At this month’s Parent Association meeting, Waterford Parents gathered together to hear from faculty and students about the school’s Athletic and Outdoor Programs. Below you will find transcriptions of the speeches given at the meeting.
Speech given by Chris Watkins, Outdoor Program Director:
Good morning, it’s great to be here with you all. My name is Chris Watkins and I am the Director of the Outdoor Program at Waterford, and this is Ally Siegel, who is a co-instructor for all of the Outdoor classes and trips that we run.
I always enjoy an opportunity to highlight Waterford programs, especially because I know that children can be reluctant to share any details about their day. As a result, at times it can be challenging as a parent trying to get relevant information about some of the activities and events on campus.
As many of you may have already experienced, any of the programs that exist at Waterford have withstood a test of time and are sustained by the value, purpose and impact that each has made on students for many years. Our programs are robust, well-supported and exist for a reason.
Over my 19 years at Waterford, my primary role has involved various experienced-based learning programs. The school offers opt-in programs for students to consider to help balance out their day, their week, their lives. Programs such as the Outdoor Program, Robotics, and our Community Service Program, our Academic Travel program in the summer, seek to push students from their comfort zone and into the learning zone while experiencing the world first-hand. Whether it’s inching toward becoming a global citizen, developing core leadership skills, addressing social issues, or seeking adventure and challenge, these programs nudge students to get outside of themselves and connect their lives with others.
Today, I would like to highlight the value, approach and continuum of our Outdoor Program as it currently exists.
Although there are so many memories, so many anecdotes that support the value of this type of education that these few minutes cannot fully capture, I would like to offer a small glimpse into the type of impact that Outdoor students have experienced.
From a 7th grade Randy C. – Class of 2017, who upon witnessing the Bells Canyon waterfall for the first time stated, while leaning against a large Engelman spruce, and in my revisionist mind pictures him stroking a long, sage-like beard: “Why is it…..that nature is so stimulating to the mind?”
To a rising 8th grader, Nik N., being pushed lazily down the Colorado River one summer, trying to articulate why he loves being outside, and how he wished to visit Alaska and learn more about his family connection there. Little did he know at the time that his comments were painting a vision toward the future of the type of recreational, interpersonal and leadership skills that he would develop over the upcoming years—all of which culminated with him becoming an Outdoor Program Student Leader, who would craft and help organize a complex and challenging wilderness experience in Alaska for 12 of his upper school peers.
Then there was the Class 9 student, who signed up for a canyoneering trip to Zion National Park, very unaware of what she had gotten herself into. Due to a mix of stimuli that was all new to her, she teetered on the edge of overwhelm. She was new to the state, new to the school, she had never been camping, she certainly had never shared a tent with people that she barely knew, and she was being taught new technical skills and asked to immediately apply them in situations that had an increased level of risk. There was no option but to accept help, to say that she didn’t know that she was scared, and to lean on others as she very overtly attempted to process numerous challenging moments in the canyons.
As a result, she practiced and experienced a powerful feedback loop that has empowered her to continue to seek out adversity, while becoming almost fearless in the face of the unknown.
I look forward to hearing from Maddie in a few minutes.
The 3 objectives of the Outdoor Program are:
Students in the Middle and Upper Schools participate in the Waterford Outdoor Program in 3 significant ways: through the MS and US Outdoor Class, through participation in “Term Trips”, and through extensive, multi-day summer trips.
Beginning in Class 7, the Outdoor Class is offered as an athletic elective and includes weekly afternoon adventures into the Wasatch Mountains to hike, climb, rappel, snowshoe, and backcountry ski and snowboard.
Outdoor Class curriculum is intensive and involves three different classes each week over the course of each term. These weekly classes include a lecture or discussion-based class, an on-campus skill development class, and an off-campus, mountain-based class where students apply newfound skills while challenging themselves through the medium of nature, and with the encouragement of a cohesive and supportive group of peers.
The class provides a great balance of adventure, fun, responsibility, both technical and non-technical curriculum, and an incredibly healthy social experience for kids.
All Waterford students may choose to participate in multiple Term Trips offered throughout the year. Trips range from day climbing excursions in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains to multi-day canyoneering, ice climbing and backcountry skiing trips throughout Utah and the Rocky mountains.
One trip per term is offered for middle school students; and one trip per term is offered for upper school students. These trips are announced in assemblies 2-3 weeks prior to the activity as well as posted on the Outdoor Program website.
Naturally, many stunning images and moments are captured with each experience spent exploring unique natural landscapes.
Here are a few from the Upper School Outdoor camping and climbing trip in the City of Rocks in Idaho last fall.
