Archives for June 2014

Game, Set, Out-Matched

Camp is in full swing after its month-long service of activities. With all the returning (and new) activities Falling Creek has to offer, it’s easy to forget the programs we have that remained a standard that other areas have fought to make deuce.

Here at Falling Creek, tennis is one of the longest standing programs, dating back to the start of camp in 1969. Even the tennis staff has boasted long returns, with Mike Nuckles around since 2009, and Andrew Cobb, assistant tennis coach at Reinhardt University, since 2011.

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With daily games, drills, and workouts, the program has taken the sport to the next level. They’ve even included camper solo and doubles tournaments, as well as camper/counselor tournaments that pairs participants with members of the staff. It also boasts a long standing tradition of invitationals with nearby girls camps and viewings of French Open Finals as it happens. But the area has gone beyond the game.

They have made a ‘Tennis Ladder,’ a ranking system for the entirety of camp. In order to move up on the ladder, the boys must challenge each other to matches during free time. They’ve even created variations of the game including ‘Touch the Fence,’ ‘Jail,’ and ‘Puppy Dogs Vs. Velociraptors,’ each with their own set of rules that can be played with a raquet, on a court. But the most important difference is the sense of community the boys have with each other.

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Andrew Cobb says, "We make it our goal to know the boys names within the first few days… I mean, just this weekend, when we needed ball boys for the tennis tournament, we didn’t just go up to random people and say, ‘Hey can you help us? What’s your name?’ We said, ‘Hey Daniel,’ or ‘Hey Martin,’ do you mind participating in the tournament with us?”

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Although the program has had a long history, it’s not resistant to adjustments and tweaks to advance to new levels. The staff recently reworked its core progressions. “We used to have campers who could come in and make warrior in one session,” says Cobb. “So we made it more difficult. We made the target areas smaller and the balls you have to hit increase exponentially as you advance through the ranks.”

They also decided to start this year an advanced tennis camp August 3-9 where they plan on training boys for USTA junior tournaments and people competing at the High School level. At ATC, they will hold a college style tournament for doubles and singles with awards given out to the winners. One of the main goals is to get the boys comfortable in match scenarios when they are down and need to make a comeback without putting too much pressure on themselves. The boys will also be trained on how to string a tennis racquet and other important skills.

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If you would like to get more information on our Advanced Tennis Camp, you can find it here
or contact the Falling Creek Camp program office- (828) 692-0262

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A Bug's Life

Moth

Sometimes when I scramble into my bunk at night, I take notice of a particularly large moth clinging to the screen beside my bed. When I wake up, I find that same insect perched in precisely the same place.

Other times, I find myself in the bathroom and discover a cave cricket has made itself comfortable under the sink. When I return hours later, I find that it has remained in the exact same position in which I had found it earlier. To me these instances beg the question – what do these creatures accomplish by sitting in one place for hours on end?

More often than not, the culture we are a part of attempts to establish the need for us to fill the time in our lives with things. These things take the form of work, education, sports, family, friends, and artistic endeavors – among countless other activities. While none of these are inherently bad, they cause us to feel as though we have a constant need to be busy. We question what we are doing if it is not immediately accomplishing something.

I know myself to be guilty of this. I always want to know the purpose of the actions I perform. I want to know that the words I say make an impact, and that others understand and apply the lessons I teach them. I workout and expect to see more toned muscle and decreased weight. I take a guitar lesson with the intent to play music in the end. I talk to my family to let them know that I love them, and to receive assurance that they, too, love me. I spend time with my friends to make memories that bolster and solidify lasting relationships. I expect results in all aspects of my life.

But seeing a moth or a cricket simply be in one position turns my head and captures my attention. I have no theories as to what their purpose is while they hold their pose for the unforeseeable future. Upon thinking about it, I conclude that they are being. They are existing one moment at a time. Perhaps these creatures that most of us have the impulse to crush or shoo away can teach us a lesson in how to form a mindset toward life that does not clamor for goal-oriented, result-producing, schedule-filling things.

One of the best things about Falling Creek Camp is the two times during the day where the boys are given freedom to choose whatever they want to do for that block of time. Above all else, my favorite thing to see the campers doing with this time is wandering around in the woods, getting dirty and exploring the natural world around them. When I catch glimpses of these trailblazers making their way around the mud and through the trees, I feel grateful to be a witness to such small acts of wonder. And though I feel a slight pang of jealousy that I no longer see the world in the way these young men see it, I remind myself that I need to think like the moth or the cricket who, like the boys, take life one moment at a time.

-Mary Pochatko

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An Ultimate Sport

I have a riddle for you: what sport is played over a 70-yard field, consists of 7 players on each team, and has similar rules to football? If you can’t answer, then you have never heard of Ultimate. It is a game that has been played for the past 40 years, but has just recently picked up in popularity.

With a new turf field to play on, and an arsenal of new discs (not Frisbees), Ultimate has become a key sport to the camp activity board. This year for June camp, in fact, every activity period has had full numbers (a max of 20).

