Boot Camp Beginnings
"Whereas women tend to network when they get pregnant," says 52-year-old Greg Bishop, Boot Camp founder and father of four, "guys tend to become a little isolated." At the workshops, they can spill their guts with kindred spirits. "Rookies come in looking anxious; you can tell they don't have a lot of confidence," says Bishop, of Irvine, CA. "After three hours" -- the average length of a Boot Camp class -- "they walk out and you can tell by the look on their faces they're thinking, 'I can do this.'"
Bishop has been a hands-on dad since 1981, when his first child was born. At that time, he was saddened to observe that many of his friends who were new fathers weren't as dialed in to the experience as he was. "They lacked the self-assurance to step in and share the load," he explains. "They weren't enjoying their babies as well as they could have, and should have."
He talked his local hospital, the Irvine Regional Medical Center in California, into allowing him to teach a course on Saturday mornings, and Boot Camp was born. Over time, Bishop developed a specific curriculum, ranging from "Troubleshooter's Guide to Crying Babies" to "Caring for Your New Mom." Slowly but steadily, his brainchild grew. Drool sergeants and veterans now impart advice at more than 200 sites -- hospitals, healthcare centers, and churches -- in 40 states and Japan. Because Boot Camp is a nonprofit, expenses are typically defrayed by the host site. The fee to rookies is reasonable: anywhere from gratis to $50.
One of four national trainers flies out for on-site education of the local coaches, who are briefed on the curriculum. "The coaches aren't Ph.D.s in early childhood education," says Steve Dubin, a Norwell, MA-based spokesman for the organization. "They're regular guys -- dads with young kids who very much appreciate the challenge and are good communicators."