travelogue – What I did at Summer Camp – USA

I worked. 

Eight intensive gymnastics weeks in 4 different gyms:

1) Funtastics, Idaho <2004 photos>
2) Calgary Gymnastics Centre
3) Mountain Shadows, Okotoks
4) Woodward West, Tehachapi, California

Summer is my favourite time of year in the gym. I enjoyed camp as a kid & I had a good time coaching this summer.

This was my 3rd year at Funtastics (excellent!) and 2nd at Mountain Shadows (excellent!). But coaching in California was a first.


Americans think BIG. The Woodward West camp objective is nothing less than to supply the best week of a child’s life! 

Free video games, bowling, table games, dodgeball, campfires, sign-out camcorders & digital lab, climbing wall & much more. The camp has a wild west theme.

For me the highlight was the perfect climate at 4000 feet. 

Woodward from the air

The facility is superb.

Surprise surprise, the camp is expensive – US$800 / week. Beginners to advanced including trampoline, tumbling, acrosport & cheerleading (which is booming in the USA.)

Woodward is half skinny white girls doing gymnastics sports, half skinny white boys doing what they call Action Sports:

In-line skating
BMX bike
Mountain bike

It was an experience learning about the world of Action Sports … (In-line is by far the best, skateboarding dull in comparison.) … though I still can’t remember the difference between a tail-whip & a disaster.

X-games 2005 were held in California while I was there. Many X-superstars visited Woodward. In fact, we coached a BMX finalist from Australia. He learned a front flip on bike into the foam pit with us.

Skater clothes IMHO are the worst fashion trend in the sorry history of bad fashion. Me, now, with moustache & short-shorts — very cool. (I restrained from wearing the Speedo at the swimming pool.)

Injury is the biggest worry at Woodward.

My main goal at camp was to avoid having to send kids to the trainer. Imagine my surprise when alerted that one of my best & toughest gymnasts was being helicoptered to L.A. on what the camp euphemistically calls Air Disney.

Happily, Nicole was OK. She insisted her father drive her 3 hours back to camp directly from the hospital the next morning.

Another attraction of Woodward are the many famous people who are paid to sign autographs there.

Playing dodgeball with Katie Ketchum, popular inline skater, was a treat. Seeing her boyfriend Marco train was a highlight too — he’s the first skater to land triple back.

TamayoCharlie Tamayo, Cuban Worlds medallist

Kurt Thomas, a hero when I was a kid, gave me coaching tips.

Woodward West is expensive during the 10 weeks of summer. But training there during the off-season is a real bargain! Something like US$100 / gymnast for 3 days, 2 nights with food & accommodation.

The kids pay for & get a lot of freedom at Woodward. I thought too much freedom.

For example, a 10-year-old skateboarder was standing atop the overhanging edge above a concrete pool trying to summon the courage to try to drop in. A certain injury, I thought. The older, better boys were not doing it.

However, when I alerted the supposed supervisor, he seemed unconcerned.

Is that drop-in even possible?, I asked.

Maybe, he shrugged.

Shouldn’t you stop him?

No, he should try it if he wants to. That was the reply.

The kid still had his skateboard poised over the edge of the overhang, psyching-up, when I left.



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Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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