Part of the reason most of us come to camp is because we want to grow. Another way of saying this, of course, is that we want to be challenged. As I walked around camp today, I realized how unique Rockbrook is in giving each camper the freedom to make choices about how to stretch herself. Girls choose their own activities, and within those activities, there is a lot to do, but girls are constantly encouraged and given the choice of how they want to stretch their capabilities.
As I walked around camp today, I saw a lot of stretching. This was literal in gymnastics, because when I arrived, everyone was stretching their bodies, loosening up for the games ahead. The campers were excited to play the game “Stick It,” in which someone tells them a move right before they jump on the trampoline, and they have to stick it afterward. In the class, there was a wide array of ability levels. Some girls had grown up as gymnasts whereas others had never done a cartwheel. Everyone, though, had fun, and were able to challenge themselves. Whether they wanted to finish with perfect form, or whether they learned what a pike was, everyone stretched themselves in ways they chose to. The counselor was around the whole time, encouraging every girl, whether she was the star tumbler or the novice.
The same spirit was alive and well in sports and games. Campers were playing the game “Knockout,” which is a variation on basketball where girls are trying to shoot a basket in the hoop before the person behind them. If they don’t do this, they are out. What was impressive about this, though, was that the game was congenial the whole time. The spirit of Rockbrook is not competitive, so the mood was light as girls tried to shoot their baskets. When campers got out, they chilled out by the fan and the counselor (who had been playing, but got out) was carrying on conversation until a winner was declared. It’s this cooperative, noncompetitive spirit that enables campers to constantly support each other and feel safe stretching themselves beyond what they think their limits are.
This was especially true in climbing, where I met up with a group of juniors who were trying to ascend the Alpine Tower. I sat on the log next to a junior and asked her about her climbing experience in the past. She had never climbed at Rockbrook before, but had climbed a few rock walls at home. I asked her how she wanted to go up, and she pointed to the hanging logs, the hardest way up. “I’m going to try, even though I’ve never done it before,” she said. It was an impressive moment—for someone who had never gone on the Alpine Tower to go up the hardest way, she was excited to stretch beyond her comfort zone. As I looked around, though, I realized that Rockbrook was creating a great environment for her to be unafraid to try something hard. All around the tower, I heard cheers of “You’ve got this!” and “You can do this!” These were not prompted by the counselors (who were encouraging in their own ways), but something the campers did intuitively.
The atmosphere of camp is one that asks us to always lift each other up, and in doing knowing that others want the best for us and are not focusing on our failures, it makes it easier to challenge ourselves to do hard things. For some girls, even being at camp away from their parents is a challenge in its own way. Girls are leaving the familiarity and comforts of home, stretching their ability to be independent and make friends outside of their immediate surroundings. Today, now that girls are settled and we have a schedule, it was really fun to see girls who had a bit of homesickness yesterday start to really embrace camp, to think, “I can do this, and it’s going to be fun!” They are finding friends, and they are finding that they are being lifted up by counselors and friends who see the best in them and want to know all about them. As we continue to get settled in, we will continue finding new ways to challenge ourselves and grow in ways that only camp can provide.