The Burpee Challenge

From Left: Rick, Dain, Academic Dean Denise Savidge, Executive Director David LePere and Jackson all participated in the Burpee Challenge today.

From Left: Rick, Dain, Academic Dean Denise Savidge, Executive Director David LePere and Jackson all participated in the Burpee Challenge today.

A day after New Year’s, a friend of mine told me he was starting a 100-day Burpee Challenge. Thinking this would have something to do with growing plants, I asked, “Does that involve vegetables, or flowers?” He laughed, then without any explanation, did something that caught me completely by surprise. My friend squatted down, kicked his legs out behind him, did a push-up, brought his legs back in and from a squatting position jumped up with his hands reaching for the sky.

“That’s a burpee!” Excitedly he continued, “My brother and I have just started this great workout plan. We do one burpee on day one, two on day two, and so on until on day 100, we do 100.” He waited until he saw that I understood and then asked, “Want to join us? We’re on day 1.”

“Sure. That sounds like fun! I do need to get in shape for a sea kayaking trip.” I said quickly.

Doing 1 burpee was pretty easy so I later consulted Saint Google to see if joining my friends would actually get me in shape for a sea-kayaking trip I have coming up in the spring.

Apparently, over the course of the 100 days, we will do 5000 push-ups each…( and 5000 lunges… and 5000 squat thrusts!) …I love exercise, but the thought of those 5000 push-ups seemed overwhelming!

I’ve stuck with the plan and am on day 25 now. It is actually starting to become fun. The last few are always tough, but now that my body is adapting, the first 15 and even 20 were easy.  I’ve overcome my initial doubt that I could finish the whole challenge because all I have to do is “just do one more than I did yesterday”…and it’s not hard to do one burpee.

David, Rick and Denise in full burpee action.

David, Rick and Denise in full burpee action.

On day 2, I invited the staff and students of Cherokee Creek Boys School to join me in the challenge. During this quarter, we are studying the value of Courage in our classrooms, our outdoor treks, and in our PATH work. We already have PE every day before classes and many of our students are on the basketball team, so I just put the invitation out there. Eight courageous boys and one courageous Academic Dean embraced the challenge.

It reminded me that great goals are achieved one step – or pushup – at a time.  It’s a great message for everyone, but especially for students. By “exercising” courage to take on new challenges…and just doing a little bit more than we did last time, we can accomplish great feats in our lives!

If any of you who are going on the CCBS sea kayaking trip with me in April, it’s not too late to join the challenge? One burpee is really easy…

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (5)

Save Money This Holiday Season!

David LePere

David LePere

How many times have you heard this recently:

Save money this holiday season!

Really, it is possible. Let’s push the pause button on the rush of the season for a few minutes and think about what kind of toys our kids would do well to have.

As we prepare for the holidays and gift-giving for our children, our current culture would have us believe that more is better or that electronics lead to happiness. But I recently read an article that reminds me that it isn’t always glitz and glamor and bells and whistles that capture the attention of our children.  Imagination and interaction are the most fun part of toys.  And that what brings happiness is the thoughtfulness of the gift, not the price tag.

I was struck by the simplicity of the wisdom in this article from “WIRED” magazine about the top 5 toys of all time. When you read the article, I hope you smile as you remember all of the fun you’ve had playing with these toys yourself!

So, what are the top 5 toys of all time?? My children are 10, 7 and 5 years old and If I were to get all 5 of these toys for each my sons, I could probably spend less than 10 dollars on my entire Christmas and create hours of family fun! I’ll give you a hint…much of it can be found in your backyard or in the garage.

Enjoy the article, it’s great fun! What would you add to the list that would help us “discover what is real and true?”

The 5 Best Toys of All Time

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When Snow Was Fun

Dylan (left) charges forward, while Jon provides coverage

Dylan (left) charges forward, while Jon provides coverage

Sunday night, my husband and I toured the online blizzard of weather related warnings, watches and apocalyptic premonitions. After a few minutes he turned to me and asked, “Remember when snow was fun?”

Granted, we did receive a ton of snow. Much more than is normal for Upstate South Carolina and most of the warnings were very much warranted. But on Monday morning as I arrived on campus after a long and difficult drive, my shoulders relaxed and a single thought came forward – “Snow Day!”

I made my way from room to room reminding the boys to dress in layers, wear boots, hats and rain gear. In their minds, I knew, were visions of snow play, snowmen, snow angels and, best of all, a snow ball fight.

Middle schoolers so often sway between gleeful childhood and the beginnings of more solemn adult-like maturity. It is what makes them the most fun and interesting age group to work with. Often, our CCBS students arrive having forgotten…or somehow deficient in…the art of real childhood play. We provide dozens of opportunities for boys to be playful, learn new games, and remember old ones – in short, we provide a place where boys can be boys!

The Healer reminds us of the power of fun, play and joy! And there is nothing more joyful than a giant snowfall followed by a snowball fight…nothing…except maybe the hot chocolate afterward!


Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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Playing in Position

Coach Kory Byrd during a 2010 season game

Coach Kory Byrd during a 2010 season game

Starting next week, the Cherokee Creek Boys School Bears will play their first game of the 2011 Basketball season. Head coach Kory Byrd has been practicing with the team for the past few weeks, and the players have come a long way in their skills and understanding of the game – it will be an exciting season to be sure – Go Bears!

 In addition to new skills, the team has been learning the importance of drawing the opposition’s defense out of position. Coach Byrd has been working with the team on many different passing drills. Some are designed to help the Bears break a “trap” set by the other team, some to move the ball up the court, and some to pass the ball in from out-of-bounds.

