Lucas Pavia '21
Suffering. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I look back on my three visits to Camp Tall Timbers with the St. Albans Football Team. Uneven playing fields—which just happen to be covered in deer poop—no air conditioning, two-inch-thick mattresses, camp isn’t exactly a five-star summer getaway. Nor should it be. While it’s true that suffering is the first word that comes to mind when I think about Tall Timbers, that doesn’t mean it’s the defining word. So, what is?
Unity. Discipline. Competition. Perseverance. The list goes on. Nothing unites a team quite like learning how to tackle discomfort, pun intended. Discipline and competition together make up the solution to suffering or discomfort. The more disciplined we are throughout practice—going hard on every rep, shutting up while the coaches are talking, holding each other accountable—the more we get out of it, and the easier it is to get through. Competition introduces some fun. It also brings out our best. Up on the whiteboard in the St. Albans weight room is a quotation that perhaps describes the importance of competition most succinctly: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Not to mention, properly monitored competition teaches sportsmanship by emphasizing respect for your opposition. That leaves perseverance. Perhaps more than anything, camp teaches the team how to persevere through adversity.
In my opinion, sports are essential to the development of high school students, and participation in them should be required. I use the example of Camp Tall Timbers because to me, it represents everything that’s valuable about athletics. Of course, that’s not to say that football is the best sport or that everyone should sign up for it. Any form of team sport will instill the principles I listed above.
At this point, it’s common knowledge that regular exercise (aside from being generally healthy) relieves stress and promotes deeper sleep. Good luck convincing me that anyone on the Close couldn’t use some help in those departments. In addition to the principles of discipline, perseverance, and competitiveness, a team sport teaches you how to work with others and removes your focus on yourself—even if only for a little while.
I don’t mean to assert that sports are perfect or always a positive experience. I myself have had negative ordeals with sports or coaches, but I don’t regret those times in the slightest. Injuries, while frustrating, provide another opportunity to triumph over an adversity and come back to the team better than you left it. Conflicts with coaches have taught me to advocate for myself. I’m also not implying that athletics are the only extracurricular activities that teach these important life skills. The value of the arts is not to be questioned either. At schools like STA and NCS, we should strive to be well-rounded individuals who appreciate the benefits of both arts and athletics (and of course, academics).
Bottom line: I love sports. I’m biased, and I’ll be the first to admit it. But everyone should occasionally engage in activities that they’re not super enthusiastic about. How are we meant to improve ourselves if we always remain in our comfort zone? There are plenty of options in terms of teams to join, and in a worst-case scenario where you just absolutely despise everything available to you, you can do intramurals, which is still better than nothing.
To return to Tall Timbers for a moment, I often find myself reflecting on those three trips as formative high school experiences. One night on my third time at camp sticks out. The boys gathered, without coaches, and simply talked about the upcoming season. We set goals. We talked about past failures. We came together, as a team. That hour is one of the most motivational, goosebump-inducing, perfect memories that I have. Tall Timbers seems like hell on earth while you’re there—the muddy practices, the tired mornings, the sweaty nights. But whenever I think about my three trips there, I’m left with one thought: I wish I could’ve had a fourth.