Week 4-5

These past two weeks were extremely special for me! I had a new experience every week, and I was finally out of the youngest bale! I was able to work with middle and then oldest girls. Being with the youngest campers is super fun and many of them have never been to camp before. It is really amazing being able to shape how their camp experience is and having a direct impact on that. There is no comparing this year to a year before, it is all new. With the youngest, sometimes there is a lack in meaningfulness for them, camp is really fun and creates bonds but they aren’t old enough to really get all of camps meaning. Being super silly and weird with the youngest is tons of fun but it is a different experience than having oldest campers.

Week four was rheumatic diseases, juvenile arthritis, and lupus. I was working with the middle girls and it was a total blast! These girls bonded really closely with each other and became sisters. The counselors planned this really fun secret mission where we snuck to the dining hall and got snacks! We were snacking the in the dining hall and really played it up with the campers that they had to be quiet and that we couldn’t be seen! When we were done with our snacks, we headed back up to the cabin where we saw lots of counselors going to and from cabin row. Here the camp director was biking by and stopped to see the commotion as all the girls ran into the cabin. She came back five minutes later to check on the girls and went into their side of the room, she really played it up and made sure that no one left the cabin and that all was well! The girls really believed her and it truly made the night special. We have a fantastic support staff who really go above and beyond the call of duty. We had a camper this week who never danced, and she wouldn’t participate in one single dance at camp. For those who know me, I am not a dancer one bit, I have never done it nor do I enjoy it. That pretty much all changed when I got here, the camp dances are super fun and dancing with the campers is a total blast. So in order to get this camper to dance, one of my co-counselors told her that if she participated in one dance, that the camper could cut her hair! It was so cool and so much fun, she participated in a dance and that night, cut the counselors hair, this camper really enjoyed doing it and got a huge confidence boost from doing so.

Working with middle girls was awesome, I think in teaching I would really enjoy working at the middle school level. I really like how you can still be silly and weird and they won’t look at you like you have three heads. They also don’t get the too cool for camp mentality which can be very difficult to work with.

Week five was Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America week–Crohn’s and Ulcerated Colitis. I worked with oldest girls this week and that was a totally new experience! I don’t think I had been around and more boy crazy group of campers. They were always wanting to go near the boy cabins and talk to them. We really had to use redirection skills and get them to focus on something else. We had a camper in our cabin who is 15 years old and had never met anyone else with the same disease as her. Her mom was super excited and happy for her to get to know some people who know exactly what she is going with and can share experiences with. At the end of the week they were all sharing contact information and were going to connect with each other out of camp. We worked with some volunteers this week in our cabin who had either Crohn’s or UC and they were really able to connect with the campers. I think the campers really looked up to them and can really see how they can do anything they want and that their disease does not define or limit them in many ways.

Coming up this next week is hemophilia–back with youngest boys! Hemophilia is a disease that primarily affects the male population. Therefore, we only have two girl cabins on camp and the rest are boys. This is going to be a very high energy week to say the least. In my cabin it is all female counselors and one male counselor. We are trying to brainstorm ways to get us to join the brotherhood so the boys can feel comfortable around us all for the week.

Speedo Sectional Champions!

This past weekend was the final competition for the majority of athletes who trained this summer with UNC, the Speedo Sectional Championship at Greensboro Aquatic Center. There were a lot of great swims, a few swims which could have been better but for the most part the meet ended on a high note as the UNC athletes helped NCAC claim the championship.

The Greensboro Aquatic Center is a beautiful facility. Eight lanes, 50-meter pool by 20 lanes, 25 yard pool. Completely separate from that is a diving “well” with one meter, three meter, five meter, 10 meter diving boards and a platform (I think) which enter into a separate eight lane, 25-yard pool. Which is hardly a diving “well” as the pool has more lanes and is significantly deeper than most pool facilities which teams practice out of, and this pool serves strictly as a warm up/cool down pool during competition. Completely separate from the competitive facility, which also offers plenty of stands for spectators (an area typically neglected when planning a competitive facility) and a plan of extending deck space (another neglected area hence the need for alterations), is a separate lap pool where swim lessons and lap swim remain available during competitions. Overall the facility is amazing and the reason that major meets are making a move to use the facility. Not to mention the remarkable amount of income the facility has generated for the city of Greensboro whenever major swim meets are held. Anyone looking to develop a pool facility should reach out to the GAC and find out how they were able to create a remarkable facility and attempt to replicate it because every facility I have ever been to has flaws or has flaws with how the facility is managed or maintained.

