What does the concept of “team” mean to individual-sport athletes? Killington Mountain School students, coaches, teachers, and staff spent three days together based out of Plymouth, Vermont’s Farm and Wilderness camp exploring that concept and forming bonds that they will carry into the 2017-2018 season.
The group arrived at camp on Wednesday, where they were met by Keith Wilford, founder of The Wilford Movement, a program that helps young athletes reach their full potential both in their sport of choice but more importantly, as empathetic, emotionally resilient, determined, and engaged human beings.
The entire room was captivated as Keith shared his story, tracing his journey from childhood misdiagnosis, to successful pro athlete, to heart attack survivor and ultimately, to a re-imagined self- awareness and definition. Throughout the three-day excursion, Keith challenged the school’s student-athletes to examine who they are as people, the role each plays as a part of a larger community and team, and asked them to take chances at being vulnerable, honest, and open to those around them.
After meeting with Keith on Wednesday, students moved into their cabins, played some games outdoors, and then the entire faculty arrived for dinner. After dinner, groups met in House teams to discuss the plans for the following day.
On Thursday, House teams headed out on planned hikes of area mountains. The Blue team climbed Mt. Abe, the Orange team ascended Bromley, Purple and Green teamed up to scale Okemo, and Red and Yellow joined forces to tackle Mt. Ascutney. The rain luckily held off for all of the groups, and hikers were able to ascend and descend in good weather. After a few stops on the way back to camp for maple creemees and other snacks, everyone reunited back at camp where people swam, set out on paddle boards and canoes, and some launched off a rope swing before a round of showers rolled through. The rain subsided just in time for dinner, where students enjoyed the opportunity to continue the conversation with Keith in small groups and one-on-one. A lot of laughs took place during the post-dinner activity, which consisted of teams competing in House groups to successfully protect an egg from cracking using a small set of materials. Eggs were launched in dramatic fashion from a balcony overhead, and ultimately, it would seem that KMS has academic strength in the engineering department because except for the egg that Wyatt Hoffman asked be dropped on his head, all of the group’s eggs survived the big drop. After roasting marshmallows for s’mores over a wonderful campfire (thanks to Richard Morse), a very tired crew headed to bed.
After packing up camp on Friday, the group headed to the Killington Recreation Fields where Keith led the entire school in a group workout that was challenging, fun, and cooperative. The school’s entire coaching staff looked on as the group worked out together, with students serving as facilitators to explain tasks to their peer groups. Keith ended the workout with a group talk, and then gave each student a journal and a pen, explaining to them the power of writing down one’s thoughts as a means of exploration and self-awareness. The students then took time to begin writing in their journals, reflecting on those who helped them pursue their dreams, and what shape they wanted their year to take. Head of School Tao Smith brought the orientation to a close with words for the entire school, and the group headed back to campus, unified in purpose and excited about the possibility that lay ahead.