Daily greatness

I know I’m at an Ultimate camp, and the Ultimate games should be my favorite point in the day, but, they aren’t. I am thrilled to see my girls play. They play hard, show daily improvement, and have so much fun. But, the most intense moments of happiness I feel at Ultimate Peace are during the meals — or my aptly put, the crush of Spirit that are UP meals. I’ve been in several environments where far past the critical mass of a group has fully bought in to an organization’s mission. The spirit of my school of 11-years, St. Johnsbury Academy, absolutely terrifies every other school in the state. We shake the house during home sports games. We have regular pep rallies. Our homecoming football game regularly draws 5,000+ people in a town of 7,000. The jump in Spirited expression from a “normal” school to St. Johnsbury is the same distance as it is from St. Johnsbury Academy to Camp Ultimate Peace.

I think the meals are my favorite place because they remind me, in such a clear way, of Ultimate Peace’s end goal — to live in a world where everyone is human and no one is “the other”. Where everyone believes in mutual respect. Where everyone believes in integrity. Where everyone believes in non-violence. Where everyone believes in fun. Where everyone believes in friendship.

Not only believes, but lives.

Flickr Photo Album – 7/5/13
YouTube Video – 7/5/13

Coffee in hand almost as soon as I came into the Mohodoun, I sat down to catch up on some email from the outside world. I was pulled back into UP as the staff started coming in. I watched Lisa Kanner plan our her day and other talk about everything that had happened the day before. Soon enough, it was time to move outside to the quad to meet up with all of our teams for the walk over to the dining hall. With only a few stragglers to find, we made it over to the dining hall only slightly late. We are trying to really hammer being on time, but alas, like all universal constants, some teenagers in every group are always going to be late.

Friends walking to breakfast

While enjoying my morning cocoa about 3 minutes into breakfast, the table cheering began in earnest. “We got spirit, yes we do. We got spirit how about you!” It was 8:15. AM. Rock on. There are few places where it’s impossible to be in anything other than a good mood. Meals at UP are one of those places.

In the auditorium we ran through a few announcements before everyone was sent out for the first morning practice sessions. Before we left, David made sure to run us through our first stretching session of the day.


A short time later Maroon 5 was out on the Manof field, warming up after a bit of paired throwing. We then did some more focused throwing before moving into several versions of GoTo. The girls are picking up on their fundamental skills quite quickly. Footwork is getting better, pivoting is looking sharp, and their catching is already improving. With frequent water breaks worked into the morning, we transitioned to some Hot Box before we ran several rounds of “Triangle of Death” with Lior doing the pleasure of throwing. She was a beast and made it through three rounds with 9 cutters. Go Lior!

Oh, and we definitely had to work in some Wah! and Ninja :)

Ninja evasion!

After finishing our drills, we took the line for a short scrimmage against the Green team, aka, team “Shrak”. I gave my girls two goals for the game — spread out and throw to the open person. We hadn’t talked about stack, a specific choice on my part. I want the girls to just play in their first game. They did just that! They had 7 consecutive receptions at one point. We definitely have lots to work on, but the potential is definitely there and they are already quite good at many fundamentals like cutting to space, and going strong to the disc. After the game we had a spirit score and took some fun group photos.

Maroon 5 Shraks!

The kids then had a bit of free time before gathering up for another spirit shaking lunch. After filling up on various dining hall fare, we grouped up in the auditorium for some announcements before the kids were set off for free time — half of the kids went off to the pool, and then the grouped switched half way through. I retreated to Barak to get some work done and to sneak a quick nap. By 4:45 we were gathering up on the quad to head over to practice when I snagged my glamour shot of the day.


As an added bonus, Yarden joined our coaching team. He’ll be at camp until tomorrow night, so we’ll have him with us for at least another two practices. A short walk later, we were at our practice space on the far edge of campus on a grassy area outside the gym. During practice we worked on our throws, had a strong warm up session, introduced vertical stack, did a couple catching drills, and also put Lao Baci bracelets on each other. The kids also brought things up a notch by launching into their own “Maroon!” “5!” cheers, which was a wonderful thing to hear. We ended practice with Ebo Lay Lay and then walked back to the main part of campus. Out on the quad, we gathered up for dinner, an naturally some goofiness ensued.

