“GO LIONS!” The routine ended with a solid Heel Stretch pyramid and an impressive tumbling pass across the front. The room erupted with applause from the campers seated on the ground in front of them. One team in particular was especially supportive, standing up and jumping with excitement.
“Next up – let’s hear it for the Bulldogs!” the instructor announced. The beaming group of girls who had been celebrating the Lions’ performance bounced to their places. “READY!” Their cheer began with jumps and a short motion sequence that transitioned into a basic pyramid, ending a few beats off count. Despite an imperfect routine, their spirit and energy gave the impression that they’d just won the lottery. As they exited the floor, the audience followed their lead, smiling and applauding enthusiastically. There wasn’t a frown to be found as the night’s evaluations ended on a positive note.
Talent tends to stand out no matter what, but there’s something about good ol’ fashioned spirit that really shines. The founding father of NCA, Lawrence “Herkie” Herkimer, was the first to recognize exceptional spirit and genuine pride, and that’s why we have the Spirit Stick.
First awarded in 1954, the Spirit Stick was passed to a team at NCA camp who exuded spirit in every essence of the word but didn’t have the polished skills to take home a trophy. Herkie knew that changing the scoring process wasn’t the answer, so he created a way to honor the team’s outstanding spirit. He spontaneously reached out, broke a branch off of a tree and declared it the official Spirit Stick.
He presented the Spirit Stick to the team who always encouraged one another and applauded the efforts of others. They were the first to arrive to classes and the last to leave. They were the backbone of the camp and a shining example of character, class and positivity.
Today, the Spirit Stick has evolved from a simple tree limb, cut and painted in Herkie’s garage, to a highly decorated award, mass-produced by the thousands.
The fact that it isn’t plated in gold or engraved with the date isn’t important. This extra special award has become an integral part of the camp experience and one of the most sought-after team accolades. As summer sets in, teams across the country will earn the legendary Spirit Stick, and the tradition will continue to thrive.