Archive for July, 2013

Healthy Competition

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

“Healthy Competition” is a term that is often used at summer camp.  While camps offer a wide selection of niche and hobby activities, traditional summer camps feature sports as well.  The emphasis, however, is more about encouraging campers to be active and improve their skills.  This is not to say that campers do not participate in athletic contests. Many camps not only facilitate game play through intra camp leagues, but intercamp leagues and tournaments as well.  Thus, “healthy competition”, as it is used at camp, is an expression to describe contests with positive encouragement, regardless of the outcome, and not merely a synonym for “no competition.”

Po Bronson, co-author of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing believes that the camaraderie that results from healthy team competition encourages children to learn at a faster pace.  Another aspect of camp competition that makes it healthy competition is that it’s limited in scope and time.  It takes place only as long as camp lasts and does not extend beyond the camp environment.  This, according to Bronson, is a key element of healthy competition. “In finite games, you compete and then you let it go, and you have rest and recuperation – that’s actually really important for kids,” said Bronson. “It’s the continuous sense of pressure that is unhealthy for them.”

The stress of not making a team or of underperforming is not a pervading force in camp athletics. Says Bronson, “What kids do need to learn is losing is not that big a deal. They need to learn to lose and go ‘Oh, whatever,’ and move on and keep playing…You want to get them to turn up the work ethic in order to win.”  At camp, losing is not a big deal, because every summer is a new summer–new practices, new teams, and new possibilities.  The constant rearrangement of groups also helps campers shrug off losses.  Another day brings another activity and a new group with which to compete.  A loss in one activity does not translate to a closely monitored record that eventually defines a team and, sometimes, individuals.  The teams are constantly changing and so are the competitions.

The break between summers also makes growth measurable for campers.  When children constantly train and participate in a sport, it’s more difficult for them to see themselves improving, even when they are.  The ten month gap from one summer to the next provides campers with the time and distance necessary for improvements to be noticeable.  The distinct parameters of camp that restrict it to a single season also remove the pressure of advancing skills as quickly as possible so as to always be able to perform at peak level.  Every summer is new.  As a result, campers tend to maintain a healthy attitude about camp sports, which makes them naturally receptive to the idea of genuinely healthy competition.  At camp, it’s not so much about winning and losing, as setting goals and measuring one’s progress from summer to summer.

“What kids need more than anything is not to win or lose but a close race, a fair competition where everyone feels like they’ve got a fighting chance,” says Bronson.  “Where everyone feels like they have a fighting chance” is exactly what summer camp is, and why it’s an environment naturally conducive to healthy competition.

Camp Starlight CAs

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

In camp lingo, they’re called CAs, which is short for Counselor Assistant in regular speak.  Having spent the past several years as campers, the CA summer is a transitional year for many of the participants, who take on a challenging but exciting role at Camp Starlight that, for many of them, is also their first job.  Most of them are entering their Junior or Senior year of high school, which means that college is on the mind too.  With the Camp Starlight CAs at an age where they’re facing so many rites of passage, the camp focuses on designing a program every summer that incorporates aspects that make it a worthwhile, enjoyable experience that equips CAs with valuable knowledge and experience that they can apply to their lives as they move into adulthood.

Throughout the summer, the CAs participate in the Apprentice program, an ongoing competitive activity in which they work withAllison Miller to conceive, design, and create projects to better Camp Starlight.  Because the CAs are in a transitional phase from campers to staff, they have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned as both campers and staff members, which is, no doubt, why they are able to come up with so many great ideas.  The Apprentice isn’t just about ideas, though.  It’s about follow through, which at the end of the day is the crux of being a great staff member at Camp Starlight.

The CAs also get a taste of being a counselor, as they’re assigned to Lower Camp bunks with which they participate in many activities.  Being a part of a bunk also provides CAs with their first taste of what it means to be a mentor.  Young campers look up to their CA leaders as someone who was once a camper who was their age too.  By demonstrating that they love camp so much that they choose to return as CAs, the CAs impress upon younger campers the value of the camp experience.

