I had a great experience this past weekend with the Cincinnati Moeller High School wrestling team at Virtue Camp. 50 young men, Freshmen-Seniors ... some with 13 years under their belts -some with 1 practice (the day before) ... plus 7 coaches and 4 Dads.
Things started off a little rocky as the bus got a flat tire on the highway 11 miles from camp. We lost some time but we made up for it.
It was the first weekend of deer hunting season so we made sure to tell the kids not to be walking in the woods with any antler hats on ... (just a precaution)
One of the things I was most impressed with was the coaching staff. They were all present, very engaged and you could tell that the kids knew their coaches cared about them on a personal level. The sport of wrestling itself lends to that but still these coaches are special.
The focus of the weekend was Charity-Humility-Courage as the core virtues of the season but we broke it down a bit further to mirror Coach John Wooden's pyramid of success. Together it made for a great season-long plan to integrate the lessons learned at camp throughout the next 4 months.
We had some team building exercises, competitions to see who could name everyone on the team, learning things no one knew about anyone else. It was inspiring to see the Seniors genuinely interested in the Freshmen. They wanted to created a tight brotherhood, they wanted to assure the inexperienced wrestlers that they were there to help, to push them - but to help them get better.
Some movie clips got the discussions kicked off, they got into small groups and made resolution-posters on how they were going to live the virtues the rest of the season. Each team received a few "words" they were in charge of leading the team for a few weeks to make sure the ideas became actions. These posters will be placed in the locker room to be a constant reminder.
A staple at almost all virtue camps is the sport of dodgeball - there is just something so bonding as young men pelting each other with foam balls in organized chaos.
I had the "pleasure" of sleeping in the gym with a number of Dads/Coaches. I felt like Goldilocks and the 3 bears at one point at about 3 in the morning as 3 good men seemed to be competing with one another to see whose snore could reverberate loudest throughout the gym. It was only amusing for so long ...
Rise and Shine came at 6:30. The Freshmen who "carried on a bit too long" the night before instantly became a source of regret (smile). Coaches led them through a pretty grueling strength workout ... all in all not one complaint, not even a whimper ... I was impressed. These young men meant business even though some of them were not even awake yet.
I guess what I love most about these camps is the fact that it gives the men and the boys an opportunity to experience "more" from their sport ... that the season is about much more than just the skills and drills, the games, etc. It is about building memories that help shape them into the leaders of tomorrow.