I woke up abruptly as the sun shone directly in my eye – I never needed an alarm clock. Mother Nature had me taken care of. I stumbled towards the sink, never acknowledging my cabin mates. It was an unspoken rule that nobody talked to each other in the morning.
Sometimes, I splashed water on my face; other times, I took a shower. I stumbled into my shorts and T-shirt. I forgot at least one item everyday – either my nametag or my radio or my notebook. Every morning was a struggle. But when I opened the door and sucked in the air, I knew it was time to work.
This summer, I worked six days a week and lived onsite at Camp Widjiwagan here in Nashville. My role as “Warrior Boys Nation Leader” put me in charge of 11 counselors and, at times, upwards of a hundred 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds on a daily basis.
The days were long, but in retrospect seemed to go fast, kind of like life, in general.
Those who have worked at summer camps know the grind that occurs toward the end of the summer. With three weeks left, my thoughts were completely consumed by the finish line. I had filled out enough “think sheets” and behavior forms to last a century (or so it seemed). There was nothing I wanted more than to be kid-free.
Then, one of my co-workers, Commodore, came up with an idea. She suggested we organize a football game on Friday. It would help dilute the monotony of camp life. My nation would hold tryouts, form teams and play a game.
During the week, two of my counselors coached up their teams in anticipation of Friday. They ran drill after drill under the hot July sun for two days.
Friday came. It was easier to get up that morning. Everybody was excited about the afternoon.
It was finally time. I watched as the kids put into use everything they learned during the week. They all had their game faces on. The coaches yelled words of encouragement from the sideline. My head shot back and forth as moment after moment was filled with suspense.
The play was definitely sloppy; after all, most of the kids were far from even teenage status.
An interception occurred and one side erupted. Then came the game’s first – and only – touchdown.
When the dust settled, there was pure joy on one side and tears on the other. One kid’s face was red with anger and disappointment. His counselor was there with his arm around him.
The game meant nothing. There were no implications – no reward and no gain. Afterwards, everybody got popsicles. But to those involved, it meant the world.
Everything about that steamy afternoon reminded me why I love sports. I love the competition. I love the drive that each athlete or participant possesses. I love the thrill of winning and the agony of defeat.
And most of all, I love the lessons learned from each outcome.
Pierce Greenberg, Vision sports editor,
is a senior journalism major