Each summer, the Outdoor Program also offers multi-week expeditions for more adventuresome Middle and Upper School students. These wilderness-based trips are included in the Academic Travel program, and have included mountaineering trips in Utah, the Pacific Northwest, Mt. Kilimanjaro, sea kayaking trips along the Colorado and Green Rivers, backpacking and canyoneering excursions in Southern Utah, and sailing expeditions in Norway and Alaska.
THESE are the two trips that we are offering next summer:
One is a 10-day trip to the stunning Lake Tahoe area, as well as a 5-day river rafting trip for MS students on the Green River.
Upper School students committed to the Outdoor Program and its mission may pursue leadership opportunities through involvement with the Outdoor Program Student Council, which fosters the Outdoor student community, helps to plan trips and class curriculum, as well as manage the indoor climbing wall for Middle and Lower School students. Upper School students also have the opportunity to act as intern leaders on Middle School trips as well as the Class IX Retreat.
Although this is just an overview, please know that I am eager to talk your ear off, to meet each of you and your children, and I am here to help guide you toward outdoor program offerings that are both available and appropriate for you children moving forward. Thank You.
Speech given by Ryan Judd, Associate Dean of Students for Student Life:
It is amazing how quickly time goes! This year, it has been a joyful, but surreal, experience to be able to have my two older sons in Middle School at Waterford this year. It has been fun to coach their Middle Schools soccer and basketball teams, to harass them when they try to wear shoes that are out of uniform, to see them awkwardly dance (or not dance) at Middle School dances, and to simply interact with them, and their friends, on a daily basis around campus. Turner is currently a 6th Grader, while Camden is in 8th Grade, and what makes it such a surreal experience for me is that it seems like just yesterday (actually, it was 1996), when me and my older brother came to Waterford….and yes, when we moved to Waterford, I was a 6th Grader, and Mike was an 8th Grader! So it has come full circle!
My family looked into Waterford because they were looking for a school that would be a better academic fit for my brother, who, and an 8th Grader (looking like that!), would walk across the street from his Middle School to take his Math and Science classes at the local High School. I remember him telling me about how he would sit right in front of the 280lb Starting Offensive Line for the Bingham High School Football Team in Math class, and how terrifying it was! As an 8th Grader, having to navigate life in a large High School, Mike began to self-sabotage his grades, and try to perform poorly in his classes so that he could return to his “normal” classes at the Middle School. That was the moment my parents started looking for something different for us. They found Waterford and loved the academic atmosphere so much that our family made the switch not knowing fully what to expect with the Athletic experience at Waterford, even though that was also incredibly important to our family. The plan was to just figure that out as we go.
Over the next 7 years, Waterford provided both my brother and me, a VERY different, but equally successful, experience as student-athletes.
Like many brothers, this was also the time in life, when we began developing a bit of a sibling rivalry and began to differentiate ourselves from one another by creating our own identities. While Mike became a strong 4 sport student-athlete at Waterford, as a starting lacrosse goalie, cross country runner, baseball second basemen and scrappy member of the basketball team, he stood out at Waterford for his continued high academics, which ultimately led him to attend college at Princeton University. While on the other hand, I was able to do just enough academically to keep my head above water, but jumped 110% into athletics. I had great teammates, great coaches, and great experiences as a Raven, and making my team better was all that mattered to me. He was the Student, I was the Athlete…or at least that’s what we thought.
The moment that seemed to most highlight our two different identities as student-athletes happened during my Freshman year of the basketball season. Mike and I had both made the Varsity team, but we didn’t get a ton of minutes. At a crucial moment in the 3rd Quarter, one of our starters picked up their 4th foul and the head coach looked down the bench for someone who could come in and help the team for just a few minutes. Understanding the potential opportunity, we both sat up in our chairs and did our best to widen our eyes, puff out our chest, and make ourselves available as an option. Our coach pointed down the bench and hollered “Judd! Get in there!…..”. With a spring in his step, Mike popped out of his chair and began to take off his warmup, when the Coach stopped him in his tracks and said “No! Not THAT Judd! The OTHER Judd!….Get in there!” The level of awkwardness was off the charts as I timidly looked down at the ground, meandered past my brother, and checked into the game.
Despite that moment, playing High School Sports together provided Mike and me with some of our best moments together, and served as a catalyst for our tight-knit brotherhood that lasts to this day. As we competed together on our teams, our rivalry melted away. Mike cheered me on on the court and in life and still does today, and I looked up to him and tried to follow his lead, and I still do today. Being a part of Waterford Athletics changed our lives for the better, even though our athletics experience was very different.
Although Mike and I were two very different types of athletes, our coaches and teams at Waterford were able to meet us where we were and provide us with what we both needed. Our teams were inclusive enough to involve the non-elite athlete who was willing to work hard, but was also competitive enough for the athlete who hoped to play at higher levels.
