The Sochi Olympics took place last month, and even though the athletes competed on snow and ice, the games were surprisingly reminiscent of summer camp, particularly from a staff perspective. Many athletes were there for the first time. Some, however, were competing in their second, third, or even fifth Olympic games. Each summer at camp, likewise, attracts many fresh staff faces – eager but not quite sure what to expect – and returning staff who are back to lead the way and improve upon their past performances, even if those performances were already gold medal caliber. Oddly, a lot of camp blogs and articles address the qualities and expectations of new camp staff, but few address those of returners. How do staff approach camp if it is their second, third, fifth, or even tenth summer? The answer most veteran camp staff provide is that they intend to be better. Even great summers, in retrospect, have room for improvement. Like campers, returning staff always arrive with an agenda and, like athletes, always strive for that perfect 10 summer. Every summer is an Olympic year for camp staff.
Many returners actually begin goal setting for the following summer before the current summer ends. Some simply visualize areas in which they could be better whileothers actually comprise a physical list. Veteran staff members learn, over the course of several summers, that there is a maturation process to working at camp. Because camp tends to be such a microcosmic environment in which staff wear many hats, it’s almost impossible not to develop multiple perspectives of camp and how it can be made even better. Like athletes, veteran camp staff know that there is always room for improvement. Even the smallest of adjustments can elevate a summer from excellent to outstanding. In part, that is what draws returning staff members back year after year.
Regardless of whether each summer begins with a written or mental list of goals, it ends the same for all returning staff – with careful evaluation of their own performance. The desire to be better is a unique quality of returning camp staff, and a quality that makes them very appealing as job candidates. The enthusiasm of happy campers is infectious. Mediocrity is simply not an option when making campers happy. Returning camp staff are so willing to dedicate themselves to the task of creating gold medal summers that they come back year after year, physically and mentally ready to take on old challenges as well as new ones. At camp, they eat, breathe, sleep and live what they’ve been envisioning since the end of the previous summer in their quest to simply be better at something they love.
1.) Being able to put “Provided excellent care and fun for several hundred children” or “helped children improve athletic skills” on your resume is a pretty sweet bonus.
2.) Saying, “My friend who lives in Australia…” or “My friend who lives in Arizona…” sounds a lot cooler (and more worldly) than, “My friend who works two cubicles down from me…” Not to mention, you’ll save a whole lot of money on accommodations the next time you travel!
3.) You’d take tutus over “business casual” as dress code any day. Shorts and staff shirts meant you got some extra Zs in the morning, too, because you didn’t need an extra half hour to stand in front of your closet wondering what you should wear.
4.) Fetching snacks for your campers was so much more fun than fetching coffee for a boss–and your campers were more appreciative, too.
5.) You got paid to do lots of fun outdoor activities everyday. Your friends had to request a day off to do fun outdoor activities.
6.) Your “office” had a much better view than your friends’ cubicles. Summer camp provided plenty of breathing room in the form of roomy campuses as workplaces.
7.) Every day brought new opportunities and challenges that, by the sounds of it, were much more gratifying than spending an entire summer filing and creating mail merges.
8.) Letting loose and acting silly was not only acceptable, it was encouraged. Your friends got verbal warnings for laughing too loudly in their offices.
9.) The amount of friends and connections you have through social media outlets multiplied exponentially. Who knew summer camp would be such a great place to network?
10.) You got lots of firsthand experience pursuing your passion in the always exciting setting of Camp Laurel with lots of people from all over the world who were just as enthusiastic about there as you!
I’m the camp’s Program Director. I have a very unique job at camp as the person responsible for overseeing the daily scheduling of the camp’s daily activities. Even though it’s not one of the traditional camp jobs that comes to mind when people imagine working at a summer camp, it’s a crucial one. I like that it’s a perfect combination of behind the scenes with hands on.
One of the things I love most about my job is that I get the opportunity to get to know most of the campers and staff through daily interaction. I’m the person they come to with requests for their programs. I enjoy speaking with them about the things that are working in their activity areas and hear feedback about things that I might improve.
On those rare occurrences when the sun refuses to cooperate with the camp schedule, I get to demonstrate my creative talents by figuring how we can keep the fun going in all of our indoor facilities. I also enjoy getting out on campus every now to see for myself how the schedule plays out in real time. It’s a great time for me to take notes for the next schedule.
In the evenings, before I begin working on the next day’s schedule, I often participate in special events. Sometimes I judge activities. Sometimes I lead them. Other times, I host them or just keep score. The real reward of my job is when I overhear campers telling their counselors that they just had the best day ever as they’re heading off to bed in the evenings. It’s a great way to begin another day because just as everyone winds down their day at camp, I head back to my office to begin working on the next day’s schedule, ready to create another “funnest day ever!” for our campers. If you think working in camp programming sounds like a fun job, apply at one of America’s Finest Summer Camps today!