Jamboree is the Boy Scouts’ ultimate national Scouting event. They not only provide a wide variety of activities and events but also bring in special people for the Scouts to learn from. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone. On top of that, it was the first time I knew that Scouting had extreme sports, including BMX! To make BMX extra special at this year’s Jamboree, Boy Scouts invited pro BMXer Mike Escamilla to demonstrate his world class BMX skills for interested Scouts.

BMX has a growing presence and Jamboree has provided both a beginner and more advanced course for aspiring BMXers. Jamboree encourages safety, of course. Each boy suits up with helmet and pads, but according to Wayne Perry, former BSA president, “If we’re going to do extreme sports at the Jamboree, 100 broken arms.” This is simply to acknowledge that in pursuing physical activities, particularly the popular extreme sports that draw young men, there will always be risk and likely be injury. And Scouts wear those casts and injuries as badges of pride. This year, a young Scout with the Utah National Parks Council managed to join in on that.

At the BMX special demonstration by Mike Escamilla, a couple of the Jamboree’s own staff skate instructors, Pat and Ryan, were enlisted to show their skills in between Escamilla’s stunts. This was to give him a chance to catch his breath here and there. At times nerves got the better of them and they struggled to land a trick. But, you could tell they were excited about the chance to be a part of this pro’s show.

As part of Mike Escamilla’s preparation to perform, he took a moment to talk to the young Scouts and share his Scouting and Jamboree experience. Mike turned 12 (the cut off age) during his first Jamboree. So, when he called for volunteers for one of his stunts, he made a point of calling for any 12-year-olds first. He collected 11 in all. They got in helmets and then lined them up and laid out for another big stunt: an 11-person-long-jump. Escamilla teased the crowd with a ‘practice run’ where his jump fell short. He mentioned that the most people he had ever jumped over was only seven at a time. But when it came time for the real deal, he sailed easily over the string of boys laying below.

As a prize for participants, Escamilla didn’t have enough for everyone, but he brought four rare BMX patches he had designed himself. So he did the obvious: had a race! The participants rushed to the starting line where Escamilla outlined the rules. Once around the track, first four to get a hand on Escamilla take home the prize.

Their enthusiasm was perhaps a little too intense as two contestants tangled legs and hit the ground, but they managed a quick recovery that barely slowed them down. However, as the first would-be winner was locked on target, Escamilla was ready to change things up on them by taking off running himself! It didn’t take long for these young Scouts to adjust course and four winners emerged, completely stoked over their newest patch.

When he spoke, Escamilla fondly shared his Scouting memories. He emphasized that you get good at something only by hard work. You focus on the path to greatness, not greatness itself. He was passionate and profound in the words he spoke to the young Scouts that day. But as is true with many lessons, the one that stood out to me was unspoken.

This lesson came through loudest during his last trick. To end his session, Mike Escamilla wanted to perform the hardest trick of the day. He admitted he was completely unsure if he’d be able to do it due to the difficulty, and he also mentioned that the humidity was causing his grip to slide on the handlebars of his BMX bike, so he would be facing that challenge as well. Mike could be seen aggressively drying his hands with a towel before each attempt.

His first run was just to gauge the course for his trick, so it was no surprise that he completely missed the mark. On his second attempt, he didn’t get up high enough, returned to his starting point for another run. During his third attempt, he again mentioned the humidity might prove the end of his session. On his next attempt, his bike (and luckily not him) flew over the rail and out of the BMX arena…not kidding people, it was bye-bye bike.

Once the bike was retrieved, he said he would give it one more try. But with the humidity, it might just not be happening today. So on his ‘last’ attempt, he picked up speed, flew into the air, connected with his target…but still fell short. However, this time as he landed, and with no hesitation, he raced to the starting point to go again. From my spot next to the track near his landing, I heard him saying, “No way. Again. This is happening.” He called to the young Scouts that he was going again, and this time? Nailed. It.

And this is what I hope these Scouts remember. Not just being around a pro or seeing a really cool stunt, but the unspoken lesson to be found in Escamilla’s example. The lesson to plan, prepare, try, try again, and not quit. Because that’s the difference between someone who achieves and someone who doesn’t. Cheers, Mike.

P.S. Turns out my fellow photographer/blogger was as taken with this experience as I was, so check out her perspective here!

Angela Shelley
Japanese Tour Guide turned Jamboree Joy Ride. Combine a dad full of natural curiosity of the world and a love of learning with a Scouting momma whose passion for children, education and the outdoors and you get a family with many Dutch oven cooking, camp song singing, compass-confounded exploring, squirrel-chasing experiences. Despite that, I never would have guessed I would one day be a National Parks and Monuments tour guide for Japanese people. And I never would have guessed I'd then move on to work for Boy Scouts of America.

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