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Everyone’s a winner at Jacobs Camp. These are the words that I remember most after finishing a schvitzy game of machanayim or an intense yet stationary rafterball match. As I enter my 13th summer at HSJ, I cannot help but smile when I remember the almost instantaneous eye roll that ensued after we were reminded of our collective winning status.

Even as a Gariner, my fellow campers and I realized that when you play sports, you don’t always win. That’s the fun of it. But, in being told that “everyone’s a winner at Jacobs Camp,” our counselors reminded us of the most important thing: we were at Jacobs Camp. We were home, and that was all that mattered. Being at Jacobs is a win in and of itself.

It is a win because camp is where we learn to be the best version of ourselves. It is where I learned to dance solely for the purpose of laughing. It is where I was urged to speak up for the inclusion of myself and others. It is where I realized that while being a Southern Jew is difficult and isolating at times, Shabbat services in the chapel overlooking the lake can remove that pain and remind us of how beautiful and necessary this community is. These are the wins that accompany each summer at the place we call home.

After the madness of this past year, making it to those gates come June and July, is a win for all of us. The loss of last summer and the excitement leading to this summer will undoubtedly make this the most epic summer in Jacobs Camp history. As camp shifts to fit our COVID reality, I am excited for the changes it will bring to our work in the Sports Department. Because we’re all winners at Jacobs Camp, it is time we recognize that everyone is and can be an athlete at Jacobs Camp.

Whether you win or lose, whether you are a competitive soccer player or you are stepping on the pitch for the first time, whether it is a ping pong game or tennis match, every sport we play serves as an opportunity to develop new skills as an athlete, teammate, and competitor. As an avid runner and past basketball, soccer, and lacrosse player, I know that dedication to the game does not stop when you arrive at camp, and the sports department is ready to support all skill levels as we collectively grow as athletes within our camp community.

When we recognize that everyone is an athlete at HSJ, we are empowered to contribute to our incredible community in new ways as we play and grow together. So, I am counting down the days until we welcome everyone home to camp, and we can let the real winning begin.

Emma Mansberg is an HSJ lifer attending as a camper from 2005 (in the inaugural group of Kochavimers) to 2014. Emma joins camp this summer as the Sports Department head, and it will be her third year on staff. Emma has always loved Maccabiah and counts down to Shabbat song session every week.