Strength Training — The Power of Camp

By Ethan Schafer, Ph.D.

When I was fifteen, I was in my sixth summer at a traditional camp for boys in New Hampshire. One night after dinner, my counselor from the year before (a six-foot, five-inch English rugby player) asked me if I wanted to throw a baseball around. We spent an hour or two playing catch and talking about whatever came up. I don’t remember the specifics of our conversation, who else was there, or what was going on around us. What I do remember, and still enjoy thinking about, are the positive feelings that resulted from having the undivided attention of someone I essentially worshipped. For some reason, this particular event stands out in my mind, though there were hundreds more like it over the course of my camp career. As a former counselor with fifteen years of experience, and now as a mental health professional specializing in working with children, I am convinced that the cumulative power of small moments like these illustrate the unique manner in which camp helps children reach their full potential.


Why is Camp So Good for Children?
Many camp professionals will describe their camp community as a family. I can’t think of a more accurate description. One of the reasons that well-run camps are so good for children is that they emulate the processes found in what psychologists call authoritative families. Parents who are authoritative provide their children with a great deal of structure and have high expectations of their children, while simultaneously providing a high degree of emotional warmth and encouragement. They can be distinguished from parents who are permissive (high emotional availability, but little structure and low expectations), or authoritarian (high expectations and structure, but low on emotional warmth and encouragement). When I work with parents, I often describe permissive parents as the “spoilers,” and authoritarian parents as the “dictators.” There are literally decades of psychological research supporting the conclusion that authoritative parenting is most likely to result in children who are happy, independent, and secure in themselves. Good camps are like good families: clear expectations are given, rules are enforced in a fair and sensitive manner, and campers are given warmth, respect, and encouragement. Substitute “camp counselor” for “parent,” and we get the “big picture” reason for why camp is so good for children.

What about My Child?
Good camps also help children by matching their programs to the developmental level of the child. Psychologists will often speak of “developmental tasks” or “age-appropriate challenges” when discussing what children of different ages need to learn in order to develop appropriately. Camp is one of the few areas of your child’s life where the program can be matched to specific needs and developmental tasks, helping children make the most of their natural strengths. In my opinion, the camp experience is superior to most schools in this regard, as camps make no assumption that all third graders, for example, need to learn the same things or be treated the same way.

Keeping in mind that children of the same chronological age can vary widely in terms of emotional, social, and intellectual development, the following can be used as a general set of guidelines for what you can expect your child to get out of camp whether your choice is a day camp close to home or an overnight camp in a neighboring state.

Children — Four to Six Years
Although children of this age may seem too young for camp, almost all of them can benefit from day camp, and in more precocious cases, overnight camp. Young children are learning how to explore their world, gradually spending more time away from their parents’ side. Day camp, or a brief, overnight camp is an ideal place for young children to experience being away from their parents in a safe, nurturing environment. Good camps will have many structured, productive activities such as crafts and field trips that also help children get used to following a schedule. There is also no substitute for constant interaction with other children under adult supervision when it comes to developing social skills necessary for a successful entry into school. The staff-to-child ratio at most camps here will often be much better than that of a school or day care.

Children — Seven to Nine Years
Elementary school-age children are an entertaining group. Their interests change frequently as they are exposed to new ideas and opportunities. Think of this developmental period as one enormous “trial-and-error” episode, where children will “try on” all sorts of different likes and dislikes. Camp is a particularly good match for this age group, given the chances to participate in activities that are unlikely to be available elsewhere: archery, horseback riding, hiking, sailing, or nature exploration, as well as more typical activities such as team sports. The variety of activities offered at camp fits nicely with this group of children, who are often especially open-minded about trying new things. Social development is also critical in this period, as early friendships are formed and the child’s individual personality begins to express itself.

There’s an old saying in psychology that all parents believe the environment is everything, the “nurture over nature” school . . . . until they have their second child. Some children are simply born more introverted, preferring to be in small groups or alone; others are born more extraverted, enjoying large groups and being the center of attention. Either way is fine. What summer camp provides, because of the sheer amount of time young children spend playing with each other, is the chance to experience the structured and unstructured social interactions of childhood that allow them to determine what kind of person they are going to be.