But the CA summer is not all about work.  CAs are campers too, and the CA summer includes an amazing trip.  The Camp Starlight CAs recently returned from a ten day California adventure that they unanimously agree is the highlight of the CA summer.  In fact, for many of the CAs, it’s the culmination of their camp career, an experience for which they’ve been waiting since they were young campers.  To finally get to enjoy such an amazing trip with fellow campers whom they’ve had several years to bond is quite literally the experience of a lifetime, they say.

The CAs also get some academic encouragement in the form of college tours.  Throughout the summer, they visit several universities such as UCLA, Stanford, Cornell, Syracuse, and SUNY Binghamton to get a feel for college life.  Although the tours are not intended, necessarily, to promote the specific universities the CAs visit, they do give the CAs the opportunity to walk college campuses of different size, location, and academic or athletic specializations, and to be able to start thinking about the type of college they want to attend as well as the campus size, location, and extracurricular activities offered that may be the best fit for them.

With so many opportunities throughout the summer to experience the best of both worlds, it’s no wonder that so many Camp Starlight CAs rate their CA year as one of their best!

Camp Starlight Outdoor Adventure

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Head of Outdoor Adventure Chris Zammarelli’s main goal coming into this summer was to build the best program possible and offer more aspects of outdoor adventure.  Based on the number of campers who have flocked to the various activities that comprise the Outdoor Adventure program Chris has exceeded his goal.  In fact, one of the most popular new programs at Camp Starlight this year is Outdoor Living Skills, a new elective activity that is part of the Outdoor Adventure program.  Outdoor Living Skills provides campers with the opportunity to learn outdoor proficiencies such as fire building, navigation, shelter building, and wilderness first aid.  Other Outdoor Adventure activities in which Camp Starlight campers can participate include high and low ropes courses, the infamous Star Jump, a zipline, climbing wall, fishing, and mountain biking.

Chris believes that a great deal of the success of this summer is attributable to a staff that is really enjoying their positions.  “They are an amazing group to work with,” Chris says, “They are fun, smart, and outgoing.  The staff always jumps up to help whenever needed and are eager to get campers suited up and climbing.”  Chris himself has a passion for teaching.  He has a Master’s in education and teaches middle and high school math and science during the winter.  He also works at the University of Oregon Rec Center as part of the climbing staff and is motivated to spend his summers working at camp by his desire to have a better understanding of teaching and working with children of all ages.  He also hopes to improve his leadership skills.

Chris is proud that he and his staff have been able to elevate the Camp Starlight Outdoor Adventure program to a level that is beyond expectations for a camp.  He is proudest, though, that he has been able to watch his staff and the campers expand their Outdoor Adventure and Outdoor Living skillsets.  With the summer of 2013 nearing an end, he is already looking forward to next summer when he hopes to continue to improve and expand an already immensely popular program.

Camp Starlight Basketball

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Camp Starlight Basketball is having a landmark year.  Several of our teams have either won or are playing in championships of the Wayne County Camp League.  So we sat down with Head of Basketball Diego McCoy to talk about the program.

Diego credits the success of the basketball program to his three year plan.  “I work off a three year plan,” he says.  “I spend the first two summers implementing my system and getting to know the campers.  By the third year, I should having winning teams, and this year it’s happening.” Diego’s three year plan was also part of his strategy in implementing more advanced drills for Upper Camp this summer.  “This is my third year at Camp Starlight.  I know the kids now.”

Diego came into his third summer feeling it was important to establish a style of play that would extend beyond camp in helping campers be better players.  Diego says it’s important for players to understand the discipline of the game as well improve their skills.  He also wanted to see players have even more fun.  Diego has worked hard to make the Camp Starlight Basketball program, as a cohesive whole, reflect his motto: “Play hard.  Play together.  Play to get better.” In fact, his teams come together to recite their motto at the beginning and end of each game.  He’s very proud to see campers excited about the coming to basketball to learn and not just mess around without working on their skills.

As proud as he is to finally see his three year plan coming together, he says his proudest moment as a Program Head so far this summer was StarCamp.  Diego ran the Basketball StarCamp this year, and he was very happy see campers really participating in advanced drills and really improving their skills.  For him, seeing campers finally get some of the skills they hadn’t been able to get during regular basketball sessions made all of his and their hard work worthwhile.

