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"oy's camp teaches skills, values
The Daily Tar Heel Wednesday, August 29, 19845
By FRANK KENNEDY
Editor's note: This article is the
second in a three-part series relating
examples in which the human element
outweighs all else, making sport what
it was originally intended to be. The
series concludes Thursday.
Utopia isn't such a bad idea., It may
never be anything more than a dream
as far as this world is concerned, but
no one can be faulted for dreaming.
Therein may lie some hope for a society
plagued with more problems than it has
Art Musselman admits that Camp
Sea Gull tries to create a Utopian
atmosphere, but he admits it with pride.
He has reason to be proud.
Sea Gull, an all-boys camp on the
Neuse River in Pamlico County, is the
largest YMCA camp in the world, and
one that has built a tradition of
developing youths 7-16 years old for 37
The camp's facilities are impressive
to say the least, with a fleet comprised
of several classes of sailboats and
motorboats, an 18-hole golf course,
swim lake, tennis courts, as well as
facilities for numerous other activities.
More than 1,500 children attend the
camp over two four-week sessions each
summer, paying roughly $1,000 each for
But, as Musselman will tell you, the
facilities are secondary to what a child
will get out of the camp.
"The greatest thing about the whole
Sea Gull experience is that every
youngster is involved, and he knows
that someone cares about him," Mus
selman said. "(The counselors) take the
time to care, to listen, to know his needs,
and show him how to do things the right
"He comes out of here knowing a
good way to do things. He knows good
manners and what a good lifestyle is."
And, at a period in his life when he
is so impressionable, at least some of
the values taught at Sea Gull are bound
to stick values like getting along with
others, cooperation and respect.
Musselman, who is in charge of the
camp's land program, says those values
are magnified because children are
easily influenced by the actions of sports
figures they see on television.
"So much is based on ability, how
much the person can do," he said of
athletics. "At Sea Gull, we don't do that.
You're given equal treatment."
Campers are encouraged to achieve
as many ranks as they can, but only
in so much as the camp is trying to
encourage active participation. Failure
is never treated with negative criticism;
success is always treated with
"It is a Utopian atmosphere," Mus
selman said. "We dont have any stress
because it's not designed for stress. It's
designed to be nice."
The boys who attend the camp are
almost exclusively from upper-middle
class or upper class backgrounds. Yet,
they are as different, and with equally
as many different needs, as any other
group of kids. And for introverted or
less-athletic boys, the camp offers a
chance to open up.
Cabins are arranged by age group,
usually with 12-13 campers and two to
three counselors in each. With a 3-to-1
camper-counselor ratio v it is easy to
relate to each child on a personal basis.
The "big brother" ideal is emphasized
at every turn.
Thus, a camper is afforded the
opportunity to master a new skill while
living in a family" environment.
"We give (the campers) a piece of the
pie that they cant get (at home),"
Musselman, who coached at the
collegiate level for many years, said he
has lost faith in professional and
intercollegiate sports due to the numer
ous controversies in which they have
been involved in recent years. He said
that a Sea Gull camper who wants to
pursue athletics sees two versions of
what sports can mean: the image that
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a John McEnroe creates with his on
court antics, and the Sea Gull version,
which teaches good sportsmanship and
rejects the win-at-all-costs syndrome.
"With athletics, for example, we teach
that your worth is not determined by
how good you are, but because you're
you," he said.
That, of course, goes right along with .
the teaching of the skill itself. All of
the counselors are assigned to activities,
based primarily on their knowledge of
that sport. Campers receive land and
sea manuals, which guide them through
the development of their skills. They
must reach certain designated stand
ards, at which time they receive ranks
based on their skill.
The sailing program, considered one
of the finest in the world for children,
has turned out eventual Olympic racing
champions. Those campers who reach
the higher ranks usually leave camp
capable of handling sunfish, laser and
lightning class sailboats more efficiently
than most adults.
Few boys leave camp without learn
ing new skills, and none leave without
having earned a new friend. Almost all
leave with a new perspective on the
world a better perspective than most
of us carry around.
Maybe Utopia isn't really possible.
But teaching what it's all about can't
Frank Kennedy spent this summer as
a counselor at Sea Gull.
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