#6: Tecumseh Day through the Lens of a Camera

Pemigewassett Newsletter #6

This week’s newsletter comes, as promised, from Charlie Malcolm. A history teacher and head coach of the boy’s varsity soccer team at the Northfield-Mt. Hermon School in the off-season, Charlie has been our Athletic Director for close to three decades. His ability to motivate Pemi coaches and teams to be keen, well-prepared competitors and, at the same time, flawless sportsmen is an annual marvel here.

How Pictures Tell Stories:
Rendering Tecumseh Day through the Lens of a Camera

Every year, I write the Week Six Newsletter summarizing our annual athletic competition with Camp Tecumseh.  In the last five years, I have written about the day from the Juniors’ perspective, the Seniors’ perspective, the Sports Center blow-by-blow version, and the quick summary of the day followed by an extended description of my trip in the Allagash Wilderness.  This year, I’ll provide you with a brief overview of what transpired and then discuss some of my favorite photos taken both home and away that capture why this particular Tecumseh Day was special.

All season we have been blessed by incredible weather and also by photos from Dottie Reed, Tom Reed, Johnny Seebeck, and various trip counselors and program directors as they capture the essence and daily wonderment of Pemi and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  When I went through this season’s Tecumseh Day images, I was blown away by the quality and by the way so many photos captured a critical moment of a game or an essential lesson of the day.

Before I dive into the images with a corresponding narrative, I want first to walk through the build-up to the day, and what transpired in terms of wins and losses.  For various reasons, this Tecumseh Day felt especially good, and perhaps I should explain why. But let’s first start with what happened during our contests by the numbers.  We played Tecumseh in twenty events (baseball, soccer, swimming, and tennis) in the following age groups: 10-and-unders, 11s, 12s, 13s, and 15-and-unders. Our baseball program went 4-1, Tennis 3-2, Swimming 1-4, and Soccer 0-4-1.  In terms of overall age group records, the 15s finished 3-1, the 13s 2-1-1, the 12s 2-2, the 11s 0-4, and the 10s finished 1-3.

Pemi lost by the overall score of 8-11-1, but handily beat Las Vegas odds makers by 2.5 wins.  The Las Vegas line undoubtedly placed weight on the sub-par showing against Camp Kingswood a week earlier; on the limited one and a half weeks Pemi had to prepare, compared to Tecumseh’s three weeks; and on Tecumseh’s having twelve to fifteen additional campers in each of the 10, 11, and 12 age groups—odds that would be tough to overcome.

I’ll be honest, when the Las Vegas line of 6.5 wins for Pemi came in early in the week, I was shamefully leaning towards the under. Perhaps the three straight days of 90 degree temperatures shaded my analysis of our chances as the younger kids fought through the heat. Also, I had met with my counterpart from Tecumseh on Monday and knew the numbers for each division traveling to Pemi. Don’t worry, I didn’t share my concerns with the Pemi community, nor did I go to an off-track betting establishment and place a poorly considered wager.

What I didn’t sufficiently weigh was that our Seniors were doing an outstanding job inspiring their fellow Pemi campers to believe in each other and to give 100% in every contest.  I also didn’t quite appreciate the effect that outstanding coaching from a veteran Pemi staff—many certified Pemi warriors—would have on our boys. Ned Roosevelt, Patterson Malcolm, Henry Day, Nick Bertrand, Will Meinke, Andy MacDonald, Julian Webster-Hernandez, Nick Bowman, Charlotte Jones, and Chris Johnson are all veteran coaches or former campers who never back down.  Another influence I didn’t quite factor in was how many of our critical athletes playing central roles are the sons of former Pemi campers, raised on stories of mighty battles against our rivals from Camp Tecumseh. We are rolling out teams with boys named Cowles, Nook, Snyder, Applebaum, Burke, Greenberg, Judd, Broll, Schweagler, Silloway, Wyman, Somp, and others…they were not raised to wilt on this day of all days!  Nor did they!

You could feel the momentum building in the Mess Hall from the midpoint of the season. Once the Second Session boys arrived to join our Full Session campers, the Seniors unleashed “I believe…I believe that…I believe that we will win!” “Two more days,” and  “Where are my dogs at?” These exuberant, spontaneously wild cheers in the Mess Hall clearly had their effect.

While the 15s were amping up their energy and focus all week, the younger campers met the challenge of preparing with a wide range of success.  Just keeping track of shin guards, baseball gloves, tennis racquets, and swim goggles proved to be a fulltime job for the Junior Camp staff and this Athletic Director.  However, the Seniors instinctively found the delicate balance of inspiring younger campers without creating anxiety or nervous energy. This year they spoke from the heart and hit the perfect tone for the day.

