Written by Josh Steinharter, Camp Director
How good was our summer? Really, really good. But you should really hear about it from a few camp families:
“Mom, I feel like I can do anything I want to now…I took better care of myself at camp then I do at home…”
These are the words of first-time camper who spent two weeks at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp. Her mom goes on to say “She came home with stories of new friends, new experiences, and a new sense of herself!”
We are a sports camp and we take great pride in helping our campers to advance their skills and take their game to a new level (“Our daughter found out last night that she made the high school JV Tennis Team! That was her goal, and such an important piece in her choosing to go to your camp.”) and it is the sense of maturity and independence and self-confidence these girls, and many of our campers, take from their experience that gives us the most pride.
I know from talking with the family of the new member of the JV team, their daughter was nervous and uncertain about coming to camp, and if you talk with them now, they would tell you that she made the team because her tennis skills advanced at camp but they would also tell you that her tennis skills advanced because her self-confidence increased and her willingness to take a risk and try out for the team came that much easier because of her experience at camp.
I believe the impact of our camp really comes in the day-to day differences parents are seeing in their children due to their time at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp.
“This summer was Aaron’s first time ever to a sleep away camp. We were both so nervous and excited. When he came back four weeks later he couldn’t stop talking about how he loved the counselors and all of the activities. Aaron is so more mature and independent. Seriously! I was doing his laundry when he came home. When it comes out of the drier I usually put it all on his bed and then fold it and hang it up. I got distracted and couldn’t get to it right away. When I went to go do it, it was all hung up properly and put away. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it. Finally, my 11-year-old, doing his own laundry, cleaning up after the dogs every day, brushing his teeth without being reminded, getting up on his own for school. Stuff parents only dream of. I can’t thank you enough!”
There are lots of sports camps out there. Most of them are looking to create Division I athletes. They focus on skill development and not much more. Skill development is important to us at JCC Maccabi Sports Camp as well, but our focus are the results that come off the field as a result of challenging oneself and achieving goals on the field. Our goal is to create Division I human beings. A Division I human being is a person who exhibits Tikkun Middot, the building of strong character, being a mensch, someone who helps with family responsibilities, feels a stronger sense of self and isn’t afraid to try take a risk and try new things.
In closing, I leave you with the powerful words of a camp parent whose son came home to news of tragedy in his home community.
“I can’t thank you, and the entire staff enough for giving Ethan such a true, memorable gift. Besides the amazing tennis instruction, unique electives, team building activities, and friendship building, Ethan loved the spiritual, Jewish experience of Shabbat and other rituals. He even told us about a Torah portion and what it meant to him, and how he related to it — and this was on the way home IN the CAR!! 🙂
I now truly believe that it was because of the positive, meaningful time that Ethan spent at camp, that he was actually to cope with the news of his dear friend being badly hurt in such a strong, optimistic way. Camp gave Ethan such inspiration and motivation, which helped him stay strong, connected, and invested in his friend’s recovery.”
We remind our campers to take camp home with them and for each camper that takes a different shape. We were saddened to hear the news of Ethan’s friend’s injuries, but happy to know that our camp community extended beyond the summer to help more people in the community heal.
This summer was amazing, by far our best yet…and we’ve only just begun. We are so excited and proud of the genuine, inclusive and supportive community that’s grown in our first three summers. It’s remarkable to see how campers and staff thrive during each session. It’s clear that camp is deeply embedding itself into each person that joins us and that each person leaves a lasting impact on our community. We are already looking forward to next year.