Three-Step Program

If possible, run action photos from the camp in the ad, and make it prominent. Smiling campers enjoying a day at camp help sell your program much better than the most creative copy. And don’t forget contact information. It may seem like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how often people overlook including even a phone number!

College internship programs are my favorite! Why not help staff graduate from college by working with you! Recreation departments, education majors and social work students can easily get credit from their colleges for working directly with children in this type of environment.

It’s a little extra paperwork for you, but it makes it easier to recruit staff, even if your payroll is lower than some of your competitors.

Call department heads and see what can offer their students in hands-on experience. From there, find out who the intern coordinators are, ask for their requirements, offer connected jobs and look at the evaluation process for students.

The goal is to get a staff member who is focused on doing a good job for a few reasons, one of them being so they can graduate school! That is the staff member who is least likely to get into summer trouble.

Now I have my team… how do I keep them?

If the job has been done right in the beginning of the hiring process then every staff member hired knows the expectations of the job, knows camp philosophy and agrees to the administrative policies and procedures. With that accomplished, the next focus is on training and continuing to motivate and support them.

Be ready for the challenges that will come up. How the first staff crisis is handled will dictate the impact on the remainder of the staff and the camp’s standards.

For example, if the rules have clearly been explained but are not enforced when they are broken, then staff respect for the rules will be diminished. It’s hard, but being the director means making the tough calls.

If staff is told that the camp is a non-smoking facility and breaking that rule means termination — enforce it. If there is no follow-through with rules, directors will find it harder to do so later.

Sacrificing standards and rules to accommodate a single staff member will sacrifice credibility and the ability to lead. Believe it or not there is a sense of security among the staff to know what the boundaries are.

The more gray lines created, the more opportunity provided for the staff to challenge the camp standards and rules. Then directors find themselves spending all of their time dealing with discipline and behavior problems.

To avoid gray areas make all staff sign off that they understand the rules and policies at staff training during a review session and collect signatures.

This does not mean that there are not exceptions to the rule, but it does mean that they must be clearly stated as to why certain exceptions are made so they do not become excuses for others.

Gather all the information about a situation that you can in order to make an informed decision. Your first priority is the children, then staff.

Ascertain if the counselor had the kids in mind when they did what they did (whatever it was they did). If they made a mistake (which is normal), but the kids were protected and foremost in their mind, work with them.

Make sure to take the time in the summer to re-focus the staff on the mission and purpose of the job. Mid-summer is a tough time for every camp. Have an all-staff meeting to give praise and re-iterate part of the staff training message.

Camp directors are captains on ships. They decide the course of the ship and give the opportunity for people to sign on for the voyage or disembark.

The journey will be a lot smoother if the crew knows what they signed on for. If a balance between standards and continual motivation and dedication is made then a mutiny is unlikely. Good luck.

Jeffrey Merhige is the Director of Camping Services for the Ann Arbor YMCA — Camp Al-Gon-Quian.

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Related posts:

  1. The Recognition Factor
  2. Signs of Life & Warning Signs
  3. Staff Conscious
  4. Hi-Ho Silver…
  5. Flow & Tell

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