Pog-Cast Episode 2
On Episode 2 of the GAC POG-CAST, Soy’s back with WOWs and Joke of the Cast, Sunshine shares a GACspiration, and we have an interview with former camper, Junior Counselor, and OLC (Outdoor Leadership Course) participant Will “Quill” Kellogg.
Will was a camper for 7 years, spent a month at camp as a Junior Counselor in 2015, and competed 45 miles of backcountry backpacking in the High Sierra as a member of one of our 2016 OLC trips. Will talks with Sunshine about developing grit at camp, and shares some stories and wisdom about trying things even when they are extremely challenging.
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Meredith “Mocha” Monke is a senior at Westmont College and a three-year veteran GAC counselor. Because her parents (Audrey “Sunshine” and Steve “Monkey” Monke) are the camp owners/directors, Meredith spent all of her childhood summers as a camper. She wrote about her own “grit growing” experiences as a child for a recent creative writing assignment.
By Meredith Monke
I think if I hadn’t grown up at camp I wouldn’t be an outdoorsy person. But camp is where I feel free—breathing fresh air, being myself. There was this little nook between a big rock and a Jeffrey Pine tree on the hill beside the Dining Porch where my sisters and I would play after dinner. Little bark flakes would scatter on the dirt and if you cut one in half, it made a sort of auburn chalk which we’d use to scribble on the rock. Sometimes we’d sit on the rock and just watch the people go by, pretending that they couldn’t see us up on the hill, hiding amongst the trees.
One day my older sister, Gretchen, asked me if I wanted to go sailing with her out on the lake. During camp season, activities run all the time, and sometimes we’d just pop by and join. I wanted to be like her, and I wanted her to think I was cool and adventurous and brave, so I agreed, even though my stomach was flip-flopping just thinking about setting foot in a tippy boat with no one but my sister.
There were a few different kinds of boats, bigger ones in which to fit lots of littler campers and smaller ones for campers to ride in on their own. One time I had gone in the bigger boat with all the “scared” campers and the boat had capsized. A great way to thoroughly convince a bunch of scared kids to be even more scared of sailing! But Gretchen and I were just extra tagalong people that day, and the sailing staff was busy, and Gretchen was confident. I begged to take a bathtub boat and Gretchen looked at me, seeming to say, Seriously? We called them “bathtub boats” because they resembled bathtubs, deep and exactly opposite of what one would call “sleek.” But my favorite thing about these blessed boats was their smooth, slow and steady speed and their unwillingness to capsize, even with the most inept driver. I thought they were a beautiful invention, but my sister wondered what the point of sailing was if all I did was venture in a bathtub boat.
Despite her desire to sail in a faster boat, she accommodated me. Mixed in with jabs about my love of slow speeds were giggles, moments of pretending to be mermaids, and hair blowing in the wind. We hardly made it anywhere in that boat. She steered, and I pulled in (to speed up) and let out (to slow down) the sail. Of course, I was more focused on letting out the sail.
A few years later I was back at the sailing dock with my cabin mates—my peers. They were pairing everyone off to go in smaller boats, but this time, the faster ones. We hopped in a boat, and unlike past sailing experiences, I was put in charge of steering. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, accustomed to my brave big sister taking charge. I squinted my eyes to focus on a rock across the lake, finding a spot at which to aim the boat. We swerved, the waves rocked the boat, and my heart dropped like I was on a roller coaster. I pushed the tiller one way, and the boat would swerve the other way. Then the boat would be straight until some waves decided to angle us in a different direction.
We sailed farther out into the lake than I’d been before, and I saw the sun’s white reflection on the blue lake. I felt the breeze on my sunburnt face. My toes rested in the pile of water in the base of our boat. I chatted and laughed with my friend in the boat. I was free. That’s when I realized that things become less scary once I take the time to figure them out. When I calmed my nerves long enough to look beyond my tunnel vision of the rock across the lake, I experienced the joy of whooshing and splashing across crystal blue water.
