Smith College Adult Sports and Fitness Camp - Vacation with a Purpose

Smith College Adult Sports and Fitness Camp
- Vacation with a Purpose -

© David Burton 2011

Smith ASFC

Pioneer Valley
            Pioneer Valley
      There are many types of vacation. We travel to foreign locations, we take cruises, we head to the beach, we head to the mountains, and so forth. Let me suggest a different type of vacation. For one week, you attend an adult sports camp in scenic Massachusetts. During this vacation, you can return to your childhood and indulge in all sorts of sports activities. You can enjoy the scenery and ambiance of a small college town in the Pioneer Valley, bordering the Connecticut River and a short drive or bike ride to the Berkshires and hill country on Western Massachusetts. You can have all of this at a well-known college with outstanding athletic facilities and, at the same time, enjoy a variety of well prepared meals, at an all inclusive cost that is likely a fraction of what you might pay on other vacations.

Downtown Northampton
You can experience this vacation for one week early in June at the Adult Sports and Fitness Camp (ASFC) at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The Adult Sports and Fitness Camp (ASFC) has been run on the campus of Smith College for the past 30 years. It is a truly unique experience that offers adults the opportunity to learn about and engage in sports activities and to learn about health, nutrition and lifestyles. It provides the opportunity to enjoy a fun-filled vacation week of sports activities, games, to socialize, to learn about the latest advances in the achievement of a healthy lifestyle, and to partake of the atmosphere and scenery of a small New England college located in the beautiful Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. The camp is guaranteed to entertain, enliven and enrich your life.

      The camp provides trained and qualified instructors in a multitude of disciplines that includes: sports, fitness, exercise, health, nutrition, stress management, and motivation. Over the years, the camp has typically provided more that 20 diverse activities each year for the campers. These activities offer everyone - teen-ager to septuagenarian and novice to expert - the chance to try something for the first time or the 100th time. Beginners can learn the proper way to play, those with intermediate and advanced skills can improve to new levels.

      While I typically have engaged in tennis each of the nearly 30 years that I have been attending the ASFC, I have also taken the opportunity to learn to kayak, play golf and even sky-dive. There is always something for everybody.

      Think of the Smith College ASFC as your own personal training camp, with out the drug tests and steroid rage. This camp is the perfect excuse to jump-start your fitness regimen, learn a new activity or improve your tennis score. Participants can take instructional programs, opt for fitness or sports medicine evaluations and try out recreational activities and sports that you're curious about, from aerobics to croquet to kayaking to yoga. It’s “A Vacation with a Purpose."

Social Hour
  Social Hour at ASFC
The day's activities start at 7:00 am and run to 5:00 pm. From 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm you can relax during social hour, followed by dinner (6:00 pm to 7:00 pm)and then by activities such as games, ballroom dancing, a lifestyle clinic or by some free time to stroll into downtown Northampton. Social Hour is the time to unwind from the day's activities, to socialize, and to imbibe in one's favorite beverage. There is a charge for drinks, but the cost is far less than at your favorite restaurant or lounge.

At ASFC, grown-ups get to play like kid campers -- swimming, hiking, canoeing and horseback riding. There are also more adult-like activities offered, such as using the college's state-of-the-art weight room. But campers sleep in a dorm house on campus.

      Unlike a converted kids' camp or rustic resort that bills itself as a ``camp for adults,'' the Smith camp makes use of the college's impressive indoor and outdoor athletic facilities and a staff of fitness professionals. Besides being sports scientists, many of the camp counselors on hand to instruct and encourage are college coaches.

      You do as much or as little as you want. There aren't any camp counselors ordering the inmates around. Some repeat campers recalled a legendary figure who came and actually did no sports: He just took meals, lounged on the outdoor porch, toured the area and went into town for movies. At ASFC that's OK. And the staff doesn't much care what your fitness level is when you show up -- this is not a ``Buns of Steel'' crowd.

      Some of the activities that have been provided at the camp over the years include:
Badminton     Racquetball     Sculling     Fencing
    Badminton                     Racquetball                           Sculling                                  Fencing
 * Tennis  * Squash  * Racquetball  * Table Tennis  * Badminton  * Fencing
 * Swimming  * Diving  * Aqua-aerobics  * Water volleyball  * Water-skiing
 * Sculling  * Canoeing  * Kayaking  * Fencing  * Horseback riding  * Golf
 * Frisbee Golf  * Croquet  * Yoga  * Pilates  * T'ai Chi  * Hiking  * Orienteering
 * Rock climbing  * Rock wall climbing  * Biking  * Mountain biking
 * In-line skating  * Zip-line  * Sky-diving  * Kick-boxing  * Self Defense
 * Karate  * Early Morning Workouts (stretching, walking, running)
 * Exercise Machines  * Volleyball  * Zumba  * Lifestyle Clinics  * Nutrition Clinic
 * Stress Management
Aquaerobics     Table Tennis     Tennis     Volleyball
    Aquaerobics                 Table Tennis                     Tennis                          Volleyball
Horseback Riding     Golf     T'ai Chi     Canoeing & Kayaking
Horseback Riding                 Golf                               T'ai Chi                 Canoeing & Kayaking