The Basketball staff has been wonderful as well, according to Diego, especially considering that this is the 1st summer for all five of the Basketball Specialists.  In particular, Diego says his Girls staff has really stepped up.  “In the beginning, they were nervous that they were in over their heads.  But they’re not afraid to ask questions, and I love that.  They’re also on time, and they push the girls to be better.”  Diego says the summer has been challenging for his Boys Camp Specialists.  Boys Basketball is extremely popular and attracts high numbers of campers.  He says the Specialists weren’t prepared for the immense popularity of Camp Starlight Basketball at the beginning of the summer, but that they’ve adjusted nicely.

Diego himself played basketball at West Virginia State University before playingprofessionally in Argentina, Mozambique, and Australia.  Currently, he calls Washington D.C. home, where he works for 1 on 1 Basketball coordinating after school programs, private parties, and basketball leagues.  He hopes to bring away new and lasting friendships from his Camp Starlight career.  Congratulations, Camp Starlight Basketball, on an amazing summer!

Lower Deb Girls Bunk 18

Friday, July 26th, 2013

A very special week at Camp Starlight each summer is Challenge Week, during which bunks compete for prize “money” that they later use to purchase prizes at an auction.  This year, Lower Debs bunk 18 won an interview and blog feature, so we recently sat down with them and chatted over milkshakes.

Collectively, almost all the girls have been together as a bunk for four years now, although they’ve had a few additions over the years.  They have a bunk mascot, Fanny Frog, and a bunk song called “Chugga”  that they made up their Upper Junior summer (and happily performed) and  to which they’ve added parts over time as new people have joined the bunk.  They also performed their Lower Deb elephant cheer.  They’re very proud of being Lower Debs elephants.  In fact, several of them mentioned that their Lower Deb summer has been their favorite so far.  In particular, they love being part of Upper Camp and having more responsibilities.

When it comes to memorable moments of this summer, Miss Starlight was a hit because their “contestant” came in 3rd.   But they were quick to point out that the summer is not over, though, and some of the best stuff is still to come–like their Hershey Park trip next week.  It’s their first overnight trip, so there is even more collective anticipation than there has been in the past (and also the reason they’re sure it’s going to be their best trip so far).  They’re also excited for their favorite part of camp: Olympics.  All nine of the girls unanimously agreed that the Olympic Break is always one of their best memories of the summer.

When asked to name their favorite thing about camp, their answers were as varied as they are, but none of them could pick just one:

Jessie V.—being with friends and lacrosse

Chessy G.—cooking, waterskiing, and lacrosse

Shelby P.—dance, cooking, and lacrosse

Lauren B.—campfires, water activities, and gymnastics

Marni K.—tubing and lacrosse

Spencer J.—cooking, dance, and softball

Jamie C.—lacrosse, softball, and cooking

Bailee P.—spending time with friends, arts & crafts, and tennis

Sam W.—arts & crafts and friends

Overall, it was a fun interview session.  The girls were very enthusiastic, energetic, and positive.  Thank you, ladies, and have a great rest of the summer!

Camp Starlight Gymnastics

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

All one has to do to see why campers are quite literally flipping for Camp Starlight gymnastics is walk into the Gymnastics Center at the Carriage House.  What you’ll see is a positive, constructive environment that is fun while still encouraging hard work and perseverance, which all paid off when the Camp Starlight Gymnastics program hit its stride last week with both Upper and Lower Camp team victories as well as 1st place Individual All Around at its meet.  The victories, of course, were right on track for the goals new Head of Gymnastics Kelly Gurney set for the program coming into the summer.  “I really wanted to get our gymnasts to the next level.” Kelly says.

But Kelly isn’t merely preoccupied with improving the skills of campers who are enthusiastic aboutgymnastics.  She set a goal for every camper to master at least one skill by the end of the summer.  She believes the campers not only have the talent and drive, but have been set up for success with a tremendous facility. “Our [Camp Starlight’s] gym is the best I have seen for a non-specialized camp.  It’s even top of the line for a gymnastics camp,” Kelly says.  And Kelly knows gymnastics.

