Camp Wahoo: Playing Is Our Game

Aden Hockett accepts his Paper Plate Award from Camp Wahoo director Kathy Zentgraf.
Aden Hockett accepts his Paper Plate Award from Camp Wahoo director Kathy Zentgraf.

Camp Wahoo wrapped up its fourth year at Miller School with 60 kids in grades 5 through 9 romping through this June’s blistering hot days and trying their talents in nearly 20 sports.

“We’re trying to get kids to keep sports in perspective,” said camp director Tony Zentgraf. He recalled summer time in his youth as days when boys played ball games they often invented for themselves and how well one played them was beside the point. The point was simply playing.

Campers are given instruction in eight sports during the week by local coaches and another eight sports are played without the benefit of instruction. Campers make up another two games to play. This year campers in one session invented what they called soccer croquet.

“This allows kids to find out what they are good at. The idea is, ‘You can do it.’ They can test out a variety of games. You’re not necessarily good at everything, but you are good at something—soccer, archery, something,” explained Zentgraf. “They are not judged on performance so they do not feel discouraged from playing,” he said.

At an awards presentation held in the shade of the porch at the Miller School canteen, every camper was called forward to get his or her Paper Plate Award. On it was a phrase summing up their week and conveying something of their personality that was revealed in how they played. “They are goofy awards. They’re sort of jokes,” said Zentgraf. “They are designed to make sure the kids are not taking themselves too seriously. The kids have a great time.”

The weeklong camp is residential, with two sessions, and campers and counselors stay at Wayland Hall, the girls’ dormitory at Miller School. Six counselors join the Zentgrafs and two other directors, Fred Wawner and Jess Haden.

“Our goal is to give kids a joy-giving, health-building, character-making experience,” he explained. “We’re trying to promote a sense of initiative in them, build their self- confidence and teach sportsmanship. We want to show them ways they can have a fuller life.”

To learn more, visit the camp website,