Get UP!

Dinner was loud, fun, and full of yummy Shabbat food. I’m a fan of the rice and potatoes, topped off with some hummus and harif. After passing the spirit cheer back and forth several times between adjacent tables, we all gathered up in the auditorium for evening announcements, the naming of yesterday’s spirit award winners, and then to kick off the start of the evening activity. Teams were paired up and sent out into the night to complete a set of tasks designed by the evening activity team. All seems to be going well.

Later tonight we’ll have our all-staff meeting and then I’ll check in with all the head coaches. Alex will finish up tomorrow’s issue of Get UP! and I’ll polish off all of the media postings for the day. Some late-night coffee may be brewed, the CITs will eventually get to sleep, and soon after, hopefully all of the campers. Everyone is so excited to be here that even with all the physical activity, sleep can be hard to find.

Sleep eventually find us all, and not too long after it does, yet another beautiful day of Camp UP begins.

Beyond the sum

I’ve always felt comfortable being in the midst of controlled chaos. In college, I napped while wrapped completely in wall-shaking electronic trance music. One of my crowning achievements in St. Johnsbury was bringing in 1,070 high school Ultimate players to our home tournament. Controlled chaos appeals to me because it’s a sign that something or someone has grown well-beyond their normal capacities — grown in such a way that’s only possible when a group comes together to form something that is well, well beyond the sum of its parts.

The individuals that make up Ultimate Peace are rock stars. What’s created when we all come together is like nothing else on the planet.

Flickr Photo Album – 7/4/13
YouTube Video – 7/4/13

I’m now getting used to a decently normal amount of sleep. I think I like it enough to maybe try it again tonight. We’ll see how it goes. After my normal round of Barkan-made coffee, I headed over to the dining hall for our last breakfast as just a UP staff. At this point I’m pretty happy with the cereal and cornflakes and cocoa options, but to be totally honest, I’d love to see a really nice omelet station. After some breakfast social time, we all came together in the auditorium for the last round of announcements before we all went out to tackle our last task-team items. Oh, yah, there was that staff conga line at breakfast :)

Tomer joins the line!

The first cheers signaling the arrival of the first campers went up at a bit before 10am. Of course the kids were showing up early. I would if I were them. The welcome committee was in position to give, as Curme put it, “Some amazingly awesome spirited awesomeness” into the incoming campers. Okay, he didn’t really say those exact words, but the message is the same. As kids got out of their busses and cars, the committee would have a human tunnel setup with background music and a TON of cheering. It was quite a sight.

Spirit awesomeness received!

They even set up an ambush, where after faking sleep, and waiting for the incoming small group of campers to pause, they rushed them and got a great reaction. Oh, and then there was this side photo shoot I was roped into. This is what you get when you put two Spirit Wizards in the same place at the same time.

Spirit Wizards Curme and Jez

Walking back and forth between the welcoming and registration area gave me the chance to see the whole day unfold. Music was being played in all corners. Disc throwing and Cuban Shuffle dancing was all over the place. Needless to say, the camper reception was exceedingly well, and by earlier than expected, everyone had arrived.

Ali shows off his shuffle moves!

We then all moved into the auditorium where David gave the Summer Camp 2013 intro speech. The energy in the room was quite high and only built higher as the day progressed. The big ending was the announcement of all the teams. One by one the coaching groups came onto stage and Abe read off the team rosters. After coming up on stage to a round of high-fives and cheering, each team went outside to have a short team meeting before lunch. Ava, Hannan, Silver (Anna Glass) and I had a great time getting to know our group. It seemed at first that they were a bit shy, but alas, all it took was about 3-minutes of a goofy game for all that shyness to come crashing to the ground.


In the dining hall, the cheering started up only about 5 minutes after every team had entered. Even though the bulk of our kids are new to camp, they weren’s put off by the noise — they stepped up and helped keep the spirit cheering going. In fact, their younger (than training camp) ages seems to be a big boost to their boisterousness. Go Summer Camp kids! After lunch we were all back in the auditorium for more camp orientation, the bulk of which was the staff skits covering the 5-values, 3 C’s, and camp rules. The UP staff isn’t going to win any Oscars, but we might come close!