Children — Ten to Twelve Years
Children of these ages are beginning to define their individuality. Particularly in girls, this period of time is characterized by great variation in physical and emotional development. As those of you who have what the media calls “tweens” in your house can attest, one eleven-year-old can still be engrossed in cartoons and action figures or dolls, while another spends an hour getting ready for school, seems obsessed with the opposite sex or who did or did not say “hi” to them in the hallway, and so on. I have worked with several children who voiced the frustration of feeling forced to “be too grown up” on one hand, as well those who are tired of “being treated like a little kid” on the other.

The variety of social, athletic, and outdoor activities offered through camp addresses these issues very well. If your child is still “young for his or her age,” camp will allow them to spend time with other children doing “kid stuff’ until they are ready to move on. The more “mature” child will have similar opportunities with older children, without fear of being ostracized. Whatever your “tween” child is ready for, camp provides a safe, supervised set of opportunities to explore and define individual interests and motivations — a wonderful gift for children as they enter adolescence.


Children — Thirteen Years and Up
Adolescents aged thirteen and older may benefit the most from the unique opportunities offered through camp. One of the common myths of adolescence is that it is somehow normal to be extremely moody, irresponsible, and self-centered. While this is certainly the case for some teens at certain times, it is not the norm. Unfortunately, teens are often victims of a self-fulfilling prophecy: When we expect them to behave like stereotypically rebellious, troubled teenagers, we are in danger of acting in ways that elicit these behaviors. Camp is a tremendous way to reverse this process. Older campers have opportunities for service and leadership that are unrivaled compared to most other summer activities (working at the local strip malls or fast food restaurants come to mind.) For example, older campers will often be given positions where they serve as role models for younger campers. For many teens, this will be the first time they are given responsibilities, and most will jump at the chance to prove themselves in a positive way.

As part of a close community, older campers also learn that they can leave a constructive, lasting impact on the people around them, helping them develop first-hand knowledge of the benefits of service and altruism.

The Summer and Beyond
Camp allows children to be exposed to a diverse group of people, interests, and activities where they are given the opportunity to try, fail, try again, and succeed in the context of a supportive environment. Challenges at camp are real and they require sustained effort to master. The sense of accomplishment children get from mastering these challenges is therefore also real, and enduring. Campers can develop a personal sense of security and self-confidence that will help them be comfortable in their own skin for the rest of their lives.

For more information about child development and the camp experience, please visit our family-dedicated Web site, or call our toll-free number, 1-800-428-CAMP (2267).

Ethan Schafer specializes in working with children and families. He holds a Ph.D. in child clinical psychology and writes frequently on topics surrounding child development and camp.

Originally printed in CAMP Magazine, reprinted by permission of the American Camp Association © 2005 American Camping Association, Inc.

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IGC Attends WHGF 3rd Annual Benefit

International Gymnastics Camp attended the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation’s 3rd Annual Benefit on April 16, at the New York Athletic Club in New York City. This year, 2-time Olympic gymnast, 3-time Olympic coach, U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame recipient and long-time IGC staff member, Abie Grossfeld was honored with the Spirit of the Sport Award.

IGC is a proud sponsor of WHGF, an exceptional development program that has offered free and low cost gymnastics training to over 15,000 inner-city youth to date. Founded in 1996 by Hall of Fame rhythmic gymnast Wendy Hilliard, WHGF’s mission is to provide youth with the same opportunities that Wendy received as a gymnast.

IGC has very congruent values and goals with the WHGF. We believe that gymnastics and its countless benefits should be available to everyone, even to those who may not be able to afford it. IGC loves to provide the opportunity for campers to apply for scholarships to be able to experience camp. IGC also offers scholarships to military families who have one or both parents deployed as well as wounded warrior military families. With the recent Project Leotard Program as part of IGC’s Kount on Kindness initiative, IGC has collected 50 leotards and is distributing them to gymnasts that can’t afford proper gymnastics attire. Wendy’s foundation also embodies the same selfless motivation as all of IGC’s programs and initiatives.

