Camp Teaches Kids to Get Back Up

Camp Skillz Program Manager Craig Duffy Explains the Reason Behind the Focus on Grit, perseverance and “hangin’ tough”

“And why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”

Thomas Wayne

Angel Martinez of the 11-12yr camper group encounters the tough terrain bike course set up by Camp Skillz staff in order to challenge campers’ endurance through mud and wood chip paths of resistance.

Angel Martinez of the 11-12yr camper group encounters the tough terrain bike course set up by Camp Skillz staff in order to challenge campers’ endurance through mud and wood chip paths of resistance.

Why does Camp Skillz encourage kids to have courage, grit, fortitude, and perseverance? Because we believe an indicator of a quality upbringing is that it has prepared children to endure and cope with the difficulties of life. All of us are bound for disappointment, pain, fear, uncertainty, and if not many of those things, then certainly failure. Things like failure pose the greatest threat to our campers’ abilities to reach their fullest potential. All fall, yet, not all have someone to teach them how to get back up, and that’s where Camp Skillz is stepping in.

Camp Skillz Session 1: ‘Hang Tough’ taught that learning to be good at anything comes on the other side of trial and error. Rarely does anyone set out to do something and accomplish it on the first or second try. If kids can’t endure a period of error, they quit, and fail to achieve what they set out to do. Learning to accept the process of repetition is the ammunition we have against high rates of failure. Children are in a constant state of getting it wrong, which is expected, because that’s the path to getting it right. Toughness then, as we taught at Camp Skillz, is that element which allows us to endure the turbulent road to achievement.

Zuri Aaseby competes with her partner in the chainsaw showdown tournament. She and her partner had to successfully cut through the log before their opponents did in order to move on to the next round. Sore arms followed but so did big smiles and boosted confidence levels.

Zuri Aaseby competes with her partner in the chainsaw showdown tournament. She and her partner had to successfully cut through the log before their opponents did in order to move on to the next round. Sore arms followed but so did big smiles and boosted confidence levels.

Scripture encourages believers to face hardship with joy because the testing produces endurance and endurance brings about maturation (James 1:2-4). Intervening too quickly in a child’s struggle can keep them from growth. For one, it takes away the power of discovery. If we don’t allow children to contend and wrestle with their problems then they will lose the experience of discovery, and discovery locks learning in. Two, you bypass the greater lessons which are in the struggle, not the achievement. When someone asks the question “how did you do that?”, they mostly mean “How did you manage to overcome the hardship?” The answer to “how did you do that?” is more often than not… “I kept trying, and I didn’t give up.” Endurance can’t be developed without prolonged struggle, and we shouldn’t prematurely disturb the struggle, but instead guide through them it.

Without having a familiarity with failure, a crippling sense of fear will surround it. Camp Skillz understands that the experience children have with failure now primes them for future struggles. If their experience with failure is limited or lacking guidance, then it becomes incredibly detrimental. Slowly they will decline opportunities to try new things for fear of failing. This fear of failure will keep them from learning or experiencing anything beyond what their fear will allow. Developing a healthy familiarity with failing begins with sourcing the child’s identity not in what they can accomplish, but who they are in character.

Camper Evan Olascoaga is encouraged to muscle through the obstacles in the mud course in order to develop his sense of grit: having the passion and resolve to complete a goal.

Camper Evan Olascoaga is encouraged to muscle through the obstacles in the mud course in order to develop his sense of grit: having the passion and resolve to complete a goal.

We must encourage kids to be courageous, have grit, develop fortitude, and persevere because if we don’t, fear will tell them to stop trying, they will quit when they shouldn’t have, they will never find the confidence in overcoming, and ultimately they will see themselves as failures. They need to struggle, not because we enjoy struggle, but because it’s within the struggle that strength is gained. Camp Skillz wants to produce indomitable children, children who can take on the world, but we don’t get there without failing over and over... and over... and over again.

After falling and hurting himself on the basketball court, Camper of the Week Jayden Mathews was asked if he wanted to sit out of the activity, he replied with, “no I just need a moment”, then got back up, rejoined the group, and encouraged everyone on his team to hang tough. That is the kind of determination we are after, and it is a privilege to watch it emerge.