And so it begins!

Today has been a glorious day. All the kids arrived, the weather continued to be wonderful, and everywhere you looked something awesome was happening. All the preparation, all the setup — all the year round work of the local coaches and admin super stars builds to the amazing 12-day stretch that started today. What a grand experience.

I did manage to sneak an extra 30 minutes of sleep in this morning, which was certainly helpful given the pace of the day. By a bit after 7:30 I made it into the Mohadoun to a round of media catch up and coffee fun. It was quite clear, even in the early morning, that everyone was a bit more amped for the day ahead. We surely cranked through and amazing amount of work over the last few days, but nothing is like the arrival of the kids.

Over in the dining hall we socialized over breakfast and I continued my streak of mixing harif (Israeli hot sauce paste — yum!) in all of my meals. I guess I haven’t quite assimilated the proper amount of Israeli cuisine to fully appreciate all of the dining hall offerings. Outside the dining hall, David led us through one last prep meeting. Karym spoke about some housing topics and Nancy led us through some scheduling items. Next, we spread out to finish off the prep work for our various welcoming-related tasks.

David leads us through our morning meeting

I retreated to the desk in HQ next to Tomer where I typed out some more plans and sporadically wondered out into the quad and around campus to the gates to take photos. With a backdrop of pop songs, the registration table was setup, bracelets were laid out, and name tags were arranged. All was ready nice and early, which was good because the kids started arriving a bit early themselves, starting at around 10:15.

With each wave of new arrivals came a new wave of cheers from the welcoming crew, a team of coaches and CITs equipped with signs, dance moves, and music. Needless to say, they did a very good job at immediately welcoming each new arrival in a big, big way. After moving through the dancing greeters, the kids would walk through the underpass to the other side of campus, a short walk, to the registration table. There they checked in and found more hugs.

It’s so perfectly special to see these kids again. It’s absolutely a homecoming, to a family that reaches its full strength for these two weeks.

I moved through the crowds of kids, taking pictures and gathering hugs. Awesome.

Ultimate Peace happiness :)

The whole camp then grouped up in the auditorium for David’s welcoming presentation. After David greeted everyone, we watched the first past of last year’s slide show, a great way to get the kids even more excited about the week to come. The meeting capped off with the kids being grouped up into their teams for the first time. Go team Pink! :) The meeting ended a bit early so we had some extra time before lunch that we used to have the kids complete the intro surveys.

We then moved into the dining hall for our first round of controlled feeding chaos. The first table stomp cheers popped up, and there was definitely a ramping off of the overall energy at camp. The more kids know each other the louder they get.

After lunch we all went back into the auditorium for the more camp orientation. A new part this year was replacing a verbal presentation of the camp rules and beliefs with skits covering those topics performed by the staff. The skits were… hilarious. It was a bunch of material to get through, but the kids stayed engaged and entertained.

Next all the teams moved outside for an hour and a half of team time —  slot of time used to start to get to know each other. My group talked about why were at Ultimate Peace and shared random, weird facts about ourselves. The coaches then unveiled the team names that they had chosen — my team is “Pink Ladies”, which was then used as the theme to paint a team flag. Ours turned out pretty dang awesome :)

Pink Ladies banner, before tape removal

After painting a smalle flag that will be hidden on campus, and searched for by all the other teams, we started throwing for a bit. Everyone on my coaching team was immediately impressed by the strength of our players! They all have solid throws and can catch… well! Towards the end of team time, we passed out the camper hats, shorts, nd jerseys, which all look GREAT! Go color coordination! Well, all except for the green hats, which don’t quite match the rest of us :) At 4:30 we made out way back to the auditorium where we ran through staff introductions. The kids learned a bunch more rules, and found out that Karym really controls the universe.

By 5:30 all the teams were starting their first practice. My team, Pink, cleated up and then assistant coach Sarah got them warmed up. Afterwards we drilled Go-To, then I had them do a pressure catching drill. We didn’t have too much space to work with so we stayed with small-area drills, continuing through the marking drill, and a kneeling layout drill. I also had them work on their hammers. Duh. Towards the end of the sessions I collected their two goals — two things they each want to work on during the week.

At 6:30 they had 30 minutes of free time before we regrouped for dinner at 7pm. On the way to the dining hall, I picked up our fully dried flag and peeled off the tape. It came out so, so nice! Go Pink Ladies!


Dinner was loud, chaotic, and a super nova of spirit come alive. Cheers were passed between tables, the frequency of table stomping ramped up from lunch, and each team presented their flag with a march through the dining hall, presenting everyone with their team name. Oh, and dinner itself was pretty good :)

After dinner we were back in the auditorium for a little more time for some announcement and an explanation of the rest of the evening.

