It seems there are some universal truths when it comes to summer camp.
Lost and found will be a problem, staff will get injured more than campers, arrows will be lost at archery, someone will peel the cover off the gator balls — and staff will enter the mid-summer slump.
I might not be able to fix the lost and found problem — how do campers not know they are missing their underwear?
And I wish I could create an “arrow location device” for the archery range.
But the one thing that I know is fixable is the mid-season slump — or “counselor burnout”.
Camp is three or four weeks in around now, and our staff has settled into a groove for the summer. They are beginning to take things for granted that they learned during staff training.
The relationships with other staff members are fully developed, and pretty soon campers become a disturbance instead of a priority.
About this time is when directors walk by activities and notice the staff gathering together instead of interacting with campers, or sitting on the sidelines instead of fully engaging in the activities.
When this happens — and it has happened to me over the years — I have no one to blame but myself: the camp director.
The reason the summer starts off so great for our campers and staff is because we have clearly articulated the expectations and goals of camp. Should we be surprised if after a few weeks with no reminder or coaching that an average 18- to 20-year-old would not stay focused on our goals?
A friend of mine says the three-step process for completing an task is:
1. Follow up
2. Follow up
3. Follow up
If there is a mid-season slump happening at your camp, go back to your plan for staff training and begin to go over those items with your camp counselors.
Utilize staff meetings, meals in the dining hall, or opening and closing assemblies to remind staff of expectations.
And most importantly, get out of the office and manage your camp by walking around. The best opportunity for coaching and teaching is in the moment, and that requires us to be present.
Fight the mid-summer slump before it ever arrives by recommitting to the goals that you set at the beginning of the summer and hold your counselors accountable to them every day.
Dave Bell has directed day and resident camp programs for more than 15 years. Currently, he is the Director of Association Programs for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. 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 Dave@CampLeadership.org.