The Auburn University graduate was a three time national bar champion, three time national beam champion, and NCAA All Around champion.  Prior to joining Camp Starlight, coached three gymnasts to the TOPS National Team as well as many other students to multiple regional and national championships.  During the winter, she coaches gymnastics in Southern California.  When she’s not in the gym, she can be found surfing or conducting yoga and natural healing sessions.

The campers and facilities aren’t the only aspects of Camp Starlight that Kelly is pleased about, though.  She also loves her staff and believes they are a big part of the success of the Camp Starlight Gymnastics program “Rachel is highly technical and kind.  Maxine is the dreamer with a big heart.  The kids love both.”  Congratulations to Kelly, her staff, and all of the Starlight campers who’ve made 2013 another successful one for Camp Starlight gymnastics.

Celebrating a Birthday Camp Starlight Style

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

“Skip around the pole!  Skip around the pole!  We won’t stop until you skip around the pole!”  This is a daily chant at Camp Starlight.  It’s a special way for the entire camp to wish campers and staff a happy birthday!  And, as you might guess, they don’t stop until those celebrating skip around the pole (to do so is a secret wish of almost everyone at camp, btw).  And this is how a birthday begins at Camp Starlight.  After skipping around the pole, birthday boys and girls get to help raise the flag.  Camper and staff birthday gear tends to be a bit more—um—“creative” than on a typical day.  Tutus are almost certainly involved as is brightly colored clothing.  Sometimes there is also a hat or a crown.  Always, it’s easy to spot someone who is celebrating around campus.  Later in the day, the entire bunk gets involved for a party in the canteen.  Of course, there is cake!  A birthday just isn’t a birthday without cake, after all.  At dinner, the lucky camper (or staff member) usually gets formally serenaded by his or her bunk with a round of Happy Birthday.  Every day is a great day at Camp Starlight, but a birthday is a really great day!

OMG!…Oh My Girls Visits Camp Starlight

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Have you ever heard of a vision board? Do you know how to make a healthy smoothie?  When you want to relax, do you know how? Much of Girls Camp got the opportunity to learn the answers to all of these questions during special workshops conducted by Oh My Girls this past S Day. Oh My Girls, according to its website, is the “first ever health club designed exclusively for girls ages 8-18,” and teaming up with Camp Starlight to present the Upper Inter Girls and Debs with such a uniquely fun and constructive day was their first venture into the world of residential summer camp.

Claire Liever-Saul, Oh My Girls Vice President, helped the Upper Inter Girls andLower Debs learn some techniques for de-stressing, including proper breathing during the Meditation and Stress Management workshop. Sydney M., one of the Upper Inters who was eager to share her experience, particularly enjoyed the lavender and Hershey Kiss exercise. “She put lavender in the window, and told us to smell it and think about how calm it made us. Then, she told us to suck on a Hershey Kiss and think about good things.” Says fellow Upper Inter Jamie F., “It worked really well!”

After learning how to relax, the girls made vision boards during the Design Your Life session with Life Coach Christine Judge. Vision boards are collages that encourage you to envision your lifestyle at a certain point in your life, whether it be in a year or ten. The idea is that creating a vision board helps literally helps you visualize your own success and enables you to focus on the steps you must take in order to achieve it, and the project scored very highly with virtually all of the girls. “The vision boards were really cool!” Jamie said, “not just doing your own but seeing other people’s goals as well.” Charlotte S. said that she enjoyed making a vision board because it got her thinking about what she really wanted. “It was a lot of fun to think about the things that I wanted to put on my board.”

Some of the girls found the Spinach Challenge the most interesting part of the day. As part of a demonstration that eating healthy doesn’t have to taste bad, the girls were encouraged to add one leaf of spinach to their berry smoothies during a smoothie making session. Although many were skeptical and a bit skittish at first, those who accepted the challenge were pleasantly surprised to learn that they couldn’t taste the spinach at all. Says Lily H., “I put in four big leaves, and it was delicious!” The Spinach Challenge was also part of a session entitled Not Just Any Body, Your Body conducted by LCSW Randi Zimmerman. “We learned that it’s really important to love yourself however you are, and that being fit and healthy doesn’t mean you have to look a certain way.” said Jamie F.  Added Charlotte S., “She used an example of not liking your nose. She told us to think about all of the things we do with our nose, like smell, and to ask ourselves what we would do without our nose. She told us that when there is a part of our body that we don’t like, we should say to ourselves, ‘My_______makes me unique.’”