Right now the camp is outside on the field working through 5 Ultimate-game stations. Soon they will be transitioning to a camp-wide game of Galaxy Quest.

Classic Curme charm!

I have no doubt every last person at the Manof will end their day tired, content, and gloriously happy to be at Camp Ultimate Peace.

Peace in everyday life

Today was awesome. I capped off the third and last coaches training session and was very happy about how they went. All the coaches and CITs are now here which is fabulous. The panel discussion was powerful, and everyone is amped for the arrival of the kids tomorrow.

When I slid into the Mohadoun at shortly after 7am this morning, David was already there busily typing away. I joined him, getting an immediate amperage gain from some of the amazing coffee David had already brewed. He knows how to keep people happy. Get up early and make coffee. Good move. I got some work done sitting with David and Bob before moving into the main HQ office to attempt some printing. Why is it that all technology has improved immensely over the last 20 years, with some unreal exceptions like fax machines and printers? Does ANYONE look at ANY printer and say, “I feel like that’s a stable piece of tech?” Sigh. Anyway… the printer won this round but managed to give up a few color copies before jamming for good.

I continued my work with the other machine, and managed to scan all the drills the coaches had come up with the previous day for their homework. They came up with some great stuff! By the end of the scan project it was time to get out and run the second coaching sessions.

Out on the field the coaches cleated up and Nadav led them through a warm up routine. I then facilitated a discussion about what other things could be done during warmups and then broke the coaches into two groups for open discussions led by Zolo and Josh W covering Zone O and Zone D. After 20 minutes the groups flipped and they covered the other topic.

It’s important to note we had wind and a bunch of clouds during the day. It was… perfectly wonderful weather. The only downside is that it’s not going to hold.

After the Zone discussions, we had a short conversation about HStack and then the coaches had to get to the auditorium for some more training led by Nancy and David. We ran through some very important rules, talked some more about the day, and then transitioned into time with our coaches teams. I had a great time working wit Idan and Sarah on our plans for the day. It was excited to get things down on paper for our plans.

Back in the dining hall we had a great lunch followed by some semi-optional pool time. Us returners could stay at Manof, something I did, working through the afternoon on coaching materials and getting more items planned out for the week. The work was worth it and by 5:30 I was fully ready for the last training sessions.

In the auditorium I ran the coaches through a few last important points followed by group discussions where the coaching groups shared their plans with each other for the upcoming days. I capped the indoor part of the session with some more reminders and then we transitioned outside for some more time working on our coaching plans for the next few days. The weather was cool, the ideas were wonderful, and a great amount was accomplished.

Back in the dining hall we all filled up on an amazing falafel dinner and talked about the day. It’s so much fun to be in the dining hall with so many wonderful people. It gets even more amazing when the kids arrive.

We then had a bit of free time before grouping back up in the auditorium for some more training. David talked about some important points and then we had a panel discussion of CITs who were on the US tour. It was truly inspiring to hear them talk about their stories. The prompts were fascinating, especially when they talked about if they thought there would eventually be peace in the Middle East. Some of the best quotes of the evening:

I aim to make peace in my every day life.

We already have peace. Right here.

I want you to go back to the US and spread Ultimate Peace out.

You don’t need to live in a conflict zone to benefit from Ultimate Peace.

We then worked through our first sing-through of the camp song, followed by some more music outside, the plan being to use it as an end-of the evening chill down track. It was awesome, especially singing the camp song outside in the warm, humid evening. Wonderful.

We then made out way back to the Mohadoun where people socialized, completed last-minute tasks, and relaxed. I ran a meeting with my coaching team, followed by a meeting with all the head coaches. We covered some great ground, had lively discussions, and most importantly it seems as though everyone feels prepared for the days to come.

Sleep calls.

Gathering momentum

Today was a blast. With about 95% of the staff on hand, the energy levels have risen to new highs. Everything is on the right track for a fantastic opening tomorrow!

I had once again hope to get up before 7 to get out onto the fields for a bit of exercise, but once again my plans were foiled by my need to sleep a bit more. I really am aiming to get to bed at a semi-normal hour tonight. We’ll see how that goes.

Breakfast was the standard fair, with me mixing a way, way too concentrated mix of instant coffee, which I replaced with some pretty good cocoa. I then got some more work done and at 10 we al grouped up in the auditorium for our first staff meeting.

David and Nancy then led up through various orientation sessions. We started by having everyone introduce themselves and say a bit about why they are working at Ultimate Peace. Here is what people had to say:

This is the best tool to get kids to respect and know each other. Ultimate is the best tool.

The mission of UP. We always stay true to our values.

Meeting other people who are also passionate about Ultimate. Learning from each other.