Andrew Roth and Isaiah Abbey—both rehabbing from significant winter knee surgeries—were dealing with the crushing frustration of not being able to play in their last Tecumseh Day. Yet these Pemi veterans chose to provide steady leadership by channeling their personal disappointment into positive energy, selflessly lifting the boys.  I looked out at the excited boys in the Mess Hall and searched for the right words to set the tone. Seeing the Seniors’ commitment to the day and watching the community gradually become more unified shaped my message to the boys before they started the day of competition. Even so, something special was happening that I didn’t fully appreciate at the time.

Each year I send the boys off with some parting wisdom usually dredged from deep in my soul after years of Tom Reed Sr. mentoring me as a boy and as an athletic director. For Tom, the purpose of sports and especially our competition with Tecumseh was for each one of us to embrace the competition in a spirit of decency and respect for our opponents, making the most of the chance to embrace our shared humanity when we are most vulnerable to the self-serving temptations of competition.  For Tom, humility, hard work, and integrity were the most important attributes that coaches and players should uphold when representing Pemigewassett. Tapping my inner Tom Reed Sr., I merged his wisdom with the leadership the Seniors were providing the community to offer these final words before the boys left the Mess Hall for competition:

We play this day not to win “the hat,” but to become a better community.  The day will challenge you to be the best version of yourself, whether you are in the heat of the battle or on the sidelines cheering.  So much about this day is about coming together, lifting each other up, staying engaged in every contest, competing for each other, and having the courage to compete to the last whistle, pitch, serve, or race.  If at the end of the day we are a stronger, more committed community, and if each of you can look in the mirror and say, “Yes, I gave it my all” while upholding unwavering sportsmanship, then Tecumseh Day will be successful, regardless if we win “The Hat” or not.  This day will test you; that’s why we do it. Let’s go out there and compete for each other and become a stronger community.

Let the Games Begin…at Tecumseh

When you look through the photos of 10’s baseball, you can see and feel the intensity of a close game.  I want to highlight two players, Luke Young and Chase Nook, who met the challenge and helped carry their team to an inspiring victory.  Their stories capture to perfection how this day of competition creates opportunities for personal resiliency.

Luke Young calling his shotIn the last inning, with Pemi trailing 1-0, Chase Nook was standing on first base after working a critical lead-off walk. Luke points to the distance…is he calling his shot?  Luke is the younger brother of 2018 Fauver Baseball Trophy winner Sam Young, easily one of the best baseball players in camp who pitched a no-hitter for the 11’s baseball team last year on this very field.  From the shadows of his older brother, Luke Young delivered a mighty blow that split the Tecumseh outfielders and rolled fittingly all the way to Munger Hall, named after the legendary college coach and Camp Tecumseh director.  Luke stood on third as the Pemi faithful and bench went wild…and unleashed an even bigger smile.

After giving up a lead-off homer to a Tecumseh batter, Chase Nook immediately shook off self-doubt and battled to hold Tecumseh at bay for five straight shutout innings, giving Pemi a chance to seize the lead in the last inning. Think about it, your first batter takes you deep, the home team is going wild, and as ten-year-olds you’re on the road…and then you lean in and dominate!

With both camps surrounding the field and cheering wildly, the little big man on the hill got in the zone, blocked the pressure of the moment, and struck out the first two batters before finishing the game with a diving catch to secure the final out. Chase has the uncanny ability to slow the game down and focus with laser precision. His poise and moxie on the mound are essential ingredients to competing on Tecumseh Day. All week long, Chase had provided his age group with outstanding leadership and, when it mattered most, he delivered an effort for the ages.

With the 10’s baseball game triumphantly completed and the 15’s baseball game already starting, the crowd switched venues to watch the remainder of the 15’s Tennis match—4th singles.  Every coach, player, and fan at Tecumseh, from both camps, was watching this epoch tie-breaker that would determine the outcome of the 15’s Tennis match.

Pemi fans

Luca McAdams missed a week of practice to allow a sprained ankle to heal. Coach Nick Bertrand made the crucial decision to move the brash, competitive Luca from first doubles to 4th singles, sensing Pemi’s depth through doubles was sufficient to make this key change once he realized Luca was fully recovered.

Luca is a gamer and was an ideal athlete to embrace the pressure and challenge of a deciding match.  With the fans cheering wildly after each point, Luca delivered another clutch performance for the ages to secure an 8-6 super tie-breaker victory.  As the word reached the 15’s baseball team just starting the first inning, Pemi’s bats erupted with joy and confidence.

