We visited Camp Moss Hollow last week. My assistant, Julia Feldmeier, has the story of some lessons taught on the soccer field.
"If you want to learn something, you have to practice a lot," advises Jumanne Jahi, a representative of the Joy of Sports Foundation who visited Camp Moss Hollow. "It takes focus and concentration -- and also teamwork. It's a must if you're going to be successful in life."
Words to live by, except, perhaps, when you're a pre-teenage girl, and the heat and the bugs and the lure of the pool make focusing a little complicated.
Ashley, 9, tries to concentrate on "dancing" over a soccer ball, a drill designed to teach players to fake out defenders. She swings her left leg over the ball, pivots and then swings her right leg back over it. Twirling left, then right, then left again, her movement is fluid.
Then, abruptly, she stops, heaves a dramatic sigh and crumples to the ground. "I'm getting dizzy and sweaty," she says, splaying her legs across the grass. "I can't wait until we go swimming. They have a pool here, you know."
Ashley's not alone in her enthusiasm for swimming. Says counselor Tombhot Guigoukoulou: "The first thing they ask you when you get up in the morning is, 'Are we going to the pool today?' That's the only thing they want to do."
But swimming must wait. Right now, there's a scrimmage to implement the new soccer skills. Tending goal, Ashley fends off shot after shot. "Natural-born player," her teammates dub her. She's impenetrable. That is, until she wanders over to the picnic table to grab a drink from her water bottle, leaving the goal wide open for the other team to score. Oops.
If the campers fall a little short on the "focus and concentration" part of the Joy of Sports mission, the cacophony of giggles and cheers on the field suggests that they've nailed the foundation's two other tenets: joy and teamwork.
They dish out praise and encouragement, slap high-fives and, when necessary, issue ultimatums. Malasia, 11, moves deftly around the soccer field, feeding passes and getting in position to receive them. She, like Ashley, seems to be a natural. There's just one tiny problem: her inclination to stop the ball with her hands.
When the scrimmage is over, Ashley chastises her. "Next time we play soccer and you use your hands, I'll be squirting you," she says, shaking her water bottle in her teammate's face.
Malasia could unfurl some riposte about Ashley's own goaltending blooper, but she doesn't. The notion of squirting water has directed her mind elsewhere.
"Is it time to go swimming?"
Two boys -- one eager, one reluctant -- are setting up a chess board in the recreation cabin, where the older boys hang out after lunch. Checkers fill in for some missing pawns.
"You do know how to play chess!"
"I know how to play a little bit."
Then, after a few moves: "Check!"
"How is that check?"
"I'm opposing your king."
A Monopoly board is being set up, too, and there is an argument over who will be banker.
"Six twenties doesn't equal 100!"
"Yes it does."
Fingers are employed, and the matter is settled.
A camper battles a counselor in the tic-tac-toe-like game of Connect Four.
"Wake up, man," says the boy, "because I'm undefeatable!"
He is, too.
"You've got to get your swimming stuff!" the counselor says. "Come on, guys, it's time to go."
The chess game is in its final stages.
"You can't do that -- my queen. . . ," says the chess whiz. "You can't do that."
Finally, his beleaguered opponent finds the one move that will keep his king safe. It's short-lived.
"Now it's checkmate," the winner says.
The pieces are tipped back into the box as the vanquished player ponders his defeat.
"I'm going to win basketball," he decides.
The Final Stretch
For more than 20 years, Washington Post readers have provided vital support for Camp Moss Hollow. We couldn't do it without you.
Will we be able to do it this year? With two weeks left to go, it's not looking great. But the final stretch has always been when we raise most of the funds. If you've given in the past, I hope you'll give again. If you haven't, I hope you'll honor the vital work that is done at Moss Hollow, which over the years has helped thousands of the Washington area's neediest kids.
Our goal by July 27: $650,000. Our total so far: $184,217.99. Here's how to help:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to Family and Child Services, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/johnkelly. Click on the icon that says, "Make a Donation." To donate by MasterCard or Visa by phone, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions on our taped message.
Or why not feed your face and feel good about it? Order the popcorn Gulf shrimp appetizer today at any area McCormick & Schmick's Seafood or the almond-crusted shrimp appetizer at any M&S Grill and the proceeds will go to Send a Kid to Camp.