Yesterday was our annual Bi-Camp Meet. The opportunity to get together with our good friends from Northstar Camp once a year for a great day of competition is one of the more prideful days for me each summer. First off, it should be noted that there are not a ton of camps out there with which it would make sense for us to have an all-day competition. Our friends at Northstar see the world very similarly to us. Our views on what camp is supposed to do for kids and the role that different levels of competition plays in getting those things done for kids, are perfectly in line. Therefore, the opportunity to engage with them in a full day of all sorts of competitions is a great deal of fun.
Over the course of the last week, we have assembled chess, cross country, tennis, archery, target shooting, sailing, swimming, and canoeing teams. Now, getting this done at Nebagamon is a fairly tricky thing. Certainly there is great interest in representing camp on one of these teams, but then again, there is great interest in wilderness trips and in the normal in-camp program (by the way, as an addendum to my last Update, we now have in excess of 100 people on trail!). I mean, being a part of the Bi-Camp canoe team for one day is a lot of fun, but our kids often have to weigh that fun against the opportunity to spend five days in the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Needless to say, the canoe team often suffers. Nevertheless, we are always able to assemble great groups of kids to participate in the competitions. It is always a great day. The reason I feel so good about the day is because it reminds me of what a special thing we have going here. Our boys compete that day for exactly the right reason…….because they have fun doing it. While we undoubtedly have some terrific athletes, chess players, sailors, and target shooters, that has little to do with what happens this day. Our boys just love being on the team. This is true for our sailors that won handily. It is true for our tennis players, who were mostly playing up in age groups but still managed to pull off win. It is true as well, for our chess players who…..um…….strategized their heads off and lost in a squeaker. It is true for our cross-country runners who braved the tough course, put forth an incredible effort, and dashed to a victory. It is true for our swimmers who engaged valiant effort but still lost. It is true too for our canoeists, who after patching together a team of boys with, in some cases, very limited experience, paddled their hearts out and wound up losing to the Northstar crew that seemed unbeatable. And so too, it was true for our riflemen and archers who went out there, even though they are traditionally overmatched. They gave it their best “shots” and both put up great fights….but lost.
Another of my favorite parts of the day is watching the kids when they are not competing in their events. Our boys love to watch and cheer on their friends in their events and, to a person, are nothing but supportive of them, win, lose, or draw. It is also fun to watch our boys as they engage with the boys from Northstar. This is usually tentative and awkward at first, but, invariably, they fall into comfortable conversation…..about food! “No way, you guys get walking tacos?!” “Yeah, well we have this amazing dessert called brownie glop.” “What?!? You guys get candy lines THREE times a week??” After dissecting the menus of the two camps, the talk then turns to the exact same kinds of things that our boys talk about with each other….the Cubs, Spiderman, and restaurants that they want to go to when they get home (food…food….food). It is really fun to watch.
Still, perhaps the most fun part of the day is watching the kids as they work through learning how to win and lose with dignity. This point was made embarrassingly clear to me after a tennis match that I watched. Our boy played a truly incredible match with back and forth lead changes too numerous to count. In the end, he wound up losing to a very game competitor from Northstar. After the match, everyone cheered them on and the boys shook hands. I went up to the boy afterwards and asked him if it was fun. With a big smile, he said that it was. Then I asked him if he was disappointed. His response: “No way….I can’t believe I was able to come back in that one…It was great!”
All is well in the North Woods……