Parenting Stories: Summer Camp Report Card

The Roosevelt High School gymnastics program runs this camp. We got a strong recommendation from the mom of one of our daughter’s friends so it was hard to say no:

Here’s the scoop... Your daughter doesn’t have to be a gymnast to do this camp.  It is for all levels.  Beginners to competitive gymnasts.   If she wants to learn how to do a cartwheel or do a  front tuck, this camp will give her the opportunity to learn.  It follows the same format as the UW GymDawg Camps.  The girls will have time to do floor/dance, beam, vault and bars each day plus in the afternoons they will do an activity like tye-dying.  The big difference is the size.  This camp is much smaller.  Your daughter will have more opportunities to do these skills which is great — she will learn a lot!  Bettie is actually one of the coaches who works at the UW GymDawgs camps and knows the formulas that work to make a great camp.

Here’s the best part.  If you daughter participates in the camp, your payment will help to fund athletics at Roosevelt, which the district doesn’t support any longer due to budget cuts.

gymnasticsIn addition to this glowing recommendation, our daughter, 9, is in the right mindset for gymnastics right now. She’s been working hard on her cartwheel and with the Olympics this year we’re bound to spend a lot of time watching the gymnastics competitions. Merran and I have also been feeling the need to get the kids involved in more physical activities. The kids are healthy and happy but they don’t participate in a lot of athletic pursuits outside of unicycling and tree climbing.

Our daughter was a little nervous going in, understandable in any new situation, but once she saw that a number friends from school were there she eased into it nicely. Even if she didn’t have a group of friends with her I have no fear that she would have embraced the experience. The counselors are girls from the Roosevelt gymnastics team and they all did a marvelous job welcoming the campers and starting up the fun right away.

Beyond the simple fun of running, jumping, and tumbling, I was impressed with the messages the camp was delivering to the kids. On the first day, Coach Bettie was talking about how they never say “can’t.” Something may be hard, or you haven’t done it before, but you never say you can’t do something. This led into the idea of goals and dreams — goals making dreams possible and by extension, taking a difficult task and breaking it down into manageable pieces. I can’t tell you how pleased I was that these positive messages were such an integral part of the experience. Coach Bettie also used the girls from the gymnastics team as models for the kids, talking about how hard they work on their academics as they prepare for college, and showing how they support each other as a team. It was an excellent opportunity for the girls working as counselors to practice responsibility and leadership and the kids to have role models they could relate to.

On the second day our daughter started complaining about how her muscles were sore. I was surprised and impressed that she was working hard enough to be building strength and it led to some interesting conversations.

“You know, when your muscles are sore like that it means you’re building muscles.”

“Really? When I’m done will I be able to lift a bajillion pounds?”

“Not a bajillion pounds, but you will be stronger and faster than you were before.”

“Will I have huge muscles?”

“No. Look at the girls from the gymnastics team. They do this a lot and they don’t have huge muscles. Gymnastics is just a good way to exercise.”

So, even though she continued to comment on the soreness of her muscles the rest of the week, it was tempered with a fascination that she was making herself stronger. Her enthusiasm only grew over time. She couldn’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and get to camp and she was proud to show off what she had learned.

At the end of the week when it was time for the Rider Olympics she was enthusiastic about performing. I should remind you, our daughter has an overdeveloped sense of embarrassment. If something embarrassing is happening in a movie she can’t watch and hides her face and if something is personally embarrassing or potentially embarrassing to her she will avoid doing it. I thought I would see telltale signs of her embarrassment during the performance but they just weren’t there. She was proud and enthusiastic to show off what she had accomplished. And this, more than anything, more than the demands to return next year or to do more gymnastics in the interim, was proof that this camp was a smashing success.

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jak_headshot_da_1002John Kubalak is a writer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, raconteur, and scalawag. He does not publish science fiction under the pseudonym Jonathan Black but he does publish a monograph on fatherhood, The Eclectic Dad. He has a son, a daughter, a beautiful wife (and a little dog too!) who are adorable, maddening, zany, and brilliant all at the same time.

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