Camp Winadu’s 90-year anniversary is just around the corner so they must be doing something right. Their mission is “Building Character Through Sports.” Their claim is, “Sports create the opportunity for children to learn critical life lessons while having tremendous fun.” Number one rule: “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.”
From my experience, too many corporate associates at all levels are afraid to take any risk. Unfortunately, this creates an environment of stagnation instead of innovation. Although leaders talk about how their organization should, “think outside of the box,” it’s not possible when there is fear of retribution.
How did I learn about Camp Winadu’s philosophy?
We are vacationing for a few weeks in the Berkshires, beautiful here. My children stayed with us for the weekend and we visited a sleep away camp so my 8 year-old grandson could participate in a ‘rookie’ day. What is that? An opportunity for a new camper to experience activities, the counselors, dining room – in effect, spend a “pretend” day at camp without parents in anticipation of becoming a full- fledged camper the following summer. Driving up to beautiful Camp Winadu I think we were all a little nervous and uncertain about what to expect.
Whatever butterflies any of us may have had flew away with the first hello. We were greeted so genuinely – the directors and staff were happy we were there and that message was conveyed in their welcome. Each staff member told us their name and asked us ours. The “rookies’ went off with their designated counselors and each family was given a tour. Our guide, an assistant director, was thorough and answered more than our questions. He shared information that he thought would be helpful about what our grandson would be doing and learning at camp everyday.
The staff was so amazing and put us at ease. Eliminating any trepidation, we were able to focus our attention on their important message of “we are passionate about using the power of sports as a teaching tool.” Through their programs, children learn critical life lessons while having tremendous fun. Some of those lessons are:
- Win with humility
- Lose with pride in their efforts
- Be good teammates
- Respect their opponents
- Take care of their bodies
- Value cooperation
- Value consistent sustained effort
Camp Winadu believes, “children learn best in an environment where they are encouraged to try new things and improve their abilities without fear of criticism.” This is how character is built, that distinctive quality in an individual’s life that determines his or her response regardless of circumstances.
Perhaps all corporate leaders should experience summer camp where mistakes are encouraged to build character. They could then create a business culture where employees would be encouraged to experiment. In our competitive and global economy where the bottom line drives decision-making, leaders would be wise to take some risks in order to create inspiration.
I’m going to recommend to the owners of Camp Winadu that they open their facility to CEO’s for a week. I’m sure senior executives would learn the value of taking a risk which would make them better people and leaders too. Character is built one mistake at a time.