The benefit event began with performances by a group of Wendy’s gymnasts, reminding everyone what WHGF is all about! The joy and gratefulness that the children displayed was extremely palpable. They were so thankful that Wendy has given them an opportunity to participate in such a wonderful sport.

After the gymnasts were done flipping around in their purple leotards, the awards ceremony began. Abie was thrilled to receive the “Spirit of the Sport Award” which honors those who dedicate their time to helping grow the sport of gymnastics. He has been an active part of the gymnastics community for over 62 years and continues to give back to the sport in any way he can.

As an athlete, Abie has represented the U.S. in competitions spanning over 15 years including the Olympic Games, World Championships and the Pan American Games. A few of Abie’s career highlights include: coaching the U.S. Men’s Olympic Gymnastics Team to their first team Gold in 1984, setting an all sport record of 15 medals in three intercontinental quadrennial games, and being named one of “50 Greatest Sports Figures in the 20th Century,” by Sports Illustrated.

IGC is not only proud to partner with WHGF, but with Abie Grossfeld, as well. Abie has been a great friend to the Klaus family here at IGC since the camp’s inception in 1971. He is also the director of IGC’s Visiting Coaches Program, which provides instruction to club coaches who are interested in learning new techniques. IGC loves having Abie as a part of the IGC family as he continues to selflessly give back to the sport that we all love.

For more information, please visit the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation website.

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Child Abuse Prevention at IGC

International Gymnastics Camp is proud to join USA Gymnastics in the ‘We Care Campaign,’ bringing child abuse prevention to the forefront. In addition to the further development of our campers as both gymnasts and as people, creating and maintaining a safe camp atmosphere is of utmost importance here at IGC.

IGC is the only gymnastics camp accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA) signifying its dedication to providing the best and safest camp experience. There are several key safety measures IGC takes with campers, parents and staff to prevent child care abuse or misconduct and to promote a fun and secure gymnastics camp environment.

  • Requiring background checks from all IGC staff members promotes a culture of safety.
    o IGC’s consistent staff throughout the summer and extensive training program yield a high staff return rate with a recognized culture of safety. Our returning and incoming staff members are taught to lead by example and establish a peer-to-peer relationship that guards against any questionable situations.
  • Educating our IGC staff members protects our campers.
    o Precautions against child care abuse start with the careful IGC staff selection process. Each staff member is interviewed and must provide references and professional recommendations. All staff members have criminal, vehicle, and child abuse background checks.
    o IGC hosts former IGC staff member, now FBI Special Agent, to educate all incoming and returning staff on child protection and safety laws.
    o Child advocate specializing in abuse prevention Norm Friedman emphasizes the overall importance of child safety to all IGC staff members during the extensive training process.
    o Our staff also works with Child and Adolescent psychotherapist, Dr. Josie Palleja to create the best experience for campers of all ages. IGC staff members study with Dr. Josie to learn which counselors are best suited to work with each specific age group.
    o Board Certified Clinical Psychologist Dr. Chris Thurber works with each staff member to teach important child care principals like positive behavior management, emphasizing personal strengths and optimal experiences, understanding and preventing bullying and working with campers who may experience homesickness.
  • IGC’s policies safeguard both the campers and staff members.
    o IGC’s overall camper to staff ratio is 3 to 1!
    o At least two counselors live in each cabin ensuring a child is never alone with a staff member. This also allows our counselors to make sure that each camper is well cared for. With two counselors we can also ensure that campers are brushing their teeth, eating well-balanced meals and making friends.
    o IGC’s proactive Kount on Kindness campaign enlists the help of gymnastics students, parents and coaches in banding together to create workout environments where everyone feels safe and accepted. The Kount on Kindness campaign continues to be a growing movement to make gymnastics the kindest sport. Sign the pledge and join our team at

IGC takes great pride in putting these important child abuse prevention abuse policies in place. Please note that these policies are precautionary. Establishing and maintaining a safe camp environment is extremely crucial to ensuring a successful and fun summer camp experience.

