14 Feb The Golden Recipe for Success in Sports, Learning and Life

The Golden Recipe for Success in Sports, Learning and Life

I want to share with you a wonderful article by Andy Jones-Wilkins. Andy is a lifelong educator, coach and ultra-marathoner (a footrace longer than 26.2 miles). While at a teaching conference he was asked to name the three most critical things he wants his students to graduate with – we all can take his reply to heart. It is a message that embodies and reflects much of what Camp Susquehannock teaches and represents.
Here it is – enjoy!

Last week, at a meeting I attended with an experienced group of educational leaders, the topic of discussion eventually centered in on a very basic essential question:
“What three things — skills, attributes, temperaments, whatever — do you want your students to graduate high school with?”


The facilitator, knowing he had captured a moment and struck a chord with his question, gave us very little time to think through our answers. Within a minute of posing his question, he pushed us for our answers. And, as seems to always happen to me, he pointed to me first and asked,

“Andy, tell us your three things.”

I didn’t even flinch. I am not sure why, but the answer came to me instantly.

“Confidence, Resilience and Hope.”

Ever since I started teaching 28 years ago, the students I’ve known who’ve embodied these three attributes have inspired and motivated me. Likewise, the long distance runners I’ve gotten to know over the past two decades that have been confident, resilient and hopeful have been those who’ve personified what it means to be a successful runner and a successful person. In essence, Confidence, Resilience and Hope comprise, to me, a perfect recipe in education, running and life.

You know the confident runner when you see him. Self-assured, relaxed, carrying a wry smile, the confident runner is not a faker. The most confident runners I know take calculated risks, but also do so while eliminating all variables. They carry their confidence in their heads and in their hearts as well as in their bodies, and when they toe the line they are always ready.

The resilient runner shows her scars. She has been through more ups and downs than the rest of us care to think about and she has come out the other side standing upright and strong. The resilient runner, like the resilient student, has had her fair share of failures and disappointments, and yet she hasn’t given in. She’s remained steadfast, stalwart and true. The resilient runner is that one who gets out of her chair at mile 82 and forges on — one foot in front of the other until she’s done.

Hope and the hopeful runner are always a bit more fleeting. While confidence and resilience can be seen and touched, hope needs to be felt. As such, it is the most capricious of the three things, but also the most purposeful and relevant. The hopeful runner and student have a spring in their step tempered by caution in their voice. Hope can be such a deep visceral emotion that it requires balance, focus and a fair amount of risk. And when we get it right, it’s awesome!

And so, to me, Confidence, Resilience and Hope truly represent the Golden Recipe. While not every day out there will be perfect, if we can move forward armed with these three things we can run healthy and happy, and not only become better runners, but better versions of ourselves.

Andy’s thoughtful response to the question runs parallel to our philosophy at Camp Susquehannock and to what we hope each child returns home with at the end of every summer. I hope you enjoyed this bit of information!

09 Feb Creating a Champion Mindset – The Key to Success in Athletics and Life

Creating a Champion Mindset – The Key to Success in Athletics and Life

Long-time trainer and sports performance coach Chris Carmichael recently published an article about developing the mindset of a champion. He discovered most athletes have one or two established set of attitudes and those with a growth mindset tend outperform all others, not only in sports, but in life.

The best athletes in the world aren’t always the strongest and fastest. While a high level of athleticism is a prerequisite for reaching the upper levels of competition, champions often perform beyond their ability in all aspects of life because they are inspired by the belief their best performances are still ahead of them. No matter your current level of athleticism, you can absolutely improve your performance by developing a championship mindset!

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

Stanford University Psychology professor Carol Dweck’s mindset concept identifies two sets of attitudes: Growth vs. Fixed

A person with a fixed mindset believes talent, ability and intelligence are unchangeable traits. These individuals focus on simply being proficient, avoiding challenges that might prove otherwise and resisting change or new opportunities.

A person with a growth mindset believes talent, ability and intelligence can develop through practice, hard work and learning.

Most successful people have a natural tendency toward growth mindsets. They inherently understand that training and practice (ie. learning) leads to improvement. However, some people who understand how training and practice works are still motivated by a fear of failure – a key hallmark of a fixed mindset – instead of the opportunity for success.

