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Leadership learning as a circus camp counselor
"Communication is a vital aspect to successful leadership and requires continued practice."
- Natalie Duncan

By Natalie Duncan

I watched from a few feet below as the ten-year-old girl I had met less than a week before prepared to hoist her small frame upside down. While dangling by only the strength of her arms, she would maneuver herself into an inverted arched position. She was preparing to do an introductory trick almost every circus girl must learn: the high cradle.

Before she began, she looked down - right into my eyes - took a breath, and then pulled herself into a perfectly positioned cradle. The five other girls who were perched carefully with her on the suspended trapeze structure erupted into applause and cheers.

A few days earlier, this same girl had fervently tried to convince me she would never go upside down. As a counselor at the Circus Juventas summer camp for youth, this wasn't the first time I had heard that. However, I knew that within a few days she would be begging to stay up in the air for a few seconds more.

Being a circus summer camp coach for three years has enabled me to hone my skills in communication. This allows me to build the confidence of young campers and help them achieve goals they think are insurmountable.

Communication is a vital aspect to successful leadership and requires continued practice. Learning the art of circus, especially at a young age, demands precise instruction from a calm and knowledgeable leader. Within a split second a coach must be able to instruct a camper on how to progress with a trick or, in some cases, get out of a situation that could end in injury.

Through the circus camp, I have learned the importance of using words wisely and efficiently, as well as how to think quickly, and how to hyper-focus to give my full attention. My ability to communicate has been crucial in my goal of teaching young students the art of circus and has helped me prepare for more leadership positions in my future.

And more importantly, it helped a ten-year-old girl gain the confidence to hang upside down.

Natalie Duncan has been a circus camp counselor for several years. www.circusjuventas.org

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