Why it is Okay to Fail at Camp

it's ok to fail

After spending so much time at school and in extracurricular activities, children feel that they have to be perfect to achieve. But at Heart O’ the Hills, girls realize that are in a place where they can try and fail. Then they get up again and see improvement. Everyone urges their friends as they try something new each day: one person may learn to ride a horse with confidence and another can shoot like an expert on the rifle range. And if you struggle while playing softball, the counselors and campers will patiently help you learn the basic skills. At camp, children find new strengths because they put themselves in new situations.


Campers choose 12 activities to take during the term. Campers are required to take swim, horseback, and field sports, but other than that, it is up to the girls to make their schedule. The wide variety of activities at camp make trying something new a must!

For example, I loved canoe and riflery, however I couldn’t take solely canoe and riflery classes. I always had to branch out and try something out of my comfort zone. Like horseback, kickboxing, and cheer.

Why So Serious?

These new experiences pushed me out of my comfort zone. At home I did ballet throughout elementary school until my senior year. After all the dedication and practice I put into dance, I was not half bad. Ballet was challenging but familiar and I felt much more versed in the world of dance than I ever did in classes like archery. In an age where sports and extracurricular have become extremely competitive, it can be hard to feel like you don’t have to be the best.

That’s where camp makes a difference. At camp there is competition and challenge, but nothing is ever too serious. The environment is supportive and when you fail at something you learn to get back up and try again. Campers shine in different areas and their differences are encouraged and praised.


On the first day of camp at Opening Ceremonies, each camper brings a stick and adds it to the fire pit. This symbolizes the unique attributes each person brings to The Heart. The fire wouldn’t burn as bright if it were missing just one stick. That message describes the warmth shared between campers and staff. Everyone supports each other because one person’s success is everyone’s success. In that same vain, when someone struggles those around them are always ready to lend a helping hand.

The Heart is the place where I’ve always felt completely supported in all my endeavors. At camp I’m encouraged to live my life without “if’s.” The motto seems to be try, and if you fail then you’ll learn something along the way.

That motto transferred to my everyday life. I became less afraid to join a dodgeball game or make a new friend because I knew, even if I did make a fool of myself, failing is not the end all be all of life.


Above all, the most important lesson campers learn at camp is how to be a good sport. When I was a camper my tribe lost (a lot). We just never seemed to have the right mix of athletic and collaborative to defeat the other team. Despite it all, I still remember hearing “be a good sport” over and over on tribe hill. It seemed that our sponsors cared less about if we won and more above how we treated others. When I became a sponsor, I reflected that same sentiment. I learned sportsmanship and character were more important than winning.

In the words of Maya Angelou, “people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Camp exemplifies that. You’ll never remember who won every little thing. Yes winning is celebrated, but the things I remember about my camp friends are which ones acted with grace in victory or defeat.

Camp taught me it’s okay to lose and that I can’t be perfect at everything I do, but that shouldn’t stop me from trying. Camp taught me to cheer as the winners go by and to smile in the face of adversity. Camp taught me it’s to fail and that taught me courage and tenacity and those things will follow me for life. You can’t take the tribe cup with you outside of The Heart, but the character that is formed in this magical place will transfer into every aspect of your life (including college).

Want to read more about the benefits of camp? Check out our blogs on the benefits of unplugging and how camp builds independence. And this blog from the American Camp Association.

About the Author

Rachel Pannell

Rachel is a rare fourth generation Heart girl. Her great-grandmother was the nurse for our first summer as Heart O’ the Hills Camp, and her grandmother and great aunt were campers, as were her mother and aunt. This fall she will be at UTSA as a marketing major. Rachel is a Jo Jones girl.

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