Yesterday was our annual Bi-Camp Meet. The opportunity to get together with our good friends from Camp North Star once a year for a great day of competition is one of the more prideful days for me each summer. First, it should be noted that there are not a ton of camps out there with whom it would make sense for us to have an all-day competition. However, our friends at North Star 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 play in creating that for kids, are in line. Therefore, the opportunity to engage with them in a full day of competitions is a great deal of fun.
Over the course of the last week, we have assembled chess, cross country, tennis, archery, riflery, sailing, swimming, and canoeing teams. Now, getting this done at Nebagamon is a fairly tricky task. Certainly there is great interest in representing camp on one of these teams, but then again, there is great interest in wilderness trips (80 campers on trail today including ALL of our oldest boys who are on their 2-week canoeing Big Trips in Canada). 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 able to assemble great groups of kids to participate in the competitions. It is always fun.
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 in this day for exactly the right reason…because they have fun doing it. While we undoubtedly have some terrific cross-country runners, canoeists, swimmers, tennis players, archers, 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 swimmers that lost in a nail biter. It is true for our sailors, who won on an incredibly windy day in which only one single boat crossed the finish line. It is true for our tennis players who played an amazing series of matches and won handily. True as well, for our chess players who…um…strategerized their heads off and lost…by a lot. It is true for our cross-country runners who braved the terrain, put forth an incredible effort, and dashed to a tie. True too for our canoeists, who after patching together a team of boys with, in some cases, very limited experience (remember I mentioned that there are a lot of campers out on trail?), paddled their hearts out and wound up winning the match. It was also true for our target shooters who won for the first time in memory. And, finally, it was true for our archers, who have traditionally gotten demolished in this event and lost in a very close match.
The coolest moment of the day came at the end when I was speaking with one of our tennis players. I had watched him play in the morning in a truly incredible match…probably the best match of the day. He was playing against a boy that looked to be a more skilled player, and lost the first part of the match in short order. But the Nebagamon boy wound up digging down and finding the grit and determination to fight back, and wound up winning the match. It was totally amazing and an absolute highlight. But…that isn’t the coolest moment that I am talking about. The coolest moment came when I saw that same boy later in the day as he was watching another tennis match. I decided to make his summer and bestow him with some coveted Camp Director praise and let him know how amazing I thought his match was and how proud I was of him for keeping his head up and fighting back in such an impressive way. Now normally, I would expect a kid to beam with incredible pride after being praised by such a powerful and important figure here at camp. Most would light up with joy and pride. But this boy looked sad. I asked him why he was unhappy. He pointed at the tennis court below us and said, “I think my friend is going to lose his match and I just know he is going to be so sad about it.” How special is that? This kid, after impressing everyone here with an incredible come-from-behind victory that captivated all of us, wasn’t focused on his own success…instead, his friend was about to be in distress and he was empathically concerned for him. Ah Camp…
All is well in the North Woods….