There’s No I in Team!

“There’s no I in Team.”

This expression is commonly used to describe the concept that when in a group environment such as camp, there is no room for the ego.  While short and sweet, this aphorism exemplifies one of the major benefits of camp: learning how to be part of a group, working together as part of a team, and instilling the values of sharing, cooperating, and not being selfish.

Low ropes courses, also known as challenge courses, are designed to challenge individuals in a group to work together to accomplish a task. At Long Island, that’s just what two of our agency camps did. The Suffolk Y JCC Camps and the Friedberg JCC Family of Camps followed the low ropes principal of working together when Adam Bendeson of the Suffolk Y and Nancy Hollander of the Friedberg JCC collaborated and applied together for a Sports for Youth grant (a UJA-Federation of New York group) to build a low ropes course to be shared by both agencies. Their proximity to each other on the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds made this a perfect match.

The $10,000 Sports for Youth grant they received enabled the two camps to build an eleven element low ropes course and a zip line. Built by Lord Sterling Outdoor Education Center, the course is designed for simultaneous use by multiple camp groups.  Each camp has its own entrance near their campsite with a rustic wooden agency sign and each camp received specialized staff training on using the elements.

During my visit to camp, I was lucky enough to see campers challenging themselves and working together on two of the elements.

A girls group was having a lot of fun working on the combination element “Islands” and “All Aboard.” “Islands” has two large raised wooden platforms with a smaller platform in the middle. The goal is for the campers to get the whole group from one large platform to the other large platform via the small platform in the middle. And if anyone touches the ground, they may have to start again. “All Aboard” has the group working together to stand with both feet on the smaller wooden platform and remain off the ground for a minimum of 5 seconds or one song chorus.

A boys group was hard at play supporting each other as each one worked his way across the “Wobbly Log.” where everyone has to take a turn crossing the log without falling.  This meant each group member had dual roles –as a spotter and helper and as the one taking the risk and traversing the swinging beam while trusting his fellow group mates to pay attention and help him keep his balance. When everyone completed the element, the boys high fived each other and cheered enthusiastically. What an accomplishment!

A unique feature of this low ropes course is its signage. Each element is labeled with its common name accompanied by a name based on Jewish tradition. The “Wobbly Log” is also “Noah’s Ark” and “Fidget Ladder” is “Jacobs Ladder,” just to name two. Camp directors are always looking for ways creative ways to work Judaism into their programs.  The signage here, with its biblical and cultural references creates those informal opportunities in an unlikely setting.

Hat’s off to camp directors Adam Bendeson of the Suffolk Y JCC Camps and Nancy Hollander of the Friedberg JCC Family of Camps and UJA Federation of New Yorkfor their teamwork on this amazing project.When you talk to your children about their camp day ask them, “How is your camp group doing? Do you all get along?” Hopefully their time at the low ropes course will cause them to answer with a resounding “Yes!”

The girls work together to get from one platform to another

“All Aboard” takes trust and ingenuity for the group to succeed.

Campers spot each other helping them cross the Wobbly Bridge

High fives all around for a job well done

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