For more information on IGC staff training policies, click here.

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IGC Summer 2015 Themes


Each week IGC plans special activities, games and events around a new and exciting theme!

Take a look at the fun-filled themes IGC has scheduled for summer 2015!

  • WEEK ONE (June 14 – 20) Fairy Tale: From Cinderella to Pinocchio we’ll be organizing fun activities based on your favorite fairytales all week long!
  • WEEK TWO (June 21 – 27) Journey to Atlantis: We’re going under the sea to beat the summer heat in this wet and crazy water world adventure!
  • WEEK THREE (June 28 – July 4) Stars and Stripes: Go all out in your best red, white and blue! It’s all about the home of the free and the land of the brave with IGC’s annual Fourth of July feast!
  • WEEK FOUR (July 5 – 11) Wild West: Saddle up to IGC in your favorite cowboy hat and boots and get ready for a wild ride! Yeehaw!
  • WEEK FIVE (July 12 – 18) Hollywood: Lights, camera, action! Strut the red carpet like your favorite movie stars with big sunglasses and a flashy feather boa!
  • WEEK SIX (July 19 – 25) Superhero: To infinity and beyond! Dress to impress your favorite superhero characters or create your own superhero identity during this camper favorite!
  • WEEK SEVEN (July 26 – August 1) Pirate: Ahoy, Mateys! Arrr you ready to set sail for another awesome week at IGC?
  • WEEK EIGHT (August 2 – 8) International: Celebrate countries around the world and take part in IGC’s very own Olympic Games! Get ready to cheer on your IGC counselors and coaches as they compete in a long-standing IGC tradition, the Mr. and Ms. IGC competition!
  • WEEK NINE (August 9 – 15) Space: Go out of this world and conquer the alien invasion during week nine at IGC! Cadets can pack their finest space gear, but don’t forget to pack some black for the infamous ‘IGC Alien Hunt!’ Over and out!
  • WEEK TEN (August 16 – 22) Safari: Head into the IGC jungle in head-to-toe camo! Campers will experience a very special IGC expedition in this safari frenzy!
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International Gymnastics Camp joins USA Gymnastics’ sponsor family


INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 9, 2015 — USA Gymnastics and International Gymnastics Camp today announced that IGC has become a sponsor of USA Gymnastics. The four-year sponsorship includes promotional opportunities at designated USA Gymnastics events, digital and magazine cross-promotions, and grassroots outreach.

“IGC has been a longtime supporter of USA Gymnastics through magazine advertising, participation at events and the National Congress, and website promotions,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “Their increased support and the joint partnership effort is a big step forward, and our staff will work closely with IGC to promote its initiatives and involvement in the gymnastics community.”

“This new partnership with USA Gymnastics makes perfect sense for us,” said Brent Klaus, president of IGC. “The sponsorship has many levels that I believe will prove beneficial for International Gymnastics Camp, USA Gymnastics and the gymnastics community as a whole. We’re excited about the next four years.”

The partnership includes: concourse booth space, signage and onsite recognition at designated USA Gymnastics events, including the AT&T American Cup, Secret U.S. Classic, P&G Gymnastics Championships and Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships; social media promotions and exposure on; advertising in both “USA Gymnastics” and “Technique” magazines; and grassroots promotional and educational outreach.

International Gymnastics Camp is the country’s premier gymnastics summer camp dedicated solely to gymnasts. IGC combines the best gymnastics training and exceptional recreation activities to create the ultimate gymnastics summer camp experience for campers from the USA and around the world. Established in 1971 and located in the heart of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, IGC is open to any and all campers ages 7 to 17 from beginner through advanced gymnasts. For more information, visit

Based in Indianapolis, USA Gymnastics is the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. Its mission is to encourage participation and the pursuit of excellence in the sport. Its disciplines include men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics and group gymnastics. For more complete information, log on to

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IGC Salutes Our Veterans


International Gymnastics Camp salutes all of those who have courageously served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

According to West Point statistics, the sport of gymnastics has created more leaders of character than any other sport within the Academy. Army gymnastics has produced 37 generals, 160 colonels and over 200 field-grade officers of lower rank since the program began in 1926. For others, being part of the Army gymnastics tradition has opened the doors to careers as doctors, lawyers, educators, astronauts, consultants and corporate executives. These dignified leaders represent a long lasting legacy of gymnastics at West Point Military Academy.

