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Competition at Camp

Since before the training wheels were even taken off of my bike, I’ve been playing sports. My older brothers were all exceptional athletes which put a lot of pressure on me; I was constantly being compared to them and thus was always being pushed to run faster, train harder and jump higher. There was a lot of emphasis put on being the best. I won plenty of medals and trophies and was considered an MVP in most sports I played. I loved playing, but more than that, I loved winning. I lived for that feeling. I would do whatever it took to be on top and wouldn’t enjoy myself if I wasn’t the champion. Then I went to camp.

 

When I stepped on the camp fields for the first time I began with my usual intensity. It took a second for me to realize just how different the environment was from what I was used to. Usually I’d look around before a game and see serious, intense faces. At camp, I instead saw smiling, happy ones. I realized that while I played to win, my fellow campers had different motives. They enjoyed winning, but they played to learn something new, push themselves and spend an hour doing something they loved. They helped show me there’s a difference between friendly competition and unhealthy competition.

 

My competitive spirit came solely from winning and being the best. I learned that healthy competitiveness comes from improving and being your best self. Instead of being in competition with others, I began competing with my past self. This allowed me to focus on the skills I needed to improve on while still enjoying the game. When you can walk away from a sport and still have had a great time, win or lose, you’re a winner.

 

When I got home, I took what I learned and applied it to my sports teams. It was difficult for my dad to learn to calm down, stay quiet and stop focusing solely on winning, but when he saw how much happier I was and how much I improved, he started to come around.

 

I’m so thankful for Camp Laurel South and how they taught me to be a compassionate, helpful and less stressed athlete and person.

 

Alex, age 14

Going on a Hike… More than Just Good Exercise!

When you hear the word “camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship and the outdoors.

Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed time in nature is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Laurel South is a very popular activity each summer.

There’s nothing like fresh air to remind us of the things that matter in life.

The Healing Power of Nature

Did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?

In today’s world this is especially true; between smartphones and tablets, time spent outdoors is seriously dwindling. But hiking isn’t just a serious workout. It is a way for campers and counselors to soak in the sun, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy each other’s company. Without realizing it, they are improving their physical, emotional and mental health – all while having fun in the process!

The Journey is the Destination

In the high-energy world of camp activities, hiking is the perfect opportunity to slow down. While the summit may be spectacular, the best part of hiking is the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail. Campers have the chance to get to know one another and to experience the outdoors with people they enjoy.

Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone. Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!

Five Reasons Campers Would Win “The Hunger Games”

Surely, many of you have seen “The Hunger Games” films or read the books. For those who haven’t – imagine a post-apocalyptic world where 16 citizens are pitted against each other in a battle to the end. Everyone who has heard of “The Hunger Games” has surely thought about their own strategy and technique they would use when participating…but how would campers fare? From archery to camping skills, here are 5 reasons campers would definitely win:

1. They Use Teamwork

Campers know better than anybody that teamwork increases the odds of success no matter what you’re doing. Being comfortable working on a team and trusting in others to do their part takes guts; whether you’re fighting for your family in the Hunger Games or coming up with an act for the next campfire.

2. They Know How to Hit a Bullseye 

What do medieval knights, Hawkeye and summer campers all have in common? That’s right — unbeatable archery skills! Katniss might get a run for her money if she participated in a camp archery competition — some campers are seriously sharp shooters. Knowing how to use a bow and arrow is a rare skill in this day and age, but it’s no mystery to anyone who has gone to camp.

3. They’re Resourceful

One of the biggest challenges of “The Hunger Games” is making do with what you have, and using creativity to solve problems. Campers use their imaginations all the time; whether in theatre, crafts or in the cabin — creativity is abundant. Needless to say, being resourceful would be no problem for campers.

4. They Know How to Camp Out

As if being on the run and fighting defying odds weren’t enough, the contestants of the Hunger Games also have to survive for days on end in the wilderness — sleeping under the stars, making shelters out of branches, and always planning ahead so they have access to their basic necessities. Luckily there’s no real risk at summer camp, but campers still get to practice the fun side of wilderness survival skills. From learning to start campfires to exploring nature and wildlife, exposure to the skills needed to have a blast in the great outdoors is a huge part of camp life.