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If you have played Ultimate before and think the game just involves the concept of, “Don’t run with the disc,” and, “Only pass to someone if they’re open,” then you don’t know the sport as it is known here at camp.

Neil Newsome, a member of a Kansas University amateur Ultimate team, and a returning member of this year’s Ultimate staff, has continued to build a whole new level to the game here at FCC. He is teaching techniques like “horizontal stacking,” where positions are organized with the 7 players as 4 cutters and 3 handlers. Working to receive short passes from the handlers who remain on the other end of the field, the cutters can make for quick goals. The use of drills, positions, strategies, and what is known as “marking a man” are making, what was a couple years ago a competition in making long passes, a synchronized game as complex as soccer or football.

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The sport is by no means unique to camp. It is a regular group activity at virtually every college campus. It even receives its own highlights on Sportscenter. As of last year, America has formed two new professional Ultimate leagues. And according to Newsome, the sport has plenty of room to grow.

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“The sport is so new, that no one has an advantage. Everyone is still learning.” He claims it has been around since he was a camper at Falling Creek 7 years ago, but not like how it’s played now. Last year was the first year Newsome taught Ultimate. Knowing the sport’s origins at camp, Neil has made the necessary changes to create the blossoming program here today.

Under the direction of this year’s staff, the teams have not had any difficulties with experience differences. “We have been surprised by the Cherokees [the younger tribe in camp]. We’ve never had to separate the older boys from the younger boys.”

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This year, with the new degree of friendly competitiveness brought to the table, the game is heightened to a new level. Ultimate has received such great feedback and interest that there is no doubt that it will remain as a regular activity scheduled here at Falling Creek for years to come.

- John Granatino

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Journey Down the French Broad

Although we typically do articles on this blog, this weekend I sat down with three boys who had just returned from a two day paddling trip down the French Broad River. Based on their account and my cross references with the counselor, I decided their tale would make a better short story than an article. The following narrative is based off that interview with Keaton, Nick , and Michael…

French Broad Open Canoe June 2014

Today the van buzzed with excitement. My friends and I had just finished two paddling trips earlier in the week, earning our Yaklet, the camp’s certification that we could paddle a kayak. We were ready for the next challenge. Today we were going down the French Broad River, the widest river in West North Carolina. Its turbulent waters are labeled as a “class 3,” making it more difficult than any we had done before. We agreed it would be worth enduring a two hour trip to the put-in.

I looked over at my friends Nick, and Michael, two brothers who had gone through the program with me. We knew we were more experienced than the other boys. Nick looked antsy, like he was ready to get out on the river. Michael was making some adjustments on his life vest. For some reason the counselor driving the van blasted a local Latino-music station at maximum volume. And despite not understanding any of the lyrics, it still pumped everyone up.

We arrived at the launch area to what our counselor Jez described as a normal day. “There’s nothing abnormal about the river today,” he said. “The weather’s beautiful, and we shouldn’t be encountering any abnormal water levels.”

“But that’s not to say we won’t have a challenge,” he said with a foreboding smile. After spending some time on the shore, going over basic signals and instructions, and scarfing down a lunch of tortillas, peanut butter, and honey, he commanded us to move into the water.

I could see the look of fear on the younger campers faces as they slid their own canoes into the water. I followed their gaze downstream as I saw the current splashing against the large rocks scattered across the river like an obstacle course of terrain.

The lukewarm water shocked my system as it seeped into my wet shoes. The brown water made it impossible to guess what I was stepping in. But I decided it didn’t make a difference as I swung myself aboard. Michael climbed into the boat behind me. And Nick climbed into his own canoe down the shore. Before I had a chance to nod at him, I could feel my own boat take off like a bucking bronco. I hadn’t even had a chance to stick my paddle in the water before I could feel the boat drifting out of line with the others.

“Stay in line!” shouted Jez. At first I thought he was shouting at me, but I looked around and to my relief saw the mob of other paddlers twirling around like the teacup ride at Disney.

The river carried our boats along despite the awkward angle it drifted at. We looked at the bank wishing we could see the rapid train carrying us along. It didn’t take long before we seized control of the boat as we stabbed our paddles deep into the water.

We pulled off into an “eddy,” or a pocket of calm water beside the river, to listen to more direction from Jez. “You need to stay in line. It’s going to get rough up ahead.”

We nodded; wondering if that was humanly possible, before launching ourselves back into the rough water.

The French Broad’s beauty captivated us for a short time. The narrow channels that emptied into it like a network and boulders jutting out from every direction reminded me of a painting that would go up in a natural art gallery.

The scenery disappeared almost immediately once I heard the yells of the first boat behind us flipping over. Turning around, I saw a group of younger campers swimming to shore, with one of the counselors helping to tow their canoe off to the bank. I steered my paddle out to stop from running into them. Right as I did so, my paddle slid out of my hand and into the gurgling water.

We looked around to see the other canoes around us capsizing like they were built to roll down a river upside down. Our paddle, with a new destination in mind than anywhere with us, swam away, leaving us only with our hands. Based on how our boat pivoted in the water, I could see we were temporarily stuck in a whirlpool.