Even before the debut of an official military gymnastics program, soldiers prepared for war by training gymnastics-based skills to gain strength and power. Gymnastics within the U.S. military is a legacy rich in history. The American Turners (gymnasts) who immigrated to America from Europe started Turnvereins (gymnastics clubs) in the mid 1800s. In The American Turner Movement: A History from its Beginnings to 2000 it is estimated that over 10,000 American Turners participated in the Civil War between 1861 and 1865. Prior to the Civil War, Turners acted as the Bodyguard of Honor to Abraham Lincoln and demonstrated their loyalty to the new government by accompanying him during his inauguration in 1861.

IGC thanks all of those who have served and are currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces at home and abroad.

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Register for IGC 2015 by December 1st!

Hey IGC parents and campers! Summer 2014 at IGC was filled with plenty of fun, friends and amazing gymnastics – and we’re ready to do it all over again in 2015!

Campers from over 40 different countries joined us in our summer dedicated to Kount on Kindness. We also welcomed 36 NCAA, National, World and Olympic Champions from all over the globe! We can’t wait to see what 2015 at IGC has in store!

Are you ready for another incredible summer? It’s never too early to register for the best gymnastics camp experience in the world. In 2015, IGC will offer 10 amazing sessions from which to choose, and registering early comes with great rewards! Register for summer 2015 by December 1, 2014, to save $100 per session!

Parents may also choose to register now and select their session later with the “Choose a Week Later” option.

To register, view 2015 session dates and tuition rates, please visit the IGC website at!

Register your camper for IGC 2015 early and receive big rewards:

  • Register by December 1, 2014, for a rate of $1,095 to receive $100 off
  • Register by January 30, 2015, for a rate of $1,120 to receive $75 off
  • Register by February 27, 2015, for a rate of $1,145 to receive $50 off
  • Register after February 27, 2015, for a rate of $1,195

See you in 2015!

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2014 Summer Wrap Up

After 12 amazing weeks of fun, friends and awesome gymnastics training, we’ve wrapped up one of our most incredible summers at IGC yet! Campers from 40 different countries, ages 7 to 17, joined us in our summer dedicated to ‘Kount on Kindness.’ There were so many highlights that made summer 2014 so special – we don’t even know where to begin!

Let’s take a look back at a few of our greatest moments from summer 2014!

From the best gymnastics training facilities in the world to our amazing celebrity guests and fun-filled recreation activities, there was something for everyone at IGC. Campers, staff and celebrities enjoyed an action-packed week two at IGC during the Professional Gymnastics Cup Series. Gymnastics legends including Jake Dalton, Oksana Chusovitina, Brandon Wynn and Chris Brooks competed head-to-head and skill-for-skill on three different events which streamed live from the Olympic Gym to your computer screen!

We also had a great time celebrating Kount on Kindness – our overall theme of summer 2014! Kount on Kindness is all about spreading positivity both inside and outside of the gyms and celebrating team diversity. Join the Kount on Kindness movement, sign the pledge and make a difference at!

IGC summer 2014 saw over 36 Olympic, World and NCAA celebrity guests from around the globe. Hailing from nine different countries, they judged our exciting evening activities, spoke about their own experiences in gymnastics and coached our campers in the gyms!

As always, our IGC staff played a huge role in the success of summer 2014. Coming to IGC from 13 different countries, each staff member contributed something very special to each area of camp. Because of our amazing staff members, smiles were formed and memories were made.

Thank you again to all of our parents, campers and staff for an incredible summer! We’re already counting down the days until next year, and we hope that you can join us. Don’t forget to register by September 15th to save $125 on your 2015 IGC tuition with ten different sessions from which to choose!