The day also included a circuit training fitness session with Camp Starlight’s own very popular and much beloved Head of Fitness Richelle, which also scored high marks with the girls. It wasn’t just the campers who gave the day two enthusiastic thumbs up either. “I think it’s great that they [Oh My Girls] came,” Upper Inters Division Leader Janelle said, “It was a fun, informative day for the girls, and I think they really enjoyed it. Many of them had never done anything like that before.”

Later in the day, the Upper Deb Girls enjoyed a panel with all three of the Oh My Girls Specialists during which many of the ideas presented to the Upper Inter and Lower Deb Girls were discussed in an open forum.

Oh My Girls was founded by Lisa Rosen and Claire Lieber-Saul, both professional mothers of young girls, in order to “create an environment that aims to put the fun back in girlhood while guiding its members toward healthful and successful living in a most challenging time.”  In addition to workshops, All My Girls also offers cooking and fitness classes as well as party packages for birthdays and special events. If you would like to learn more about Oh My Girls and the services they offer, visit their website

Camp Starlight Soccer

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

For the past several summers, some of Camp Starlight’s most successful Wayne County athletic teams have been a product of our Soccer Program, headed by Matt Whatley.  Part of the reason soccer scores so highly with many of our campers, no doubt, is the fact that “Whatley” as he is affectionately known to campers, has been in charge of Camp Starlight Soccer since 2006 and has become very familiar with campers’ strengths as well as aspects of the game in which their skills could be improved.  With such an in depth knowledge of campers, Whatley is able to guide his staff in developing and applying effective coaching methods.  With nearly eight summers under his belt, Whatley sets high standards for his staff as well as campers.  “My primary goal coming into this summer,” he says, “was to get everyone involved in soccer as much as possible and improve upon our Wayne County record from last year.”

When asked about his proudest moment as a Program Head so far this summer, he mentions the 8th grade boys Wayne County match against Camp Wayne.  “They (Wayne) had a very strong team.  But our guys played excellent.  The game went into penalty kicks, and we lost by one goal during penalty kicks.  It was heartbreaking, but the guys really played a great game and held up against the other team really well.”  Whatley also says that in his eighth summer, he’s enjoying see his staff develop their coaching skills.

Whatley himself play for a nationally ranked college team and coached three more to national rankings.  But he asserts that of all of his career highs, the most significant to him are the 43 Wayne County Championship titles he’s won during his Camp Starlight career.  “The campers here are great!” Whatley says.  “They have a lot of pride in Camp Starlight and play with a lot of heart when they represent the camp.”

Here is to Continuing success for the Camp Starlight Soccer Program for the remainder of the 2013 season.

Big Things in Small Moments

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

One of the best parts of camp is observing moments when campers could teach grown-ups a thing or two. One of them is the way in which campers are able to capture a moment. There are lots of big events at camp.  We write about those all of the time.  Arrival Day, the divisional shows, SWF, trips, the Olympic Break, and the list goes on.  But sometimes the best moments to be part of at camp aren’t those that involve the entire camp.  They’re those special blips in time when one happens to be near a Senior camper who just got a callback for a show as a after spending her entire camping career wishing for a callback, a camper who just scored their first goal in a soccer game, or a few campers who just returned from a surprise hike to Oz.  As small–and potentially insignificant–as those moments may seem, seeing the grins on campers’ faces and how animated they are as they share, it’s easy to see how these small moments are sometimes the ones that make a summer for some campers.  These moments may not be big for the entire camp, but they’re just as big as any “big” camp event for the campers who experience them.  These are also the moments for which campers and staff alike come to camp because they’re moments that only happen here.  And that’s befitting, of course.  Summer Camp is about discovery, and it’s in these small moments that even seasoned campers discover there is ALWAYS an element of surprise in camp.