News & Stories

Counselor Stories from Loppet Adventure Camp

Hovering around the picnic tables on a Thursday afternoon, the Loppet Adventure Camp counselors were savoring their last few moments and morsels of lunch before resuming afternoon activities. The 30 minute break was a much needed repose for the 12 young counselors who provide the support, coaching and enthusiasm for over 40 campers that bring this camp to life. First year Adventure Camp coach Maiceo Harrell shook his head as he wrapped up his meal. “It’s 100 degrees and they still have all the energy.” He said looking around at the campers. “We’re the ones,” he said motioning towards the staff, “who get tired.”

But who wouldn’t be ready for a nap? After two back to back weeks of Loppet Adventure Camps, 7 hours a day, 6 activities, 40 kids, and thunderstorms, foreboding skies and sweltering 100 degree days to boot, you too would be a bit fatigued. “The goal of the Adventure Camp is to expose kids to as many different activities as possible,” remarked Adventure Camp coach John Swain who reiterated how pleased he was with this year’s staff. “When you work at a coaching camp you need to learn how to manipulate, teach and coach effectively. There is a huge learning curve- but they get better in the end.”

Three months ago Kyle Greene joined the Nordic Ski Foundation as an assistant coach of the Anwatin Mountain Bike Team. “I had never taught kids before.” Now he finds himself the mountain bike guru of Adventure Camp and has been leading brigades of bikers through the woods all summer. “I’ve made jumps and different courses. The kids will try anything.” Greene, an accomplished mountain biker himself will be competing on the mountain bike team at Ripon College this fall. “Working with this age group is a challenge, but it’s worth it. When they are young you have the ability to influence them, to really make a difference in their lives.”

Applications to be counselor at Adventure Camp are accepted at the beginning of the summer. The selected group is rounded up just before Adventure Camp begins to receive training in group management and in how to instruct the various activities. Often to their surprise, the counselors learned they were going to lead activities they themselves had never tried before.

Such was the case with Deja Carter who has been coaching for 3 sessions now. Carter is well rounded athlete competing in basketball, soccer and track and field at Washburn High School. However, when she first realized she would have to instruct roller skiing her eyes bugged out, she had never even been on cross-country skis before. “Roller skiing is kind of awkward,” she laughed. “And I didn’t understand the difference between them and snow skiing.” But you don’t have to be a good skier to be a good coach. Harrell, a football player from Patrick Henry who aspires towards college ball next year observed, “even if we don’t ski, we can still teach them the athletic body positioning. It’s the same in every sport.”

And sometimes just keeping the kids going is the biggest challenge. Garrett Schaffer, a cross-country skier who got 13th place at state, co-counsels with Carter. “Sometimes they don’t want to learn new stuff. But when you teach them the one thing that makes them jump from wobbling to moving, that is what it’s about.”

That seemed to be the resounding sentiment among counselors who listed their favorite moments being the ones where kids went from being frustrated and discouraged to actually performing the activity. It was often as big of an accomplishment for the counselors as it was the participants. Every day after camp, the counselors have the opportunity to debrief, observe what worked and what didn’t, as well as share favorite moments of the day.

With lunch wrapping up and kids beginning to move towards their afternoon activities, the counselors pried themselves from the table. “How’s your energy?” I asked the group. “I fit right in!” exclaimed Alice Flanders whose radiating energy already drew a camper to her side tugging at her shirt to play. “This is the right amount of energy for me,” commented Flanders, and rightfully so. Flanders skis for Michigan Tech which has one of the best collegiate ski teams in the country.

Whether they were drawn to Adventure Camp because they like skiing, they like kids, or they like camp, the unique mix of individuals who make up the Adventure Camp staff have quickly become the roles models of the young athletes in the program. Bridget Adelmann, longtime Loppet intern and St Louis Park skier summed up her experience counseling at Adventure Camp: “Seeing the kids improve, and knowing that my knowledge has helped them along as athletes makes me feel good that they now have those skills as part of their lives.”