Every morning, when I make my way to my office, I see little pockets of counselors enjoying the peaceful, quiet time before the campers wake up. There is a group of counselors who meet on the porch of the dining room for morning coffee. Don Mathews, a veteran of forty-two years, and Hal Williams, who is here celebrating is 35th year at camp, are two of the elder statesmen that hold court during the early hours before reveille. I have noticed that this coffee group has grown over the summer, and somehow, I can’t help but feel that those who sit with Don and Hal feel humbled by their presence. These are two wise men that have much to share about life and Takajo. It dawned on me how special and meaningful the relationships are for our staff, and I am sure that these unique friendships and connections help many staff members during some pretty long days.
When I made my way to the office this morning, I noticed all seventeen members of my tennis staff dressed in uniform ready to head into the dining hall for an early breakfast. Today, we were hosting five camps in a tennis tournament for many of our boys who have a passion for the game, but who have not played in a tournament this season. We create these events during the summer because we recognize the importance of participation. The thrill each camper experiences as he puts on a Camp Takajo uniform and competes against boys from neighboring camps is readily apparent.
Our courts were full all day, and the counselors did a magnificent job of coaching and encouraging our boys until the very last point was played. One little boy on our team had so much fun that he asked me if he could call his parents this evening to see if they would sign him up for tennis lessons in the fall. Another little boy told me that this was “the best day of the summer,” and never told me if he won or lost.
Competition is healthy for kids if it is kept in its proper perspective. One of the reasons why we don’t have awards at Camp Takajo is because we consider it to be a negative aspect of competition. It defeats the purpose of what we are trying to accomplish. As we wind down on the summer, it would be meaningless for us to choose one boy who is the best athlete, or one boy who is the most improved. Many campers have developed skills in several different disciplines at camp. This development helped them to gain confidence, therefore it seems meaningless to diminish their growth and development by handing out awards.
As these players put their heads on their pillows at the end of a long, fun-filled day, I know that they have grown and flourished because of this experience.