WIN Article #120 Keys for Long Lasting Wrestling Events


Keys for Long Lasting Wrestling Events
By Ben Peterson

It has been my privilege to have conducted a wrestling camp program with my brother John for 40 years. A major number of our past staff and campers decided to get together and retell memories at an honors banquet. John and I thanked people all weekend and will continue to do so for a long time.

What impressed me was the unique staff that so committed themselves to our campers. I found myself listing the special qualities they brought to our camps. If you are running a wrestling program of some kind the following should be useful.

Start with the right dreams, ideas and energy.
Beginning our camping program 40 years ago took Coach Robert Rapson. He was a football and basketball coach and an athletic director. He was a man with ideas and the energy to make things happen. I shared our dreams of a camp in late November, but had neither the knowledge nor the confidence to start the camp. Rapson had facilities by Christmas, brochures and mailings by February, and staff and 150 registered campers by June. He knew timing was key. Strong advice, experience, and energy at the right time are essential for a lasting adventure.

Rapson only worked with us for 2 years but by then we had a plan, knowledge of that plan, and the confidence to work that plan. The plan was simple as well as manageable and still drives us today.
1.) The best wrestling instruction. 2.) Definite recreation. 3.) A daily Bible study. 4.) Best camp food anywhere.

Secure leaders.
Rapson advised me to get someone to organize and implement the daily schedule. I have coordinated most of the wrestling instruction. Initially John and I did all the teaching. Today we have much help, but the recreation, meals, housing and injuries are dealt with by our program director. He handles the surprises and urgent matters, so that the wrestling program is not affected. A dependable right hand man has kept staff energy strong for our wrestlers. An assistant troubleshooter near each mat keeps surprises from stopping a program at the wrong time.

Find and keep patrons.
From the start we had solid coaches and wrestlers that believed John and I had something to offer. It is a tremendous honor to take that respect and give them wrestling instruction and a positive experience. Without coaches we had no avenue to the wrestlers, and without the wrestlers we had no one to teach. Soon the parents recommended us because they saw what was happening to their sons. Without the coaches, wrestlers and parents we would have no one to teach, or to pay the bills. Thank you Richies, Cowdy, Lehrke and Selsings!

Select diverse energetic staff that you have confidence in.
John and I have each brought staff to Camp of Champs that we knew and trusted. His Athletes in Action contacts, my Maranatha college wrestlers, and area coaches made a diverse group. Each one brought strengths which they taught and balanced each other with.

Build “family” atmosphere.
Our parents and brothers added a family element to camp. Dad handled the checkbook and paying the bills. Mom registered campers and prayed for each one. Our brothers were counselors and gladly assisted as needed. Thus a strong family atmosphere was created from the start. When John brought Nancy and I met Jan, we added strong enthusiastic wives to complement and complete our work. They helped pattern a balanced caring tough love.

When our children came along they grew up with our campers and staff. Today our sons look at Mike Houck and Jim Gruenwald as their older brothers. The more recent campers have been treated as young brothers. All are loved and respected as family. A family atmosphere with love and respect is a must to keep wrestlers coming back for 40 years. Occasionally when I give a staff member his check I hear this, “I can’t believe you pay us for having so much fun!” Build Family!

We hired Audie as a counselor. He sent his mother Shirley who has cooked meals for 30 years. We got more than a counselor and a cook, we got lifelong friends.

In 1991 John introduced us to Romanian Coach Peter Stroe. Peter worked 18 summers. He quickly won the hearts of our campers. We all recall the campers chanting his name. They loved him for his tough training, detailed technique and warm smile. Campers may have forgotten his name and country but they remember “Peter”.

Twelve times Dan Gable attended camp. His day at camp became a time of learning and analyzing. Dan made us think and want to do better at all we do.

Rick came as a counselor. Whatever needed to be done, he did it. From program director to total care of the mats, Rick and his three boys did it, and I never needed to worry.

And thank you to Jesus. He has given us a message to share that is bigger than wrestling or ourselves. A key of Camp of Champs’ 40 years is that we have given our wrestlers the means to build their lives through the Bible studies as they build their wrestling.

The Competitor USA Wrestling Asics
National Wrestling Hall of Fame
USA Wrestling
"Camp of Champs offers great intensity with humble teachings. There is a positive and solid foundation from the minute you walk through the door until the very last minute you leave. It's an experience of a life time."
... Rudy James

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