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An article published in the Jerusalem Post - and written by us!
What Your Child Should Really Take Home From Camp
By Dovi Rabinowitz
With school closed, summer is a perfect opportunity for each of us to give our kids something truly invaluable - an education.
As parents, we make sure our children have everything they need, in the present and going forward, to lead happy, successful, fulfilling lives. When it comes to education, this means not merely teaching our kids a list of specific skills, but giving the gift of the ability to acquire skills. It means not just “satisfying” their curiosity, but stimulating their healthy exploratory instinct. It means giving them the confidence to discover their potential - positively, creatively, even fearlessly (but we'll get to fearlessness in a minute).
Now, I run a sports camp, and I can tell you this without hesitation - there is very little intrinsic value in being able to hit a baseball with a bat, or throw a basketball through a hoop. (I know, I know, I’ve just committed the sports equivalent of blasphemy.)
But here’s the magic of camp, the outcome that every child should take with them when camp really “works”: we start learning a new sport, say football. Maybe this child has never played football before. Or he’s been told that he’s “not coordinated”. Or she’s been told that “girls aren’t good at sports”. And, tragically, until now the child has believed it.
Then we spend 30 fun minutes practicing a basic skill - and lo and behold, the child discovers that they can catch a football. Maybe they’re great at it, maybe they’re just okay. Maybe they love it and it’s their new favorite activity, maybe not. But one thing’s for sure. They know now, in a way that only their own firsthand experience could let them really know, that they can do something now, which they never thought they’d do. There was something they used to be “no good at”, and they worked at it, and they succeeded.
And then it dawns on them - if that's true in football, or basketball, maybe it's true in math. Or in science. Or in social and leadership situations. Or in “process” skills, like being organized. Or even in areas where they keep getting messages from (well-meaning) adults that there’s nothing they can do about it because it’s a matter of genetics, like the ability to pay attention.
When camp really works, our children realize that for them, the sky’s the limit. And the next time someone tells them that they’re not going to pass some test, or not “the kind of person” who can do the more advanced track in a subject that interests them at school, they’ll know what to say: “Oh really? Just watch me.”
And more important than what they say to others, is what they’ll say to themselves, the next time they have doubts about their own potential, and they feel their resolve flag: “Hey, I know, from my own real-life experience, that I was able to learn to catch that weirdly-egg-shaped football. It may have seemed unlikely at first, but when I’ve believed in myself, it turns out I’ve been right!”
Camp is full of opportunities for our kids to try new things, and realize the twin feelings of potential and accomplishment. With the right approach, a thoughtful and creative camp staff can use sports, horizon-broadening trips, craft skills, specialized activities ranging from technology to orienteering, and simply the power of fun and exciting social dynamics, to open each child’s eyes to one of the most exciting discoveries they can ever make: their own potential.
Giving our children a full “education”, means truly preparing them for life, in all it’s exciting challenges and opportunities. That’s the kind of “fearlessness” that I meant earlier - we can help give our children the confidence to try new things, the courageousness to keep working at something when it doesn’t come easy, and the exhilaration of facing challenges and triumphing .
The lessons that our children take home with them from camp can stay with them, and grow with them, for a lifetime.
Dovi Rabinowitz is the Director of All Star Israel Sports Camp. firstname.lastname@example.org .