One of the more consistent debates among my angst ridden generation of parents is the one about the dreaded Participation Trophy. There are those out there that believe that children who are given trophies for mere participation gain self-confidence and the willingness to try new things, and there are those out there that believe that the awarding of trophies to children for mere participation waters down true achievement, creates a sense of entitlement which does not prepare them for the let-downs of the real world, and gives kids a feeling that hard work isn’t necessary for reward.
The Luck of the Draw Run, which took place yesterday afternoon, is one of the more perfectly conceived Nebagamon events that respects both sides of this debate. It is an all camp marathon (a Kaplan style marathon that is…..1.2 miles!). Like any race, the top finishers in all of the age divisions are announced and celebrated for their achievement, but additionally, there is another set of winners. The Luck of the Draw Run is so named because the ultimate winners are determined by randomly pairing runner times, so at the end of the day, it is the two randomly selected runners with the lowest COMBINED time that win the race and whose names are permanently enshrined on the Luck of the Draw trophy in the Rec Hall.
This bit of genius allows for the serious athletes and competitors in the camp family to press themselves and get recognized for their hard work and talent, and it also encourages participation from those that just wish to be involved, have fun, and maybe even win! The Luck of the Draw invites a broad range of participation that is truly a joy to behold.
The announcements about the best times and the random pairings are made during dinner. It is always a lot of fun. There are the moments when we are genuinely impressed, “Gosh, I didn’t realize what a strong runner you are…way to go!” and there are the hilarious moments when the top finishing counselor is paired with the boy that walked the course backwards….they didn’t win. There are the really cool coincidences that make us all smile, like the two brothers that got paired together, or when a camper and his counselor were matched. It’s all truly entertaining and a great all camp bonding moment.
As cool as learning about and admiring the results of the race, for me the best part is getting to watch the race itself.
From my perch on the Big House porch (yes, I know I said it was a Kaplan style marathon at only 1.2 miles, but I still managed to be “too busy” to get out there!), I was treated to all sorts of athletes. Within the first couple of minutes I was amazed at the speed and grace of some of camp’s most elite runners of all ages. These are folks for whom running up the hill just outside the Big House seemed like an effortless saunter in the afternoon. (This is the same hill that requires me to stop for a water break halfway up during even the most leisurely stroll….although I tell the kids it is because I think that water fountain has THE best water in camp! Shhhhhh….don’t sell me out ok?) They were followed up by those kids that were giving it their all (and Steph), but you could see on their faces (and Steph’s) that this was really difficult for them. Nevertheless, their determination and grit propelled them to the top of that hill with enough energy to squeeze out a smile and occasionally even a wave as I called out their names in a cheer of support.
Following all of these more serious runners came the more unique runners. There were three-legged racers (kids who had tied two of their feet together). There were counselors running while carrying a bicycle above their heads (yeah, I couldn’t figure that one out either!). There were boys that had tied the laces of their own shoes together to shorten their strides (and yes, increase injury opportunities, but we emerged unscathed!) There were older boys portaging a canoe along the route. There were also straight up walkers…and aforementioned backwards walkers. Perhaps the participants I most enjoyed watching were the teams of racers. For some reason, this year, we had quite a few teams of blindfolded racers paired with a friend that guided them through the course either by hand or, in the most challenging cases, by simply using verbal commands and not physical assistance to guide their partners. These participants ranged in age from Swampers to Lumberjacks. Sometimes two Swampers were paired together, sometimes a Logger and a Lumberjack worked together. There was just about every permutation imaginable. It was a great reminder that after three weeks, we truly have become a real (camp) family in which we all enjoy each other, regardless of age.
It was just plain fun…
(You see how I brought up the whole Participation Trophy issue and avoided offending anyone by not taking a side? Pretty slick huh?)
The afternoon was capped off with a G-PARTY, our biggest G-Swim of the year, with more kids splashing around and having fun in the water than on any other day this summer. As a camp director, it is actually an emotionally powerful sight. Here we are with just a few days left in the session and I have true verification that this camp thing has really worked. We have a camp full of kids, playing in the water like kids, and having the time of their lives.
This is too much fun…..someone please slow the clocks.
All is well in the North Woods.