Our Kids Are Being Shut Out From Enjoying Camp

Photo: Illustration

From the Anash.org inbox: I’ve seen how much more the athletic kids enjoy camp than the less athletic ones, and it makes perfect sense. How is a kid expected to enjoy camp when the whole day he’s just sitting on the side, waiting for the five minutes he can actually play?

By a camp counselor

As the first month of summer comes to an end in most Chabad boys’ camps, I’d like to express my thoughts about an issue that has been affecting our camps, at least since my own childhood – sports.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sports are great, and many kids love them. I’d even say some kids come to camp specifically for the sports. My concern isn’t sports themselves, but rather the excessive focus, pushing, and hype surrounding them.

There are many kids out there who are just regular children, and they belong in a regular Chabad camp. However, many of these kids end up disliking camp for a simple reason – they’re either not into sports or they are, but they never get the chance to participate due to them not being as good. Consequently, the coaches and captains won’t put them on the field.

I’m not fully blaming the coaches, and I can tell you that last year, besides being a counselor, I also coached a team in leagues. Yes, it’s hard to put kids who aren’t good at sports in the game as much as skilled kids. Why? Because there’s this overemphasis on sports, and even the coaches feel pressured to win.

I remember once I took my best player off the field for a few minutes, and we ended up losing the game because of it. Later that day, a fellow counselor told me, “C’mon, you should know. Never take your best player off.”

Now, tell me, why does the kid who’s good at sports deserve to have a more enjoyable summer than a less athletic kid? Go ahead, explain! Some may claim “That’s just the way it works,” but I genuinely don’t see that as a fair argument. Why is that the way our camp system operates? Why is a coach considered “generous” for putting a less athletic kid in for a “full quarter of a game”?

I believe there are two solutions:
1. Camps should have more teams with fewer children per team, allowing more kids to play. (I actually heard that in the BMD of one of the major Chabad camps, that was an emphasis this year.)
2. Camps should offer alternative options other than sports.

I’ve seen with my own eyes how much more the athletic kids enjoy camp than the less athletic ones, and it makes perfect sense. How is a kid expected to enjoy camp when the whole day he’s just sitting on the side, waiting for the five minutes he can actually play?

I hope camps hear and understand this letter and take it to heart.

A Counselor in a major Chabad Camp

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  1. So true.
    It is so sad how the captains of teams only let the kids best at sports play. The less athletic kids just sit on the side most of the time…

  2. who says? do we need this to be our kids long term goals? abviously a kid should play, but if he is not good at it, why can’t he just play something else? the main focus should be learning, they should get the most points for learning Mishnayos & Tanya Baal Peh (By Heart)

    1. What is the question in your comment? As humans we need to do exercise and the kids have to enjoy themselves… “something else” That’s exactly what the writer is saying that there should be something else for the children to do….
      And for MBP it’s an amazing thing but dint forget the children need to run around outside for בריאת הגוף….

  3. When I was a kid in camp I almost never played sports, I sat in the bunkhouse and read books and drew pictures. Somehow that was ok with me, but I can imagine for a lot of other kids it isn’t.

    1. His point is about kids that need/want to play, not about everyone relating the camp experience they did or didn’t have 20/30 years ago.

      He is valid in writing this article although I think he would be better off sending this to the head counselor/camp director, what is the need/point of putting this on a public site?

  4. Dear “A Counselor in a major Chabad Camp,”

    Your concerns about the emphasis on sports and its potential impact on the camp experience for certain children are relevant and should be taken into consideration.

    Chabad education places significant importance on the study of Torah, as a fundamental part of a child’s upbringing. The teachings of Chassidus and the study of sacred texts are integral to nurturing a strong Jewish identity and fostering a deep connection to Hashem.

    While sports can have its benefits, the core mission of a Chabad camp is to provide an environment where children can grow spiritually and intellectually. Therefore, it’s essential to strike a balance between sports and Torah study, ensuring that both aspects are given proper attention and importance.

    Now Obviously kids need to and should play, but should this be the concern of the Counselors? shouldn’t the counselors be a living example of all Chassidus which will be a living role model for every kid what to do when having any of these problems?