My arms aren’t my own!

The meeting wrapped up with Nancy talking about the team flags! Shortly afterwards all the teams grouped up at various locations around Manof for two hours of team-time. During our meeting we gave our jerseys, shared fun, strange facts about ourselves, and then for the bulk of the time worked on our flag.

Flag work

We are super happy with how our flag came out!

Not only will Maroon 5 cheers be spectacular, we managed to pull the 5-UP values into our team name! Before heading back to the auditorium, we had to pull together a few fun group photos.


In the auditorium we learned more about the roles of the UP admins and then moved back outside for our first team practices. We knew that the kids were going to be newer this week, but they really brought their A-game! My girls could throw, and were determined receivers! After basic throwing, we moved into Go-To and then performed very well! It’s also important to note that the weather, while hot, has been relatively manageable, something that has really helped out players. Still, we hydrate like crazy.

At 6:30 we moved off the fields with a strong round of the Ebo Lay Lay cheer, and then regrouped at 7pm for dinner, which was as raucous as it really could have been. Each team unveiled their flag, and there was a bunch of table stomping and cheer passing. It was a perfect Day 1 dinner. At 7:45 we were all in the auditorium to watch a short high-level Ultimate clip followed by Nancy talking about the evening activity. The kids were then sent out in teams to the activity stations as I retreated to the Mohodoun to dive into the day’s media.

By all accounts everything went really smoothly out at the activity stations. At around 9:40 staff started filtering back into the Mohodoun for a little time to decompress before the 10:20 all staff meeting where we met a few new arrivals and talked about the day. The overall consensus was that the day went really, really well. Everyone is in that zone of being comfortably tired. It really was a great day.

All-staff meeting

I just got back to my media station after running the first nightly Heads meeting of Summer Camp. All is set for tomorrow to be another wonderful day.

I can’t wait.

What do you see?

Sometime not too long ago, I heard the quote that goes something like, “Today’s children are the grandparents of the people who will change the world.” I guess it’s meant to imply that the world WILL change and that it will take time. It’s an optimistic message in some circumstances where the change that people are looking to see isn’t seen to necessarily be possible by all. I’d like to edit that quote for these kids, right here, right now, to “Today’s children will change the world.”

Of that, for these kids, I have no doubt.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 10.00.50 PM

Flick Photo Album – 7/3/13
YouTube Video – 7/3/13

This morning’s coffee was especially good, made more so by the fact that I managed to get to sleep rather early. Fully awake for my round of hot cocoa and corn flakes, I talked to more new staff members at breakfast before heading out to the field at 8:15, with a quick stopover in the auditorium to get an afternoon slideshow prepped for David. By 8:30 all the coaches were getting cleated up for the morning coaches training session. People threw around on the field as everyone got set, and when everyone was ready Mickey led the whole crew of 60+ staff through an example warmup.


After she finished I prompted to group to share their best dynamic stretches. It was fun to see what they brought up. We then transitioned into coaching teams where each group was given 10 minutes to figure out how they would teach their first lesson on vertical stack. Two groups were then chosen at random and the rest of the teams played the role of UP campers. The lessons went really well. The content was strong, the player management was nuanced (for the most part :) ), and tons of great information was shared.

Jeff Landsmen leads a group through a vertical stack lesson

Next, the same thing was done with dump-swing-continue. Once again the lessons came together well. I was particularly impressed by how well the new coaches had figured out the proper pacing for new material, and for figuring out the proper brevity. We capped off the morning with a few reminders and Nancy spoke for a bit about how to bring it all together. On a personal note, it’s continually surreal to me to work with such a truly talented coaching staff — 60+ people with well over 450 years of Ultimate experience.

Next, we moved into the auditorium for more staff training. We learned more about the staff manual and then spent about an hour working through our skits. Everyone had great things to say about what are already quite strong performances of the camp values, rules, and beliefs. Our acting talent is pretty strong :) Well, “strong”, might be the best way to put it.