5. They’re Loyal to Their Friends

Last but not least, the biggest and best part of camp life: friendship. It’s friendship that saves Katniss at the end of the film (spoiler alert!), and it’s friendship that brings campers back to summer camp year after year. Katniss shows that she’s willing to give up everything for her friends and family. Campers learn that friendship isn’t just about taking — it’s also about giving back, volunteering, and always being ready to help others.

Camp Crafts: Keeping the Arts Alive

Summer camp isn’t just about campfires, sports and jumping in the lake. From ceramics to theater; jewelry making to painting and drawing, camp has activities available for anyone and everyone!

Art Offers Variety

Camp is a hands-on place, so it makes sense that the hands-on approach applies to all camp activities. Painting, ceramics and other studio arts give campers a chance to slow down, zone in and get their hands dirty in a creative environment. Camp is full of creative outlets and everybody gets a chance to try out different mediums until they find the one that speaks to them.

Theater Brings People Together

Theater is a great way for campers to practice team organization outside of a sports environment. The end product is usually a little on the goofy side (this is camp after all, not Shakespeare), but what’s really valuable about the activity is applying those team-building skills to everyday camp life.

The Arts Foster Creativity

No two campers are the same and thus it makes sense that no two pieces of art are the same. Whether drawing a picture, creating a necklace or molding a bowl, creativity is at work. There is something special about following the same instructions as the person next to you, but ending up with something completely different. This self-expression allows for campers to think “outside the box”.

Self-Expression Builds Confidence

Ultimately, the goal of creative activities at camp is to build confidence through self-expression. The arts have always been a safe place for campers to express what they have on their minds. No matter the discipline, every camper gets a chance to show their own unique creative spark.

Camp isn’t just a fun place — it’s a creative place too! So get creative in the arts. There’s no better time than summer to make something spectacular!

Tips for Your First Summer as a Camp Counselor

Thinking about what you’ll be doing this summer? If you loved camp as a kid and are too old to be a camper, think about applying to be a counselor! Afterall, a successful camp depends greatly on its staff.

  1. Being a counselor is the toughest job you’ll ever love! You’re there to work, most likely harder than you ever have in your life. You’re also there to connect with campers and fellow counselors…form friendships and make memories!
  1. Get ready to be excited about everything!Campers will feed off of your energy! You’re their role model for the summer, so remember that your campers are always watching you to see your reactions. If you’re excited, chances are they’ll be excited too (even about laundry). Make it fun!
  1. At camp, time moves quickly! When you arrive for Staff Orientation in June, you’ll find yourself thinking “August is so far away…I have plenty of time!” The next thing you know it’s the end of July! It’s important to be present and live in the moment. It’s the best way to make the most out of your experience over the summer!
  1. LS 2Prepare to be enthusiastic about everything! From making the best friendship bracelets to playing others in Ping Pong, everything you do will be weirdly competitive. Enjoy it as this is one of the ways your group shows pride!
  1. Expect to leave camp a changed person in some way! The summer will have a profound impact on you; the way you live your life, what you care about, and the way you see others. You may not even realize it, but a summer at camp will change you for the better!

How to Survive Digital Detox at Camp

Ah camp, with all its beautiful sounds — shining stars on a clear night, the whistle of the wind in the trees, the splashing of campers jumping in the lake — one thing you won’t hear: the gentle “ping” of Instagram notifications. A summer at camp means digital detox!

Depending on how technology-dependent a camper or counselor is, that’s either great news or serious cause for concern. Don’t worry — even if you miss checking Instagram every five seconds, you’re bound to benefit from a little analog “me-time”. After all, countless studies have shown that constant social media and internet exposure can have negative effects on things like concentration, memory and even basic happiness.

So here are a few tips for keeping sane without your phone in your pocket.

Keep a Journal

Journaling is your number-one weapon in the fight against digital withdrawal. People have been using journaling as a way of daily reflection long before Facebook’s “what’s on your mind” prompt or Twitter’s “What’s happening?” Think of it as a Facebook update for your future self.

Write Letters or Postcards

We often seem to forget that email isn’t the only way to keep in touch. Receiving a piece of snail mail in the mailbox brings a smile to anyone’s day. Just doodle a picture and throw in a “miss you!” on a postcard and drop it in the camp mail. Done!