Smith College and the Pioneer Valley

Smith College
       Smith College
Smith College is one of five colleges located in and around Amherst in the historic Pioneer Valley region of Massachusetts. These are: 1) Smith College in Northampton, 2) University of Massachusetts in Amherst, 3) Amherst College in Amherst, 4) Hampshire College in Amherst, and 5) Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley. All the colleges are within bike riding distance and, in the past, one of the ASFC activities has been a bicycle trip the visits all campuses, a round-trip ride of about 25 miles. You can also get around Pioneer Valley by taking the convenient Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) bus that services all the schools. You can reach Smith from Boston by driving west on the Mass Turnpike and then north on Route 91 (about 100 miles) or you can fly into Hartford, Connecticut, where a member of the ASFC staff will pick you up. There is also train and bus service to Springfield, where you can also be picked up.

     Biking at Camp
      Getting around the Smith campus or the town of Northampton is easily done on foot or on bicycle. Unlike in Boston and much of Massachusetts, cars will stop for anyone crossing a street and bicycle riders are given the right of way. Bicycle riding is very popular in the area and bicycle and pedestrian trails for recreation and commuting have been created on the site of old railroad beds. The longest of these, the Norwottuck Rail Trail is 8.5 miles long and links Northampton, Hadley, and Amherst. The Northampton Bike Path leads from State Street in downtown Northampton to Look Park in Florence and measures nearly 3 miles. Look Park has a paved walkway around the park that measures approximately one mile in length. Bicycle riding on any road in the region is scenic and quite safe. During my several years at ASFC, I have bicycled over all of the bike trails and several of the rural roads.

History of the Camp

      Jim Johnson and Don Siegel, professors in the Exercise and Sport Studies Department at Smith College, started the Adult Sports and Fitness Camp at Smith in 1981. They had been working on programs directed toward fitness in adult women and each had considerable experience with summer camps. Their objectives for the camp were: to make people aware of their exercise and nutritional needs; provide them with some fun time devoted to physical activity; and give people the opportunity to improve their skills in specific sports. Education was, and always has been, a goal - expecting people to learn a little more about themselves.

      Jim Johnson had just done some work for Vogue Magazine and the Health and Beauty editor wrote about the camp in the magazine. The unsolicited publicity had a great effect on enrollment. My wife Clare saw the write-up and asked if I might be interested in attending. I was. As a result, I have now completed my 29th year of attendance.

      Jim directed the camp for 15 years. When he stepped aside, Don Siegel and Kim Bierwert (an original member of the staff and Smith’s long time swimming and diving coach) took over. After the 2007 camp, Don retired as a camp director and handed over the reins to Kim and Scott Johnson, the director of Smith’s Outdoor Adventure Program (& Jim Johnson’s older son). Scott had previously worked as a staff member at the camp, directing the many outdoor activities offered. Kim remained for two more years, mentoring Scott as Full-time Director. After the 2009 camp, Kim stepped aside from his role as co-director. 2010 “officially” marked the 30th year of the camp, with Scott as the sole director. The 2011 year brought the addition of Craig Collins, the aqua-aerobics instructor at the camp, as co-director -- joining Scott.


      The fee for the camp covers all accommodations (single or double rooms), instruction, fitness evaluation, meals (from dinner Sunday through breakfast the following Saturday), and activities. The only items not covered by the camp fee are beverages during social hour and massages. There is a discount if you register early or if you convince another person to attend. In 2012, the all-inclusive fee for the camp is listed as $1,400 per person.

      Besides beverages consumed during the camp’s daily social hour that takes place preceding dinner, Holly Parker’s massages are the only other activity that is not covered by the camp’s all-inclusive fee. Her charge for a 1-hour massage session was $70 in 2011. Experienced campers are well aware of the benefits of a Holly Parker massage and her schedule is often completely filled up the first night of camp. Newcomers to the camp are well advised to schedule a visit with Holly as soon as her schedule sheet is posted.


