Camp Teaches Kids How to Lose Gracefully

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by Sarah Lauing, Associate Director

Last night at the Oscars, “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz was faced with the reality that he had lost the Best Picture nomination, despite the announcement that he had won.  Under these challenging circumstances, Horowitz showed tremendous grace, saying, “I’m going to be very proud to hand this to my friends from ‘Moonlight.’ ”

It’s been a year of surprise losses.  From the presidential election to the Super Bowl, it is clear that in real life it is not possible for everyone to win. In a culture that gives away trophies for participation and tells our children that they can achieve anything if they try hard enough, it is an important reminder that this is not always true.

At camp, all our campers want to be winners. A favorite Maccabiah cheer repeats “I believe that we will win!” over and over and over. It is also often said that “Everyone’s a winner at Crane Lake Camp.”  But that statement is just not true.  In reality, camp challenges this culture of everyone winning by teaching campers to lose and to lose gracefully.  We don’t always win our home tournaments. Not every unit can win Fight Song, nor can both teams win Color War.  The very fact that score is kept and that there is a true winner is core to what we do at camp. Teaching campers to manage their disappointment is essential to creating resilient, confident children who can come home at the end of the summer stronger and more able to face life’s challenges.

Of course there will be disappointment. The tears and sad faces of those who don’t win Fight Song is heartbreaking every year. But our counselors and unit heads comfort the campers, reminding them to be proud of their hard work rather than frustrated at the outcome. They validate their feelings of disappointment and show them how to bounce back.

On the very last night of Color War, after the winners are announced and have been given the chance to celebrate, our Olim captains symbolically remove their blue and white clothing to express their unity as a unit. Tears of loss and disappointment become tears of joy at being together and of sadness that the summer is coming to a close. Just as Horowitz called the “Moonlight” producers his friends, our campers learn to band together and realize that the community is more important than the team.

Another Color War cheer asserts, “G-double O-D-J-O-B Good job! Good job!” and celebrates the other team’s work, no matter what the outcome. While campers do not always win Maccabiah, we are proud of the victory of creating resilient, gracious young mensches who know how to lose.