'Victory Games' camp: Winning by losing, sometimes

  • Article by: JEREMY OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 24, 2013 - 10:16 PM

New “Victory Games” camp is all about winning and losing and the benefits from both experiences.

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Jordan Green, 10, signed up with several of her friends for the Victory Games summer camp in New Hope and learned how to shoot because it seemed like fun. Instructor Kurt Brouillet is an ex-Marine with 20 years of experience.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taataarii • tsong-taataarii@startribune.com,

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Grace Savage looked pint size as the 10-year-old leaned her shoulder into the stock of a shiny replica assault rifle.

With a calm pull of the trigger, she fired the .22-caliber weapon and sent a bullet flying inches above the target.

“OK, now this time aim a little lower,” counseled the instructor, Kurt Brouillet. “See if you can hit the 2.”

Thwack. A bullet hole appeared on the white paper target, an inch above the numeral.

Tiny girls shooting big guns isn’t the only unusual sight at the first Victory Games summer camp, created at the Sealed Mindset gun range and self-defense training facility in New Hope. In a week, campers learn shooting, archery, self-defense, knot-tying, tactical decisionmaking and compression-only CPR — and then put those skills to work in competitive games in which teams of two compete against each other to win the Victory Games.

It’s a little like “The Hunger Games,” only instead of life and death, the Victory Games is all about winning and losing and the benefits that can come from either one.

The camp is aimed at one side of a child development debate that is far from settled — whether children’s activities should promote self-esteem so children gain confidence or whether they should allow winning and losing so children instead gain perseverance.

Ex-Navy SEAL Lawrence Yatch created the camp for the first time this summer as a countercultural experience — one that places expectations and responsibilities on the campers and eschews the notion that they all should receive participation medals.

“Learning by nature depends on failure,” Yatch said. “By creating an environment where everyone wins, you’ve by nature made failure a bad thing, whereas failure should be celebrated. Perseverance should be celebrated.”

‘Not everyone is going to win’

The Victory Games concept appealed to parents of the dozen children in the first camp, including Grace’s mother, Heather Savage of Princeton, who said the competition offers valuable lessons about real life.

“Not everyone is going to win the three-legged race,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you spit on them for losing. But it doesn’t mean that nobody loses.”

Activities are diverse enough to give kids of different ages and abilities opportunities to win, and bonus points are awarded when any of the campers display sportsmanship, teamwork or leadership. The teams can then spend their points, strategically, on items to make the final contests at the end of the week easier, such as scopes for the guns they use in target shooting or lighter medicine balls to carry in relay races.

As with archery camps in the metro area, which have full waiting lists, the Victory Games take advantage of the popularity of “The Hunger Games” books and movies, which feature a bow-wielding heroine who wins a fight-to-the-death TV game show. Teams in Yatch’s camp are even named after districts from “The Hunger Games” storyline, and participants on one day dress up like their favorite characters.

Few of the participants have shot anything stronger than a BB gun before, but some had experience with archery and karate.

“I told [Grace] she would get to shoot things, and she loves archery,” said her mother. “So it was pretty cool to her.”

Hoping to grow next year

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  • Knot-tying is also among the camp offerings, along with tactical decisionmaking.

  • Archery instructor Michael Duffy checked on Lilly Patron. The camp is building on the popularity of “The Hunger Games.”

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