If you asked me to isolate just one memory of Superweeks to label as my favourite, it would take me at least half an hour to decide on my top 5. From my four years of Superweeks, there are so many memories to choose from, and each one more positive and vivid.
The only moment of apprehension is the initial meeting. You realise you’re going to be stuck in the same building as these people, in the same room at night for a few, and you’re going to have to get along. If you’re anything like I was in the summer of 2014, this was the worst part for me. Trying to settle in, and make friends, breaking the ice, has always been difficult, but once there, you realise everyone is in the same boat, and all equally worried about not being spoken to. The fear rapidly subsides, and the monitors play an instrumental part in the ice-breaking. They are, in essence, the sledgehammer used.
Time passes, a chatter filled meal, and you are met with the evening activities. Having spoken to the variety of friends I’ve met along my ATE travels, I discovered I’m not alone in constantly looking forward to these. They provide a contrast to the outdoor running around (at least the outdoor bit), and it fulfils its role of thoroughly exhausting us very effectively. It also feels quite daunting to see the entire holiday, all assembled, and all screaming and yelling. Once you realise that you’re actually yelling as well, the terror fades very rapidly. Before you know it, it’s time for an early night (believe me you need it) and suddenly it’s tomorrow.
Tomorrow is the day where ATE really kicks off, playing games usually centralised within your group, to build more friendships, and learn the ins and outs of the chaos due to ensue. Having used up your energy playing Scream Run, Bad Egg, and Halt, you trudge back in to have a quick restorative in the form of juice and a biscuit, before charging straight back out again for more.
The down time is more group bonding time, lying about in the snug, or in your dorm, and just talking about everything under, and including, the sun. If you’re a lazy teenager like me, you’ll usually take this opportunity for a well-earned nap, or, if you were so lucky, play a few games of cards. It provides a nice contrast to the boundless energy of the morning activities, and by the time it’s over, you’ll be ready for a whole lot more, like one of the most memorable, full superweek games: JDP. The base concept is very simple, charge at the other team without a care in the world and pray they have a lower value card than you do. Return to your base to receive praise for winning a new card from your monitor, and head straight back out for more. Limitless energy reserves are recommended. For those of you that still look sceptical, there is an element of strategy and leadership required, especially if you get tired. If you are less athletically inclined, and feel your energy reserves running low, you can assume the head of the adolescent army (may contain children) and yell inspirational advice from the side-lines, as well as dole out praise and new cards as people return. A position of power if ever there was one.
JDP is only one of the many memorable games. Having done something of a makeshift survey, I have finally discovered the truth that I suspected all along. It will probably come as no surprise to those that know it, but my survey found the “most memorable game on a Superweek” to be Combat. (This is probably the reason why The (A)TEam Challenge 2015 will now feature The UltimATE Combat Tournament, after some persuasion from a certain superweeker who can’t say a bad word about it). At this point I feel it’s necessary for me to explain why this game has such a special place in my heart. I was doing very badly at school. I struggled to keep up with homework, and things just seemed generally dreadful. I was in the bottom 30 in the year of 150. My self-confidence was plummeting at a rate of knots and things seemed dismal.
Up comes ATE, and Combat. One of the boys I shared a dorm with began to concoct a plan with me for our Combat match, and each day we requested to play it. Finally, the day came, and we made a beeline for the base we had agreed on. The Monitors began to hand out cards, and my friend and I swiftly staged something of a coup and assumed control. We led the charge, slammed into the enemy lines with a force of a tsunami, and the rest I leave to your imagination. The game lasted 40 minutes. It was a hard fought fight the entire time, and only ended when, very reluctantly, a truce was declared by both sides, simultaneously, and then proceeded to collapse on the ground in exhaustion. For those of you that know how badly Combat games usually end (and for those of you that don’t, they end badly), you will be shocked to hear of this game that ended peacefully. It was talk of the superweek for the remainder of our time there. (For those interested, my grades have subsequently risen as fast as they were falling, and I have assumed my spot back in the TOP thirty of 150 in the year, a fact I attribute wholeheartedly to ATE and to Combat.)
Despite the endless praise, there is still one thing that will makes people nervous, especially those that would otherwise avoid music like the plague, and that is the singing. The songs are ludicrous. They are embarrassing. Sometimes they make you wonder what has happened to the world that people sing these. But there is not a single song I can think of that doesn’t make people smile, whether at the time, or in reminiscence, or in just plain embarrassment. Eye contact with other people is never helpful either. Even still, songs are requested regularly, and the peer pressure will make you succumb and join in. You realise there is really no point trying to resist, it’s much more fun to join in. The joy generated is infectious.
If I were asked to name something I didn’t like about Superweeks, it would be the end, without a shadow of doubt. It is simply heartrending; standing there, trying to hold back tears, surrounded by tearful children saying goodbye to friends they have made; friendships forged more strongly than you could ever believe over the course of just a week, and promising to each other to see them again next year. As I’ve said many times, you make more concrete and solid friendships on ATE, than you make over several years with other people. The combined weight of the goodbyes at the end is enough to melt a heart of stone, and even the hearts of teenagers. A more heartbroken goodbye I have never seen and hope I never have to see again. If that isn’t a mark of how incredible a Superweek is to behold, then I don’t know what could be.
At first glance, ATE seems like a summer camp where you learn nothing, and instead, are simply trapped out in the distant West Midlands, separated for technology for a week and in a dorm with a few others your own age. Speaking from personal experience, you will naturally be sceptical. If, however, you can break past that first layer of scepticism, you will be met with the wonder and joy that is ATE. I have no more praise to offer than this: no matter what situation, no matter how upset you feel and no matter what hell you may have endured, a Superweek is a week away from it all, and you will come back a changed (wo)man.
Thank you for reading this,
Alex H, Age 14