A storm of hugs

With a bright sun shining overhead, Training Camp 2013 finished up this afternoon at around 2pm with team meetings. Each team said their goodbyes, and then the kids were off. It’s truly rather jarring that the session is already. On one level, everyone is completely exhausted, but in such a fantastic way that you kind of expect tomorrow to start with breakfast with the kids, followed by more games. While that’s not going to happen tomorrow — we have a staff social day — it’s only a few more days until the summer camp masses arrive at Manof. Training Camp has prepared us well. We’re ready for the 145+ kids. Bring ’em on. We can’t wait.

Flickr Photos Album – 6/29/13
YouTube Video – 6/29/13

Morning coffee was followed by our last dining hall breakfast, part of which was used by the players to fill out the end of camp survey. Afterwards we all filled into the auditorium for a few announcements and some wake-up stretching led by Nancy and David. The whole camp then moved out onto the Manof field for the final camp games! First though, we had to take the all-camp photo.

Training Camp 2013!

While the combined girls teams warmed up for their game, the staff played a short 15-minute exhibition game. I got in for a few points and managed not to totally embarrass myself. I didn’t drop an discs, caught several passes, and managed to throw an assist. I was a bit winded though, a true and totally unsurprising sign of not being in shape. At all. Something to work on. After we cleared the field, the girls started their game with Pink/Charcoal playing Royal/Maroon. The game was competitive, spirited, and full of great plays. It’s truly remarkable how far the girls have come in such a short time. Zone was thrown, deep throws were completed, and patient handlers worked around and through cups. Afterwards the girls circled up, picked a spirit award winner for each team, and then I took some group photos of all the girls. We ended up getting a few new fun shots into the mix.

Training Camp 2013 huddle

The boys finals teams, Green and Orange, then took the field after finishing their warmups during the end of the girls game. The boys played extremely well, with lots of deep shots patient offense, and a high number of very strong d-blocks. In the end, Green took home the win in convincing fashion. Go Ferocious Pickles!

A Ferocious Pickle brings down a catch in traffic

The kids then had an hour to clean up and pack. They ended up doing a pretty good job and by noon they had all brought their luggage to the area outside the dining hall. Lunch was it’s regular loud and spirited self with everyone having a great time. We then moved into the auditorium for the closing ceremonies, which were kicked off by the first showing of the camp slide show and video highlight real. Both pieces were well received with lots of cheering a laughter. A big thanks to video master David Z for spending so much time last night putting together the video highlights!

David then started the end of camp ceremony. He talked about camp, named the starting 7 — the camp’s most spirited players as chosen by the coaches — and said thanks to everyone who made the camp possible. David spoke very well about each person who made UP possible, and then Tomer said some very nice words about Linda, David, and Tomer.

Tomer and David

It was particularly emotional when the whole staff got to get up on stage together. It’s such a wonderful team.

Training Camp staff 2013

Nancy and David closed out the ceremony and then all the teams moved out into the quad for their last team meetings. Team Pink started off by saying what they most enjoyed about camp. The girls spoke very well about their experiences. We also decided that Idan should be the one to take the Pink Ladies flag since he’d be visiting many UP communities in the coming year and he could take the flag wherever he went. We also tied more string bracelets on each other, a wonderful tradition I got from my travels to Laos. Each girl would speak about what they wished for the person whose wrist they were putting the string on, as they tied the string on. It was so heart-warming to see.

Our own Baci celebration

During out meeting I also gave each girl a purple wrist band — a special item from my time at St. Johnsbury Academy. I also awarded Ruba a Black Ice 2013 hat for being named the team’s most improved player. The girls were also given their player evaluations, which, of course, they immediately wanted to read. The last thing we did was get a group picture taken before the girls spread out into the quad to say goodbye to everyone else at camp.

Team Pink Ladies! :)

For the next 30 minutes I circulated around the quad saying goodbye to players and taking photos. Fortunately, many Training Camp kids will be returning next week for Summer Camp, so many of the goodbyes were muted. All over the place kids were finding different ways to say goodbye. The kids were so openly genuine with their feelings for each other. It was truly special to see.

Saying goodbye

By just before 3pm, we wrapped up our hugs and goodbyes and with all the students headed home, the staff gathered up in the dining hall for a feedback session lef by Nancy and David. We talked about lots of aspects of the camp while things were fresh in our minds. We capped off the meeting with many people sharing what they most appreciated about Ultimate Peace. It was quite a series of speeches. By 4:15 we wrapped up and headed back to the Mohadoun to get changed for our time at the beach.

Post-camp staff feedback session

We all then got changed and gathered up at 5pm at the main gates to the Mohodoun where we caught a small fleet of cabs that took us the short distance to the nearby beach. There we enjoyed socializing, swimming in the warm water, and just generally relaxing on the beach. Kelsie broke out her amazing, super fun to use large kite, and several people (including me) got to try flying it over the beach. It was way too much fun. Other people played fun disc games, and some free styled. It was the perfect way to cap off the last day of Training Camp 2013.

