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.

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.