Stay in the Moment

Staying in the moment is easier said than done. Being able to “quickly check Instagram” can turn your phone into a social crutch. Camp offers you a chance to let that bad habit go — and when you can’t look at your phone during down time, you’ll find yourself making real connections with the people around you. Next time you want to share “what’s on your mind,” try sharing your thoughts with a person instead of your Facebook.

Social media can be great and there’s a time and place for it; but you’ll be surprised at how great you feel when you take a little digital detox.

8 Ways Everyone Can Tell You Went to Camp

1. You Want to Play Outside No Matter the Weather
The rain-or-shine attitude is something that sets campers apart. Whether you are going rock climbing or waterskiing, you sure aren’t going to miss out on the time of your life because of a little liquid sunshine!!

2. You Always Want to Work as a Team
Summer camp is a crash-course in teamwork and quickly turns even those with “quieter” personalities into leaders and team players. From meals to playtime to campfires, campers do everything together and quickly discover that the more you collaborate, the more fun you can have.

3. You’re Always Singing and Clowning Around
You can take the camper out of camp, but you can never take the camp songs out of the camper. Repeat-after-me melodies are a tradition as old as camp itself that turn goofy rhymes into songs that get stuck in your head forever…for counselors and campers alike.

4. You Don’t Mind Getting a Little Dirty
Summer camp is all about having fun in the great outdoors, and that means running around in the woods, jumping in the lake and getting grass stains on your jeans.  Especially for campers coming from the big city, getting comfortable with mud, bugs and insects means getting out of your comfort zone… and having a blast while doing so.

5. You Get Along with People Who are Different than You
Diversity is strength, and camp is one of the most diverse places around. You never know who’s going to be in your age group, and no matter where everyone comes from, you all have to work together both in and out of activities.

6. You Love to Send “Snail-Mail”IMG_6285
Just like the owl post over breakfast in Harry Potter, mail time at camp is exciting for everyone! Parents love getting updates from camp, and campers love getting a little piece of home. In a world where paper is being used less and less, there’s nothing like getting a post card in the winter from your best camp friend.

7. You Know How to Start a Fire (and Roast a Perfect Marshmallow!)
Not everyone knows how to start a fire in the digital era, but as a camper you know a thing or two about getting that tinder to snap, crackle and pop. Chances are you even have a great campfire story and know a thing or two about crafting the perfect s’more!

8. You Want to Be a Counselor When You “Grow Up”
The number one sign of a lifelong camper is when you’ve been going to camp for so many seasons that you become too old to be a camper — so you become a counselor! Being a camp counselor is one of the best jobs in the world and a chance to share all your years of camp wisdom with the next generation. You’re more than just a camper…you’re a role model!

What I Learned about Friendship from Camp

You know that “first day of school” feeling? I’m sure you do. Some people love it while others find it quite scary. The chance to explore a new place, try new things, and make new friends can be simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.

How about that “first day of camp” feeling? I’m going to be honest with you, I was a shy kid, and the first day of camp I was worried. So many new faces! So many new activities! You mean we’re staying here for three-and-a-half weeks?!

Making Friends at Camp is EasyLS (2)

Well, it turned out my fears were completely unfounded; I quickly learned that it’s practically
impossible not to make new friends at camp. From the team games to the intimate campfire circles, sticking to yourself isn’t really an option. There are no TV shows or computer games to distract or isolate you!

But camp doesn’t just teach you how to make friends; it teaches you how to keep them.

Learning to Be a Good Friend

Summer camp is a crash course in socializing. Spending weeks together with the same group teaches campers how to interact with each other in ways that you can’t really learn at school. You aren’t just playing games at camp; you’re learning how to live communally. That means sharing, communicating, and understanding different perspectives. In a sense, camp helps teach kids to be a good friend to their peers.

Learning to be a good friend means learning to give as much as you take. Everyone has rough days, and camp is no exception. Cheering up a friend who doesn’t feel like playing games or joining in the campfire can be tough, but every camper does it. Why? Because they know that their camp friends would gladly lend them the same support.

Friends that Last Forever

The camp experience is as intense as it is fleeting. Similar experiences don’t come around often, so it’s no surprise that campers often become life-long friends. When you find yourself missing summer, your camp friends are always there to remind you that you aren’t alone. Only someone who was there with you can truly understand what the nostalgia is all about — it’s an experience that links you forever.