We’re all now back at the Mohodoun. Several coaches have already left for home and a bunch more leave tomorrow evening after our staff trip to raft on the Jordan river. Everyone is excited to rest, but they are way more excited for the impending invasion of 145+ campers for Summer Camp.

All is very well in the land of Camp Ultimate Peace.

Training and the beginning of camp!

On Friday we had a full day of staff training. In the morning Liz had us out on the field running through a series of drill lessons. We all left well equipped to run a wide range of drills and dynamic stretches.

David then ran another round of staff orientation in the big auditorium, which was followed by some time for the coaching teams to meet. After having our last staff-only lunch, most of the staff took off to a nearby pool. I stayed back at the Manof to work on some media and to rest. When everyone returned, we spent some more time working on task team items. I spent the hour pulling together video clips for the post-dinner Ultimate video shows for the kids. We then transitioned to the auditorium where David had put together a panel consisting of Sarah, Karym, Hammouda, and Dan — a full spectrum of the people represented on the staff of Ultimate Peace 2012.

The panel lasted about an hour and a half and was incredibly poignant. Each panelist spoke about very personal views and everyone in the audience learned many new things about the region. A wonderful writeup of the panel is online right here in the official UP blog. It’s well worth the read.

The panel was followed by dinner and the last round of time for the coaching teams to meet to plan for the incoming hoard of kids! I had a great time working with my assistant coaches Adam, Ofek, and Gabe on what we wanted to work through during our 7 hours of time with the kids on Saturday. The evening was made more entertaining by the fact that my voice had decided to retreat meaning I could barely speak past a whisper. Still, we got lots done and I went to sleep feeling well prepared for Saturday.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, the whole staff met in the auditorium to practice the camp song and to go over any last minute questions. Everyone was then sent off to work on last minute tasks to get fully prepped for the incoming wave of kids.

Over by the entrance gate the welcoming group practiced running up the ramp to “Eye of the Tiger”. Tables got setup in front of the Barak building for registration. Equipment was moved around partitioned for the afternoon. At a little after 10am the first group of kids arrived! The staff greeting could be heard all over the Manof! I spent the morning moving between stations and helping get the round working in the auditorium. I had a great time moving through the central area of campus talking to kids as they relaxed and connected with old friends.

At around 12:30 the kids moved to the auditorium to watch about 20 minutes of high level youth Ultimate on the big screen. Just before 1pm the bus from the West Bank arrived meaning everyone had made it to camp! David then moved through the camp welcome talking about the meaning of Ultimate Peace, why everyone was here, as well as a myriad of introductions. Then, each of the 8 camp teams were read aloud and the teams gathered together for the first time! Everyone then moved in groups by teams into the dining hall where we all started to get to know each other. I learned a bunch of names and about the playing experience of several kids.

After lunch we moved back into the auditorium where David led the group through camp orientation. He went over important rules, the schedule for the day, and we sang the camp song. Afterwards the teams spread out around campus in shady areas to work on team bonding. My team met up under a tree outside Barak dorm where we distributed shorts and jersey and helped the kids find spaces to change. The kids who came in on the West Bank bus joined us shortly after they had registered and we eventually had everyone looking great in their camp clothing!

We then moved through a series of games including two name games, WA, Ninja, and look up look down. Last, we sat down in a circle and each camper answered the question “Why are you here? What does Ultimate Peace mean to you?”. The answers were beautiful. By this time in the afternoon I had become accustomed to the translation periods needed between spoken words. One of my campers, Ali, acted as an amazing translator. After a great cheer of “Give me a B, R, O, W, N, what’s that spell? BROWN! What’s that mean? Family!” we moved out to the fields.

Coach Adam ran the kids through a solid dynamic warm up and then we transitioned into a couple focused throwing drills. Mixing in frequent water breaks, the kids managed to stay quite active in the hot sun. Ali continued his work as a great translator, and the coaches got to know each player. We have a fantastic group of skilled players! We then moved through some more active cutting drills including the button hook drill and a round of hot box. We then had about 15 minutes of down time before scrimmaging the light blue team. The kids played very well and showed some amazing patience with the disc. Our sideline was loud and everyone wanted to get into the 5 on 5 game!

After drills the kids migrated over to dinner where everything was MUCH more lively than at lunch. Tables of teams burst into cheers at random and pretty soon the whole room was very loud! I talked more with one of my assistants, Ofek, talked with lots of my kids, and learned from Maggie that her survey work is going well. The kids were then moved into the auditorium for 20 minutes of Ultimate videos while the staff had an evening meeting check in to go over the evening activities.

The staff then moved into positions and got ready for the release of the masses. I retreated to work on the daily Get UP! bulletin and work on not talking. Around 11pm I finished work and relatively soon after went to sleep.

Here are the first two “Get UP!” daily bulletins:

Get UP! – 6/30/12
Get UP! – 7/1/12

In a few minutes I’m heading off to breakfast. I can’t wait to meet with my kids and get the day moving!