My daughter has been going to soccer camp since the day she saw a flyer and said she just had to go. We’re not a big organized sports family, so she had to drag us along as she wanted more: soccer camp every summer, then recreational soccer in the fall then softball in the spring. I am very generally involved in my kids’ activities, but this the area of my parenting where I am thankful for all the involved parents who coach and organize. All I do is play my Good Little Mommy role and bring snack when my turn comes up.
But although this is the one area in my child’s life where I don’t play a big role, I am still aware of the great things that happen when kids learn through play and fun. There is nowhere that this learning through enjoyment happens more than at Santa Cruz Soccer Camp. Today I went to the last day of the first week of soccer camp, and it was magic as usual. Following tradition, the campers ganged up to play against the parents, and as usual, the campers played magnificently. (And I am rather proud of myself that the ball came in contact with my foot twice, which was astounding given that I was largely doing my best to avoid it!)
Of course, the game wasn’t about the score (which wasn’t actually being kept). Soccer camp is about learning how to be part of a team, where you have to do your best, but you also have to take into account what the other needs of the team are. Bill Trimpi, the owner, pointed out that people who are just looking for personal glory aren’t great soccer players. If you’re not hooked in with the other players and aware of what they need and what their skills are, you won’t be a great player.
Now that my daughter is double-digits, I have become more aware of the value of another thing soccer camp offers: leadership training. The kids who go to camp don’t just start as small campers and leave as bigger campers. Each year they grow into new roles and expectations. Some of them stay long enough to do the camp’s leadership program. Some of those kids go on to coaching during their high school years. Some of them return each summer to continue while they’re in college. One notable graduate of soccer camp is current director Katy Scowcroft, who started at the camp when she was 7, went through leadership, returned as a coach, found her calling in working with kids, and now directs the camp in the summers between her “real job” teaching elementary school.
I realize that I’ve made a transition: At first I was thankful that there was a camp that could handle my unusual child. Then I was hopeful that the experiences in camp would translate into more appropriate behaviors in other settings. Then it was great to drop her off and know that she was going to do well and come home happy.
Now, I’m starting to look forward and I realize that it will be amazing to watch her next journey, from child to responsible teen. I am always impressed by how self-assured the teens at camp are, how they seem comfortable with their roles and dedicated to helping other kids make the transition. And I know that I couldn’t ask for more than that for my daughter.
This spring when we were talking about her summer schedule, she’d clearly forgotten about how important soccer camp has been to her. “I could skip soccer camp,” she said.
“I think we can fit it in,” I responded. I can’t let on to her how much it means to me, or she might get suspicious.
She still thinks soccer camp is fun. But I know that it’s much, much more.