| By Jason Wass
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

After a year of uncertainty, virtual schooling, limited social activity, and a plethora of other challenges, it seems we are starting along the path to normalcy, whatever that may mean. Maybe we will be able to do and play and interact with each other in a way that was more familiar before 2020. Maybe.

Whatever “normal” turns out to be, we know one thing for certain: kids need camp. Camp can be restorative for children and their parents in ways that few experiences in the world ever are. The development of independence, life skills, and socialization that happens at camp often makes for some of the best times in a young person’s life. Summer 2021 is quickly approaching and local camps are preparing to start on a new adventure. Here are a few (lesser spoken about) benefits I see for camp this year.


Unplug

Ok, maybe this one is obvious, but it's worth discussing. Today's youth has become increasingly (and necessarily) more comfortable with technology including phones, video games, iPads and the like. Of course, a level of comfort and understanding of technology is paramount as we understand how life and careers will change in the future. Still, there is no substitute for face time, and I’m not talking about the app, I’m talking about live face to face encounters (masked and/or socially distanced of course) where you can meet new friends and make memories, in real life. Camp not only encourages kids to get out and experience new things, but kids quickly want to put down the device and engage with peers. 


Unwind

Teachers, tests, book reports, deadlines and projects all teach kids valuable lessons in their own right. To kids, school is their job, handling it in new ways such as remote learning shows just how adaptable children can be to new and challenging environments. Camp allows kids the chance to unwind from some of those stresses while still teaching valuable lessons along the way. Camp promotes independence, gives children a chance to try new things and make new friends, skills that are vital parts of development, parts that have been difficult to create during the pandemic.  Camp traditions and events transform seemingly average days into extraordinary adventures and give them memories that last a lifetime. 


Uncomfortable

Why? Why would anyone want their child to be uncomfortable? This is the most underrated skill that camp brings out in people, and it’s not just the campers. One of earliest items during staff training, learn to be “comfortable with the uncomfortable”. Once again, why is this a positive?  Think about it this way. Moving to a new town, starting a new school, beginning a sport for the first time, being the “new guy/girl” at a job, these are “uncomfortable” situations happening throughout life that constantly challenge us and test our internal fortitude. Camp allows this to happen in small doses, in safe environments giving children the opportunity to make choices on their own and learn from those experiences and thrive from them. Campers may get the opportunity to choose what electives they participate in or choose to be the first person to introduce themselves to the “new camper” in their group. One of the most gratifying experiences as a camp director is watching first time campers become veteran campers and in some cases watch them start as young staff members and blossom into leaders and friends. 


Camp is a special place and I know I can’t wait for Summer 2021, it is needed now more than ever before.  So Parents, get comfortable with the uncomfortable and you could be rewarded with the opportunity to unplug and unwind.

 

Jason Wass

Jason Wass is the Director of LuHi Summer Programs, he spent over 20 years as a Director of Tennis for Sportime Clubs.  A USPTA and USTA Net Generation Certified Coach, Jason has  a passion for youth sports development.  Jason believes in developing strong foundational skills in all young athletes.  He strives to provide positive athletic and camp opportunities to families to encourage healthy habits and lifestyles.  Coach Jason lives in Massapequa with his wife, Julie, son, Daniel and dog, Shelby.  He may be reached at jwasstennis@gmail.com.