By Rich Gersten: Executive Director
The question I am most frequently asked by parents inquiring about Brant Lake Camp is, "Are you a competitive or noncompetitive camp?" or sometimes it is phrased, "How competitive are you?" Recently, a New York Times article entitled "Camps Learn to Tone Down the Competition" was brought to my attention. While the article was of interest, I found it to be convoluted in its thoughts about competition.
At one time it cited teamwork as the antithesis of competition. To me, one of the great values of competitive team sports is learning the need for teamwork. Obviously, competition means different things to different people. What follows will help clarify our philosophy towards this important aspect of sports.
At Brant Lake Camp, we take great pride in taking what we call an ‘appropriate approach’ to competition. As noted, we realize that competitive sports can provide opportunities to teach valuable lifelong lessons or they can result in bad experiences. Importantly, we believe the appropriateness of the competition is paramount in whether a competitive situation is a positive or negative one and this varies greatly depending on a number of factors. These involve the age and emotional maturity of the child, the skills and experience that a child possesses, whether one keeps score and maintains standings, awards trophies or prizes, whether he is coached by a parent, an experienced coach or by someone with much ego involvement. The length of the game, the frequency and whether the rules are modified, also greatly affect the level of competitiveness, as does the presence or absence of pep talks, spectators, and pep rallies.
At Brant Lake Camp, we view competition quite differently within each of our mini-camps and offer less competitive activities and situations for our younger groups and more “competition” as a camper gets older-- assuming he chooses to participate. The following is a brief summary of how how our view on ‘appropriate’ competition is put into practice within each of our three Mini Camp Divisions:
Junior Division (completed 2nd through 4th grades)
-No games where anyone is excluded due to ability
-No A or B games except for Green and Gray (last week of camp) and no spectators during this event
-Subtle, ability-grouped instructional clinics
-Few games versus other camps (more appropriately called ‘play dates’) in which all participate and scores are not kept
Inter Division (completed 5th and 6th grades)
-No games played in which anyone is excluded due to ability
-Fluid (teams change throughout the summer) A+ B teams for both intramural and inter-camp games
-Ability grouped instruction
-Many games versus other camps with all boys who wish to participate
Senior Division (completed 7th, 8th and 9th grades)
-No intramural or inter-camp games in which anyone is excluded due to ability
-Fluid A and B games for intramural and inter-camp
-Ability grouped instruction
-Tournaments in which boys may have to try-out to qualify (although we enter more than one team in most tournaments)
In summary, we believe competition can be a healthy part of a sports program if it is done ‘appropriately’ and right as defined above, with age-experienced coaches and overseen by mature adults. The goal is always to further the enjoyment of a sport, improve one’s skills/understanding of the game and teach life-long lessons among all who participate. This represents a more thoughtful approach to competetion and sports.