“I think we’re going to flip,” yelled Michael from the back of the canoe. His doubt lit a fire in me, making me paddle through the current with the speed of a wild otter.

Our boat tipped left and right and I could feel the water giving out from under me like we were floating through the air. I closed my eyes.

I opened them to see us floating on the other side of the whirlpool. Michael had a grip on a near-by branch the size of a thread of twine, tethering us to the delicate handles on the bank. Nick came up behind us, looking dry.

“Made it,” he said as if it were nothing between harsh gasps of air.

I saw our paddle that we had lost drift back to us. I made a reach to grab it, feeling the canoe turning on its side 70 to 80 degrees. I grabbed the tip of the handle, like a leaf-stem in a windstorm. I pulled it aboard and used it to push off from the bank. A pool of water that had collected in the bottom of the boat sloshed as we started moving again.

I looked behind me to see the other campers finding their way back into their boats. I felt like the rough waters of the French Broad had tested us. But the looks of fear and nervousness had vanished on everyone’s faces. We leaned back in our crafts bobbing in the still waters of the eddy, glancing down the river, hoping to see a waterfall.

- John Granatino

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Whitewater Paddling At The Creek

Open Canoe in Nanty Falls

G’day from the fantastic mountains in North Carolina. My name is Jez and I have been a part of the Paddling Program for many years and often am referred to as the Director of Vibe, I try to bring just a little bit of vibe to camp everyday. Let’s face it, everyone needs a pinch of vibe.

I wanted to take this opportunity to bring you into our program and let you know what we have been up to. Already we are taking trips all over, the adventure program here at camp is second to none. Climbing on world class routes, camping in Pisgah wilderness, mountain biking on some of the trails that are constantly rated high in outdoor magazines, and the paddling here is some of the most amazing whitewater you can find anywhere.

This past week kids have dove head first into the program and kids are on the water working on their skills. Continually we have three to four different paddling trips per day which makes this one of the biggest programs in the Southeast.

Let me take you through our program. Kids start on the lake practicing their skills and learning the paddling strokes in an open boat before attempting the Buoy course which they need to complete in under 2 minutes. We are proud to have both an open boat and closed boat program here at Falling Creek, keeping a great mix of tradition and new school ways together while also learning to work together with a partner on the water. After completion of this they then can move onto the Tuck/Nanty river trip which is a two day trip on the Tuckaseegee river and Nantahala river, progressively moving up in the difficulty through to class 2-3 whitewater. If they successfully complete these rivers and catch the well-known “Truck Stop” eddy just above the mighty Nantahala Falls then campers can move into a Kayak and they gain their ‘Yaklet’ a wristband that signifies they have moved up to a whitewater kayak level. Here they start the progression again but this time in a closed boat and work on their roll to finally move towards some bigger and spectacular whitewater such as the Pigeon and Ocoee Rivers.

Open Canoe

This area is just amazing, I travel from Australia every year to teach, instruct and paddle on these rivers as the features and waterfalls are so spectacular. The recent World Championships of Freestyle Kayaking was held on the Nantahala river just last year and we are so fortunate to be able to paddle this and other close rivers daily. Paddling is one of our premier programs here at camp as kids who have learned how to kayak at Falling Creek have gone on to represent the USA in the Freestyle Kayaking World Cup. We also take a trip every year to far and away places with our HUCK program for our most advanced paddling campers which I will talk more in-depth about later in the summer, however to give you an insight on this year’s trip we are flying in to the Canadian Wilderness close to the arctic circle on float planes with kayaks strapped to the side, landing on a lake and paddling out of the gorge for a week on the mighty Magpie River. This is a true wilderness expedition that has taken quite a bit of preparation to make this trip possible.

Let me talk you through a couple of campers who have just focused so well at paddling this summer and I wanted to acknowledge while I have the time. Three of our advanced kids (Holden, Graham and Billy) have been practicing their rolls daily and working towards getting on our bigger more advanced trips. I am not sure if they have spent a normal activity day at camp yet, so many trips to choose from. Eddie was the first to go through the entire canoe program, get in a kayak and learn to roll which is very exciting. Wills, Ward and Mac also are not far behind completing the progression, a big congratulations to them all.
Some of these boys are just so small and seeing them on the water bounce down and nail their paddling lines is great to watch.
Personally seeing these kids achieve their personal goals and gaining their Yacklet is just so rewarding, a smiling face and hearing the cheers by everyone watching just adds to their success story.

With three trips full of kids going out every day there are just way to many stories to tell here, I wish I had the time to mention them all, so many great stories of achievement and success that I know every parent would love to hear. I hope you are enjoying your day today, I guarantee you that the campers on the trips today will be soaking on the warm waters and the wild rapids. I know that I will also be soaking in the day and enjoying every moment helping these kids gain a skill that has changed my life and hopefully paddling will be such a positive influence on these kids and change their lives also.

See you on the river,

Jez

Director of Vibe
Head of Whitewater Paddling at FCC

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