Then there was the swimming, which included mostly highs and a few lows as is always the case with competitive swimming. Most difficult for me to watch were the athletes who performed less than their training and coaches had prepared them for, mostly because their own heads got in the way. The phrase “swimming is 90 percent mental” is one of the most honest things I’ve learned about the sport.

I started to ask the athletes who had struggled through the meet and had made it to Sunday finals after ending the meet positively what they were thinking just before they stepped onto the block and where their heads were during the race. The number one answer, “I didn’t care anymore.” Well, the smile on their faces at the end of their races gave evidence to what a nonsensical answer that was. Of course they cared, but they didn’t put anymore pressure on themselves before the last race. Now, what if they figured out how to hogan in on that feeling every time they went to race. The amount of pressure the athletes put on themselves creates a tension which typically does not condone fast swimming.

I feel stronger now than ever before, with regard to mental training being just as important as the physical training. As coaches, we encourage our athletes to perform their best during practices and meets, but what are we doing to encourage the mental training which we all know is equally important. When athletes don’t perform to our expectations we’re quick to evaluate the training plan; the physical demands whether or not they have been met, probably because it’s simpler to assess the physical training compared to the mental training. You can see it, you can quantitatively evaluate it, you can test it and the tests of physical training have been tested and retested in the past so it’s easier to compare notes.

Speaking for myself, in the past it’s easier to tell myself the athlete didn’t do enough when there is only one or two who don’t meet expectations and the training plan worked for everyone else in the group. Truly I need to stop doing that. Each athlete is an individual and training plans should reflect their individual needs. However, that’s not realistic as typically you’re training six to eight athletes per lane and each one cannot be performing their own workout in one lane. But what if at the end of the season a small group of athletes who were not as successful as their peers met with the coach to evaluate their performances, their peers performances, and the coach’s performance as it pertained to those individuals to create a new training plan. Yes, it would most certainly create more work for us as coaches and the time slips by quickly as it is and becomes more and more difficult to find time for ourselves. To that I ask what is the price of greatness? And truly how much more time would you need to give up in the long line of things if you did followed this process for a season just to test it, you’d already have two to three training plans you could potentially implement the next time something like this happened. We are quick to write the kids who don’t find success as easily as their peers as ‘head-cases.’ I think we need to stop telling ourselves it is the athlete and start asking what more we could do. Often as coaches we are teaching our athletes more than how to swim fast, what lesson are we demonstrating if we keep trying the same things repeatedly when they’re not working?

The reason I love coaching so much is because of the many opportunities there are to create a new way of doing things. Well, what happens if you find yourself working a cycle of repetition (that is working), don’t want to mess with a system that works. How does someone trying to get into the college world, where there have been so many successful coaches doing it their way to bring new ideas or philosophy to a working system. Don’t fix something that isn’t broken. Well, what if it’s not broken but it could still use improvement? There is after all always room for improvement, because nothing is perfect.

Two weeks left before Phillips 66 Summer Nationals. Thursday and Friday I’ll be heading to Indianapolis for YMCA Nationals with Coach Christy Garth. I’ll be on baby duty while she does some recruiting but I’ll also be able to watch some fast swimming!

More to come with some awesome trips coming up in the next two weeks and some even faster swimming!!

Go Heels!






