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I was going into 3rd grade in 2007, an eight year old in his third year of camp. It was one year before the real Summer Olympics were set to take place in Beijing (remember Michael Phelps?), and Camp decided to try something new; it was an idea that would change the course of week six at Sewataro forever. Many overnight camps have color war, where camps are split into teams, and for a week compete in a series of games and events. Sewataro put its own spin on that idea, by splitting the entire camp into three different teams – and colors – for a week of fun and unique activities that combined camper events, counselor events, banners, songs, cheers, and of course some good old-fashioned Sewie Spirit!

Even from that very first year, a uniquely Sewataro spin was put on the inherently competitive Olympics. In an Olympic event, two groups (“tribes” at that time, but we have come a long way since then,) would compete head to head during a combined activity period. These games could range from Relay Races, to Kickball, to an Archery challenge…you name it, and Sewataro made it a fun and spirited competition. What made Camp’s Olympics different from any other was the point distribution. A group would receive 60 pins for a victory, while the other team would receive 40. BUT, the activity counselor could also give out 100 Spirit points in any way they wanted. Therefore, a winning team with poor sportsmanship could win 60 points for the victory, but only 35 for Spirit, putting them at fewer total points than their opponents. The Sewataro message was simple: If you want to win, you need to be more than just athletic, you also need to be a good role model. Cheering, encouragement, respect for opponents and counselors, and overall class became the gold standard.

In addition to the group games, each team had four captains, made up of counselors from each section, representing waterfront, activity, and group counselors. These captains were in charge of creating team banners, and teaching team cheers and songs to be performed by campers throughout the week and at the end of the day on Friday. The supervisors would then give out 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for each of these submissions, and teams earned points accordingly.

The final piece of the Sewataro Olympics were the morning events featured on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. Wednesday morning kicked off with the annual Over-Under Water Bucket Relay, where counselors used soaking buckets with holes in them to fill a large trash can, in an attempt to be the first to spill a rhino ball out of the top. Campers lined the surrounding areas making it almost impossible to even yell out to other counselors over the raucous cheers. Thursday morning presented camp with the annual 3 vs. 3 vs. 3 Basketball Game. In a game of first to five, when one team scored, their opponents would go off court and be replaced by the third team. These games could go on for 8-20 minutes, and honestly having all of the campers screaming and cheering for their counselors gave the annual game an NBA Finals sort of atmosphere. Finally, Friday morning gave way to the three team Tug Of War, where each team fought against both other teams to knock off a rhino ball on a cone, roughly ten feet behind the anchor of each respective Tug Of War team. And who could forget Friday afternoon’s Olympic Relay Race around the pond! A race featuring counselors from each team, and involving events such as sprinting, sack races, human wheelbarrows, dress up dress down, canoeing, swimming, pool noodle javelin toss, skipping, hippity hopping, and the finale: a basketball shot from fifteen feet away on a small basketball hoop with no backboard.

These events were always a summer highlight for campers and counselors alike; campers got such a kick out of cheering for their team, and especially for their own group counselors. The point values were perfectly weighted so that no team could win simply on the strength of the counselor events. Once again, the message was simple: If you want Olympic gold, campers would need to bring the enthusiasm, cheering, respect, and camaraderie.

The memories the Olympics have brought to this camp over the past fourteen years are countless. From the literally rim-breaking end to the 2012 Basketball game, to Mike “Dad Strength” Kotin’s raw power during the 2016 tug of war, to the father and son duo of Ramille and Isaiah Romulus teaming up on the court, to when Ryan Brockway ended the 2018 relay race in a single shot, Olympics Week has provided countless memorable moments! As for the songs, we’ve heard parodies of the Beatles, the Monkees, 5 Seconds of Summer, Post Malone, One Direction, even Johnny Cash! From my first year, when our Green Machines won to the tune of “Sweet Caroline,” to the original “Yellow Jacket Blues,” composed by former Gizmo master Brandon Heisler, and who could forgot our own Nathan Latta, then an Adventure Challenge counselor, playing guitar and singing, “I just had the Lime of my life,” the teams were rocking the camp! That’s not even mentioning all the colors over the years. Red, White, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Black, Silver, Turquoise, Maroon, Lime, Magenta! And as for the individual camper events, well just as mine still burn bright in my memory all these years later, I’m sure your camper has their own memories, and perhaps is even making more right now while I’m writing this.

This year obviously looks a bit different than the past thirteen Olympics. There are not captains this year; instead, supervisors are team coordinators, working together to rev up the campers in the mornings and afternoons. Group vs. Group competitions have been replaced with individual challenges, where camp families can earn activity points, as well as up to fifty spirit points per event, in order to boost their team. The Orange, Green, and Blue teams will all be making a push this week to go down in the history books as the champions (if anyone other than me cared about such a thing)! The morning counselor events will not be taking place this year, though we have put together a riveting and exciting version of the relay race for Friday, one which will feature each team going separately on a time trial, of course with social distancing measures in place.

When I arrived at Camp this morning, I saw the Laurel group, decked out in their Green apparel. One of the girls had green glitter in her hair, a green hair tie, eye black but in green, (eye green?), green shirt, shorts, socks, and shoes. When I asked her what team she was on, she joked “the best one!” I knew from talking to her that even in a pandemic, and even when the Tokyo Olympics have had to be postponed, the magic of the Sewataro Olympics is here for the summer. And I’m excited for your campers to tell you about the everlasting Olympic memories they are about to make.