What a Winning Mindset Looks Like

An athlete with a fixed mindset will concede he or she isn’t the strongest athlete on a team and is happy to just do his or her job, letting others try to “get the win” or make the big play. The drive to come up with other ways to win is what a growth mindset is about:


An inquisitive person asks questions and challenges conventional ideas about training, practice, nutrition and performance. They are not satisfied with, “This is how we’ve always done it.” This doesn’t mean they jump from one method or strategy to another on a whim, but rather they examine new ideas that can be applied to their training or practice regimen. This is also an important quality to look for in a coach.


Those with a growth mindset view relationships with athletes, coaches and performance-related experts as opportunities to gain more knowledge. These people are less “cliquey” because they welcome new voices and aren’t intimidated by those who may be faster or stronger than they are. Similarly, they are quick to share information with less-experienced athletes.

Daring + Bold

“Fortune favors the bold.” Faced with identical circumstances those with a growth mindset see opportunities to succeed or win before they consider the risks of failing. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset recognize the same scenarios – the perfect time to attack, shoot and score – but perceive the risk before the opportunity, ultimately choosing the safety of status quo to the risk of failing.

Sometimes being bold isn’t about being highly aggressive. It can also be seen in an athlete’s willingness to give everything they have on the field or court, or to “empty the tank.” Athletes with a growth mindset are problem solvers and optimists; they will do everything they can to avoid “giving in” or quitting.

Great Teammate

People with a growth mindset aren’t intimidated by the success of others. They don’t view helping a teammate improve as a negative reflection on their own abilities. They aren’t concerned about ceding their position (real or imagined) in the starting lineup. Similarly, when they win they are genuinely appreciative of the others who helped, and quick to thank each of them personally.

Love the Process as Much/More than the Outcome

Those with a growth mindset love to win and accomplish personal goals, but they also love to train and practice. They maintain a long-range view on a season in which games are the mile markers, not the destination. They are also willing to take on challenges with a moderate-to-high risk of failure. The potential to succeed in the face of significant obstacles is motivating, not threatening.

All the characteristics of a championship mindset apply to one’s school, work, career and relationships as much as one’s sports. The best students, entrepreneurs and employees are open to new ideas, they are collaborative, they are willing to take risks, and they are happiest when the team succeeds. Great personal relationships are built by valuing your teammates every mile of the journey, learning and adapting as you change over time and finding genuine fulfillment in seeing others succeed.

Take some time today to evaluate your own mindset and become confident in all aspects of your life!

09 Feb The Benefits of Multi-Sport Athletic Development & Confidence-Based Learning and How it Can Impact Your Child

The Benefits of Multi-Sport Athletic Development & Confidence-Based Learning and How it Can Impact Your Child

Greetings! Welcome to Camp Susquehannock.

As a parent, athlete, former camper at Susquehannock and now Director, I thought it important to share with you the real benefit and impact Camp Susquehannock can have on the lives of children.

Children are the most precious things in our lives. We want them to be safe. We want them to be successful and we want them to have the ability to take advantage of every opportunity. To do this they need to be well rounded, diverse, resilient, confident young people. This doesn’t just “happen”…it takes some work.


What do I mean by this? Let me start with the athletic component.

In today’s ultra-competitive athletic landscape more and more children are specializing at an early age with the hopes of “making it big” or receiving a full scholarship to a university. While this can be tantalizing and sound very appealing it can also be very detrimental. New research shows that children who specialize at a young age are more susceptible to serious injury, lack of self-confidence and decreased overall athleticism.


In fact, the study found that children who played multiple “attacking” sports like Basketball, Soccer or Lacrosse developed the unconscious ability to read bodies and game situations allowing them to master their sport of choice in a much shorter time period. (Data presented at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine showed that the average athlete at UCLA did not start specializing until 15.4 years of age. In other words, kids can wait until they are at least 16 years of age.)

The objective at Camp Susquehannock is to develop well rounded, multi-sport athletes. We want children to leave camp with a broad spectrum of athletic skills. You see, when kids are exposed to a variety of sports they develop a diversified skill set which helps them learn about their bodies. They learn how their body works, what it can do best, how far they can push it all while developing superior coordination between the eyes, hands, feet and core. They become stronger, more agile, durable and less prone to injury.


Confidence is so important in every aspect of life. It enables people to not only reach great achievements but enjoy life to a much fuller extent. Confidence is something that comes from the self. It can’t be created with false accolades, meaningless words of encouragement or praise lacking of any substance. True confidence is achieved, it is earned …and when you achieve it: you know it!

You can be pat on the back, told you’re the best at everything you do, encouraged and placed in winning situations but that only provides temporary, false confidence. Not real…true…life lasting confidence.