Pemi Alumni Power

With the winds of momentum clearly in Pemi’s sails, our so-far undefeated 15’s baseball team (6-0) sent their ace to the mound, Pierce Cowles.  Both Pierce and Chase Nook are sons of former Fauver Baseball Trophy winners, Peter Cowles and Bill Nook respectively. Cowles is no stranger to competitive baseball games as he has pitched Fairfield, CT deep into the Little League Playoffs, often at the expense of competing for Pemi.  He straddled the rubber, looked in at the catcher, and dominated his opponent with guile and determination.

At Pemigewassett: Playing the Next Game

While the story at Tecumseh was about individual perseverance, pressure, momentum, and steely competitors delivering big-time performances, at Pemi the boys were learning something about confidence, perseverance, staying focused when things aren’t necessarily going well, and the power of community and positive coaching to push individuals and teams forward.

While the 13’s swim team was falling to a talented Tecumseh squad, our 12’s soccer players were battling one of Tecumseh’s deepest teams.  As mentioned earlier, our 10s, 11s, and 12s were taking on much larger age groups in their contests and Tecumseh’s depth was particularly advantageous on the soccer field.  Giacomo Turco spent one summer as a Tecumseh camper before switching to Pemi and is always a warrior on Tecumseh Day as he takes on his former camp. Giacomo was the man of the match for Pemi. Though he made one spectacular save after another, he was noticeably upset after giving up two first half goals in net. Nick Bowman, a former Pemi goalie and Soccer Trophy winner, zeroed in on Turco to help him channel his frustration into determination, and we all watched as Giacomo continued his brilliant play in the second half of the game.  Turco then went on to deliver an outstanding effort for his winning tennis team. And after lunch, with energy to spare, Giacomo led his 12’s baseball victory by crushing a two-run double to provide the winning margin of victory. It’s a long day for our athletes and the positive coaching shown by Bowman is an essential ingredient in helping the boys reach their collective potential. For Giacomo, he just needed to reset before once again becoming a Tecumseh nightmare.

While Assistant Coach Bowman re-channelled Giacomo’s focus for the second half and the rest of the events to follow, Coach Patterson Malcolm rallied his team to fight to the final whistle.  At 3-0 and fifteen minutes to play in the game, Patterson astutely pulled off his tennis players to save their energy for the tennis match. As a coach, you must make critical and, at times, excruciating decisions on when to push for a result and when to back off in a given contest.  When Patterson sent in the reserves in this match, the Pemi faithful kept cheering the lads on, and the 12s hustled and scrapped until they managed to tilt the field in their favor, forcing the Tecumseh coaches to keep their starters in the game. Pemi’s efforts created several scoring chances as they pinged the crossbar and sent another off the post.  They fought their way to a respectful and inspiring finish to their match, building critical confidence for the remainder of the day. Next man up, play to the final whistle, positive community energy, positive coaching…all of these factors were in play and set the 12’s up for a very strong finish to the day.

As I mentioned before, there are big momentum swings on this day, and resiliency, the ability to leave a disappointing loss and move on to the next event, is a critical component of the day and an essential life lesson.   The 13’s soccer team came out flat after losing their swim meet 19-41 to start the day. With Tecumseh pounding at the door, Pemi’s goalkeeper, Ben Buie, kept the team in the game until they discovered their inner strength to compete.  To be honest, many of the Pemi fans initially watched this match passively as their team was pinned down in their end.  After Tecumseh finally scored, the Pemi community, with a little encouraging, woke up and lined up along the brown fence and began cheering enthusiastically, urging the boys to scrap and compete.  Andy McDonald’s team, after a fantastic week of preparation, responded with an effort worthy of their investment and received high praise from the veteran Tecumseh counselors on the sidelines. They were facing a Tecumseh team with six or seven high-level club players and they needed to respond with a desire to win big tackles and swarm defensively as a team.

Pemi evened the score when two pressing Pemi players stripped a Tecumseh defender and Fischer Burke deftly chipped the goalie.  When the crowd began cheering, the effort and determination that followed were the key factors that set up the goal. Pemi battled for 35 more minutes and earned a well-deserved tie against one of Tecumseh’s best teams in any age group.  With the tie, the 13’s had found their mojo and went on to win their remaining tennis match (6-1) and baseball game (6-3).

Afternoon of Competition

There is energy in both mess halls when the score of the day is close.  Pemi found themselves down only 4-5-1, and our collective spirits were high. The afternoon events test our athletes with fatigue and pressure as both camps strike to win each contest.  At Pemi we won 12s baseball and 13s tennis while dropping 11s Soccer. At Tecumseh, the 15s soccer and 10s Tennis lost to leave the score 8-6-1 for Tecumseh heading into the final swim meets and 13s Baseball game.  Pemi would need to win four of the remaining five events to win the hat.