    Remember, the goal is not to diminish the importance of sports but rather to ensure that the spiritual and educational values of Chabad remain at the forefront of the camp experience, for example learning Tanya and Mishnayos Baal Peh (By Heart) as should be the real goal of every camp.

    By promoting a well-rounded environment that encompasses both physical activity and Torah study, camps can create a meaningful and enriching summer for all the children under their care.

    Thank you for bringing this matter to light, and I hope your insights help shape a more balanced and meaningful experience for our children in camp.

    A Fellow Chossid

    1. well they do all that, he is trying to bring out a point about the kids that are not so involved but need/want to still play & give themselves out in a good Kosher way, that’s it, no offense

    2. It is definitely the counselors responsibility to be concerned!

      It is a basic requirement of yiddishkeit and chassidus to care for a fellow yid, a child sitting and feeling sad that they don’t get to play, and want to.

      How could you possibly affect the campers in a good way, without feeling their pains!

      1. Besides for this very important point that Chassidus demands caring for every part of a yids needs both begashmiyus uveruchniyus..

        One of the yesodos of Chassidus (which the Rebbe speaks about in Sichos hundreds of times), is against the disconnect between gashmiyus and ruchniyus “shul life and home/business life” vechulu.
        It’s very important for staff to be a dugma chaya how a chossid should approach sports and the like (that good sportsmanship is the ikar, playing to have fun is more important than winning etc.) In a way the impact you can have by a sports game or a camp trip can be more than the impact you have in the camp shul.
        After all this is the whole Avoda of בכל דרכיך דעהו.
        So thank you very much to the counsler who wrote this article and I hope the camps take this to heart.
        Moshiach Now!

    3. Are you suggesting that us, as counselors we should turn away and not take care of our campers? says:

      What exactly is this mean?
      Are you suggesting that counselors look the other way when children feel rejected on the sports field?

      Being a cast of the show, example for our campers is very important, but that doesn’t mean that we can allow our campers to be bullied out out of a game. It’s OK to care for the children.

    4. Well, look at this “thoughtful” comment by “A Fellow Chossid.” It’s almost impressive how AI-generated responses manage to find their way into discussions these days. But hey, let’s indulge this “contribution.”

      Now, isn’t it fascinating how this AI-generated response tries to sound all profound while missing the actual point of the counselor’s concerns? It’s like watching a machine attempt to emulate human understanding. Cute, right?

      Sure, we can talk about the importance of counselors being living examples of Chassidus, but isn’t that just skirting around the real issue? It’s like throwing a fancy Chassidic veil over the actual problem at hand.

      Oh, and let’s not forget the subtle hint that this might be the work of artificial intelligence. The way it rambles on, lacking genuine insight, is a dead giveaway.

      So, let’s get real here. An AI-generated response can’t fully grasp the complexities of the human experience, especially when it comes to sensitive topics like Chassidishe education. It’s like expecting a machine to understand the depths of a Niggun.

      But, hey, if you want to keep playing pretend with these AI-generated comments, go ahead. Just remember that true understanding and meaningful discourse come from genuine human connection, not programmed responses.

      1. To “To ‘disagree’ from ‘a fellow chossid'”

        Ai generated responses look works pretty good, Eh?

        Looks like it did for your reply, now to the question on hand.

        Both of you have valid points and each are seeing it in there own point of view, but it looks like both of you are agreeing that there is to much of a push on sports and that making less of a “thing” out of it can/would help cause it wouldn’t exclude anyone and everyone would understand that the whole point is to have fun and not to win.

        Anyways, get back to take care of our kids and enjoy the rest of the summer (AI or Human….:)

  5. I sent my child to pioneers camp Vermont for that reason, sports is not an integral part of the program and great staff too

  6. Here are some points to consider:

    1. You raise a valid complaint about the excessive focus and pressure surrounding sports in the camp. However, when addressing this issue, it’s essential to propose effective solutions rather than just blaming the coaches or the system.

    2. While your suggested solutions have good intentions, they may have practical challenges. For instance, having more teams with fewer children per team could lead to certain games being difficult to organize due to insufficient participants, especially for sports like baseball that require larger teams.

    3. Introducing alternative options other than sports is a positive step, but it may not completely resolve the issue. Not all kids who dislike sports will necessarily enjoy camp more just because they participate in non-sports activities. Each child’s preferences and interests vary, so a diverse range of activities might be the key.

