This year's theme is Go and Do and as we are gearing up for the summer, we can't wait til then to share this story with you. If you haven't seen the Go and Do Theme Launch video, watch it now. We asked staff members to share someone in their life that inspires them to be the best version of themselves and their answers ranged from their parents to their coach to their high school janitor. The main goal of this video was to show everyone that you don't have to be famous or rich or perfect, you can be you and share the love through your actions and words. Grace is a camper with an inspirational story and because she is so modest about her actions and words, when we caught wind of what she's been up to, we knew we had to share with you.
Year round staff member, Erica, a native California, went home over winter holidays to visit her family and the Hotalings (In case you missed it, we interviewed Kenny and Kelly Hotaling back in February). While at the Hotalings, she had the opportunity to watch their two older daughters play in a high school soccer match and was surprised to learn that Grace was not playing soccer that season. When she asked why Grace wasn't playing, she discovered what Grace was doing instead. Here's how Grace tells it.
"In August of 2015, my sister's seventh grade school basketball team was in need of a coach. My father gave me the idea of becoming the coach for the team. After long conversations with both of my parents, I decided to apply for the position at the end of the month. About two and a half months later, I was called into the school principle's office to discuss my application. Since I am a minor they couldn't hire me due to liabilities. However, they allowed me to partner up with another coach in order to work with primarily the seventh grade team. I had to make the decision of coaching or playing soccer. In the end, I chose what I loved to do. Coaching has been one of the greatest experiences of my life."
If you didn't catch it through all of Grace's humble words, she volunteered to coach her younger sister's basketball team so that they could play. Grace is a junior in high school; she has all the typical time demands you would expect for a junior in high school and she added coaching to her plate. In addition to growing her coaching experience, she also learned time management, as she had to keep everything balanced.
The hardest part of coaching was "the parents and managing my time efficiently during the school week. When I was not doing homework, most of my free time was spent planning practices, sending weekly schedules to parents, contacting the athletic director, researching new game plays, or meeting with the captains to reflect on the previous week of basketball." She dove right in and took her coaching position seriously and commanded herself in a professional manner by keeping communication lines open with all involved with the team.
Throughout the season there were highlights that included obtaining second place in their first tournament of the season and later in the season, playing the same team three times, with three over times, and taking first in their home tournament. The overall highlight for Grace as the coach was getting to "see my kids grow as basketball players and develop a true passion for the sport."
The season was not without some adversity for Grace as a coach. There were parents who voiced concerns over her age and inexperience as a coach to the athletic director who shared these with Grace and helped her overcome them. She certainly ended the season with a record to prove their concerns wrong with 19 wins and only 4 losses.
Grace stepped up and took the initiative when her younger sister and schoolmates needed help and despite the challenges of being only a junior in high school, she didn't let that stop her from doing a bang up job, taking responsibility for the team and players, and coaching them to the very best of her abilities. Here's what she learned and hopes for the future.
"I have learned that there are always going to be people who will try take you down but you must develop a tough skin and continue to persevere through. I have also learned that each kid is special in their own way and contributes to the team differently. It was a pleasure getting to form a different relationship with each of my 16 kids through the season. If I have the opportunity to coach my group of kids again in the upcoming year, the probability of me taking the position is high. I hope to continue coaching throughout my life because it is an unforgettable experience."
We hope you found this story as encouraging and inspiring as we did. Go and Do like Grace, who sacrificed her soccer season to coach basketball for her younger sister. Go and Do like Grace, who put others before herself. Go and Do like Grace, who overcame challenges with a positive attitude.
Grace is a Cali Kid. She was one of the first campers to come to Camp Henry from the Golden State 5 years ago at the request of the Hotaling kids.
Grace loves so much about Camp Henry and over the last 5 summers she has accumulated many camp favorites. PJ Sing, grilled cheese and grape jelly sandwiches, the Dining Hall, being rooted, and sacred ceremony, just to name a few. She enjoys being an ambassador for Camp Henry in her home state and loves being apart of the Cali Kids crew. She says, "it's interesting to see the Camp side versus the California/school side of each California kid. Generally at Camp, everyone is more enthusiastic, energetic, and friendly to everyone they encounter. I see a majority of the California Kids at the high school and a few of the younger kids everyday during practice, since I coach them in basketball."
Grace has a plethora of talents and interests including cooking, baking, playing musical instruments, crafting, running, swimming, hiking, and photography. She hopes to someday join the Camp Henry staff as a counselor and maybe even lend her fantastic photography skills full time as Camp photography/videography person during the summer! Her greatest hope for Camp Henry is for it to expand so that more kids can experience this freeing and impactful place.
If you know of someone who is connected to camp, be it camper, staffer, alum, who has a story you find inspirational that makes you want to Go and Do just like them, send us an email! We'd love to hear it!