     Meal Time at ASFC
All meals are served in the dining room attached to the house in which we campers stay. With the exception of the Friday night banquet, all meals are buffet style, with a variety of dishes from which to choose. There are always plenty of fresh, healthy choices - as well as several guilty pleasures. In particular, deserts can be quite decadent. Quantity is up you – take as little or as much as you want. Vegetarian alternatives are always available and the kitchen staff can make accommodations for special diets. Meal time is a great opportunity to socialize and to compare notes on each other’s activities. The kitchen staff is accommodating, friendly and, best of all, they are culinary experts.

Athletic Facilities

      Smith College is blessed with some of the finest athletic facilities to be found on any college campus. These facilities far exceed the quantity and quality of athletic facilities that might be found at other spas, sports camps and gyms. They are state-of-the-art and fully stocked with the highest quality equipment. The Ainsworth Gym and Scott Gym facilities include a new 5,000 sq foot fitness center, a 25 yard swimming pool, squash courts, climbing wall room, fencing studio, indoor tennis courts and track and two gymnasia. In addition ASFC uses the outdoor tennis courts, the 20 acres of athletic fields, outdoor jogging track and 400 meter track, a boathouse, a boating pond, along with riding stables and ring (indoor and outdoor). The nearby Connecticut River accommodates kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing and wakeboarding. There are nearby numerous trails for hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking.

      Some of the on-campus facilities that are available include :
Biking     Indoor Track     Swimming Pool     Squash Courts
     Climbing Wall                   Indoor Track             Swimming Pool              Squash Courts
 * Indoor and outdoor tennis courts  * Indoor track  * Indoor squash/racquetball
    courts  * Indoor Badminton courts  * Indoor rock-climbing wall
 * Indoor heated swimming pool  * Indoor basketball courts  * Pond/boat house for
    sculling/kayaking/canoeing  * Indoor fully equipped fitness/workout center
 * Outdoor tracks  * Outdoor soccer/lacrosse/field hockey fields  * Outdoor horse
    stables/riding paths  * Indoor exercise/yoga/pilates/dance rooms
 * Outdoor croquet court

Croquet Field     Outdoor Track     Paradise Pond     Fitness Center
  Croquet Field              Outdoor Track          Paradise Pond          Fitness Center

      In addition to the excellent Smith College facilities, there are several off-campus facilities and areas near the college that are available to the campers. Some of these many facilities include:
Rock Climbing     Skydiving     Hiking Trail     Zip Line
    Rock Climbing                          Skydiving                           Hiking Trail            Zip Line
 * Numerous hiking paths
 * Numerous biking paths/roads
 * Numerous hiking/walking/inline-skating paths
 * The Connecticut River for canoeing/kayaking/water skiing
 * Several hills/mountains for hiking/rock climbing
 * Golf courses/miniature golf facilities/driving ranges
 * Sky diving and Zip-line facilities within driving distance

Water Skiing          Hot Tub          Kayaking on Connecticut River
         Water Skiing                                        Hot tub                        Kayaking on Connecticut River

Fitness Testing & Sports Medicine Consultation

      ASFC offers an optional fitness evaluation and sports medicine consultation. For those who choose to have the fitness evaluation, they will go through an organized series of activities at the start of the camp that gives them an insight into their overall fitness. Some campers, like myself, use it as a motivational tool to keep up their fitness routine over the year. Some people target one particular test each year and work to improve their performance. The fitness evaluation provides a wonderful opportunity to determine how you stand relative to others in your age group and it can serve as a guidepost for ways to improve your fitness.

      The sports medicine consultation gives you a chance to consult with one of the staff sports trainers where you can ask questions and get advice about sport or activity related aches and pains or nagging injuries.

      The fitness test these days consists of the following:
  • a 1-mile walk at one’s maximum walking speed - provides an estimate of lung capacity
  • A sitting stretch test – provides an estimate of hip flexibility
  • Sit-ups – provides an estimate of core strength
  • Reclining weight bench presses – provides an estimate of upper body strength
  • Body pinch test- provides an estimate of body fat percentage
  • Hip and waist measurements – provides an estimate of body mass index (BMI)
  • Measurements of blood pressure, height, and weight
Fitness Testing
     Fitness Testing
      The results of the fitness test are converted into reports which contain your individual results, along with charts and tables showing scores for men and women according to their age. This allows you to determine where you individually fit relative to others in your age group, i.e., well below average, below average, average, above average, or well above average. For returning campers, it also allows them to determine the change in their fitness levels over the years.