I am surrounded by Ultimate players, although I am not one. It’s life changing. Impossible to stay away.

Attracted to the power of UP to teach most respectful interpretation.

Believe in non-violence. Culture of team sports. A great way to build community and friendships.

Fun. Amazing experience. Helps me grow as an individual.

Ability to affect kids, more than experience of new stuff, being a model, break through frames in every culture.

Can’t think of a better way to bring kids together.

Engagement. Fair and just, best way to bring people together.

Literally broke into tears when she heard of UP.

Live his life to create the greatest good in life. Do it in a direct way. Dream big. Plan big. He needs to do something now.

Super excited about the community.

All about the campers.

Lives for the transformation of the kids during the week, from just getting to know them to huge hugs.

Camp is magic, incredible, setup fast, then a different world compared to the rest of the world.

Loves it all, your life will change.

Comes back because of all the relationships, unlike anything she has ever seen before, can’t imagine not coming back.

Only place where everyone is completely accepting, no stereotypes.

Hopes the camp will change the kids’ lives like Ultimate changed his.

Always been around, here with the idea of thinking globally and working locally, beautiful people and all the friendships, constant in his life.

When you love UP and you are not here, there is something missing all the time… The personal connect. Camp is where it all comes together. Watching what happens with everyone who comes through the program. The small miracles that happen all year long. Camp is who feeds me. Camp puts all the pieces together.

Didn’t realize how big of an impact UP would have on his life, changed me… Changes us all. Got pulled into the family.

Something different about Ultimate, everyone feels the same way about Ultimate having an impact.

After the morning orientation, we had a short break and then gathered outside for a tour of the campus led by Tomer. We saw the boundaries, learned about the two shelters, and saw various building, including the edge of the expansive farm. We then went to lunch and then returned to the auditorium for more orientation training. Towards the end we broke into groups based on which task teams we wanted to work in. I pulled in 5 people to work on media with me and we retreated to the Mahodoun to plan out our media blitz. After the jobs were distributed I setup a second wireless router for the staff and planned out a few more details for my training session. Oh, and my bag arrived! So, that’s awesome.

At shortly before 4:30 I was setup for the coaches training session, and coaches started streaming into the auditorium. The next two hours went very well. We covered everything I had planned for us and the coaches asked good questions. We got exactly the kind of traction I hoped for. During the evening we managed to cover:

  • Spirit of the Game
  • Important points
  • How to teach a skill
  • Drill sharing: on the field
  • Drill sharing: sketch out the drill
  • Summary

Here are some stats for the people in the training session:

Average # of years playing: 12.6
Collective # of Ultimate years: 303


Here are short Spirit of the Game definitions that several of the working groups came up with:

Spirit is the base and unbrella on and under which Ultimate must be played. Playing with the other team and not against the other team. Meeting teams as well as opponents in fair games.

Helps keep fun and perspective. Opponent is opponent not your enemy. It’s what makes Ultimate’s team communication unique. It’s unique.

Unique practice of at all levels pf playing and coaching that prevents winning from taking over sportmanship. 5 UP values. SOTG needs to be coached, glues us together. Fosters good relationships.

SOTG is supporting and encouraging peope no matter what. Golden rule. Value based game that defines the game. It’s in the rules.

SOTG is to be able to trust a person on and off the field. Mutual understanding and respect that keeps the game fun.

In the second half of the session we were outside on the field. Each of 8 groups taught up how to teach a basic Ultimate skill, and then we broke into two groups to discuss horizontal stack and vertical stack offenses. I then brought everyone in, talked about the homework (!), and prepped them for tomorrow. David brought us in, spoke, and then we were off to dinner.

After dinner we all met up for an hour in the Mohadoun so we could go over some more important points for tomorrow and the rest of the week. At 8:15 we broke into our coaching teams to work on our skits — each group has to act out one of the 5 UP value or one of the three C’s. At 9:15 we were all out on the fields playing various and VERY important games like Slack Jaw, Look Up Look Down, Wah!, and Ninja! Very important stuff.

It’s now 11pm and everyone is spread out either working on their homework, sleeping, or socializing. Tomorrow we finish off prep and training… and then the campers arrive on Tuesday.

What a great day.

The calm before the storm

Coming into camp I did resolve to sleep more this time around. Judging by how things have been progressing over the first few days, I’m not sure that goal is going to be realized. In an effort to get ahead of the craziness that will be tomorrow influx of coaches, and the training session I will be running, I wanted to get this post done before sleeping. Here’s how today went down:

It turns out my new cell phone has a pretty decent alarm that builds to a rather startling crescendo in 10 seconds time. After hitting it several times, I got up and managed my morning routine without the nicer amenities of my checked bag. Oh, I did get an email from the baggage company saying my backpack should show up tomorrow. Yay. After showing I enjoyed a nice breakfast of bread and what I call Israeli Nutella. It’s a bit sweeter and not as thick as Nutella, but still quite good.

