Newsletter #6: Tecumseh Day 2017
The following comes from the desk of Charlie Malcolm, now in his 27th year as Pemi’s Athletic Director.
For over a hundred years, Camp Pemi and our friends at Camp Tecumseh have engaged in one of the more entertaining and pure sporting events in the country. Five age groups lock into an intense competition in four sports—a total of twenty contests—with each event having the potential to bring out the very best in our respective campers and communities.
Two years ago I wrote a blog article from the perspective of our fifteen-year-old seniors and how they come to grips with their last Tecumseh Day, the meaning of the day, and ultimately, the closure of their competition as boys at camp. I’ve watched boys walk up from the Tecumseh waterfront, pause at the top of the hill, and look back with tears in their eyes as they witness the end of something deep and special.
In this newsletter, I want to travel with our youngest campers to Camp Tecumseh. Let’s explore the Ten-and-unders, “Doc Nick’s wonders,” and reflect on their perceptions of the day and maybe shed some light on the value of this experience. Does this day create a positive energy and bind our community more tightly? What important lessons and experiences provide growth, and is this appropriate for our junior campers? I’ll cover the day from the Ten-and-under perspective, weaving together their experiences and the words that shaped their understanding of Tecumseh Day.
There were 32 Ten-and-unders living in the Junior Camp at the beginning of the season, and of those, 24 left us in mid-season, leaving our eight full-session boys to welcome their second-session teammates a mere ten days before Tecumseh Day. Even with eight seasoned veterans, it still takes thoughtful work by the Junior Camp staff to pull the age group together. Junior Camp Division Head Wesley Eifler and his incredible counseling team masterfully foster a kind and supportive community, foundational for a successful competition. It is the cementing of these relationships that anchors a given age group’s success on a long and challenging Tecumseh Day.
The majority of the boys sign up for team occupations/practices during the week leading up to Tecumseh: baseball, soccer, tennis, and swimming. Over the course of the week, the cheers in the mess hall grow louder with each passing day, and the juniors, along with the seniors, are often the loudest and most enthusiastic. Some of the boys who were experiencing homesickness are drawn into the camp’s collective enthusiasm and begin to feel fully present at camp. While the cheers occasionally chase Head of Nature Larry Davis out of the mess hall, the reverberations of “Beat Tecumseh!” cascade out of our communal dining room, bounce off Dead Man’s Hill and Victoria’s Peak, and split Mt. Carr. One skips through Plymouth and Center Harbor, sending tremors through Moultonborough, while the rest of the cheers bounce through the Franconias and Presidentials and end up on the porch of Orin Tucker somewhere north of Millinocket, Maine. All true….
While the mess hall rocks most evenings leading up to Tecumseh Day, the Ten-and-unders work tirelessly on their strokes in swimming, their ability to land their first serve in tennis, their willingness and ability to combine on the soccer field, and their ability to hit and play defense in baseball. The beauty of Tecumseh Day is that many boys play sports that they only do at camp, leaning a little further out of their comfort zone for the good of their team and community.
On Friday morning, the juniors wake to the bugle and to a group of seniors who cheer the boys as they rise from their cabins. After a quick polar bear in the lake and an expedited breakfast in the mess hall, the boys are loaded on the buses and leave camp by 7:35 AM. All praise to Assistant Director Kenny Moore, master of logistics, as the buses leave on time and allow ample time for the boys prepare for their matches when they arrive at Tecumseh.
10s Baseball: Setting the Tone
Shep Griffiths returned to Pemi this summer after taking a year to travel with his family. The fire-baller from Rye, NY, straddled the mound, took a deep breath, and looked into his catcher’s mitt. “I was really nervous, but once the game started I was really into it.” Well, Shep certainly was up to the challenge as he proceeded to mow down the Tecumseh batters from the opening inning. He struck out thirteen batters and fielded four bunts for a total of seventeen of a possible eighteen outs. He did this with a pitch count under seventy, a stunning feat at any level.
Twice, Pemi loaded the bases but could not deliver the key hit to break open the game. With the contest still tied 0-0 in the bottom the 6th inning, Shep issued a one-out walk and Tecumseh’s next batter laid down another bunt. Shep fielded the ball and fired to second base, only to find no middle infielder covering. Fortunately, Jake Landry backed up the play at second and literally saved the game with his heads-up, well-coached baseball play. (Editor’s Note: Phil Landry, Jake’s Dad, is a Fauver Baseball Trophy winner, played numerous seasons for me, and became a great baseball coach at Pemi for six seasons.) With runners at first and third and one out, the Tecumseh fans were making some serious noise, and Shep needed to respond with Tecumseh’s heart of the order at the plate.