More Trail Maintenance in “The Bob”

Something one needs to do well during this internship is have a “go with the flow” type of attitude. On my third trip into The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, I was surprised to find out at the trail head that two trips had been combined because of lack of volunteers. So instead of a small weeds trip including Marchand, another intern named Danny, five other volunteers and myself, this trip doubled in size. After an incredible drive just south of Glacier National Park to the Summit Trail head, the two crew leaders and I did the usual safety discussion which includes hiking in bear country, staying hydrated, and hiking with stock animals on the trail. After the safety talk and introductions were over with, we hit the trail. It was a 13 mile hike in to the Badger Cabin where we would be staying for a the duration of the trip. Unfortunately, our stock packer only had five mules with him so everyone had to carry most of their personal gear. Since I usually try to help carry pieces of gear for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation such as the first aid kit, a couple saws, and other small items, my pack was around 55 pounds (about 20 pounds more than I have been carrying this summer). The group started at 9:30 a.m. and did not arrive to the cabin until around 5:30 p.m. Whenever you hike with a large group of people, the hike can take a bit longer. This trail was especially difficult because we had more than eight river or creek crossings. So every time we came to one it would take about 15 minutes to take off the boots, put on the river crossing shoes, put your hiking boots back on, and start hiking again.

This cabin was well worth the trouble to hike to. It was located on badger creek, and had a large amount of land available for the horses and mules to graze. Similar to the North Fork Cabin I stayed at, it included a nice kitchen set with counters and a nice table. It also included two bunk beds that I resisted sleeping in telling myself, “You did not drive all the ways from Massachusetts to sleep in a cabin and not underneath a full moon and sky full of stars.”

I was happy to hear that on this trip instead of spraying a noxious weed called toad for three days which seemed to be all over the property, I would be helping the east side crew leader Megan teaching and partaking in trail maintenance. On our first workday, we went to our first assignment and did a lot of hiking before we came to our first log to cut. With so few logs down on the trail, we ended up fixing a lot of drainage areas for the trail. After lunch, we continued up along a long ridge until we found a couple huge patches of snow! It was an incredible location with a view way out into Glacier National Park. It was a scorching hot day at around 90 degrees and no one could resist from making a few snow angels and throwing a few snowballs.

Day two consisted of another long hike; only we were surprised when we saw that the creek we were relying on for water was completely dry. Luckily on this trip, our packer Keith had stayed with us the whole weeks and helped carry our tools. He would go ahead of us and scout the trail. We kept hiking up a mountain called Half Dome Crag for one last log but it was another hot day and by far the longest hike we had to do for work. We cut the last log on the trail and turned around for the cabin and would not be back till around 6 p.m.

It can be very difficult hiking in “The Bob” sometimes because of how many other unmarked games and cow trails. These are trails not registered though the forest service but are used by hunters and are also made by large amounts of cattle that roam through the land. On our third and final workday, we lost our focus and ended up on the wrong trail. It took a few hours to get to our work site and there was not much there anyways, so we built a few trail markers called Cairns. Cairns are rock piles intentionally built to hikers do not go astray. After we made the trail more obvious to hikers, we headed back a little early tired from the day before.

All around it was a great trip because it exposed me to a number of skills outdoor leaders need such as patience and decision-making. It was clear we did our jobs well as educators, when one of the teenage volunteers on the trip was showing how badly she did not want to leave with her parents at the trail head. Volunteers for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, come out on these trips to give back, relax, and have an enjoyable time in this incredible wilderness area. After approximately 60 miles hiked, 30 trees cut, and many water bars cleared, we left with a sense of accomplishment over those five days.


Having a Devilishly Good Time

Man, the summer is half way over and I am just getting a chance to sit down and put some words down for my first post, even though I am still currently working, all day, on a Saturday. But hey, I seriously love what I am doing here at the Prudential Center.

A quick introduction:  My name is Andrew Ptacek and I am a senior (sigh) studying sport management at the Birthplace. I am from a small town on the south shore of Long Island called Bayport. I currently am completing my internship with the company Devils Arena Entertainment, who owns the building, the Prudential Center, and also the New Jersey Devils. I am working in the Operations Department, which is compiled into event management and guest services.

This summer we had a plethora of events of different shapes and sizes, literally speaking, with stage setup and attendance numbers. We still have a lot more to come. So far I have seen the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics U.S. Games, high school graduations, rock & roll concerts (Styx and Foreigner), Professional Bull Riding, WWE, and a Katy Perry concert, which was out of this world awesome!