Past and Present Staff

      Smith Camp has a highly experienced staff, consisting largely of college faculty and coaches, who are committed to teaching campers how to begin, improve and maintain their skills in sports and health activities. These instructors pride themselves on being able to work with and teach people at different levels of expertise, and with different interests and goals. There is never an issue of “keeping up”. Instead, campers learn and play at their own skill level. Conversely, those who thought that they might not be sufficiently challenged at the camp, have found out that the staff was easily able to arrange for them to be stretched to the limits of their capabilities. Anyone motivated to become active, acquire a new skill or learn more about a sport, exercise, health issue or nutrition has learned that the ASFC staff can support them - all that has been necessary is that the attendee bring a playful spirit and a willingness to participate to the camp.

      Nearly all the instructors at AFSC have been involved in college sports and health education. Below, is a listing of some of the past and present camp instructors, along with their backgrounds and qualifications:

Tim Bacon - M.A. and B.P.H.E.; Head Squash Coach at Smith College; A Squash Canada Level 4 certified coach; Led the Canadian Junior Men's National Team at the 1990 World Championships. He was the Massachusetts 45+ Softball (squash) Open & Mixed Doubles Champion in 2004. Former chair of the Sport Science Committee for Squash Canada; Teaches squash and tennis and is the organizer of games night at ASFC.

Kim Bierwert - B.S.; Swimming & diving coach at Smith College; Former co-director of the camp; Has trained atheletes for swimming the English Channel; Teaches swimming, diving and water-skiing at ASFC;

Louann Bierwert - M.S.; Instructor at Smith College; Water-skiing, in-line skating and mountain biking instructor at ASFC;

Jackie Blei - M.S.; At Smith College in the Exercise and Sports Department is a lecturer in exercise and sport studies; Supervises teaching fellows and is the department liaison to the adjunct faculty; She also manages the Olin Fitness Center in the athletic department; Fencing and badminton instructor at ASFC.

Barbara Brehm-Curtiss - Ed.D; Nutritional counseling and stress testing at ASFC.

Richard Cesario - B.A.; Instructor at Smith College; Teaches T'ai Chi at ASFC.

Craig Collins - B.S.; Instructor of Aquatics at Smith College; Founder, president and instructor at the Valley Swim School; Current co-director of ASFC; Aqua-aerobics instructor at ASFC.

Theresa Collins - M.S.; Skiing and golf coach at Smith College; Golf instructor at ASFC.

Randy Frost - Ph.D; Professor and chair of Psychology Dept. at Smith College; Stress management and hiking at ASFC.

Margaret Gehring - M.S.; Track and field coach and professor at Ohio Wesleyan; Biking and hiking instructor/leader at ASFC.

Marilyn Hart - M.A.; Private practice yoga instructor; Yoga instructor at ASFC.

Jim Johnson - Ph.D; Co-founder and former co-director of ASFC; Badminton, drownproofing, canoeing and hiking instructor at ASFC.

Scott Johnson - B.S.; Co-director of ASFC; Is an adjunct member of the Smith College faculty, teaching in the department of Exercise and Sports Studies; Has been in charge of coordinating the Smith Outdoor Adventure Program since 1999; Climbing wall, hiking and orienteering instructor/leader at ASFC.

Betsy Keller - Ph.D; Professor of Exercise Psychology at Ithica College; Morning run/walk leader and in charge of fitness testing at ASFC.

Mary O’Carroll - M.S., A.T.C.; Head Athletic Trainer at Smith College; Sports medicine clinic at ASFC.

Holly Parker - B.S.; Graduated from the Feldenkrais Professional Training Program, the Stillpoint Massage Program and UMASS in Massage and Movement Repatterning Therapies; Has provided massage services to the ASFC campers for nearly 3 decades.

Rosalie Peri - RN; Adjunct Faculty at Smith College; Yoga and Pilates instructor at ASFC.

Don Siegel - Ed.D; Professor of Exercise and Sports Studies at Smith College; Co-founder and former co-director of ASFC; Squash, tennis and biking instructor/leader at ASFC.

Ed Seruess - For 30 years, was the head tennis and squash coach at Amherst College where he had NCAA Championship teams; Squash and tennis instructor at ASFC.

Donna Smyth - Ph.D.; Professor of Physical Education at Keene State College; Canoeing, hiking and orienteering instructor/leader at ASFC.

Jane Stangl - PhD.; Professor & Graduate Program Advisor in Exercise and Sports Studies at Smith College. Golf instructor at ASFC.

The Camp Philosophy

      Participating in a fitness camp isn't just for the overweight but for anyone looking to learn more about personal fitness and living a healthier lifestyle. The Smith College ASFC is designed to promote fitness, well-being, and a healthier diet in a relaxed social environment.