Every boy who stepped up to the starting block knew the day was close and that he would have to muster his last ounce of energy.  Tecumseh’s overall depth at the waterfront made it especially challenging for us to win not only individual events but also have the depth to pull together two relay teams.  Nonetheless, in two of the races, Pemi had a shot in the final relay to win the meet.

Despite Pemi’s best efforts, Tecumseh was able to win three of the final swim meets. However, the 15s reminded us all that you must push yourself in the final race to give your team a chance.  When Tecumseh’s first place lane was disqualified, the 15s were in the position to win the meet, and they did!

At Pemi, the 11s ran into a very strong Tecumseh team while the 12s battled to the final race in another close meet.  While the swimmers gave every last ounce of effort, the 13s baseball team under Henry Day’s leadership kept the pressure on Tecumseh.

On the mound for Pemi was Billy Murnighan, sports glasses on and with the best “flow” in camp.  Like Nook and Cowles, Billy is a gamer who competes in sports without an ounce of nervous energy; he just goes about his business and gets results when the pressure is mounting on others.  One of the reasons campers like Billy are able to find this athletic nirvana is the positive coaching and community that has their backs as athletes. By the time Billy took the mound, you could feel a stronger community emerging at Pemi and witness an excellent coach by his side.  Billy delivered five innings of all-business baseball, leading his team to a gritty 6-3 victory. It was an amazing accomplishment, given this young man had already swum in the meet, played a shutdown outside midfielder in a physical soccer match, and delivered a 6-1 tennis victory.  It’s Billy’s unassuming, quiet leadership that often is the magic necessary to defeat a quality opponent like Tecumseh.

As the buses return to Pemi and the community gathers to meet our 15- and 10-and-under age groups, everyone is genuinely feeling deep appreciation for the day and our community’s response to the challenge of taking on a worthy opponent.  For the 15s, this is one of the more emotional moments of the summer, as they realize that they have competed in their last Tecumseh Day as campers. As the boys emerge from the buses and vans, the majority of them are wiping away tears as they come to grips with the passing of time, the end of being a boy at camp.  Fortunately, all of these young men can look in the metaphorical mirror and feel proud of their efforts, accomplishments, and most importantly, their collective leadership of the Pemi community. And if we and they are lucky, these boys will one day return to Pemi as coaches to impart the very wisdom and resolve they received from countless staff members over their years at Pemi.

Gratitude: The Final Lesson

One of the most important aspects of leadership and character Tom Reed Sr. would highlight for our community is the critical importance of expressing gratitude and respect for your teammates, coaches, officials, and most importantly, your opponent.  In the ideal sports world, a great sports competition is cemented by mutual respect, and each athlete, coach, and spectator is a guardian of this collective experience.

Perhaps the most important factors making the 2019 Tecumseh Day an exceptional experience were the total class and sportsmanship of the Tecumseh community.  Over the years, the relationship between our camps has only gotten stronger. As I moved through the day from greeting Tecumseh as they arrived on their buses to our final dinner in the dining hall, the feedback was universally positive. These are great kids led by excellent staff.  I watched kids thank bus drivers as they left the bus, teams collectively clean up their benches after every contest, thank referees and umpires regardless of the outcome, reach out and helped a Pemi competitor up after a hard tackle or injury, and compete with skill, conviction, and a genuine respect for the game.  I never like to lose to these guys, really, but the genuine respect we have for Tecumseh was only enhanced by their style and humility as they pulled out a hard-fought victory.

As for the Boys of Lower Baker, you can feel that we’re a tighter, more cohesive camp since Tecumseh Day.  The boys enthusiastically signed up for trips to Mount Katahdin, the Mahoosucs, Greenleaf Hut, and the Pemigewassett Wilderness.  Our younger campers are a little more independent and confident as they walk through camp. During Week Six occupations, our athletes are now embracing the Nature Program, practicing for the Mikado, painting in Art World, or off on a trip as they fully engage in all that Camp Pemi has to offer. There could be no surer evidence that Tecumseh Day, win or lose, makes us a better camp.

–Charlie Malcolm

Thank you Charlie, for everything!

We look forward to welcoming our kind readers back next week, for a newsletter from Associate Director Kenny Moore.

 

4 thoughts on “#6: Tecumseh Day through the Lens of a Camera

  1. I must say, that I am grateful, humbled, and in teary-eyed appreciation for this outstanding Camp and It’s compassionate staff.

  2. Thank you Charlie for this most compelling and moving perspective on Tecumseh Day. As a parent, besides opening day at Pemi, it’s my favorite day of the year. From the words of Virginia Basketball Coach Tony Bennett, “If you learn to use it right, the adversity, it will buy you a ticket to a place you couldn’t have gone any other way.” Go Pemi #UnitedPursuit

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