This balance of athletic inclusion and competitiveness can be tricky to provide, and is becoming more and more rare in the youth sports landscape, but it can still be done at Waterford, and it is a beautiful thing when it “clicks”! At many other places, the intense competition for spots in a program creates pressure to specialize at a young age, and often demands a year-round team commitment. It forces kids to become one-dimensional at an early age, and can tarnish the beauty and value of amateur youth sports. So yes, at Waterford, we want to include as many young athletes as we can in our programming….BUT, we also need all of our athletes, and their families, no matter their skill level, to approach our teams with competitive approach, and to understand that participation in High School Sports does not come easy! It is hard…but the hard is what makes it great!
Even though some of our athletes, like Mike, might not have college scouts beating down their doors, we strive to make sure that ALL of our student-athletes understand several different lessons that will give them meaningful athletic experiences, and also make them vital members of our teams.
First, they are intentional, and committed to their teams, and are not casual about their participation. They prioritize their workouts, trainings, and work hard every day in practice because they always want to be ready when the Coach looks down the bench and says “Judd, get in there!”
Second, they are willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. Every player wants to score the winning goal, hear their name called over the loudspeaker as a member of the starting lineup, earn All-State honors, or get their picture in the newspaper, but in reality, those things are not what makes good programs great. Great programs are full of athletes who are willing to do the little things that most people don’t notice. Coaches LOVE having players who understand this on their team, and will look for opportunities to give them opportunities to thrive.
Third, they have great attitudes! They are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team, they bring energy to each game and practice, and they don’t forget to have fun!
Finally, they bring a little bit of extra toughness and grit to our teams. They understand that relying on skill and talent might not quite be enough for them to get the results they want, so they learn to dig a little deeper and work a little harder, and that toughness is contagious to their teammates.
So, yes, our Waterford teams are made up of a wide variety of skill levels. We are a unique combination of all-league athletes, AND athletes who are simply trying to find any way they can to help their team succeed….and in my opinion that is what not only makes Waterford athletics unique, but it is what makes us great.
One of the my favorite school traditions that I had as a coach, that was passed down to me from my High School Coach, Reid Monson. Is that on really big games, maybe once or twice a year, our coach would not only dress up on the sidelines, but he would also wear a bow-tie. The bow-tie was a cheeky nod to the fact that deep down, all of us Ravens, no matter how big, or fast or skilled we are, are nothing more than a bunch of dorky nerds….but, at the same time, we were a bunch of dorky nerds that are just about to kick the other team’s butt on the court! It was a symbol of who we were as a team, but also who we were as a community, and it always gave me great pride to see that bow tie on the sideline, and is a mindset that we will always try to implement into our players, teams and programs. Thank you, Go Ravens!
Speech given by Lucas D., Class IV Student:
Hello, my name is Lucas D. and today I am going to tell you about lacrosse at Waterford.
I started playing lacrosse in 3rd grade. Lacrosse has made my Waterford experience better and taught me to work hard.
Lacrosse has helped me learn to balance school and sports. Right after school, we have to go to the lacrosse field 2 times a week and we practice until 5:30 pm. This means after practice you have to focus on homework. You can also try to do your work in class. I think it is important to play a sport and try to do well in school so you can get physical exercise and learn and grow your brain.
Lacrosse has taught me how important teamwork is. One person cannot play every position in lacrosse, it takes the whole team. Our team has learned to pass the ball and communicate so we can move the ball faster, get the ball to an open teammate to score. Teamwork is super important in lacrosse because working together helps us play better.
Mr. Hirsh is our coach and he helps us play better too. He has influenced my experience in lacrosse by making me feel stronger as an athlete. He practices with us to teach us new skills and check how we are playing. Mr. Hirsh has also made me feel more confident in the classroom because he
believes I can do hard things. I feel grateful that I have Mr. Hirsh as a teacher and coach.
My favorite part of lacrosse is getting to play with my friends outside of school. Having friends on the teams helps make it more fun. I think lacrosse has made my friendships stronger and I have made some new friends in lacrosse.
That is why lacrosse at Waterford is fun.
Speech given by Maddie G., Class X Student:
Hello, and good morning everyone. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to speak to you all about the Outdoor program, and how it has enhanced my liberal arts experience here at Waterford.
I first joined the class in Fall term of last year. In fact, that was when I first joined Waterford itself– so not only was I entering the class with no prior experience in that field, but I didn’t know a single person there. However, I can now confidently say that not only was this program responsible for my smooth integration into Waterford life, it was the catalyst for the beginning of many friendships that I still cherish. It has introduced a number of new hobbies into my life that I never knew I would enjoy, and on top of that it has made me a well-rounded person by teaching me valuable life skills alongside the warmth of outdoor activities in general. I doubt I could count the ways this class has improved my life at Waterford, as it has for all its past members and as it will for those who have yet to join it. However, there are a few aspects of its curriculum that stand out to me as the most important and beneficial to the average student.