We then had an hour with our coaching teams. Each team had been tasked with focusing on making sure each team job was assigned to a coaching team member and to come up with a plan for the first practice, which is happening tomorrow. My group work efficiently and everyone is clearly excited for the arrival of the campers to get all the planning and prep fully into motion. We broke early and had some time to relax before lunch. After lunch we had a meeting to go over some more training topics, and then everyone was given the chance to watch a new UP movie that follows a few local Ultimate players. Unfortunately, the English subtitles weren’t ready, so a bunch of the coaches chose to watch the video in a couple of days. I used the extra free time, which dove-tailed with me not going to the pool, to catch a really, truly amazing, power nap.

At 4:15 I was up and back to work on media in the Mohodoun. Most of the large media team checked in and we got a few systems ironed out. We now have 2 people posting to Facebook and our UP blog person (Elliot) is fully set to get people to post pretty frequently. There are 4 or 5 more people taking photos, so I should have many more to work with. Additionally, another UP coach, Katherine, is working on creating 2-3 more videos for this week. Here comes even more UP media!

Task team registration assemble!

By 5:15 I was setup for the last coaches training. I entered the auditorium to find Dan and David prepping an impressive video interview station for their interview with Yasmin. By a little after 5:30 the coaching session began and I ran through a few important practice design points. The coaches then grouped up with coaches from other teams and talked about their best ideas, things to avoid, and what they were most nervous about. The conversations were deep and substantial. I then brought them all together to hear what they had come up with, and have an all-coaches discussion about their thoughts. I was really happy with that they brought up.

UP coaches sharing ideas

David and Nancy then closed out the session with a discussion of how important how we teach Ultimate and Spirit is to the mission of Ultimate Peace, and how we’re in the process of figuring out a more codified vision of that future path.

We then relaxed for a bit and had a social, busy dinner during which is was hard to imagine what’s it’s going to be like with 121 MORE people in the dining hall. If it was a chaotic, spirited cacophony last week, it’s going to be… quite something this week! After dinner we all came back into the auditorium for a panel discussion. The panel was made up of 6 people who lived in Israel — 5 campers and Jez.

The panel was spectacular. Jez added a truly valuable perspective that was inspiring. The kids were articulate, brave, genuine, and bared themselves open to the whole staff. It was incredible. The wisdom of the kids was staggering. I have total and absolute faith in few things in this world. UP kids are one of those things.

Right as the panel was wrapping up, we got word that Karym had made it back to campus. The whole staff bolted for the door and created a human tunnel for him to follow that stretched the whole length of the auditorium.

A UP tunnel for Karym!

About 3 minutes later he came in to huge cheers and a very happy Jez waiting for him at the end of the tunnel.

Karym then spoke for a bit about what he had been up to — working the final paper work for the 30 kids coming from the West Bank. We were so very happy to hear that all his efforts were successful and that he obtained all of the necessary permits! Hooray!

Everyone was then off to work on more prep tasks. I plugged in at my now usual media table and was soon joined by the media team. We got a post made to the UP blog and have a few more lined up. FB posting is going well, and all the photos and videos are looking great. Alex is kicking butt at creating the daily Get UP! newsletter. It’s all working well.

At 10:45 I ran the first Summer Camp head coaches meeting. We cruised through a few topics, worked through a couple concerns, and then adjourned after at my self-imposed 15 minute meeting time limit.

There is now a calm to the Mohodoun and surrounding space. We’re not frantic. We’re ready. As someone said at today’s panel, “Bring on the peace”.

Bring it on indeed.

Shifting up a gear

We’re now gearing up for 50% more kids, almost 75 of whom are new to camp. In order to keep ahead of that wave, we have twice as many coaches at camp, and judging by the apparent energy in the air, we are going to be more than ready for camp to start in less than 2 days. I know it’s a bit risky to be too optimistic about prep work for so complex a task, but it feels right to be this confident. We have fabulous team of coaches and admins who are more than up to the task. We’re proven from past years and more importantly, last week. This week is going to ridiculously awesome.

