Sleep well

I picked up my son this weekend at wrestling camp, where I found him exhausted but content. At 13, he’s already a pro at independent living, so I didn’t worry too much when the only communication I received from him–with prompting on my end, of course–consisted of two text messages. The first read, “Doing fine, but I have to put my phone away. Love ya.” He followed the next day with, “It’s cool. Tough, but I like it.” Maybe it wasn’t as prolific as I would have liked, but I knew he was okay.

Since he wasn’t talking, I had to rely on the camp brochure to know what he was doing. The camp featured a tough schedule of extended workouts and practices, commencing at 6am and shutting down for the night with lights out at 10:30pm. Even the limited free time revolved around sportsmanship, when the kids could play basketball or watch inspirational sports movies. The discipline of it all sounded perfect for a 13-year-old boy looking to train hard.

Only one thing made me shudder: the sleeping arrangements. Because the camp took place at a high school, the luxury of dorm rooms and beds didn’t exist. Instead, all the campers–104, to be exact–brought sleeping bags and pillows and sprawled en masse on the wrestling mats in the gym each night. Miserable, thinks my spoiled self.

Naturally, when I arrived to take him home, I asked Jake if he had minded sleeping with the others in an open gym. I wanted to know if he had been able to get much rest. Yeah, he said, it was fine. That surprised me, until he added, One kid got up and wandered around a lot. He must not have been working very hard during the day, because I don’t know how anyone could have trouble sleeping if he had really been working. I was so tired that I fell asleep every night before they turned off the lights.

What my son threw out as an offhanded statement made an impact on me. I hope that someday he realizes the true profundity of his words. There are many reasons a person might not sleep well, but a full day of going all-out isn’t one of them.

Work hard or play hard, but give it your all. You’ll sleep better.

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Get involved

Sometimes I find great customer service experiences in the most unexpected places. Yesterday I took my son to wrestling camp at a high school about an hour’s drive from home. It’s an overnight camp, so the check-in process was more involved than a typical drop-and-run.

As soon as we walked into the school, a student assistant immediately greeted us and led my son to his assigned locker room. Another directed me to the check-in area, where we found a series of tables laid out in progressive order. The first table was check-in/registration, the one behind it was medical check-in, and behind that were menus and team assignments, respectively. Because of the layout (one behind the other), movement was intuitive and people couldn’t inadvertently wander to the wrong table.

Everyone had to start at the registration table before moving on, and none other than the coach himself handled the check-in. He personally manned that table so he could introduce himself to every parent, sibling, and hanger-on who brought a kid to camp. And he didn’t just stand there shaking hands; he was THE guy, the only guy.

Not just as a parent, but also as a customer, I thought this was a brilliant move. In that masterful positioning of tables and bodies, he invested himself personally in that camp. He recognized that his “customers” were more than just the kids taking part; they were also the parents who entrusted their mini macho men to his care. He got involved, and his actions spoke volumes.

As long as my kid wants to keep going to that camp, he’s got my blessing. Brands are personal; what a powerful object lesson.