      “Children have lots of opportunities to do sports camps,” said Kim Bierwert, a former camp co-director and assistant athletic director at Smith College. “This camp plays to that inner child of an adult.”

      The camp provides an environment in which people can improve the skills they have and learn new ones. Many of the campers are experienced in a few sports, but few, if any, are experienced at all the sports that are offered at the Smith College camp. As testimony to the enjoyment experienced at the camp, many of the campers have returned year after year.

      The Smith fitness campers bunk comfortably in a college residence hall after their daily exertion. Still, in a nod to summer camp days of childhood, the camp pits them in fun competitions such as the water balloon toss and karaoke, along with a trip to the local ice cream shop.

      As mentioned previously, at ASFC, you do what you want when you want to. No one forces you to do anything you don’t want to. You can bug out anytime to do a little shopping in downtown Northampton, sneak in a nap, read a book, sun yourself on the house lawn, or catch up on your email. The camp places no pressure on anyone. About the only time everyone shows up at the same time, at the same place is the 5:00 to 6:00 pm daily social hour that precedes dinner. Social time is when everyone gathers on the front porch over drinks and appetizers to compare notes on one’s aches and pains and to chat.

      Jim Johnson, the camp’s co-founder, repeatedly emphasized that years spent in worrying about health and fitness is not the best way to live. We are constantly bombarded with all sorts of health scares in the media. We daily see, read and hear about this fitness regimen and that exercise routine or exercise machine. Too often, we hear so much about what is bad for us that we stop enjoying life. Staying fit and healthy is undoubtedly good, but so is having fun in life. And that’s a major part of the philosophy of Smith’s Adult Sports and Fitness Camp. If you can’t enjoy life, what good is it if you live to be 100? Some scientists have suggested that we worry ourselves sick by focusing too intently on health. Undue concern for any one behavior is bad for you. We all know people who worry themselves silly counting all the fats and cholesterol in the foods they eat. These people terrorize themselves into such a state that they cannot enjoy a good meal.

      As emphasized at the camp, moderation is the key. As for exercise, the camp focuses on combining exercise and play. If an exercise isn’t fun, you will stop doing it. Do what you enjoy, have fun doing it, and, if possible, find someone to do it with. Don’t worry, be healthy!

 After-Dinner Lecture
      While there is plenty of sports and play at the camp, there are also exercises for the mind. Throughout the week, there are a variety of lectures and presentations on a variety of interesting topics, both after lunch and in the evening after dinner. These presentations are provided by members of the camp staff, as well as by experts from Smith College and the other surrounding colleges. Topics can range from current nutrition findings, to sexuality, to stress management.

Games Night
      Games Night
Games Night
        Games Night
One of the only team events held at camp takes place at games night. Tim Bacon, the ASFC resident games guru, conjures up 6-8 wacky activities that pit one's ability to listen with the sound of your laughter. Tim is a master at explaining the rules of each event as he makes them up, and then changing them as everyone groans, gives puzzled looks or asks too many questions. Mostly though, everyone just laughs too hard to really listen properly. Gift coupons for ice cream are awarded to the winning team! Games night is one of the real highlights of the week.

      ASFC is appropriate for any and all adults who wish to learn about what it takes to lead a healthier lifestyle. The camp is appropriate for participants at any fitness level and age. Over the years that the camp has been in existence, adults ranging in age from the mid-teens to 90 years old have attended. ASFC campers have come from as far west as California and Washington State, as far south as Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and from many of the rest of the states in the nation. Like their juvenile counterparts at summer sports camps across the nation, these campers, throughout the years, have undertaken a range of sports activities and workouts. ASFC sessions typically average 30 to 40 participants. Participants create their own daily schedule. Evening time is reserved for social hour, dinner, information sessions, and other fun group activities. Additionally, the camp provides a wealth of fitness and lifestyle information. This includes information on eating in a healthy fashion, stress reduction, exercising without a health club and how to turn your normal daily activities into part of your fitness routine.

      This is a place that people return to, with friends telling friends. Typically, more than half the participants are repeat campers. In part, it's because the price is right. It’s spa living at motel prices. But price is not the primary reason that campers return - the real reason is that it’s fun, fun, fun!

Camper Comments

"My attendance has really helped my life."

"I had forgotten how much fun it is to play all day."

“We found out how to play like kids used to. As was said at the camp orientation session, we don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stopped playing.”

"The quality of the staff is awesome and the array of activities offered is unusual."

  28 August 2011 {Article 109; Suggestion_01}    
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