Flick Photo Album – 7/2/13
YouTube Video – 7/2/13

I managed to find myself a normal(ish) amount of sleep last night, so when I settled down outside the Mohodoun to catch up on email, I was pretty close to fully awake. A round of David’s coffee later, I was truly ready for the day. With lots of new staff members filtering into the Mohadoun, I got to say hi to just about every new staff member. It was so great to see Ava again!

Ava! Go STJ!

Most of the staff packed into one large table at breakfast and enjoyed meeting each other. By shortly after 9am we were in the auditorium where David and Nancy ran us through the first rounds of staff orientation. We talked about the camp and moved through several pages of the staff manual. We went over camp roles, coaching teams were announced, and every stood and introduced themselves and said why they were at Ultimate Peace. Right before lunch each coaching team was given their skit topic, to be worked on over the next couple days and presented as part of camper orientation. Oh, the other amazing part of the morning was being able to Negev, a dog that’ll be with us on campus for the next day.

Negev in a UP jersey! :)

During lunch each coaching team socialized and talked a bit about the skit. As usual, I enjoyed some harif on various Schnitzel-like products. After lunch we made it back into the auditorium where we worked through more staff orientation tasks. There was a panel made up of returning coaches covering what new staff members should do in certain circumstances. At the end, the different task teams were described and then we were all set out to get to work on our tasks. I relocated to my dorm room where 8 more people joined to work on media. With Alex returning to do the Get UP! newsletter and Sarah to post to FB, along with 7 new people to help with photos, video, and blogging, this week’s media presence should be even bigger than last. By around 3:30 I finished the media planning and worked on the final edits to the coaching sessions. I snuck in a quick nap and by 4:15 was headed over the auditorium to get setup for the coaches training session.

Summer Camp coaches training

At a little after 4:30 I was in motion. With 50+ people in the audience there was a “bigger” vibe to the event. The coaches were engaged, active participants, and focused on the task at hand. We talked about spirit, covered lots of important points, and then moved outside. They handed in questions they’d like answered, and on those sheets I was able to take a quick census that ended up telling us that there was over 400 years of Ultimate experience in the audience, with the average person having played 7.5 years of Ultimate. Wow! Next we moved outside for the skills section of the training session.

Summer Camp coaches training

The coaching teams came up with methods for teaching basic skills, then gave their presentations to the whole group. The main focus of the activity was on teaching tactics, and the groups did well! It’s certainly a challenge to present any teaching material in a truly effective manner, but especially so when you’re working in a triple language environment. Nancy added in her great voice to the evening, as did her husband. What a power couple! David spoke for a bit at the end and then everyone was off for a bit free time before dinner. After filling up one more harif-based cousine, I was back in the auditorium for more training.

Flag time!

Nancy ran us through some more important orientation materials, taught us about the flags, and the CITs helped us through the Summer Camp staff’s first run-through of the camp song. We then got into our coaching teams to practice our skits. My group retreated to the Mohadoun and came up with a great skit for “Friendship”. I then hunkered down for media work while the rest of the camp went out to the fields for name-based social, get-to-know-you games.

Tomorrow we work through our last day of training and iron out all the details for the camper invasion on Thursday. Here they come!

Round 2 is about to begin

The past 48 hours have been extremely restful. On Sunday we all went rafting on the river Jordan, followed by a tour of a winery. I slept on all the bus rides between locations, which was a wonderful added bonus. On Sunday I went down to Tel Aviv by train to spend a day in the city with a couple UP coaches who were taking off for home. We had a nice time out at night on Sunday, followed by a full day or walking around the city on Monday. We relaxed on the beach, ate very tasty meals in the city, and took in the sunny views. Last night I made it back to Acco with a new UP coach, and spent the evening getting back into the regular swing of things. I worked on coaches training with Nancy, wrangled a wireless router, and met lots of the new coaches. The energy level was amped up with all the new arrivals. The Mohadoun hummed with conversation and camp prep.

Beach time in Acco!

Today is the grand kick off of what is gong to be a phenomenal two days of prep and  training followed by five days of Summer Camp. Everyone is excited for what’s to come, especially for the incredible amount of new energy for this iteration of camp: 60 coaches and CITs (up from 30) and 120 campers (up from 80). Let’s go UP!