper at Torchlight or even making a new friend are all forms of risk taking that help strengthen a camper’s capability while satisfying his or her need to engage in risk-taking.
For older campers, we focus even more on these challenges. Our senior high program is designed to challenge and stretch our campers. We want them to spend time out of their comfort zone, but to do so in a safe and healthy way.
Reaching Out To Others
What we do to stress reaching out to others?
We have spent a meaningful amount of time and energy on living this part of our mission lately. Specifically, we want to be able to model “reaching out” to our campers in a real and obvious way. With this in mind, we have made numerous changes to live this out better.
Of course, we also reach out during camp. Each day, we encourage our campers to help and encourage each other. A boy that knows how to ride a horse or a girl that knows how to ski can do a lot to pass that skill on to a cabinmate. Several times a week, our campers participate in “Grateful Deeds” during which one camper or counselor publicly thanks another person. Some are thankful for help learning a skill while others appreciate a kind word or simply steadfast friendship. We have a great time with this (the campers always want it to last longer), and it helps cultivate a culture of appreciation.
During counselor orientation, we do a lot of reaching out. We invited the Boys and Girls Club of Marble Falls to attend a day of camp for free. Our counselors got an opportunity to practice their instruction and camper skills and the Club got a great day of fun. We also provided several occasions for counselors to go into town and volunteer at the Club during work periods. Finally, we dedicated all of our staff for half a day to do various projects in town for 9 different non-profit organizations, including the Humane Society, the Marble Falls Soccer Foundation, a music school, the community theater, and several others.
Our senior camper program is designed to teach the older campers (those going into 10th-12th grade) to work with younger campers as mentors and leaders. This program includes a spring retreat held near the camp. During this retreat, we talk with our campers about giving back to the camp community that they have enjoyed for so long: “as a camper, you have enjoyed a wonderful magic show, now we will help teach you to be the magicians.” We believe that one of the greatest lessons that we can teach a child is that “it is not about you”. People who give readily to others live the fullest and most joyous lives.