Click here to view a full list of 2015 session dates!

FULL PRICE     $1195 per session

SEPTEMBER 15th           $125 savings      $1070 per session
DECEMBER 1st                 $100 savings       $1095 per session
JANUARY 30th                 $75 savings         $1120 per session
FEBRUARY 27th             $50 savings         $1145 per session

We look forward to seeing you in the summer of 2015!

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Wrapping up a Wonderful Week 10!

We’ve had another wonderful week here at IGC as our campers take on the Wild, Wild West! From cabin challenges to exciting evening activities, celebrity guests and plenty of surprises around every corner – we’re wrapping up week ten and riding off into the sunset!

This week’s cabin challenges asked campers to channel their inner cowboy and cowgirl spirit. Sack races at the barn field, digging for gold on the volleyball court and making ‘Most Wanted’ posters for counselors, cabin challenges are a great way for campers to earn cabin points on the road to Cabin of the Week! All of our week 10 cabins did an excellent job, but it was the boys of cabin 9 who earned the Cabin of the Week title and a delicious pizza party last night in the canteen.

We’re ending week ten and summer 2014 with our favorite IGC evening activity of all time, Staff Exhibition! Our IGC staff members have been working hard all week to put on a very special show. First things first – some of our week ten campers perform a dance every Friday night according to the weekly theme with the help of dance instructors, Ashley and Charlotte. Our dance instructors weren’t just helping our campers dance this week…they were helping our staff! Members from each IGC department took the stage to “Shake it off” by Taylor Swift. Great job to all of our IGC staff who participated!

Australian National Team Member and IGC gym instructor, Nikky warmed up the crowd with her floor routine before diving into our final staff exhibition! Our IGC gym staff members have a great time teaching our campers new skills in the gym each and every day, but on Friday night our gym staff have the opportunity to show off some of their biggest skills! From Geingers to Double Arabians and Giants, IGC’s staff always puts on an incredibly exciting show for our campers!

IGC’s action-packed staff exhibitions are just one of the things that set us apart from the rest. We are truly an international environment with tons of campers and staff traveling from far and wide to be with us each and every week. This week we welcomed guests from 9 countries: Barbados, Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom, Venezuela…and of course, the United States!

Thank you to all of our parents, campers and staff for a great week! We’ve had such a great summer and we’re ready to do it all over again in 2015! We hope that you can join us! Don’t forget to register by September 15th to save $125 on your registration. See you next year!

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Week Ten Winners!

Here at IGC we love welcoming new campers as well as celebrating those campers and staff who have returned year after year! For their love and dedication to IGC for five years or more, those Five-Year Campers and Staff receive custom IGC sweatshirts for their years of support. Thank you so much guys! We couldn’t do it without you!

We also like to praise those campers who put forth extra enthusiasm and commitment inside the gym as our Most Dedicated Campers. Those campers receive special plaques for all of their hard work and passion to improve. Congratulations week ten!

The Kount on Kindness Award is new for 2014, but quickly becoming a favorite! Congratulations to those week ten campers who received a special Kount on Kindness certificate for upholding the ideals of Kount on Kindness program: to create a workout environment where everyone feels safe and accepted for a mutual sense of belonging, to celebrate team diversity, and to support a place where gymnastics students, parents and coaches work in harmony to promote kindness! Join IGC and the Kount on Kindness movement by going online to and signing the pledge. Join the team, sign the pledge and make a difference!

And finally, it’s the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for – our final Cabin of the Week of summer 2014! Who will be our week ten winner? It was a close call, but we’ve got the results! In third place with 103 points, cabin 18; in second place with 110 points, cabin 20; and taking the week ten Cabin of the Week win with 139 points are…the boys of cabin 9! Congratulations guys!

Thank you to ALL of our awesome 2014 Five-Year, Most Dedicated, Kount on Kindness and Cabin of the Week campers! We’ve had such a great summer and we’re ready to do it all over again in 2015! We hope that you can join us! Don’t forget to register by September 15th to save $125 on your registration. See you next year!

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