The World Games: possibly the biggest, most exhausting event in the camp calendar. It happens the third Monday of first month each year and captains get annouced to the staff the Sunday before, giving each team a week to prepare. Last year I was on team Japan and surprised myself with how into it I got. I always forget how competitive I am until I get back to camp. This year though I was in for a surprise…
Saturday night I was leaving the dining hall with my nice hot cup of tea, minding my own business when all of a sudden I was set upon by Rebecca and Marnie driving a golf cart. Rebecca coordinates the World Games so I knew it probably had something to do with that but I didn’t want to get my hopes up; I’d convinced myself there was no way I’d be chosen as captain. They kidnapped me and drove me down to Outdoor Rec where I was instructed to build a fire in the dark. I built possibly the smallest fire anyone has ever seen while Rebecca played “That’s Amore” which really confused me. My pathetic fire did light eventually which was when Rebecca excitedly informed me I’d have to build a much bigger fire than that if I wanted to win the marathon as captain of Italy. I was over the moon at being told I was captain despite being a little sad I’d moved teams. However, I already had so many ideas about how to get Italy ready to go I soon forgot I’d ever been red. Green Team for life! My next concern was that Sunday night was when HB1 (my cabin of boys) was meant to be going on their overnight, but I had to be at the staff meeting so wasn’t able to sleep over with them. They didn’t seem too cut up about it and when I went back over in the morning it sounded as though it had all been a bit chaotic so maybe I’d had a lucky escape, although probably less sleep. I don’t think I’ve ever been a very good liar so my cover story as to why I wasn’t at the overnight was pretty transparent. Still only a few people noticed I was back and no one knew I had been switched teams so that bit at least was a surprise. To announce the 8 captains to the rest of the staff the lights went out and the recording was played to the dining hall; sadly mine was super quiet so you couldn’t really hear it. Then it was time for the big reveal: onto the benches we jumped and stripped down to our team colours. The adrenaline coursing through me at that point was ridiculous and by the time it came to reading out our team lists I was shaking so much Rebecca had to hold the paper for me. I was partnered with a Erdman who has been at camp pretty much his whole life; always been on Italy and had been dreaming about becoming captain since he was ten years old. No pressure! The combination of my newness and his deep rooted history in the team was the perfect combination and definitely helped with our success on the day.
The World Games always kicks off with a super event and every year that super event is a wall sit. I had totally forgotten about this and could feel myself begin to panic- would my ankle hold? Normally it’s the male or the female captains that have to do it but due to the fact both myself and the captain of India are injured they made all the captains do it. I knew I wouldn’t be the longest but my aim was not to be first and thankfully I wasn’t. I peaced out third once my whole right leg started to cramp and I could no longer feel my toes. Japan won the first super event but as I said to my team afterwards: Italy won it last year and ended up coming 4th overall so it was still all to play for. After a brief team meeting Erdman, myself and Slogan went to plan our theme and start thinking about songs. It was a successful meeting and a necessary one because I feel it put us ahead of the game but it was also the start of my crazy late nights-well more like early mornings. We ended up going to bed a 2am and I was on the wind docks at 7:00 to go over to the Overnight Site to help out with breakfast. For the rest of the week the earliest I went to bed was 1:45 which is why I may have accidentally fallen asleep during a period but only for a couple of minutes!
It’s hard to explain the concept of world games and how important it becomes to the staff in the week leading up to it but I will try. There are 4 teams: Italy, Japan, France and India. France win a lot and Italy have the reputation of being the underdogs but this year we planned on changing that. The whole camp, including staff, is divided into these 4 teams and each team has 4 captains: a male and female staff plus a male and female CIT (2nd year Elders and oldest campers). We got so lucky with our CIT captains. They were absolute stars from beginning to end even if they did stress out a little bit, they were so sweet and pretty much lived in Brandon Hall in the week leading up to the all day. They were also very concerned for my welfare and kept telling me to go to bed early which was adorable. The issue with that was there aren’t really enough hours in the day to go to bed early in the run up to the day so while I appreciated their concern I may not have followed their advice…7 days is all we have to prepare 2 songs; a large mural and smaller banner for the dining hall; further dining hall decorations and then block the entire team of kids from each of the units onto activities in both the morning and the afternoon. Our theme for the dining hall this year was a gelato shop. The whole concept aimed to be clean, clear and cohesive which I think we pulled it off in style. Our secret weapon was supposed to be Tina serving homemade gelato but unfortunately it melted before the judges could taste it but they still seemed pretty impressed. But I’m getting ahead of myself; the countless hours that go into the preparation of the banner and mural alone are ridiculous for something that is up for less than 24 hours. Each team has a certain number of artists (thank goodness) because my limited skills would never have been able to produce anything close to the masterpieces we ended up with. Our large mural was an Italian street scene with the window of a gelato shop. The ice creams in the window were painted different shades of green, white and red so made up the Italian flag and the logo on the top of the shop was picked out in all of our decorations. Our banner was created by an incredibly talented artist on our team who literally gave her everything to the day putting herself in the health centre because she refused to go to bed! The banner was a mix of all things Italian, still keeping with the gelato theme but combing that extra bit of sass team Italy needed to get us ready for the day: We are Prada you are Nada is my new favourite saying.
