During 2012, in the summer season, I went to a golf club, on Sunday, as a returner. There was a sense of knowledge, of comfort, and of pride coursed through my veins that morning, as I unpacked my belongings in the spacious and upstairs Cabin 12 at the top of Thunderbird Lodge. Just when I bent down to greet other players, it was easy to see their energy and excitement for all that was to come. My emotions were palpable. But I was back for another summer and ready to try new things and discover new sports.
One of my first memories was when a friend of mine invited me to play a round of disc golf with him. I had recently begun playing on a regular basis with my friends back at States, and I did find a new favorite hobby. When my friend gave me a chance, I jumped for it. I don’t remember much, but I am sure it was a lot like the game of disc golf which includes a whole lot of fun. I remember that summer specifically. That was the summer when I fell in love with the game of disc golf.
As the summers of 2013 and 2014 arrived, I had already honed my skills like the most of our campers do, just by playing every chance I had. I took the Disc Sports skill, used to play it during Free Swim, or when I woke up at the crack of dawn. Over and over I played in the front 9 of the Disc Golf Course.
I learned the twists, the turns, the penalties, and intricacies. While playing this course, I also learned the techniques, which the majority of our campers have learned, known as the flick.
“Flicking” is opposite of a “backhand” throw. A lot of campers learn to flick before backhanding because it enables us to launch the disc farther. What the backhand gives you for accuracy, a flick gives you for distance. Over time, players typically hone one of the two skills but not both. Players decide what they are best and most comfortable with, and I found my strengths lied in a super strong flick.
Now it was in the summer of 2015 when I decided to put my talents to the test. Every session during the summer, the club used to host a competition called the Disc Golf Open Challenge for our campers and staff. The winners receive a coveted prize: free discs from the camp store and the glory of staking a claim as the best disc golfers in that session. I had become good at disc golf. My practice, persistence & patience all paid off that summer as I stood before all of my fellow campers as the champion of the 2015 Classic Disc Golf Open Challenge. A new disc in hand & then I set my eyes on a new prize when it got repeated in the summer champion of 2016.
As I reached the summer of 2016, I was honing more than my disc golf throw. I was also perfecting the game of baseball. That spring saw me finding a lot of success on the diamond, as well as a lot of playing time. As the season wore on, so did the wear and tear of the game on my young bones. In May, unfortunately, I faced an injury that threw a curveball into a lot of my decided plans, and I would have to have surgery to repair damage to my dominant arm’s elbow. At the young age of 18, I had to face the fact that my summer plans would have to change. There would be no more baseball, no repeat disc golf championship. There may be no disc golf at all.
With a week and a half before camp, I had a final pre-camp check of his arm. The doctors told me to be cautious. I was able to play games, but repetitive motions of a certain type could re-injure my arm. One of those motions was the exact way that I threw my disc by flicking. Not one to be kept away from things that I loved, I asked about another motion, what about the backhand. The doctors gave me the go-ahead news, and with that news, I was given a new lease on my summer life. That was not my preferred option, but it was an option. With a week and a half of pre-camp life, I practiced a new throw with determination and with grit.
As I came back to the camp property for my sixth summer, I did so with the same mission as I had set out for one year ago: to repeat as the champion of the Disc Golf Open Challenge. As I walked into the doors of Eden Hall on that opening day, I had barely gotten the words of “Welcome to the wonderful camp!” out of my mouth before I asked to qualify for the Open. I’ve had a lot of campers ask me to qualify before, but I had my father with me that day, and it was his first opening day invitation. Of course, he accepted.
Whether or not I excelled at my new throw, whether or not I finished first or last, my determination to overcome adversity is something worthy of praise!
A struggle is part of growth. Adversity is unavoidable and an integral part of our story. We hope that when a camper’s come face-to-face with elements that push them out of their comfort zones, accompanied by a supporting staff through which, they will become better equipped for the challenges to come. We hope that they will find or develop skills they did not previously know, exist within them. I found a challenge and fought it.
I found struggle and I pushed it back. I experienced brokenness and allowed it to bind me stronger than before. That day, I carried my team. Throw after throw, basket after basket; I played like a man on fire. I played with heart, and I played with courage. In the dining hall that night, I stood before all of camp with a new disc in hand. My smile was a little wider that night, my chin a little higher. On my face, there was the look of accomplishment far greater than becoming a repeat winner of the Disc Golf Open Challenge. I carried with me the knowledge that I could have backed down, and I could have given up. I could have, but I was determined.
As me and my team got qualified for my fourth straight Disc Golf Open Challenge today, as I birdied basket after basket, I was taken aback by the stories we get to be a part of at camp. Stories of adversity. Stories of growth. Stories of failure and success. Five years ago, I played my first disc golf hole together. My father was happier than ever.
The course though still remained unchanged, and the rules remain the same too. It was the players; however, those have been changed forever and for better!