My sister, though she teased me at the time, met me where I was in my level of comfort and sailed with me anyway in the slow bathtub boat. Now my sister and I sail together whenever we get the chance, and we cherish those moments flying across the lake. Countless other family memories have emerged over the years because of camp, and now I know to be grateful and to cherish them. They have shaped me to be who I am today.
“Gold Arrow Camp has taught me to be brave and reach my goals.
If it weren’t for GAC, I wouldn’t be nearly as courageous as I am now.”
Need for Achievement
These are all desirable traits we want for ourselves and for our kids. What do these traits have in common? All are associated with grit, which psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth defined in a 2013 TED Talk as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.” Grit correlates with stamina and stick-to-itiveness, Duckworth said, “day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.” Duckworth is among a handful of researchers and educators who have studied grit in the context of behavior for the last few years in an effort to determine who will be successful in certain settings—such as schools—and why. Surprisingly, perhaps, she found that grit is unrelated to measures of talent: everyone can succeed in a given task, Duckworth said, if they work hard and long enough. Before “grit” became a buzzword in the field of adolescent psychology, researchers, professional educators, and parents alike used words like “persistent,” “hard-working,” and “disciplined” to describe people who exhibited this desirable character trait.
And what was it, exactly, that got this conversation started? According to Forbes education contributor Margaret Perlis, it was the “concern among teachers that kids these days are growing soft.”
Kids (and adults) need grit to succeed. It’s what helps us push past failures, work hard at things we struggle with, and eventually find some success. Grit is something that campers have been growing at GAC since our founder, Manny Vezie, started his “rugged camp for boys” back in 1933. In fact, you might say that Manny was ahead of the curve on the topic of grit; way back in 1962, he lamented to a local newspaper reporter that “[t]oday’s kids are just sitting around getting entertained.” Gold Arrow Camp, he said, was the ideal antidote for what he perceived to be a culture growing in “general softness.”
This summer, we’ll continue to build grit the way we’ve done at camp for more than 80 years. The only difference is that in 2016, we’re going to talk about it more. That’s because when we name grit at the time we see it, campers will become more aware of—and more motivated about—opportunities to grow that passion, perseverance, and stamina Duckworth and others laud in successful children and adolescents. Counselors and campers will be looking for opportunities to witness grit, and we’ll share inspirational stories of people who’ve overcome adversity, challenged themselves, failed, and kept trying. We’ll share stories of our own and others’ grit, and as a camp community, we’ll respond to Duckworth’s call to action: we’ll “be gritty about getting our kids grittier.”
Setting Goals & Overcoming Failures
One of the keys to growing grit is setting goals, getting motivated by them, and working towards them over time. At the opening campfire, counselors ask campers to think about something they want to accomplish at camp. These goals, set during the first days of camp, might include trying something new—maybe something that has been scary in the past—or reaching a specific milestone at an activity. Sometimes it’s a social goal, like getting up on stage in front of a big group or making a new friend. We encourage kids to think of something that is outside their comfort zone and a little bit challenging, because those goals are the ones that lead to the greatest feelings of pride and accomplishment—and the most grit! Goal-setting is an important life skill and something extremely valuable in growing grit. The goals campers set motivate them to persevere, overcome repeated failures, and eventually succeed.
Nowhere is this more evident, perhaps, than in waterskiing, which is among the many challenging recreational activities we learn at GAC. If you’ve tried it, you know it’s not easy. Most kids (and adults) do not master waterskiing on their first try, and a common error when learning is standing up too fast, which leads to a forward fall, or “face plant.” What follows is an unpleasant rush of cold lake water up the nose and a period of awkward floating and struggle to reattach wayward skis, often ripped free of the skier after the fall. It’s understandable, then, why many people give up on waterskiing quickly and never reach the point of enjoying it. But those who stick with it despite failure often end up feeling a great sense of pride and enjoyment in a new sport.
So, this summer, we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. Whether we’re waterskiing, rock climbing, backpacking, sailing, meeting someone for the first time, or singing on stage, we’re excited to focus on Growing Grit at Gold Arrow Camp!