In addition to the wall hangings we also created menus with ‘Our Story’ on them and special flavours for each of the 4 captains. The table centrepieces were ice cream cone stands with 4 ice creams made from balloons to represent these 4 flavours- they looked so cute! Hanging from the ceiling we had more ice cream cones with Italian flag ice cream made from tissue paper- these I did make as they are within my creative remit. The CIT project was to create our gelato stand where Tina would serve from and they did such a good job. It was made entirely from cardboard, painted green with a cute red and white awning finished with our ice cream logo that tied everything together. The night we set up the dining hall I was slightly concerned that it wouldn’t all come together as there were a couple of components that hadn’t worked out as well as we’d hoped. Thankfully Erdman was there every step of the way and never for once doubted us: this is why we are the dream team.
Our second biggest task that we really wanted to get a head start on was the song. Coming from team Japan who’s song last year was absolutely shocking I knew how important it was to have a tune that everyone knew and something that was easy to sing. It also helped that most people (other than me) writing the song could actually sing so would be able to teach it properly when it came to helping the kids on the day. Each team needs two songs: a short one at lunch and a longer one which is performed in the evening when there is also the dance and the presentation of the plaque and ring. A group of us spent several evenings writing our after dinner song and it showed how much effort was put into it. So many people told us how good it was and our formation with coloured paper to make the Italy flag at the end just added to the overall wow factor. We had originally hoped to do the first song, which was to the theme of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ as a Capella but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time. It still sounded great though and flowed easily into ‘Drops of Jupiter’ finishing off with ‘Castle on a Hill’. This was the hardest one to get but when the time came to perform in front of everyone the kids absolutely nailed it and it sounded amazing!
The lunch time song was probably one of the highlights of my day, partly because of how into it the kids got but also because of the reaction of the other teams. They were not expecting us to get so hype! Slogan wrote the lunch song in about 10 minutes but it was awesome. We started soft and swaying with our rewritten version of ‘Free Fallin’ and then BAM hit them with ‘Humble’. The kids absolutely loved it and really raised their energy for the rest of the afternoon. I truly believe it was part of the reason we did so well in the afternoon…but I’m getting ahead of myself again.
The songs were done, the decorations were under control and the wall hangings were coming along beautifully but the biggest pan in my backside still had yet to be done…blocking. I never knew such an unoffensive word would cause me so much grief but my God it was hard work. The day of the World Games is divided into a morning of different activities followed by an afternoon marathon where the staff run between the activities, only able to leave once the kids have finished that particular event. All of the kids have to be assigned to the specific activities by the team, which is extremely difficult as it’s impossible to know every kid in camp and what their skills are. For the most part we did a pretty good job at picking the right kids for the events they were good at and only made a couple of boo boos; the biggest being assigning a poor kid to the Wake Expo when he’d never been wake boarding before. We also lost our lead in the afternoon because the kids we’d blocked on tennis couldn’t keep a rally going which was unfortunate. However, there were some events like water polo which we thought we’d thrown and ended up winning, Plus we blocked all the brainy kids on the puzzles so flew through those while the other teams struggled. This blocking takes time though and is extremely stressful especially if your system of coloured pens falls apart and you end up accidentally blocking one kid 3 times while forgetting to block another at all and then accidentally block a kid on an activity which they can’t do because they have to be at dance rehearsals. Seriously I had nightmares about it for a good 3 days!