The one sad part about camp friendships is that when camp is over, you have to say goodbye. While goodbyes may be tough, next summer is always right around the corner!

Great Outdoors…Great Skills

I’ve always been surprised by the wide range of lessons that campers take away from the outdoor adventure activities at camp. Some campers benefit most from building a sense of self-reliance and resourcefulness. Others particularly enjoy the non-competitive aspects of the activities, which combine the adrenaline of sports with the positivity of teamwork. Regardless of interests, all campers benefit from outdoor education. Nature, like adventure, is universally meaningful — and universally fun.

Personal DevelopmentLS1

A camper must learn to trust themselves before they learn to trust others, and outdoor skill-building is one of the greatest ways to build self-confidence. Survival skills like fire-starting and shelter-building teach campers that strength comes from within. Not to mention, knowing how to pitch a tent and read a map teaches campers how to problem solve and advocate for themselves.

Teamwork vs. Competition

Teamwork is one of the core values at camp, and adventures in the great outdoors provide challenges that build trust and communication skills. Outdoor adventure requires a high level of teamwork, even though the objective isn’t “beating” another team. There are no winners and losers when the goal is to make a campfire or build a cool shelter, instead campers work together for the benefit of all. Campers learn to work together to conquer a challenge.

LS2Finding our Place in the World

When it comes to outdoor adventure at camp, the “outdoor” side is equally as important as the “adventure” side. Adventure is an important component, but the raw experience of being in nature is what makes seemingly simple activities like hiking and camping so memorable. Particularly for campers coming from the city, a reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of things can be immeasurably valuable. The great outdoors are important for everyone. After all, the beautiful Maine wilderness and crisp air are a huge part of what makes Camp Laurel such a special place.

Can-do Attitude

Regardless of the aspect of outdoor adventure that captures a camper’s imagination most, they are guaranteed to walk away with a new sense of empowerment. We live in a fast-paced world and the outdoor experiences at camp prepare campers to tackle the world with creativity, determination and humility. Just get outside and try it!

Living in the moment at Camp Laurel South: A Counselors Perspective.

 

It was midway through the third week of summer camp when I suddenly realized I didn’t know what day it was.

…Or what week it was.

You know what the craziest part is? That didn’t make me feel stressed at all! On the contrary, I hadn’t been so happy in months.

After all, who has time to balance a calendar when you’re spending all day and night away from the computer, playing games in the sun and making new friends?IMG_6403

Summer camp has a way of making you “live in the moment” — so much so that losing track of time is totally normal. In fact, it’s pretty much expected by campers and counselors alike.

After a long school year of classes, homework and tests, let me tell you: it’s an incredible feeling to just let it all go.

“Live in the moment” may be a common piece of advice, but truth be told it’s a difficult nugget of wisdom to follow without practice. Back home, the phone was always ringing, the deadlines were always looming, and the stakes always felt high. It wasn’t until I started spending my summers at camp that I started to understand what “living in the moment” really meant.

…It didn’t mean throwing my phone in the lake, or not worrying about grades. It meant simply being okay with my best try — keeping my mind on the task at hand, rather than always worrying about the next one.

Camp is the perfect place to practice living in the moment, because there is simply less to worry about. It’s hard to think about the past or future when the present is packed with activities, sports, campfires, and all the rest.

So you see, losing track of time at summer camp is pretty understandable!

However, this isIMG_0504n’t to say that anybody is disorganized. Far from it; if anything, camp will improve your time management skills and help you get used to staying on schedule. The big difference is that everybody is in it together, and it’s not the end of the world if somebody is late once in awhile. Nothing encourages being on time quite like the activity you’re rushing to that’s so much fun!

There were many days that I spent on my feet running around for 12-15 hours straight, and yet it always felt like there just wasn’t enough time in the day. The saying “time is relative” is definitely accurate at summer camp. If time is crawling during an SAT prep test, then it’s flying when you’re at camp, taking a first shot at wakeboarding!

Honestly, the only date any of us worried about was the end of camp, when we’d all have to pack up our things and embark on our journeys back home. Leaving camp is always bittersweet, but we all left with a profound new outlook on life. We learned what it truly meant to “live in the moment,” and it’s a lesson I’ll never forget. Thank you camp!

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