Reflections On Training Camp

Long-time Ultimate player and UP coach Jim Levine talks about his post-training camp experience.

Following a recuperative post-camp day of rafting with other coaches, Elijah and I boarded a 7:15 train from Akko to Tel Aviv. As is now our Israel train custom we took out a deck of cards and started with a few hands of blackjack before moving on to gin rummy. Unfortunately the gin rummy game was periodically interrupted when I fell asleep while holding a hand of cards. Each time I was probably out for only a few seconds, and awoke to Elijah laughing at me. When the delays became too much I finally gave into a longer, well deserved nap. Upon awakening I realized that I had “left it all on the field” at camp – a feeling that allowed pride to seep into my prevailing feeling of fatigue.

The Hostages, 1983
Jim Levine’s team, the Hostages, in 1983

Back in my playing days, the Hostages were a team that generally went to tournaments with fewer players than the competition. With 12-16 players each one of us was on the field about half the points, much more than the competition, which generally had 18-25 players. Of course playing the game was our reason for being, so the more playing time was a positive. But at the end of tournaments we always knew that we had given everything we had for the game, and more importantly, for each other.

The post-tournament fatigue was mostly just physical exhaustion. Post-camp fatigue is deeper – it is physical exhaustion combined with mental exhaustion. The physical part is the lesser part and is easy to explain. Lack of sleep + heat + activity = physical exhaustion. My normal routine of air conditioned office work and 7-8 hours a day of sleep is replaced with un-air conditioned physical activity and definitely less than 7-8 hours of sleep each day. 7 was probably the high point, with the low point being about 5. After a week it catches up with you.

The mental part is deeper. Once you hit the Moadon at 7:30 each day you’re “on”. And once the campers awake and you’re at breakfast you’re really on. Planning practices and running practices, planning activities and running activities, communicating in at least two languages, concentrating on your campers and what they need, remembering names (and often not remembering names), hearing instructions, giving instructions – the list is endless. And constant. And doesn’t end until about 11:30 at night, when if you are lucky you can catch about half an hour to go on the internet and keep tabs on your day job. And then do it all again the next day.

So how does this feel? In a word – great! Because through all of the physical and mental exertion you are part of a team that is going through exactly what you are and is committed to the same goals. It’s a wave of support and camaraderie that propels action. Once you get on in the morning you keep being on until your head hits the pillow. The wave makes sure of that. And if that wave is not enough each high five or reciprocated hug with a camper is an added adrenaline booster.

So I left it all on the fields of Manof. No better place to have done so.

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