With laser focus, he struck out the first batter for the second out and the atmosphere was electric. Cheers of, “Let’s go, Pemi!” resounded in spite of an incredibly loud Tecumseh crowd. According to Shep, “This is Tecumseh Day; I’m going to throw it my hardest.” The batter swung and the foul tip landed firmly in Giacomo Turco’s mitt for the final out of a thrilling 0-0 game. “We all ran onto the field and hugged Shep,” said Philip Fauver. “Seeing him pitch like that really set the tone for the day.”
After the thrilling end to the baseball game, the Ten-and-unders walked confidently up to Grant Field to prepare for their soccer match. One of the great challenges of Tecumseh Day is to transition from one sport to the next event over the course of a long day. It takes focus and mental fortitude to keep the enthusiasm going or to dust off after a difficult defeat. Tecumseh quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first ten minutes of play as their speed and competitive spirit put the Pemi Tens on their heels.
Jackson Heller fought tenaciously at midfield while Shep’s defensive clears bought Pemi time to solve Tecumseh’s defense. With better tactical commitment to attacking the flanks, Pemi was able to turn the outside backs of Tecumseh and serve balls into the middle where the hustling and opportunistic Oliver Philips jumped on a loose ball and buried it to cut Tecumseh’s lead to 2-1. After scoring, Oliver dashed to the Pemi bench and ran the gauntlet of high fives getting everyone excited to play. Coach made some changes in the defense and sent out Philip Fauver, who’d not started the game, to left back. Philip jumped into the game. “I was disappointed not to start and I thought I wasn’t going to play. But once I got in there, I stopped my wing and blocked a lot of shots. I wasn’t afraid.” The ability to overcome initial disappointment and to embrace an opportunity embodies the personal resiliency that makes a team successful.
Pemi started to play more confidently but Tecumseh struck again just before halftime, pushing their lead to 3-1. A late goal can be fairly demoralizing, but Coaches Kim Bradshaw and Sam Dixon rallied the boys. The defensive trio of Shep, Jake Landry, and Philip Fauver held their line for much of the second half and, with great support from cheering seniors on the sideline, a fired-up Ten’s team made a commitment to combine on the flanks and avoid the middle of the pitch. Kieran Klasfeld, Merrick Chapin, and Oliver united to beat several defenders and Oliver once again drew Pemi within a goal. Tecumseh, always a relentless opponent, then pushed their lead to 4-2. Pemi nearly scored when Shep’s penalty kick whistled by the cross bar. “After I missed my penalty kick, no one was mad at me. They told me to keep my head up and make the next one.”
With Shep off the field, Charlie Bowman stepped up and converted a free kick to pull Pemi to just a 4-3 deficit with the fans of both camps urging the boys forward. With under a minute left to play, Pemi received one last free kick from just outside the penalty area. Bowman’s kick just missed the upper corner and Pemi lost a hard-fought match 4-3.
It was a tough loss, but the gritty determination of our youngest Pemi boys to keep fighting back was one of the defining moments of the day and an important lesson for athletes and spectators alike on the critical importance of resiliency. The Tens received great support from their Pemi fans, especially with the cheers of the Fifteens urging the team forward, and they repeatedly responded with courage and fortitude. Kieran summed up how he felt about the loss: “When the game was over, even though we lost, we never put our heads down. The Fifteens watching our game came over and told us we did a great job and they were proud of us. I was bummed out, but we had tennis next, and I decided to make up for it in my doubles match after lunch.”
Tecumseh Dining Hall: Friends in the Zoo
Dining at Camp Tecumseh is one of the highlights for our boys. They hear stories about the cheers and banging on the tables as the dining hall is a source of great fun and energy for the Tecumseh community. While Pemi sings songs about cans of beans and bloomer girls, our friends from Tecumseh have a series of interactive cheers and spoofs that make for a lively environment.
In the back of the dining hall is an area known as the “zoo,” where the more colorful entertainment pulsates and drives the rest of the dining hall. Philip Fauver described it this way: “A senior told me to sit in the ‘zoo.’ It was really fun and really odd. A bunch of middle-aged men and kids whacking the table and singing chants about bananas, coconuts, and the olé chant you hear at soccer games. They even sing and do the hokey pokey. It was fun, but yes, a little awkward, too.”
