Camp perfect for this summer

Summer is finally here, and for many young people that means going to camp.

That four-letter word means different things to different people: sports camp, day camp, band camp, church camp, scout camp, hunting camp, or state park camp(site.)

Whatever the type, these experiences should be memorable and can be transformational.

Gone are the days when entire families pack up and head to the Catskills for the summer, as portrayed in the classic film, Dirty Dancing, featuring long afternoons of badminton and ballroom dance lessons.

Young people today move at a pace faster than Patrick Swayze’s cha-cha. It’s often hard to find the time to explore new things, or to slow down long enough to enjoy the sweetness of summer.

Today’s camp experiences are more likely to consist of week-long adventures, perhaps to a local college for some specialized athletic training with NCAA players and coaches.

These experiences allow athletes to compete with and against new peers, and be exposed to coaching methods that are likely different from their youth or high school programs; they also give students a chance to elevate their skill level while concentrating on their sport, away from the demands of the classroom and the distractions and drama of teen life.

Team camps, even those held within their own school programs, give student-athletes shared experiences with classmates and friends. Those common memories hopefully bring a team closer together, improving chemistry while also developing skills of individual athletes.

If they stay overnight, they can also experience college dorms, getting a taste of campus life, independence, and other aspects of higher education: a look at their potential future.

Traditional summer camps also expand the horizons of young people. Outdoor recreation like swimming, hiking, biking and kayaking, as well as adventure activities like zip lines and high ropes courses are not only healthy and fun, they are new experiences for some.

Forcing youth (and adults for that matter) to think and act outside of their comfort zone allows for even greater opportunities to grow, especially in an unplugged environment. Experiencing the world in a way that does not include posting every action and reaction to social media can be liberating.

Exploring the outdoors and learning about the world around them gives kids an appreciation for their environment and their place in it. Every day schedules build in lots of exercise, especially as campers temporarily trade in televisions for starry skies and video games for campfires. And they’re often tasked with individual chores to benefit the larger group: another way to build experience within a team, even if no sports are involved.

No matter what kind of summer experience is in store, “camp” fosters exploration of ourselves and our relationships with others; and camp provides unique experiences, fresh perspectives and cherished memories.

Goodman Shaffer can be reached at