“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.”
-Harold S. Geneen
Buck and I pushed off our team’s duct taped covered cardboard vessel covered from the starting line and into the water. It was a race around the first mooring and back to the beach. The boat had two pool noodles cut into six pieces on the bottom to keep it afloat. Almost immediately the boats were soaked, soggy and sinking. The captains, Tucker and Peter, were out of the boats and pulling them through the shallow water. The captains were neck and neck but Peter turned and went to the wrong beach so Tucker won. Our team was on the beach cheering like crazy when Tucker won. The experience of building and racing the cardboard boat as a team helped us learn that the secret to our big win was valuing the strengths that each member of the team brought to the activity. Throughout my time at Belknap, I realized that for our ninth grade year to be successful we had to lean on each other, step up as leaders and be good friends.
The various activities at Belknap gave us many opportunities to practice teamwork. Some of the activities were Can-Jam, football, frisbee, dodgeball, bejuball, climbing wall, canoeing, swimming, jumping off the dive tower and mafia before bed. One game that really required a coordinated effort to win was bejuball. I loved bejuball because it was fun, competitive and it required us to work together. The game was basically hand ball and soccer mixed however no one except the goalie could go in the crease. Belknap plays this game because the only way to win is to work together and communicate. This is because if a player gets tagged they have to pass the ball. So your team had to collaborate to get the ball up the field. It was also really fun because everyone was strategizing on and off the field. For instance, I was playing goalie and the other team had a breakaway. My defenders, Lukas and Buck, ran back and tagged the shooter, Timmy, right before he could take a shot. It all happened so quickly that we had to shout instructions to each other and really listen. Bejuball gave us plenty of chances to get comfortable with helping each other out.
There were lots of discussions on building our leadership skills over the course of the three days. There were also moments when we had the chance to step up and practice being leaders even if we were not always successful. For example, at night we had a hard time in our cabin quieting down when it was time to go to sleep. We had nine boys and one counselor. Buck who was elected the president of our class and clearly a leader and was trying to sleep on the bunk above me. Several of our cabin mates were talking and making jokes. Buck and I were trying to quiet kids down because we were exhausted from the day and we wanted to get some rest. A counselor named Mac snuck up to one of our cabin windows and screamed in “STOP TALKING NOW!” Then he came in the door and said “lets not hear any talking for the rest of the night” and he slammed the door behind him. Our efforts to quiet people down had failed. Yet we had tried. I know that over the course year we will have to continue to step up. As the oldest students in the school we have the ability to have an impact in the school in both small and big ways. The younger students look up to us. Not only are we going to need to be good leaders we will have to set an example of kindness and friendship.
When we stepped off the bus into the cold New Hampshire air at Camp Belknap we were each told which cabin we were in. I noticed right away that most of the kids in the cabin I didn’t know well and I wanted to get to know them better. So, while I was there I tried to set a goal to connect with others that I had not connected with previously. Not only in my cabin but in the whole grade. So, in my free time or during walks to activities I tried to talk with others I didn’t know well to learn more about them. For this year, I want our 9th class to be tight knit and for everyone to be at least good friends. I also want our grade to care about each others well being. This year our class is small and it should be easier to find common ground with others you don’t know well.
In the beginning, when I boarded the bus at Fenn I was nervous and excited. There was some talk about how people said Caribou had been super fun and some where wondering if Belknap would be the same. The uncertainty of what the whole experience at the camp would be was killing me during the two hour bus ride. I wanted to get there and have fun. I was not sure at first if I was going to like Camp Belknap. I ended up having a ton of fun. Except there was a lot of time spent talking. Some of the time the talking was beneficial and sometimes it was repetitive. However, I think I got the message that we are the leaders of the school and it is time for us to step up. When we got on the bus to go home we were all exhausted but the trip and time spent together had paid off. We were closer as a class then we had been before, we learned to respect each other’s talents and we were ready to lead the school.