Grit is the first cousin to confidence. Grit can’t be bought, borrowed or faked. Grit comes from consistently showing up for life every day. It comes from consistently stretching your comfort zone …and when you combine grit with confidence you get a “hardy soul.” (The people of Camp Susquehannock are “hardy souls!”)

Let’s not fool ourselves. Children are smart, they know the difference between false confidence and earned confidence. They may not be able to articulate it but they can feel it, sense it and understand it. When they get the opportunity to overcome a challenge and accomplish something new: they smile, they grow and they mature.

This is true of all ages. I don’t care if you’re seven years old, fifteen years old, twenty, thirty or sixty. When you try something new or are presented with a life challenge and you pop out the other side with some level of success, it feels good! You feel good about yourself. That’s when confidence is built.


It may be as simple as introducing a young child to a new sport or activity. If a child is older or more advanced it could mean learning to hit a pitch to the opposite field, a behind-the-back pass in Basketball, executing a corner kick with the opposite foot, learning to sail a boat or swimming the entire length of our beloved Tripp Lake! Whatever the activity, it makes no difference.

The goal is to put children in situations where they can learn and have success overcoming challenges, trying new sports, learning new skills and developing sportsmanship. When they do this they not only increase their athletic diversity but they develop a sense of inclusion. They’ll now have something new (in common) with other people. Which means their social confidence will increase and this type of confidence translates to leadership.

With heightened confidence these children will be the first ones to raise their hand when a coach or teacher needs a volunteer for something new, not just sit back as a silent observer. This confidence will stick with them for the rest of their lives. They will walk a little taller, smile a bit brighter and look for opportunities where others may turn their head.


Your child will live in a cabin with two counselors and children of the same age. Cell phones are prohibited; the kids will be “unplugged.” They will learn to adapt and respect each other’s habits. They will clean their cabin, make their beds on a daily basis and write real letters home every Sunday!

Meals will be served family style. The kids will say please and thank you and they will participate in setting the table, serving the food and cleaning up.

When the children arrive the staff will assess the experience and athletic ability of the children and place them on teams with those of a similar skill set. They will spend the entire session with this team learning, competing and growing as both individuals and a team.

The mornings consist of a series of athletic clinics designed to teach and develop skills in a particular sport. After lunch the teams will have the opportunity to apply the skills learned in an actual game. From there they will head to the lake for a free swim and then up to the dining hall for dinner. After dinner they will participate in a variety of evening activities with “lights out” between 8:30 PM and 10:30 PM. Their days will be full and sleep should come easy.

In summary, campers will develop the following:

+ Confidence in Learning and Trying New Things
+ The Skills and Physical Development of a Diversified Multi-Sport Athlete
+ The Ability and Willingness to Adapt to New Challenges
+ The Fun of Being Part of a Team
+ The Excitement of Winning and the Lessons Learned from Losing
+ The Value in Sportsmanship and What it Means to be a Person of High Character
+ The Joy of Making New Friends and the Bonds of a Lifetime


I was blessed to be a camper at Susquehannock for seven years. I learned how to play Basketball, Baseball, Football and Soccer. I learned how to canoe, sail, ride a horse, swim, dive and hike in the woods. I learned teamwork, sportsmanship and to respect others. I learned how to be independent, dedicated and above all I learned about friendship.


These bonds withstand the test of time. Five, ten, twenty or thirty plus years may pass without seeing a friend from camp and the day you finally run into each other, you feel as though you just saw them yesterday …you simply pick up where you left off. It’s a wonderful feeling; we have all experienced it at one time or another and it’s something that makes Camp Susquehannock special.


Camp Susquehannock is a special place. It was started by “King” Shafer in 1905. The Shafer family has managed and been heavily involved in the camp ever since. The methods and traditions have been passed down through generations. Thousands of campers have come through the program and the camp remains one of the premier multi-sport summer camps in the country.

When you send your child to camp it will most likely be the longest time they have been away from home. Rest assured, while all the things I just described are wonderful… the greatest priority we have is your child’s safety!

We take great pride in your child’s happiness and success. Camp Susquehannock is a non-profit organization. We do this to make an impact on children. Our gift is watching them develop the skills they need to succeed in sports and in life. That is the big reward: the big payoff for us!

So please, give us the opportunity to support the development, growth and education of your child. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me directly. I hope to hear from you soon. I can be reached at jbell@susquehannock.com.

I look forward to speaking with you sometime in the near future.

Jeffrey M. Bell
The Susquehannock Camps