I then transitioned back to working on training materials. Linda made a shopping run and picked me up some very tasty wafer cookies that I really need to not eat so many of. In the mid-afternoon David, Nancy, and Amir showed up, so now, really, camp can begin. During the day the Pearl boys materialized, as did Idan. Later in the evening Chelsea, Sarah, and Alice joined the party.

For lunch we enjoyed some chicken and various side dishes. Also, in the late-afternoon a bunch of people went to the pool. During their foray into the outside world I continued to work on coaching materials, socialized with Raz, and rested a bit. I also spent some time working on the camp IT infrastructure, doing battle with a wireless printer, and fixing some collateral damage I most likely caused on a pretty nice SSD netbook.

For dinner we had a great round of Falafel, which I capped off with some great ginger (?) and lemon potatoes. The evening was filled with lots of organizational work, as the various directors buzzed about copying, strategizing, and tackling spreadsheets. Overall, everyone is feeling really good about the full opening tomorrow.

I’m in Acco!

It’s a wonderful feeling to be back at Manof. In a way it feels like I never left. Everything is set and ready for the incoming wave of coaches, CITs, and campers. I can’t wait. Here’s how I got here…

My journey began in the early morning on Thursday, 6/20, at my brother’s apartment in Jamaica Plain outside of Boston, MA. My first waking thought was to mentally check over everything I had packed, which was followed by a quick physical inspection of my carryon bag. All was set and by a little after 8am, Jesse and I were on the road.

We worked our way through a bit of traffic, said our goodbyes at the curb at Logan, and then I was off into the airport. After a bit of shenanigans getting properly checked in for me 3-leg, 2-airline flight to Tel Aviv, I cleared security and got myself comfortably ensconced at my gate. A short flight later I was in JFK, which I was happy to find felt much nicer than I had remembered. It then took working my way out of security, a short train ride, and a trip back through security to get to my next gate. On the plane I found myself sitting next to an 11 year old gear traveling by herself to Hungary. Way cool. I used some of my basic Hungarian, which she actually understood. The couple on the other side of me was on their way to Paris to take a river cruise to Prague. That’s definitely on my list of things to do one day. JFK to CDG (Paris) was smooth. I read, slept, watched a couple mediocre movies, and caught a second short nap right before landing.

I would have loved to been able to at least see some of Paris, but my short lay over combined with the heavy fog meant that I didn’t get to see anything. After chatting with some friendly travelers at the gate, I boarded and got back to my book (Inferno — Yah, Dan Brown is pretty fun). Not long after, I slept and woke up shortly before landing in Tel Aviv.

Walking off the plane, even at 5:30am, the weather was warm. I made it to passport control where I spent a little while chatting with a family who was on their way to Jerusalem and Jordan. After getting my stamp, I made my way over to the luggage carousel… where my backpack did NOT show up. Sigh.

I made a claim over at the desk and they said I should get my bag up in Acco in the next 1-2 days. I always tell my kids to never check their cleats. I’m so glad I didn’t! At this point I tried to use the international cell phone I had purchased before the trip… and the sim card was inactive. Hooray. Fortunately, my carryon bag was well packed and I didn’t have too far to go to get to Acco.

Right outside the airport, I boarded the train, made sure I was going north, and settled in for the 2 hour ride from TLV to Acco. At a little before 4pm I was at the Acco train station where I caught a 3 minute cab ride to Manof.

After clearing the Manof gates, I made my way to the main building where I found three CITs — Ali, Raz, and Asma! All three were in MA in April for the US tour. It was wonderful to see them all again. I then connected with Tomer, Mickey, Zolo, and Ben. Moving into my room (with Abe!) was easy, considering I had one small backpack to unpack.

For the next several hours I caught up with people, worked on various tasks, and helped setup. Around 7pm we all drove to the old city center and had a very nice dinner overlooking the water. An hour or so into dinner Linda, Bob, and a bunch of other people showed up. Our numbers are growing!

Fully stuffed with hummus and chicken, I got back to Manof and returned to working on my coaching training slides. Karym showed up a bit later, and he, Tomer, and myself ended up spending several hours late into the night working in the main office.

So far the morning has been pretty relaxing. Lots of tasks have been done, but the overall feeling is that everything is ahead of where it was last year at this time. The big thing we’re waiting for is the incoming wave of coaches and kids! As I was saying to Mickey earlier today, it’s nice being at Manof when it’s quiet… but it’s going to be so much better when we’re at full capacity and everything is in motion!