There were a couple of times during the week where I was so tired and so fed up of everyone throwing their opinions around I full on broke down and at one point even had a panic attack. I wanted to do well for the team and the kids so badly but I was also aware I had a job to do plus a lot of the boys from my cabin were leaving so I was trying to spend as much time with them as I could. To have this questioned by other members of staff did hurt, especially to be told I wasn’t ‘decdicated’ enough as a captain as I left for my day off. I literally poured my blood, sweat and tears into that day and if I’d have given it anymore ‘d be in hospital right now. I don’t think I have ever needed a day off more and I came back feeling recharged and ready for the next few days. I wouldn’t say I fully relaxed but it was exactly what we all needed. After another minor breakdown in the car (I managed to hold it off until we’d left camp thank goodness) we headed to Julia’s cottage for a night and day spent on the lake. A tipsy run down her road for the taxi and a good singalong in Pub on the Dock followed by a sleep until 1pm was just what the doctor ordered. We spent the afternoon on the lake where I learnt that I truly am the most un-graceful person when it comes to water activities (see me paddle board) but that my balance is improving. I also learnt that when tubing with Amelia it’s the face that hurts more than the arms because I was laughing so much at her facial expressions I got face ache. The day was too short but we arrived back at camp after the speediest Walmart shop stocked up with provisions for a couple of late nights and a lot more energy and positivity than we had left with. Sunday was the day World Games would be broken to the rest of camp. There had been an annnoucment at dinner on the Saturday that Jenny had moved her wedding so she could get married in front of the camp and we all assumed that was the break. The wedding occurred and, as fake as it was, it was beautiful but there was still no mention of the World Games. By this point all of us captains were on edge wondering if we would every be told what was going to happen. It turned out the break committee had some incredible plans and the wedding was indeed supposed to be the break. Unfortunately, due to the terrible weather and the forecast for the next few days they hadn’t known whether the games were actually going to go ahead so the break we had, while still good, was slightly less spectactular than we’d hoped. Still, bursting through the green covering and screaming I T A L Y to the excited cheers of the whole camp was a definite highlight of my camp life. Standing in front of the kids with my fellow captains and the Italy flag wrapped round me I felt so unbelievably excited yet also nervous: some of these kids had been on Italy for years and the last thing I wanted to do was let them down. I feel like I didn’t perform my best in the second super event but we ended up coming third which for Italy is not that bad. By this point all the kids knew which teams they were in and my 3 girls were already super excited and pumped for the day. The rest of the evening was spent competing in unit events followed by the infamous arm hang in the dining hall which involves a male and female from every unit in each team. My only regret of the games is not volunteering myself to be the female representative for Italy; not that I think I stood a chance against Japan but I still wish I’d given it a shot. The kids’ energy was flagging by the time the last people went and it didn’t help that we’d only won once. Still, I was determined not to let them be downhearted and sent them to bed with the promise that tomorrow it was all to play for. The night was not over for the staff or the CITs, not by a long shot. It was dining hall decoration time and there was a lot to do. I wanted to tables moved so it it looked like were actually in a restaurant; the murals had to be hung; the tables decorated; a ‘gondala’ procured (we used a canoe) and the ice cream cones all needed hanging. We had to make some minor tweaks to our decoration ideas and only a few staff stayed on the bitter end to see it completed but both myself and Erdman were so happy with the final result. Each team pulled out all the stops this year and everyone’s decorations were so different I would have hated to judge it. Obviously I’m biased but I do believe as an overall concept and theme Italy smashed it.
4 hours after I hit the hay I was up, showered, dressed head to toe in green and ready with all the other captains to go and wake up the camp for the day. That’s another fun part of being a captain: you get to run round a unit, banging on the cabins and shouting to wake up all the kids. Team talks were needed outside the dining hall because the energy and the feeling I got off the kids after the night before was low and I was not having that. I told them I didn’t care what had happened in past years, this was 2017, Italy’s come back year and it was ready for the taking. I feel like it did sink in as for the rest of the day we were loud and proud. I feel as though we had a really successful morning and although we did lose a few events there were plenty that we came second in and a few that we absolutely flew through to victory. When standings were annouced after lunch we were sure we had moved up to 3rd but sadly we were still in 4th. The kids were amazing though and did not let this get them down.
