Every year as I was growing up I spent a few weeks away from home at summer camp. I often went to camp by myself so that I could meet new people and make new friends. At eight-years-old it was a nerve-wracking endeavor to find someone to share a bunk bed with, a swimming partner and someone who would help me find the bathroom if I had to get up in the middle of the night. Despite my initial shakiness, I plucked up my courage, stepped outside of my comfort zone and found that every year it got a little easier to build relationships and make the most out of my time at camp.
At camp I learned a myriad of things: tons of campfire songs, how to paddle and un-sink a canoe, the best way to tie-dye a shirt and the ability to tell if a plant was poison ivy (and, coincidentally, the best way to treat poison ivy). As I returned to camp each summer, I discovered that alongside my newfound abilities in water skiing and archery, I was learning softer and less tangible skills. I was becoming a better listener, working more cohesively with others and getting excited about my own capacity as a leader. Camp fostered these abilities and provided a space for me to learn how to problem-solve, communicate and be an effective and inclusive team member.
Finding the courage to step outside my comfort zone allowed me to gain new experiences and develop important skills, and I have seen participants here at Girls in the Game find courage in challenging moments and witnessed incredible growth. As an intern, one of the programs I work with is Teen Squad. The girls in Teen Squad facilitate workshops for younger participants, leading them through health, sports and leadership programming. It has truly been a privilege to work with and learn from the girls in Teen Squad as they coach the participants through activities, games and discussions. Before they start programming, they plan out what the activities will look like, their roles and the game plan for the day. They know what they need to create programming that is successful and effective, and are careful to cover all the bases before they even begin.
Even with the most careful planning, challenges often arise. As they face these obstacles, they are flexible in their expectations and supportive of one another. There are times when only a few participants show up, causing them to adjust the rules of the game or eliminate a certain activity. At other times they are faced with an enormous group of excited and energetic second-graders and split up into groups on their own to step into a coaching role without a partner.
They take on these challenges with courage and enthusiasm. It is inspiring to witness their ability to adapt and problem-solve while they are coaching. After the program is finished, I sit with the girls as they debrief the workshop and discuss the challenges and high points. They are thoughtful as they reflect on their experiences and I really enjoy hearing about how they came to a solution or felt successful in an activity.
The theme at Girls in the Game this month is, “We Strive for Courage,” and the girls in Teen Squad exhibit many qualities that are rooted in courage. It takes an immense amount of courage to stand up in front of a group of kids to teach a game, yet the girls in Teen Squad make it look easy. It can be intimidating to facilitate a discussion in front of your own peers, but the girls in Teen Squad are equipped with the skills to face situations head on.
Many of them have been participating in Girls in the Game for several years and have gained impressive and innumerable abilities in the process. Girls in the Game has created an environment that nurtures the development of communication, leadership and teamwork skills, preparing girls for experiences beyond their time in Teen Squad. I am thrilled to work for an organization that values the importance of courageous and impactful leadership in the lives of girls.