From the beginning, the class has emphasized the importance of connection. Since it’s open to the entire upper school, it is guaranteed that there will be a mix of students from all grade levels. I believe everyone is aware of the invisible yet robust barrier between grades; upperclassmen seem infinitely older and wiser than you, and lowerclassmen are little more than children– even if you were in their shoes only last year. This can make it incredibly difficult to become close with students who are only a few years older or younger than you. However, within the Outdoor program, this barrier hardly exists. During my time there I found myself connecting with upperclassmen without difficulty—and now, in the tenth grade, even freshmen seem tolerable. With every class period, there is a chance to bond with your peers, whether it be through a simple game of ultimate frisbee, or having your life in their hands during climbing sessions outdoors or in the gym. The ability to connect with people who live drastically different lives than you is something that I continue to appreciate as I navigate life here at Waterford: I can see my teachers not just as adult, all-knowing forces of nature, but interesting and incredible people who I know will support me; I can socialize with juniors and seniors as they prepare for college, and learn a thing or two about the upcoming years along the way; I can treat my lowerclassmen not just as general nuisances, but my younger brothers and sisters who are still figuring out what it means to be a person. I know this skill will serve me well in the future, and I am continually grateful for the opportunity to learn it at a young age.
This aspect of the Outdoor program– the integration of valuable life skills between rewarding physical experience—is one that I truly love. Another way it shines is in the understanding of trust and responsibility. We deal with a lot of activities that can put our safety and even our lives at risk. When we hang fifty feet in the air, held up by our harnesses and ropes, it is sometimes difficult to grasp that the principal thing keeping you safe is just another person, entirely capable of making mistakes. This is ingrained into every student as we learn how to belay, rappel, toprope, boulder, et cetera. We are taught to understand how each piece of equipment works, but most importantly we get used to the knowledge that a very simple mistake from one person can result in grave consequences. This disquieting fact necessitates a close bond of trust with the person keeping you tied to the wall, and also lets us experience the weight of responsibility that comes with having a friend’s life in your hands. Normally this is not easy to get used to, but in the Outdoor program, it is something we experience regularly. It allows us to become more comfortable with heavy burdens, and it teaches us the importance of trusting another person with your well-being. In school life, this can make big projects seem less daunting, but the deadline becomes a little more real. This can be extremely helpful for regular procrastinators, as I’m sure a large percentage of students are, since understanding the importance of an essay or other large assignment can make it more difficult to push it until the last minute. It also helps us develop strategies to overcome stressful situations. Waterford students are often put under duress by presentations, soccer games, performances, or even social events; having a realistic perspective on the parameters of these aforementioned experiences can make it a lot easier to get through them, which is not easy to develop.
To voluntarily enter dangerous situations in the first place, though, can be incredibly difficult. Oftentimes a fear of heights or simply a distrust of equipment can keep someone from enjoying the class to its full potential. This is reflected outside of school life as well: finding the courage to put your safety and dignity at risk is a process we all have to go through at least once in our lives. Risk-taking and bravery in general aren’t necessarily common traits, despite the positive impact they can have—after all, they are difficult to learn, and opportunities to strengthen that part of ourselves are few and far between—so one can easily miss a chance to better themselves, simply because of overwhelming fear that they haven’t had the chance to deal with yet. This is something that the Outdoor program offers a chance to learn: we do a number of exciting and nerve-wracking things periodically, whether it’s the annual plunge into freezing lake waters, or bouldering in the woods on solid rock, with only our hands and feet keeping us from falling. There are a myriad of opportunities to face fears and get past them; I myself have seen a number of students tremble at the thought of toproping that now do it with confidence and ease. Initially it was difficult for me to lean into the constant introduction of new experiences, but I can now happily say that whenever something unfamiliar or potentially dangerous is introduced, I am more than ready—excited, even—to embrace it without irrational fear. This has aptly prepared my peers and I for situations in the future in which a certain amount of courage is required to take advantage of them, and it will allow us to enjoy new experiences without the hesitancy that often accompanies unfamiliarity.
The writing of this speech has given me the welcome, rare opportunity to look back on how this school has influenced me for the better, when I and many others here are so often looking forward. And though I speak mostly of my own experience, it continues to inspire me when I realize that there will be scores of classes in the future that will benefit from everything the Outdoor program has to offer. On the surface it may appear to be a class that is simply dedicated to the outdoors, yet in reality it boasts much more than that. It has instilled meaning into parts of life I would not have appreciated before—particularly, tenderness in regards to the four years I will spend here at Waterford. I am and will continue to be grateful for how this program has affected me, and how it will continue to shape the generations to come. Thank you.
September 16, 2021
August 10, 2020
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