One foot in front of the other, don’t look back, stay focused, keep your eyes on your target. All of these are popular phrases we hear throughout our lives; timeless advice that encourages us to be persistent, dedicated and to face our fears. In many ways, when campers scale the daunting Rockwall, they hear and learn many of the same principles. Climbing the wall can be used as a metaphor for camp, and camp prepares kids and teen for the real world. Campers may think they’re just doing anther camp activity, but a lot of foundational and character work happens on the wall as well.
There are some things at camp that are easy, and some things that aren’t. Climbing the rock wall is hard work. It takes muscles and skills you aren’t used to using, it is unfamiliar and can seem overwhelming; f you’ve never done it before, you may feel like it is too much, too hard, or too scary. Camp can bring about many of the same feelings. In the beginning, it can feel like it is too much to take on or that you struggle to get a hold on this new and unfamiliar experience. You may lose your footing, have a slip-up, or even make a mistake that sends you a few steps backward. All of this uncertainty is part of the learning process, and with encouragement from friends, campers slowly begin to embrace the newness of climbing, and of camp and find the courage to step out of their comfort zone.
Another way climbing the rock wall is like camp is that as you go through the process, you learn things about yourself. As you get further and further up the wall, you learn that you are stronger, more capable, braver and more determined than you did when both feet were on the ground. You learn that instead of focusing on climbing the whole wall, you simply focus on the next move. Camp is the same way, as you spend your days at camp trying new things, you uncover parts of yourself that you never knew. You discover strengths and passions that you never knew existed, and you learn to enjoy the moment instead of worrying so much about the big picture. A lot of these principles are true for life as well. You learn a lot about yourself when you step out of your comfort zone, and when things feel overwhelming, focusing on the next right step can help any problem seem more manageable.
When you finally make it to the top of the rock wall, there is a sense of accomplishment that can’t be put into words. It makes you realize that with hard work, persistence and a good support system, you really can do anything. Finally making it to the top proves to yourself that ever when things look challenging or even impossible, you are strong and capable, as long as you put your mind to it. Most of the time, campers who make it to the top are eager to come down and climb again, this time with a new perspective and confidence. Similarly, most campers find themselves ready to come back and try the adventure of sleep away camp once the summer has come to a close. They are excited to take the journey again, even if it means there will be days and activities that are hard, even if it means they may make mistakes or feel frustrated, they know that the end result is worth all of the hesitation and fear, and the sense of accomplishment and the self-realization that comes from taking the journey.
Climbing the rock wall can be a life changing, eye opening, pivotal moment for many campers. It may be the first time they’ve faced a fear, or it may be the boost of confidence that they need as they navigate the teenage years. Climbing the rock wall is more than just a fun summer camp activity, just like camp is so much more than a place to go when school is out. Climbing the rock wall builds strength, character, self-confidence, teamwork and encourages campers to face their fears, and the goal of America’s Finest Summer Camps is to do the same thing.