Wednesday, September 11, 2013

After the Final Whistle

As was the case as an undergraduate when given a chance to compete for UC Davis women’s soccer, Aggie alumna Stephanie Winkenweder continues to maximize every opportunity earned. Recently, the former defender returned from her overseas internship with Sports Camp of America (SCOA), Japan.

By providing Japanese children an opportunity to immerse themselves in an American camp experience, the only camp of its kind in the country, SCOA provides a unique cultural experience for both campers, and counselors each year.

Directed in English, the core principle of “teamwork” was integrated in all organized activities throughout the four camping sessions that ranged from two to three days.

At the start of each session, each counselor was assigned four or five campers; the group was then responsible to create a team name, chant, and banner. Throughout each camp, there were various competitions in which each team had a chance to win points with a champion crowned at the end of each session. In addition to head-to-head competitions between groups that included a water balloon toss, potato sack race, treasure hunt, limbo, cup stacking, soccer shootout, football and Frisbee throw, each team was required to create a skit in English for a camp-wide talent show.

In an effort to encourage all campers to participate in show, everyone was required to speak at least one phrase during their group’s performance.

“As head counselor, it was my duty to make announcements, organize and help create teams, direct games and activities, instruct soccer, maintain awareness of the needs of campers and counselors, communicate logistics to other counselors, manage the daily schedule, organize and prepare for activities, make sure everything is running on time, announce awards at the end of camp, and, most importantly, make sure all of the campers are safe and having a good time,” explained Winkenweder.

In addition to numerous group competitions, traditional camp activities also took place throughout each session. Campers and counselors spent time with one another playing card games, board games, working on various projects during blocks of time devoted to arts and crafts and participated in aquatic activities.

Everyone also enjoyed an American barbecue, sang songs around a campfire and partook in an important, and time-honored tradition — making and (more importantly) eating s’mores.

Said Winkenweder, “There was no dull moment in this camp, and it was not impossible to communicate with someone who didn’t speak English. It took time, heart, and patience; whenever I felt like I communicated effectively with the kids, I was filled with joy.”

Comprised of college students and recent graduates, senior camp counselors who played sports, or participated in cheerleading at the high school or college level were encouraged to visit and apply for a summer internship.

In addition to Winkenweder, students and alums from UC Berkeley, Louisiana State University and Chico State were also invited to participate in this year’s slate of camps.

“Not only were many of the Japanese kids inspired to learn about our culture and language, I was equally inspired to learn theirs,” said Winkenweder.

The Japan Flag Football Organization, Japan Cheerdance Association, the U.S. Embassy in Japan and All Nippon Airlines supported SCOA and in its eighth-annual endeavor this year. 

-Eric Bankston, assistant athletics communications director, wishes an opportunity like this existed when he was an undergraduate student in the late 90's and will encourage his one-year-old son to participate in programs like this one when he attends college. Since experience in college sports is required for the SCOA position, Eric's fingers are crossed that his son inherited his wife's athletic prowess and not his own.