Camp is a state of mind — one that requires a constant commitment to both innovation and excellence. And that commitment doesn’t simply conclude at the evening’s end during the school year or when the last of the summer campers pack up and are picked up by their parents.
Months of careful planning contribute to the success of each camp cycle. Like a successful theater production, a winning camp requires a complete cast onstage plus many hands working behind the scenes.
- A strong, experienced leader.
- Trained and supervised staff.
- The administrative, fiscal, and professional development support of the sponsoring organization.
With the busy summer camp season behind you, use this time to think about how to best help your staff recuperate and focus on their own skills and development to better serve the kids in your programs.
THE BENEFITS OF A WELL-TRAINED CAMP STAFF
Working with kids and young adults takes a special kind of person who possesses significant reserves of energy — but those reserves can feel depleted after weeks or months of intense interactions, and must be carefully replenished with foresight.
It’s crucial to invest in people who will make your camp successful — and to show your staff that you value their skills and expertise. The better trained the staff, the better the overall camp experience will be. A strong, engaged camp staff can:
- Improve participant reviews and renewal rates.
- Encourage word-of-mouth referrals.
- Build a positive energy throughout the year.
Even in the off-season, there are steps you can take to support staff and program development. Learn to better review your program’s success here.
GET TO KNOW YOUR EXTERNAL DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES
External resources are valuable qualifiers for staff development, validating experience and expertise while providing important benchmarks for staff excellence.
Whether it’s online or within your organization, there’s plenty of literature and resources available for staff development in your camp or after-school program. Make a mental catalog of the staff development resources available to you, both external and internal, and consider enlisting the assistance of your staff to source and document external training resources.
New and trending development and team-building exercises are also readily available:
- Check out the American Camp Association (ACA) — it regularly presents easily manageable staff development opportunities and continuing education credits outside of its regular conference schedule.
- Consider offering professional certifications in child development.
- Verify that all camp staffers are current on time-sensitive certifications such as CPR.
External development resources like these are easy to find, often free or low-cost, and objective. They help ensure that your staffers are up to the highest standards in the field, with certifications that are quickly recognized by participants and parents — as well as your professional peers.
KEYS TO CULTIVATING INTERNAL DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES
Internal development provides important opportunities for your camp staff to lead, manage, and teach, all in an atmosphere of professional teamwork — a win-win-win situation. It promotes team-building and can easily be planned for shorter schedules such as meetings or half-days.
Some ways to develop your team internally:
- Leverage the expertise of your staff by planning accessible internal staff trainings. These seed ideas from the ACA can help initiate team-building exercises that showcase your staff members’ individual strengths.
- Learn online, where opportunities abound, to encourage your staff to stay abreast of current news in the field and professional resources through the ACA website.
- Support nimble interpersonal dynamics with a workshop on a personality test such as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (or try this similar free version).
Take time to inventory areas of expertise internally among your staff — you might be surprised at what you learn about the very people with whom you have shared those intense and busy in-season days. It’s likely that they will be open to learning from one another after building a rapport during the busy time.
And when you cultivate your internal development resources, you show your staff that you value their expertise.
THE SECRET TO STANDING OUT: STELLAR CAMP STAFF
Solid staff qualifications set your camp apart from the competition. A commitment to excellence through staff development will build momentum to carry you through the year and push your camp to the top of the list.
Remember that all camps and after-school programs offer their own unique advantages. Build a plan and be prepared to communicate your camp’s advantages to parents, campers, staff, and peers in the field.
Be sure to plan ahead for staff development after the busy summer season concludes or during slower months during the school year. All hands were on deck and people were running in a hundred directions while camp was in session, when you focused on your campers. But take the downtime when you can to focus on your camp staff — and try to do so as soon as you can — while you have momentum and fresh evaluations.
When you help your staff develop the tools they need to grow as professionals, you’re setting up your entire team to stand out among the competition when the next camp season rolls around.