    4. It’s important to acknowledge that some kids might genuinely enjoy camp even if they don’t play sports as much. Not everyone places the same emphasis on sports, and that’s okay. Encouraging a broader range of activities can cater to various interests and make the camp experience more enjoyable for everyone.

    5. While you’re passionate about this issue, remember that individual perspectives can differ. What matters significantly to you might not be the same for everyone else, including the campers. It’s essential to consider various viewpoints when discussing these matters.

    In conclusion, addressing the issue of sports in Chabad camps is crucial for creating an inclusive and positive environment. It might be beneficial to engage in open discussions with fellow counselors, camp organizers, and campers to explore more balanced approaches to incorporate different activities that cater to a broader range of interests. By finding a middle ground, the camp can truly become a place where all children can enjoy their summer experience.

  7. Another point on this topic,

    It’s true that the “cool kids” who excel in sports might enjoy popularity and admiration during their camp days. However, as they grow older and enter the “mature world,” they may face challenges when they realize that life isn’t solely about sports and athletic achievements.

    On the other hand, the children who may not be considered “cool kids” due to their lack of prowess in sports have the opportunity to develop valuable maturing lessons during their camp experiences. These campers can learn the importance of resilience, perseverance, and finding joy in other activities beyond sports.

    Camp provides a unique setting where children can explore various interests, make friends outside their usual social circles, and learn life skills beyond athletic abilities. Emphasizing a broader range of activities allows all campers to discover their passions and strengths, fostering personal growth and self-discovery.

    While the popularity and admiration associated with being skilled at sports can be appealing during camp, the true value lies in the holistic development of each individual. Understanding that there is good in everything, including learning from challenges and embracing different experiences, can be a valuable lesson for all campers.

    By creating an environment that encourages growth, empathy, and acceptance, Chabad camps can better prepare children for the diverse and complex world they will encounter as they grow up. Together, we can ensure that every child’s camp experience becomes a stepping stone towards a well-rounded and fulfilling future.

  8. So many kids are negatively impacted by lack of physical activity. Too many are overweight or obese. There ‘should’ be a special director of physical activity to introduce the boys to field hockey, track, relay races, self defense, etc. No boy should feel left out, there’s enough variety in gym class to include everyone. (Art activities or down time aren’t a competition to exercise time) -Just a grandmother’s opinion

  9. So true.
    As a staff member in camp I remember going to the league games and playing catch with the boys that were always on the side and didn’t get much time to play the game. They wanted to play but were not good enough for the team.

  10. I only saw the main title.
    Let children and young adults be told that all exercise is great. Why does it have to be competitive sports? What’s wrong with just walking around and around the camp during activities?! But getting exercise and being in the sun is important (just drink every 15-30 minutes depending on the heat and direct sunlight).
    (And for all you know, they’ll get more exercise than those playing baseball!;)
    I personally didn’t like competitive sports; what does one really gain from it?! Let them walk together and support each other and see Niflaos Haborei. What difference does it make who is walking faster etc?! Granted ‘kinas sofrim’, but does everything have to be competition? It was my understanding that competition is something that gets people into it — to see who will win etc. I personally think it’s mostly nonsense.
    I understand that mechanchim say it gets children going, and that it has been discussed with gedolim – that it is fine, but what if child or young adult doesn’t like the idea?! Maybe it’s not good to be too softy, granted, but for Heaven’s sake, must everything be competition?! It drives you nuts!!!
    Moreover, what’s wrong if some boys like woodworking more etc. Or photography. There are many other nice activities and things to learn.

  11. I think a starting solution should be better organization during sports.
    When I was in camp there were no leagues and no teams. Sports was by bunk.
    It is certainly more competitive and fun nowadays with the innovations of teams and leagues.
    What can be done to make it better and more inclusive is to add focus to bettering skills. Perhaps the first week or two it should be considered as preseason and not be included in the official season. That way there could be even participation for all the campers.
    When it comes to skills, there are some easy drills for each sport.
    In basketball: layup drills, bounce pass, chest pass, dribbling and catch and shoot.
    In baseball: ground ball practice, shagging flies, sliding.
    Each sport has some easy practices that will leave campers with improved skills, confidence and fun.

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