The afternoon is the marathon. A relay of events where the staff run and the kids participate in the activities trying to get their team to the fire first. It was an absolute rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. We started strong and on some events totally annihilated the completion. On others we arrived first but struggled so ended up leaving last only to catch up and overtake on the next event. This year our blocking seemed to have worked out fairly well for the majority of events and the kids were blocked on activities they both enjoyed and were good at which makes their day more fun and the team as a whole more successful. I spent the afternoon cycling around like a crazy woman trying to get to as many activities as possible to support as many of the kids as I could. However, as the afternoon wore on my stomach started to tie itself into knots and the old sick feeling of butterflies returned which signalled only one thing: ice and fire was drawing near. Building the fire for Japan last year was horrendous and not a feeling I wanted to repeat. This year not only did I want to do well for Italy but I wanted to redeem myself. Myself, Andy and 2 CITs were ready and waiting for when Italy arrived FIRST at the fire. IT was slightly different this year though as before we could start building our fire we had to melt a t-shirt and put it on. I melted with my body heat and Andy ripped which worked well although I think France just caught us up. They had a slightly longer time penalty than us though so in the end it worked out fairly even once we’d each got a t-shirt on one member of the team. As soon as our three minutes of penalties were up I legged it into the forest but they hadn’t passed the memo onto me about changing (for the third time) which direction we were allowed to run in so my first pile was confiscated. It really didn’t make that much difference though as they boys were great at bringing back loads of stuff and Andy and I built. With all my heart I wanted to burn that rope faster than France but unfotunately it wasn’t meant to be. If we’d have lit our fire perhaps a minute earlier we might have made it but still 2nd place in the marathon for a team who were certain they’d be dead last was amazing. The kids were over the moon and finally, truly started to believe they stood a chance which is all I wanted. Plus I redeemed my reputation as a fire builder thanks to the help of the boys so it was win win all round.
India arrived shortly after we’d burnt through the rope got their fire going in about 30 seconds (they have a killer fire builder on their team). By this point most of the other teams had left by Japan had only just arrived and so a few of us stayed with the team to cheer on their fire builders. It was an amazing moment to see them all pull together and get their fire going even though they didn’t have to. I was so proud of some of my team for staying behind to cheer them on as well, as I felt this showed true sportsmanship which is what the day is supposed to be about.
After the fire it was straight to dinner which I spent with the captains putting forward names of kids and staff who should win MVP for each unit. I think it was testament to the amazing day Italy had that the majority of the kids who were voted for as MVPs were from team Italy. It was also a proud moment being sat outside and listening to our CIT captains get the kids going. They were cheering as loud as all the others now and we’d moved to third going into the evening, which meant they were all very excited and ready to learn the last song. By the time we left the bandstand it was sounding epic and we all had a good feeling that it was going to be a great end to the day. We were wrong. It wasn’t a great end to the day, it was an AMAZING end to the day. The song was incredible; the dance was epic and our plaque and ring were absolutely stunning. I thought I might actually explode with pride at how well everyone had done. Whatever happened now I knew we’d all done the best we could.
We left the theatre in the dark, instructed to arrange ourselves into a specific order on the soccer field in front of 4 structures. My stomach was doing summersaults again and there was a small part of me that thought I might actually throw up. The captains were called forward where we were given a torch to light a rope which would set fire to a beacon if you were the winner. None of them were lighting that well so we still didn’t know who’d won. We rejoined our team and waited anxiously for them to light the correct beacon. Slowly it dawned on us that France had won for a third year in a row; even though the fireworks were red, whit and green so we thought for a second it was us. They did however, annouce that Japan and Italy had tied for second place and I swear I think team Italy were shouting louder than France. I said later on in the night that I don’t think I could have been prouder and someone asked ‘What if you’d won’. In all honesty I don’t think I would have been prouder if we’d won. The goal for the day was to make these kids believe in themselves and stop thinking that just because they were on Italy that automatically meant they’d come last. The fact that kids were still coming up to me 2 days later saying how well we did and expressing their hope that next year we might actually win just shows how much changed in a day. No we may not have won but I’ll take 4th to 2nd any day! The excitement was over, the trophy presented and the adrenaline was slowly wearing off. All that was left for staff was to head back to the dining hall to take down all the decorations that had been so carefully crafted over the past week were torn down and thrown away. The dining hall always looks so sad and empty once all the decorations are down- to be fair most of ours had fallen down/ popped throughout the day but the drain of colour after all that hard work is slightly depressing. What a day it had been though. I was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted; my ankle was in absolute agony and I could barely speak because of all the shouting but I wouldn’t have changed it for a single second. I never thought being made a captain would mean so much but seeing all the kids and how much the day meant to them plus working side by side with Erdman and the CITs was such an amazing experience it will definelty stay with me for a long time. Not for a second did I believe I would become so emotionally infested in what in reality is just a campwide event, but the amount of effort and emotion that everyone contributes makes it so much more than that. I’ve never been prouder of a group of people and I really hope I did tea Italy proud. Now it’s time to catch up on all those lost hours of sleep but I have one final thing to say: I T A L Y Italy is flying high!
TOP TIP FOR THE ALL DAY: Say goodbye to sleep and hello to an emotional rollercoaster of epic proportions.