Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag is to camp as apple pie is to America. It’s easy and fun–all you need are some flags, some cones, and, if you want to get fancy, some color-coded armbands. We here at YMCA Camp Ernst, however, think we have invented the perfect variation of this favorite game. Check it out.

Recreate Classic Struggles

Instead of playing the same old, tired game, the one that pits the blue team against the green team or the odd cabins against the even, we recreate a classic (or make-believe) struggle–smurfs versus leprechauns or Scotland versus England–in a battle for supremacy.

To make it work, write a back story and read it to the campers to get them psyched up. We make sure to include funny, fictitious details about the camp director, the team captains and camp history.

To pull it all together, we pick popular counselors to champion each side, and encourage them to plan ahead and go all out.

Scotland vs. England

Last summer our Scottish counselor encouraged his “army” by re-enacting the speech from the movie Brave Heart in full face-paint while bagpipes played over the speakers in the background. Not to be outdone, our English counselor led his English troops (the Redcoats) in a crazy version of “God Save the Queen”. Each side encouraged its counselors to dress the part–that meant kilts for the Scottish counselors and Union Jack flags/clothing for the English counselors.

By the time we actually got to game day, the camp was in a frenzy excited to find out once and for all who was really better–Scotland or England.

Battle of the Lunches

In another session, we stayed decidedly lowbrow (no higher purpose what-so-ever), and spent the week building to a battle to determine which lunch dish was best of all—grilled cheese or chicken patties.

The grilled cheese leader smeared yellow face paint over the arms and faces of his warriors while the chicken patties leaders slathered their crew with brown war paint. Two days before the game started, the leaders told the campers the back story and did everything they could to build the tension–daily announcements and antics all designed to keep the excitement level high.

Safe and Fair Games

Which brings me, roundabout, to the two words all counselors hate to hear, “They cheated!”

With all the work we’ve done to build the excitement and anticipation for the game, it’s no wonder campers hate to admit they’re losing or they lost.

To fight this phenomenon, we make sure to explain the rules (see sidebar) fully to the entire camp, establish clear boundaries, and designate counselors as boundary enforcers.

Other Considerations

Safe Spots

We like to “hide” the flags in a predisposed, safe spot. That way we can be sure that the teams do not hide the flag in an unfair or dangerous spot. We find that campers still feel like they are “finding” the flag, but the counselors already know where it will be. Also, we spray paint a 20-foot ring around the flag to cut down on the “You’re too close, you’re cheating!” The defenders must stay outside of the spray-painted area.

Jailer Lists

When a camper tags a member of the other team, he or she is sent to jail (we only have one jail). Every time someone comes to jail, we make sure they drink a cup of water and then perform something “strange and wonderful” (see ideas in sidebar) to get out. We give the counselors lists of fun, acceptable tasks campers can perform to get out, such as dance the “Macarena” or do a group “Chicken Dance.” If you are into that whole “character-building thing” like we are at Camp Ernst, consider making the prisoners give the person next to them an affirmation (to make it more fun, the affirmation cannot include the word “nice”). Then that person returns with a new affirmation about the person who was just complimented!

Additional Nursing Staff

We’ve also learned to provide our nurse with reinforcements because it seems Capture the Flag and bumps, bruises and scrapes go hand-in-hand, and our usual staff can be overwhelmed.

The Ultimate Game

If you want to go all-out, combine these tips into one, colossal game. We do that during the fourth week of camp, which is over the Fourth of July.

Here’s how we do it:

• Early in camp, we announce the teams.

• Daily news updates are announced at lunch.

o Paul Revere gives updates on the Redcoats’ distance from camp.

o King George III of England works to rally his Loyalists.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Building Confidence
  2. Adventures in Oz
  3. Signs of Life & Warning Signs
  4. Campers Vs. Staff Members
  5. Top Programming Ideas 2003
  • Columns & Features
  • Departments
  • Writers