I assume that many of you who are reading this are in the middle part of your summer season, and because of this I thought it would be a good time for some reminders that will set your camp up to finish strong.
Don’t Forget About Safety
I have heard many statistics about the increase of injury and accidents at camp the later in the summer it gets. Remind your staff to be aware of dangerous situations and to be vigilant in keeping campers physically and emotionally safe.
Camp Is For The Campers
It is easy for us as staff and counselors to be having so much fun at camp that we forget that camp should be fun for the campers first. Make sure that as the summer goes on, we don’t get so involved with each other that we forget to make sure the campers that are coming late in the summer get just as good of an experience as the campers who came earlier.
Discipline Is A Positive
As the summer camp season goes along, our tempers can get short with our campers. But we need to be reminded that we are teachers and we are guiding and instructing our campers to get to a positive outcome. Be sure that your counselors are not too quick to take away privileges of campers or punishing the whole cabin for the actions of one or two campers.
Training Doesn’t Stop When The Campers Arrive
Look for opportunities to invest in your staff whether it is through intentional training during staff meetings or coaching in the moment. Our staff should become better counselors every day they are with us. Take the opportunity to teach until they leave.
Praise Your Staff
We can get so caught up in the day to day of what we are doing that we forget to go up to our staff members and tell them they are doing a great job. They need to hear it, and it is a great habit for a leader to recognize your staff when they are performing well (I need to be better at this one).
Get To Know Those Parents
You want them to come back next year, and you might be asking them for a donation to your scholarship program over the next few months, so take the opportunities you have to meet the parents face to face. Make yourself accessible at either check in or check out (hopefully both) and make sure the parents know that you are the director (parents like to meet the director).
Walk Around Camp
You can’t direct your camp sitting behind a desk in the office. Go play games with the campers, check in with the staff and enjoy the camp experience. It is hard to know what is going right and what is going wrong if you aren’t out there seeing it happen.
Go Get A Milkshake
It doesn’t have to be a milkshake (although I recommend it), but take some time for yourself and get away from camp. You have a life outside of camp (you had better) and sometimes it is good to reward yourself for the work you do. I recommend a milkshake run.
Recruit Staff For Next Summer
Now is the time that you should be having conversations with the stars of your staff to get them locked in for next summer. Be thinking about whom you want on your leadership staff and plant the seed with them now. The good ones will get away if you aren’t careful.
Jumpstart Your Marketing Plan
The experience you offer your campers this summer is the greatest step in your marketing plan for next year. Make sure that you are providing the best experience possible for the campers, the staff and the parents. You can spend all the money you want on new brochures and a mailing list, but if campers this summer didn’t have a good experience, you are fighting a losing battle.
My hope is that you are having an incredible summer and are taking the opportunity to provide a positive, fun and impactful summer for your campers and staff. Finish strong!
Dave Bell has directed day and resident camp programs for more than 15 years. Currently, he is the Executive Director of Camping Services for the YMCA of Greater Seattle. He is a former American Camp Association Southeast Section board member, a certified Y-USA Day Camp Director Trainer and a Y-USA partner YMCA camp consultant. Reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.