Shep enjoyed the mess hall, but what he most enjoyed was meeting the boys from Tecumseh. “I sat with a kid who played baseball and tennis. He was a really nice kid and we shared stories about our camps. He told me about the blue/grey competition they have each week in all different sports.” At the end of the lunch, the boys went up to the tennis courts to continue their battle. They had tied their baseball game, lost a competitive soccer match 4-3, and now needed to muster their energy to play tennis and swim in the afternoon.
10s Tennis: Evening the Score
I’ll let Coach Jon Duval describe the tennis match and then give you the juniors’ take on it:
The Tens took the court following lunch at Tecumseh and a brief rest hour. The team came in confident after their dominating performance at the 1st-session Baker Valley Tournament, where they went 9-1 in matches played. The first match to finish was #2 doubles, where Norwood Davis and Kieran Klasfeld quickly dispatched their opponents, identical twins, 8-1, giving Pemi a 1-0 lead in the match. After a quick start, Sam Young and Jake Landry finished their match at #1 doubles 8-4, widening Pemi’s lead to 2-0. Tecumseh responded to being down by winning #3 doubles against Thomas Ruhanen and P.J Reed 8-4. Despite a massive comeback after being down 5-0, Giacomo Turco also fell to a tough opponent at #4 singles 8-5, evening the match at 2-2 with only 1, 2, and 3 singles left to finish. After leading the whole match, Shep Griffiths won #3 singles 8-5. In a heartbreaker, Oliver Philips lost a tough match to a very good Tecumseh opponent 7-6 (9-7) in a tiebreaker at #1 Singles. With the match tied 3-3, everything came down to Oscar Andersson at #2 Singles. Oscar clutched out the match 8-6 after a great effort from his opponent, securing the 4-3 win and giving Tens tennis an undefeated season.
With the victory in tennis, the Ten-and-unders brought their overall record to 1-1-1 with only swimming left to go. The boys felt proud of their accomplishments and appreciated all of the support from their coaches, cabin mates, and seniors.
Swimming: The Last Race
As the boys walked down to the waterfront, they were immediately struck by the inspiring view of Lake Winnepesauke. The massive lake with the Ossipee range in the background and dozens of boats buzzing by the waterfront can be quite disorienting for the Pemi boys from Lower Baker Pond.
Shep walked down to the waterfront having pitched in the baseball game, played centerback in the soccer game, and won his singles tennis match. He had no idea of the overall score of the day. “When I got down to the docks, I started thinking about the story of Metal Boy and how, for him, whoever won the event won the day. Charlotte reminded us of our strokes and we began practicing. The water was awesome, cold, and you could see the bottom. It was weird having the beach be so public with boats driving by and the lake was so big.”
Pemi led for most of the meet as Boone Snyder won the breaststroke and Lucas Vitale won the ‘fly. Merrick Chapin finished second in the breaststroke and Ben Cavenagh delivered a second in the freestyle. Unfortunately, Pemi would eventually lose the meet when Tecumseh took 1st and 2nd place in the final freestyle relay for a 33-27 victory. “I was standing on the docks and I looked over and saw all of the Pemi people cheering,” said Shep. “When they announced the results at the end of the meet we were kinda down. No one was crushed, but I felt a little bad for the seniors.”
After a long day, the Tens and Fifteens came together for one last cheer to celebrate the race and salute Tecumseh’s victory. Our fifteen-year-olds faced the end of their camp competitive days while our ten-year-olds pulled together their feelings about what this meant to them.
Home: Understanding a Bigger Picture
As I write, the van is waiting to take Sam Papel, me, and six boys for a four-day backpacking trip through the Mahoosuc Range, so I’ll let Philip Fauver and Shep Griffiths share their final thoughts on the day.
Shep described returning back to Pemi and the community he felt when he arrived. “When we returned home everyone was waiting for us and clapping. It felt good. The seniors brought us together and said they were proud of us and how we had came together. They all said ‘Pemi on three,’ and then everybody cheered together. In my two years of competing, it is definitely my favorite day at camp. Tecumseh had great sportsmanship. They were never negative, they always hustled, and they were really fast. However, I kinda felt like we won the day, not in terms of points or wins, but in teamwork.”
As for Philip Fauver, he had some advice for future juniors. “It’s a really hyped-up day, but don’t get too cocky. Tecumseh is a sports camp; we are not. We still believe we can do it, but don’t be crushed if we don’t. Give us another week of preparation and I think we can beat these guys. I’m excited to prep for another Tecumseh Day again, but next week I’m going hiking, working in the wood shop, and going on a nature hike because camp isn’t just about sports. There are so many things to do.”
And on those final words…I’m taking Philip’s advice and getting into that van to hike some gnarly mountains. ~Charlie Malcolm