Sunday, August 9, 2009

Water World X

Last weekend, about 100 or so scouts and family members from my son's Boy Scout troop went to Water World. This year was the 10th edition. Water World is held on Davies Island on Center Hill Lake near Smithville, TN.

Several folks from the troop do an unbelievable job planning the 4 day event. A master kitchen is set-up, and menus are planned to serve 3 squares per day to over 100 hungry people. Several dads donate their time and use of their boats to pull boys (and plenty of dads) on tubes and water skis. And the boys have great opportunities to earn merit badges in motor boating, skiing, canoeing, and eating. Well, actually that last one isn't true. There isn't an Eating merit badge - but if there was plenty of folks would easily earn it.

I don't have much of a role in planning the event. I just show up, help where I can, enjoy the time on the island and the lake, and watch these boys have the time of their life.

Three years ago, my son and I went to our first Water World. He had a good time, but he didn't have a ton of watersports skills, size, or confidence. He was 11 years old, didn't know a lot of the other scouts, didn't have strong arms, legs, or back, and didn't throw himself fully into all the merit badge offerings.

This year - three years and a 4th Water World later - I was particularly proud of him for many reasons.
  • He volunteered to go up a day before on the "advance team" to offload a TON of personal and troop equipment, dig latrines, get a kitchen established, weed-eat overgrowth in camp areas, etc. - all in about 90 degree heat. The fun didn't begin until he and the rest of the advance team got their work done. I really appreciate his service-minded volunteerism, plus it meant I didn't have to go until later in the weekend.
  • He also tackled water skiing for the first time - and earned the merit badge. One of our adults who teaches it encourages the boys each year to try to earn the badge. He also tells them, however, skiing is challenging and most scouts don't earn their merit badge in the first attempt. Most who try it flop during their first Water World but then return the next year with 'lessons learned' in their mind and earn the badge. My son, however, got up on skis in his first attempt and skied back and forth across the lake. Admittedly, it took him 4 Water Worlds to work up the confidence to try it. But once he set his mind he wanted to try the badge, he strapped on the skis, listened to instructions, held on, and skied across the surface of the water.
  • He recruited a younger scout, got to know him a bit better, and then worked with him to win first place in the gunnel jump canoe race. He worked with another young scout on Sunday to finish 2nd in the annual Pudding Cup race. (The Pudding Cup is where the scouts have to paddle canoes and kayaks across the lake as hard and fast as they can - mainly so we can get them loaded on the trailer and get outta there. As I understand it, the adults pulled some Jello pudding out of a cooler to give as a prize the first year. So the name kind of just stuck in subsequent years.)
  • He helped an older scout with his Eagle project - building nesting shelters for barn swallows around the marina.
He obviously received some direct rewards - a skiing water badge, service hours for his rank, recognition as a patrol leader, etc. Yet he got a few indirect rewards as well. A few of the older, more adventurous scouts invited him to go with them for a more rowdy round of tubing. He was asked to help set-up the area for an Eagle rank ceremony. He was able to boss around and break-in some newbie scouts. And perhaps the most lasting reward - he got the attention of the girls who were on the island during the week as sisters of scouts. None of this was even remotely possible three years ago.

Spending time with these boys and young men is really a lot of fun. Its almost rewarding enough to take your mind off the fact you can't hoist a Schaefer for a few days as you watch the sun set.


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