Life lessons learned at our summer camp for girls

Our summer camp’s leadership team is comprise of some pretty incredible, passionate people. In recent weeks a collection of our unit leaders have shared their thoughts on why belonging to our summer camp community has been such a powerful experience for them. This week we would like to introduce you to Courtney Chaloff, Head Counselor at our summer camp for girls, and an all-around fantastic, spirited, caring sports coach and person:

When I was seven years old, I begged my parents to let me start looking at overnight camps. That summer, as many families do, I went to visit numerous camps around New England. I saw many beautiful lawns, freshly painted buildings, and appealing waterfronts. I truthfully can’t remember much else about my visits, especially given that they were so long ago. However, I have never forgotten about one significant experience while first visiting Camps Kenwood and Evergreen.

Watch a short video where Courtney explains why

our evening activities and special events are so amazing

I wish I could say I remember my whole visit, what buildings I saw, and who I spoke with but I was seven and those things don’t always stick out to seven-year-olds. What I do remember distinctly was walking by the Evergreen Ball Field and seeing a group of girls a little bit older than myself playing a full game of softball in the pouring rain. They weren’t just simply going through the motions: they were actually enjoying themselves unaffected by the downpour. They cheered for every action that occurred in the game (I later learned that was just part of the Evergreen culture). And what struck me the most was that they were having fun and cheering one another on, but they were also competitive and tough girls.

I was sold.

summer camp for girlsOur summer camp for girls’ head counselor Courtney Chaloff playing softball when she was a very happy camper

16 summers later, it is this moment and this culture at Evergreen that has kept me here. Evergreen taught me two important dichotomies: how to be tough and kind, and how to be confident and empathetic. Sometimes girls don’t know that they can be both. They feel that being tough makes them mean or being too emphatic can make them weak. At Evergreen, the culture diminishes these perceptions through how we coach our sports and other activities. Girls are encouraged to be involved and take risks. Girls tryout for sports teams and play at the highest level they can. If they strike out a friend in a tryout, they learn how to still be a good friend but also possess their own personal grit.

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I am currently the Evergreen Head Counselor and this position has given me the opportunity to see all of our activities throughout the day. Making our weekly schedule can often be like completing a puzzle, given the abundance of activities we offer at camp. Our campers have the flexibility to choose their own daily schedule within certain constraints. For example, they may have the choice of basketball or tennis one period and the next period they can choose either crafts, ceramics or music. This choice creates a sense of autonomy and ownership in the activities they go to. However, there is a bit of strategy in the grouping of activities. We try to group sports related activities together so that our campers get exposed to these activities, even if they’re a bit out their comfort zone. The same applies for art related activities. This encourages our campers to take healthy risks or try something they normally wouldn’t.

The specific activities I will focus on are the athletic related activities. I have always felt deeply connected with the world of sports. I grew up playing sports and valued them tremendously. I eventually played college volleyball and currently coach high school volleyball. At Evergreen, we teach kids how to be good athletes and supportive teammates. Perhaps a camper may not possess the greatest soccer skills, but we teach bigger sports concepts such as ‘always going for the ball,’ ‘being present on the field,’ and others, that any camper can learn from. The sports we offer include soccer, softball, tennis, basketball, dance, volleyball, lacrosse, field hockey, frisbee, archery, swimming, biking, gymnastics, and street hockey (my apologies if I missed any; it’s a growing list!). With such a range in sport offerings, it is very rare that we have a camper who can’t find an activity they enjoy being involved with. Regardless of the sport, campers are instructed to “give 110” – a quote from our Athletic Director, Jacki Mitchell, that is used so often that it has become part of the common language at Evergreen.

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The myriad of activities at Evergreen provides our campers the opportunity to find something they truly enjoy or try something they’ve never done. Through sports and the culture at Evergreen, campers understand the value of trying hard. They learn that being a “tough” and “strong” competitor doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend. They learn how to be supportive friends and teammates to each other. As a high school varsity coach, these are the qualities that I look for in my 17-year-old players. At Evergreen, they are exposed to them at age 8. As a coach, I would emphatically take a team of girls who possessed the qualities that Evergreen girls have.

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