When I first agreed to be the game master for the 2015 IES teens camp, I had no idea what I was getting myself into…I just knew that they needed help, and that it would probably be fun.
As I was meeting with Isabel Kenney, the teen coordinator of the camp, she shared with me her motto for games, “team work makes the dream work.” It sounded super catchy, so I decided that that phrase would be our motto for the camp games. I wanted all the games at camp to build the teens together as a team—that they would be more unified and cohesive afterwards.
Through much planning and writing a slightly over the top 26 page game guide, the camp games were ready to go!
The first activity we had the teens do was “tribe time.” We broke them into their tribes (teams) for the week and had them design a flag, create a tribe cheer, and create a short skit about one of the code of conduct rules that they had been assigned. This helped them start to build unity amongst themselves, and start to find their place within their tribe.
Day two was full of fun outside games. The first was fear factor, which had three phases of challenges—smelling, feeling, and then eating. The tribes had to work as a team to listen to each other so that when the first part was done, they could work together to get the second part, and so on until the end.
After fear factor, though, I realized that my voice was not loud enough to be able to accurately communicate with the teens and leaders what I needed them all to do. I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t be heard, and the participants were getting restless waiting for the next activity to be explained. That’s where teamwork comes in. One of the members of the team, Pastor Mike, agreed to be my voice of the instructions. So I explained to him what needed to happen, and then once everyone was corralled to where they needed to be, he would explain everything that needed to happen. Needless to say, tug of war and capture the flag (with adjusted rules) went so much better than if I had tried to do it on my own.
The next exercise in teamwork (for both the leaders and participants) was the amazing race competition on day three. I had ten different challenges set up all around the campground that each tribe had to complete. Since I obviously could not run everything by myself (since tribes would be at different stations at different times), I had to really rely on my team to know their challenge and be able to run in without me. Being a little bit of a control freak, I was so worried that it would be a disaster. But on the contrary, it ended up being amazing! All of us adult leaders worked together and the challenges were seamlessly set up and run. It was so much better than if I had tried to do it on my own!
Not only did the adult leaders really have to function as a team, but each tribe did too. Whenever they were not actually completing a challenge, they had to all walk or run hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm. If an adult leader saw them break contact, they had a 30-second freeze penalty where they couldn’t move at all—which would obviously set them back in the race. I added this rule last minute as a way to make sure there were no stragglers, but it ended up being the thing that really made teamwork a central part of the amazing race. The teams that figured out how to work as a team did much better, and ended up being leaders in the race, and the teams that couldn’t, ended up towards the end.
So my main takeaway from camp was that no matter how much I organized and planed, I couldn’t do it by myself—I needed to use my team. And teamwork really does make the dream work—and with good teamwork you can exceed your plans and even your dreams.