One drill in particular has caught my attention this year. When the Bears are trying to score a basket, they take time to “work the ball,” which means pass it from player to player around the perimeter of the defense. The purpose of all these passes is not so much to look for an open player – as I have thought for many years – but rather to try and draw the defense out of position. Once the other team’s defender has been caught out of position, one of ours will be open, and we get an unguarded opportunity to score!

On the other end of the court, Coach Byrd works with our middle school boys on their defense. We play a zone defense and Coach Byrd is keen on seeing that we don’t get “drawn out of position.”  Many of our players are first-timers in organized basketball, and our coach teaches them the boundaries of their positions, over and over again. He tells me that by the time the season starts, their boundaries and positioning on the court will be habit, and that’s when we will really start playing good defense.

Think with me for a moment about the concepts of “boundaries” and “defenses” that our award-winning coach Byrd is teaching our students and how his lessons on the basketball court can help us too!  We all have “defenses” that we build up through experience and over time.

Some of those defenses may be very helpful, like not taking an insult personally. Good defenses generally involve practicing good boundaries – which keep us in position – or “centered” – and help protect us. As long as we practice good boundaries we won’t be caught off balance, and we can better guard what we value.

Other defenses don’t serve us so well. For example, you may chose to say nothing or give in to something you don’t want to do, in order to protect yourself from the fallout of saying “no.”  Playing “out of position,” or with poor boundaries exposes the things we value – like our integrity – to failure.

Knowing that practicing good boundaries and “playing in position” will help us play much better, the challenge is to find those areas where we have been “drawn out of position” and move back within our boundaries!

I hope you all can come and watch our students play this season. I am already proud of the work they have done learning their positions, and can’t wait to see them put their lessons about good boundaries into practice! Thanks to Head Coach Byrd and his assistant coaches, Yanic McDowell and Jachin Wettstone, for teaching all the basketball skills and “real and true” life lessons to the students of Cherokee Creek Boys School!


Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Upstate South Carolina.

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Lightning Strikes Twice

Teamwork State Champs! Nick with the 2010 team in March.

Teamwork State Champs! Nick with the 2010 team in March.

I have been on this earth for nearly twenty thousand days. Included in those days are some that, because of their life-altering consequences, I remember to the smallest detail. Lightning strikes out of the blue sometimes and changes my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

What I think makes me a little special and different is the fact that I have had two memorably transcendent days through my work. Both occurred because of CCBS and our involvement with FIRST Lego League.

FIRST Lego League (FLL) is an international robotics competition between teams of middle-school students in which judging is based on four criteria: Teamwork, Presentation of a Science Project, Engineering and Robot Performance. FFL inventor Dean Kamen wants to “inspire young peoples’ interest and participation in science and technology” by bringing a hint of athletic fervor to a competition with a guiding ethos of “Gracious Professionalism.” 

When asked if I wanted to coach a team I agreed without hesitation. I didn’t know then that lightning was about to strike.      

Part of the Coach’s Promise for FIRST Lego League is:  “The children do the work.”  That was pretty easy for me to observe that first year, and ever since. I’ve always felt that I best empower my students by giving them an opportunity to try something new. Then I step back as far as is safe and let them do it their way. Over the years I have hybridized the FLL Coach’s Promise, my own coaching philosophy and the CCBS’s mission. My teams are coached to aim for two objectives: “have fun” and “Show up as Warriors who represent themselves, their families and our school with Gracious Professionalism.”

In February of 2006, after a long day of competition at the South Carolina Convention Center in Columbia, my name was called as the Outstanding Coach of the Tournament. I didn’t even know there was such a thing, and in front of 80 teams, their coaches, parents and the judges I had won it! I obviously did some things right that season and day, but I’ll leave it to others to explain why, out of eighty coaches, I deserved such an honor. Lightning had struck me and I’ve never been the same since. 

Lightning struck again last March at the South Carolina State FLL Tournament when our team was called as the State Champion in Teamwork.  Those eight guys had demonstrated outstanding teamwork all day in a chaotic environment with infinite distractions and challenges. I was still stunned to the point of tears when their efforts were so publicly recognized.They had used the concepts, tools and techniques we staff and parents work so hard to help them learn, and the result of their own hard work, to gain the championship trophy, made of Legos of course.

In January I will head to the regional FLL competition with the 2011 team. Just like the last five teams, they will be empowered and given opportunities to succeed with my support instead of my intervention. As a result, they will come together as a team, do the best that they can do with all of the tools they have been given and walk away with an experience full of value.

 And, who knows, lightning may even strike again…

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River Lessons (Part 5)

Students recently reflected on their Treks experiences through writing and made connections to the Lessons of the Medicine Wheel and the 4 aspects of self they explore while enrolled at Cherokee Creek: the Warrior, Visionary, Healer and Teacher. The River Lessons are an 8-part blog series sharing these unique student perspectives.

Student: Greg
Aspect: Visionary
Statement: I am Creative

“I think that in the Visionary I am creative because I found new ways to do things. For example, making a light overhead so I can read in my tent, or putting up a tarp, or making a fire like building a teepee and building a log cabin around it – also on the river I made it fun by playing on the rapids – that is also creative.”

Greg’s playful, curious nature empowered him to create more comfort in his tent and and more fun on the river.

What kinds of things do you do to make your world more fun or comfortable? How have you approached a recent situation and improved it with your own authentic style of creativity?

Lessons of the Medicine Wheel
Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Westminster, SC.

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