Camp Success Stories: Jayme and Coach Alecia’s Reflections

Jayme  came to Girls in the Game all the way from out of state. Her mom thought it would be nice for Jayme to spend some time with her aunt. Her aunt then found Girls in the Game on the web and thought it was a great chance for Jayme to gain some leadership skills and to interact with other young girls her age. With the help of our mission Jayme was welcome to come and spend the summer with myself and the other coaches of our team. When camp was over and I was asked to write about a camper who has grown, my mind went straight to Jayme. I think that it is so amazing how much Jayme grew within a month. The first day of camp, Jayme was very quiet and scared to be there and to do all the rotations. Encouragement and enthusiasm from the coaches and other campers helped Jayme to open up and have the courage to speak out and be her own person, try new sports and activities, and interact with the other campers. After a couple of weeks, there started to be a change in Jayme that was easy to notice. Jayme became outspoken, helpful, and one who was still nervous but still tried everything that was going on at camp. The lessons and activities at the Girls in the Game summer camp made a difference in Jayme that made her leadership and active personality come out. The Girls in the Game camp has really evolved Jayme into the leader and athlete she is today and now she has the tools to continue to be that leader and athlete and maybe even inspire future young girls to be as amazing as she is. To come from another state, adjust and to grow so much is such a big accomplishment for Jayme and I am so proud and thankful to have been present to see this happen.

-Coach Dezzare

Reflections From a Coach

This summer has been awesome. I had so many different personalities on my team. So many of those girls improved and grew as a person. It’s not just one person I can pin point because so many girls grew this summer on my team. Being able to see a girl come into camp with low self-esteem and being timid then by the end of camp being the chatter box of the team was great to see. Or the smallest girl on my team being scared to do archery because the bow is bigger than she is, but remembering the five finger contract and being committed to herself and trying, then at the end doing awesome in it. I can keep going on and on about the growth I’ve seen this summer. This is my seventh year at camp and I never get tired of seeing the girls improve and grow mentally and physically and experiencing them make me excited to come back each summer.

-Coach Alecia



Camp Success Stories: Mahogany

This was Mahogany’s first Girls in the Game summer camp and she came to camp the first day as most new campers do- a bit quiet. But after a few days Mahogany jumped right into the camp atmosphere, especially during health and leadership. She contributed to every discussion about body image, healthy eating and peer pressure with her own experiences, thoughts and ideas. She was immediately showing the foundations of being a good leader but it wasn’t until overnight camp that she showed her true colors when it came to her courage and leadership.  When one of Mahogany’s teammates was having a hard time on the last day of camp because of some comments made by her friends, Mahogany  pulled her aside and talked to her about the teammate’s special qualities and why she is a good friend to Mahogany. It was an excellent of example putting leadership skills into practice and going above and beyond. At the end of camp Mahogany asked one of the junior counselors  about how she might be able to be a counselor at Girls in the Game one day. If she  keeps doing what she’s doing  she will be a great Girls in the Game counselor!

-Coach Lisa

Moving On

Today is my last day at Girls in the Game! I am finishing up a few final projects this morning before I say my goodbyes. During the last couple of days, I have been reminiscing about my experience. It has been a bit overwhelming because every experience I’ve had here has been a valuable one. When I woke up one morning and realized that I was having dreams about the girls, I knew that I had become invested in the mission of this organization.

My dream was strangely realistic and clear. I was sitting under a tree in Union Park with the girls and we were having lunch, just like we do every day at camp. I was sitting with the younger girls and we were talking about our favorite aspects of camp. I should have known it was a dream because it was very quiet, which is certainly not the case in reality. The girls were talking one at a time, listening carefully and thoughtfully. It was a very adult and composed conversation they were having, and I remember distinctly feeling like I was observing an excellent classroom discussion. I didn’t have anything to say, so I just sat and watched the girls talk. I don’t remember what they were saying in particular, but it was interesting how my brain was attributing characteristics to the girls that were very authentic to how they are in real life. The way the girls talked, gestured and laughed stuck with me after I woke up.

I’ve been thinking about that dream a lot. Now that they’ve left for overnight camp, I find myself missing the girls and their quirky personalities.

So much of this experience has been positive. I really enjoyed being a part of an organization made up of smart, driven, empowered women. Everyone here understands how important it is to provide health, sports and leadership opportunities to young girls and women. I cannot say enough about the people who work here.