So I guess I should explain what exactly I do here at the PruCenter, shouldn’t I? Well some things are confidential so I can’t give away too much but when it isn’t a concert day, I am in the office doing the regular office stuff: filing, copying, scanning, running errands around the offices, and basically anything else that my supervisors call upon me to do. I’ve created spreadsheets to compile numbers from past events to show data percentages for other departments to use. I’ve created quotes and estimates for potential customers whom wish to use our spaces for an event of some sorts. I have sat in countless meetings with partners and other departments about anything and everything dealing with the operations piece of an event.

All in all the days are busy but enjoyable.

The guys in the office are a blast to work with and have really helped me out and shed their knowledge about the field on me.

During events, I rotate working with either event management or guest services. When working with event management, the work usually starts about a week before the event, but if you’re lucky and working with someone who knows what they’re doing, it might start a few months before hand. That means going through walkthroughs of the facility, developing an event flow and location, along with other more confidential material. However, on event days, my day has an early start, like today for instance, we have a Columbian concert tonight and I needed to arrive for work by 8 a.m. and when commuting via train from Queens to Newark means I need to wake up quite early.

After I arrive, the stagehands are on their way, building the stage and rigging for lights and what not.

Throughout the day, we work with the event promoter and basically make sure everything on the contract has been met and is accounted for. Once the event beings, our jobs are pretty much finished. Then we get to go and enjoy the show.

When working with guest services, the main goal for us is to make sure every guest has a happy experience. This is sometimes difficult, but it must be done all done with a smile too. In some cases you make their day but doing relocations, which is basically giving out floor seats to a party that is sitting up in the rafters. Lately I have been in charge of VIP ticket will call. They come in, tell me their last name and show proper identification, and then I give them their tickets. If there is a problem, which there has been, you go to the source who either left them the tickets or who sold them. Not too difficult, but they are VIP so they needed to be treated with the utmost of care.

That’s the rundown on what I do pretty much weekly. Its long hours, sometimes I leave work passed 11p.m., and I work on weekends, but in the end I am loving what I am doing, I am learning a whole lot, and I get to see some awesome shows so it is all worth it. When the end of August comes around I know I am not going to want to leave this place. There is a great working and social culture here that I am proud to be a part of. Well, time to get back to work. Hopefully I can write again soon!

It’s hard to get pictures of me since I am constantly moving around but here are two that people in the office took my me. The one with the radio is from Special Olympics and the other one is from Katy Perry.

photo 1                         photo 3

Another Two Weeks!

It’s been quite some time since I have written anything! I’ll just say I have been building the suspense. My second group of two-week campers are here and boy are they different than my last group. They listen better and get things done a lot quicker, but they aren’t nearly as playful and silly; every group is different. Here is what we have done so far and a few things I have learned along the way.

  1. Cali kids love “good vibes.” We spent a day in arts and crafts making ‘good vibes’ shields to keep the peace within the cabin and in the water. “Shred the gnar” is a common term.


  1. Our camping trip to San Onofre will never be the same from one group to the next. The first time we went the waves were perfect and the kids were on “high alert” because the boys and girls were super flirty. This past trip the waves weren’t nearly as good and the kids were super laid back and mingled without creating cliques. Pros and cons to each!memz5Our tent set up at San Onofre


  1. A girl can be taught to ride a bike and bike for 28 miles in the same day. One of my girls, Taylor, is 15 and had never learned to ride a bike. The bike trip is something that happens for all two week Beachcombers (our teens group). We spent an hour and a half in the morning teaching her to ride a bike and then took off. It was really challenging, but one of the other girls was super helpful to me and we would help her take off and then we would run back to our bikes and continue on. The trip was far longer than usual, but Taylor was  grateful that she had learned to ride a bike.


I’ve learned far more along the way, but those are just a few memorable moments.

I had a day off at the beginning of the week and was able to go to Good Will, spend time with friends, work out (much needed!), and go to the drive-ins. I have seen wild dolphins jump right in front of my face, learned (basically) how to surf, and have been to one of the most world-renowned surf spots. Life is A-okay!

More to come soon!

memz2  memz4

Beautiful scenes in SanO!