Roll Tide


Camp Laney

Mentone, Ala.

Sessions: Four summer sessions, two weeks each

Cost: $1,695

Age: 8-14 years

Gender: Boys

What do coaches do during the off-season? Many take a much-deserved vacation, some slow down just to take a break, and others continue to work with kids.

The latter was true for Alabama’s Hall of Fame Coach Malcolm Laney, who began a camp for boys in 1959 atop Lookout Mountain. The 126-acre quiet forest setting became an ideal piece of real estate to develop a camp aimed at fun, adventure and being close to God.

Included with the land is the clean, swimmable, kayakable, Little River, along with nearby canyons, cliffs and waterfalls.

For 15 summers Coach Laney dedicated his time to strengthening the character and physical development of boys before handing over the reins to current director Rob Hammond in 1974.

“It’s the Laney network,” says associate director Whitney Chapman when referring to how Hammond and Chapman acquired their positions. “I began as a camper in 1977 and now it’s my eleventh year as a full-time staff member.”

Return Policies

Consequently, even today, previous campers are given priority to work. Since these are now college-age young men who haven’t gone to camp in several years, a wealth of information is sent to trigger memory lane. Brochures, videos, and personal contacts reconnect the would-be staffers and former campers who comprise half of the team each summer.

The Laney Network, producing return campers as staff, breeds a sense of loyalty among the team, as well as familiarity with the program. “When I was a kid, the whole camp was divided into two groups, Apaches and Comanches, and it’s been that way ever since,” reflects Chapman.

Some things just don’t disappear. One Laney staple is the hide-and-go-seek type game called Tribe Hunt where the campers hide and the tribe that finds the most boys wins. The kids won’t soon forget playing this game and many others that can earn their team Tribal Points.

At the end of the session the team with the most points walks away with a trophy, bragging rights, and the intent to return and re-create the fun the following year.

In addition to tribal competitions, getting boys to return year after year has been accomplished by strategic follow-up and creative recruitment.

Newsletters showing the best of the best summer pictures are mailed to the campers. And Christmas cards to the families convey a message of care. “We put lots of pictures on all the information we send out,” remarks Chapman, “It’s a visual reminder about how much fun they had.”

Trade Tools

With nearly 800 boys attending camp each summer, Camp Laney has a long-standing positive reputation in the South, but still relies on word of mouth from its representatives.

The Laney Reps are actually moms of campers who are scattered throughout cities, Birmingham, Mobile, Nashville, and many more. Then, new camper recruiting is done through a mom who volunteers to host a show in order to promote the camp in her area.

The 20-30 reps/moms are asked to send out invitations for a camp slideshow. They also give out information, and are available to answer any questions about Camp Laney.

Afterwards they talk with the parents and the boys and answer any questions they may have. Traveling to these shows keeps the camp directors busy and on the road throughout the fall off-season.

Furthermore, depending on camper longevity or due to turnover, Chapman may have moms who serve for several years, while at the same time he’s active enlisting new ones from the brand new batch of younger campers’ moms.

Therefore, this creates a never-ending cycle of enlisting mothers as representatives, equipping them to recruit campers, and serving new campers whose moms may be future representatives.

Once a mom is recruited she is oriented and equipped using a Representative Manual compiled by the camp directors. This contains the dos and don’ts of hosting a camp show.

For instance, don’t compare programs of other camps with potential Camp Laney families, but do explain the Laney program and things like how the staff is selected and trained.

Also, the benefits of being an ACA accredited camp are presented to assure the parents of safety and well-being issues.

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