Ultimately, however, the girls have shaped my experience here. At the very beginning of my internship I decided to focus on the reciprocal learning relationship between coaches and campers. Looking back, I can only hope that the girls learned half as much from me as I have learned from them.

Moving forward, I am readying myself for a big transition. I’m moving back home, so I’ll say goodbye to Chicago for a while. In less than two weeks, I’ll be back at school where I am a sociology and anthropology major. My time here at Girls in the Game has inspired me to pursue an academic project on urban food deserts and other socioeconomic factors that contribute to uneven rates of obesity in minority populations.

I hope to find myself back at Girls in the Game in the future. I am excited to see what is in store for this organization and the remarkable girls it serves.

My most sincere thank you to everyone here. You are all role models to me. Until next time!

Coach Ryder

Off to Overnight Camp!

The girls left for overnight camp yesterday. On Friday, I came in to say goodbye to the girls and wish the first-timers luck. While many girls have been to sleep-away camp before, some of the younger girls were preparing for their first trip away from home. This is always a tough transition, but the girls seemed to be feeling more excited than anxious.

As I’m talking to the campers, one of the Team 2 girls wanders up to me with a camera. “Coach Ryder, can I get a picture?” she asks. The camera is fresh out of the box, hasn’t been wound yet, and the flash isn’t working, so I end up smiling into the camera for about 2 minutes as she tries to fix it. After a few attempts, I try to reach over and show her, but she calmly shifts away. “I got it,” she mutters under her breath. She’s not really talking to me – she seems to be convincing herself. I step away and watch her figure it out. She has settled into a focused state. Instead of being frantic or embarrassed, she thoughtfully tests different methods. This girl is usually very active. She is a smart girl, but is often so eager to start activities that she rushes ahead without receiving instruction. She has a remarkable knack for leaving her belongings behind, having usually sprinted off to the next activity in order to get started ahead of everyone else. By the end of camp, we had developed an easy, unspoken exchange where I would wordlessly return her missing bag/water bottle/lunch and she would give me a sheepish smile before running off again. She is one of the girls who understands and thrives under nonverbal communication and reinforcement.

Now she has adopted a less frenzied demeanor. She is relaxed. Her perceptiveness is astounding, which lends itself well to her ability to communicate with her peers and coaches. Now, she is problem-solving quietly. She reads the instructions, checks the flash, winds the camera and aims. I smile at the lens and wait. She tries a couple of times, but something is still wrong. I realize she is pressing the wrong button and nod to the correct one. “Oh, there it is,” she laughs, pointing the camera up at me. “No problem,” I start, “now you’re ready to line up the picture and…” Without warning, she clicks the button.

“That’s a good one,” she says confidently. I stand there for a second, thinking about how I was mid-sentence, certainly with an unflattering look on my face, eyes definitely closed. “Okay, Coach Ryder, see ya next year!” she says as she bounds off to snap more pictures. “Uh, okay, have a good trip!” I stammer after her, but she’s long gone.

The girls arrived safely at overnight camp yesterday afternoon, and I am certain they are having a good time. Today they are learning archery and tonight they will perform in the much-anticipated talent show. I know the girls will rock it. Until next time,

Coach Ryder

Photo Update!

What a great week at camp! The temperatures have dropped, so everyone is enjoying the warm (not molten hot) weather. We were lucky to host the Chicago Fire during the a.m. rotations on July 25th. The guest coaches came fully prepared to teach soccer drills and games – I was jealous I didn’t get a chance to work with these talented coaches! I did, however, sneak one of my favorite soccer drills into my ultimate frisbee rotation.

I learned this game at college. The rules are as follows: Everyone runs around in a contained space. When the coach calls out a number, the camper must strike the corresponding pose. #1 was push-up position. #2 was foreheads on the ground. #3 was “feet-up” where girls sit and hover their feet off the ground. #4 was “star pose.” As the coach calls out numbers, girls get into the corresponding pose as fast as possible. If they do the wrong pose or are the last to get into the pose, they’re out. The last woman standing is the winner!

What started as a desperate time-filler turned into a really successful game. We realized that we needed one more game to fill our 45 minute rotation, and the new activity fit perfectly. Even coaches got into the action! I didn’t have a name for the game, but a Team 1 camper suggested “Dance Attack.” The game doesn’t involve dancing or attacking, but I liked it nonetheless.

In the Development Office, things are busy as usual. I have been going through hundreds of camp pictures and wanted to share some of my favorites with you! I’ll be sure to add more soon!