Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | May 27, 2018

Teamwork for life

Summer camp teaches fitness, instills character
Jun 22, 2017
Photo by: Brooks Taylor Approximately 200 area high-school students attended the Iowa National Guard Fitness Camp which ended today at the National Guard Readiness Center in Middletown. The camp focuses on physical and mental training needed to succeed in any type of activity. In these photos, participants are engaging in team exercises, including a team push-up, wheelbarrow race and transporting a teammate on a sled. Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Howard of New London came up with the idea for such a camp in 2014 and past camps have been in Fairfield and Mt. Pleasant in addition to Middletown.

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


MIDDLETOWN — Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Howard of New London labels his annual summer camp a fitness camp, but perhaps a better handle would be physical fitness and character camp.

Teamwork is a significant component of the free camp, Howard said. “One of our mottos is ‘teamwork for life,” he noted after completing a two-mile run with campers Wednesday morning as a light drizzle fell.

Howard began the camp in 2014 in Fairfield and since that time has had camps in Middletown and Mt. Pleasant. This is the third camp in Middletown, the New London resident said. The camp ran from 9-11 a.m. Monday through today.

He reflected that the idea for such a camp came out of a conversation he had with the Fairfield High School athletic director and the wrestling coach at the school. “We talked about giving back (to the community) and doing that through a free camp.”

An Iowa National Guard recruiter, Howard said thus far around 600 kids have attended the camps. This year’s camp numbers about 200, he said.

Most of the kids benefitting from this year’s camp are from neighboring schools. Zach Shay, one of the coaches at the camp, is also athletic director and head football coach at Burlington High School and brought many Grayhounds with him to camp.

Others in camp are from Mt. Pleasant, New London, Danville and West Burlington. Age requirement for the camp is generally from ninth grade to graduated seniors. However, Howard said some in this year’s camp have not stepped into high school yet.

The camp is open to both males and females and looking over the crowd of attendees at this year’s camp, girls make up at least one-third of the roster. Howard proudly states that some of the returnees are attending the camp for their third year.

“We push them, both as individuals and teammates,” Howard said. “We instill in them the skill of teamwork. They also see the benefits of the ability to motivate others.”

That is evident in the drills as some are individual and others run in teams.

One of those who grasped the team concept of the camp is Mason Porter, a junior-to-be basketball standout at New London High School. “I learned that there is no ‘I’ in team and that you can’t be successful as a team if you don’t have teamwork.”

Porter said he definitely plans on camping again next year, relating that he has benefitted greatly from the camp. “They’re (drills) pretty tough, but you have the feeling after you complete them that you did something with your time. I am hoping to develop a work ethic where you get up early and work hard.”

Each day brings a new set of drills, said Howard, who estimated that he spends about 120 hours planning each year’s camp. Formerly, the camp was in July but moved this year to June, which Howard likes because the weather isn’t as hot.

Reaction he has received from past campers has been overwhelmingly positive, he said. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the kids love it. Sure, you are going to hear some groans and you may lose a few kids after the first day. However, we’ve also gained some the second and third day. We always gain more (campers) than we lose.”

Each day the camp has a hero of the day. Prior to this year, the heroes were generally well-known personalities. This year, heroes were picked who would be at the camp. Monday’s hero was former University of Iowa and NFL gridder Mitch King, a Burlington native. Olympic wrestler Spenser Mango and his brother, Ryan, a two-time NCAA all-American wrestler at Stanford University were Tuesday’s heroes. The Mangos are natives of St. Louis.

Paralympic athlete Ryan McIntosh took center stage Wednesday. McIntosh is from Rifle, Colo. Shay, a former Hawkeye defensive back under Coach Hayden Fry was Thursday’s hero.

Shay said he is incorporating his acronym “EAT” into the camp. “We are teaching effort because regardless of your skill set you can give effort. The ‘a’ is for attitude. We are trying to instill a positive attitude regardless of the obstacles. Finally, ‘t’ is for toughness, both mentally and physically. I think mental toughness outweighs physical toughness because you can’t be physically tough without being mentally tough.”

He said promoting teamwork is huge at camp, noting that Tuesday, campers were divided into teams and pushed Humvees.

“One of my biggest takeaways so far,” Shay continued, “has been that you can always give and do more. These campers are being taught lessons that they can take with them the rest of their lives.”

Garrett Boecker, of Mt. Pleasant, is one of those who is attending his third National Guard Fitness Camp. “I just want to be the best I can be and do all I can to get there,” he noted.

Boecker, who will be a senior at Mt. Pleasant Community High School in the fall admitted the workouts at camp can be strenuous. “They get me in better shape and also get my mind tougher.

“I actually look forward to this camp each year,” he continued. “You have to like the fact that you are getting better doing this.”

An add-on to this year’s camp was a two-day wrestling clinic from 1-3 p.m., led by the Mango brothers.

Two important lessons Howard hopes campers take with them are how to deal with failure and to care about others.

“We talk about failure and how to get up from that,” he said. “We also teach kids to quit thinking about themselves and start thinking about others.”


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