The Right Staff: The “Secret Sauce” to a Successful Summer at Camp

  • Posted by on June 4, 2018

    By Stacey Pfeffer

    Throughout my many years as a camper, I have had many counselors. Some taught me to swim. Others taught me the art of losing gracefully but there’s one counselor that I still remember more than three decades later- Helene Miller who we affectionately nicknamed “Leenie.”

    I had her as a ten-year old camper and I remember so many details about her. She taught me how to French braid, how to perfect my lanyard cobra stitch and that Lay’s potato chips dipped in ketchup tastes really yummy. She also urged me to try out for the camp musical after hearing me sing a rousing rendition of Madonna’s “Dress You Up in My Love.” – Ahhhh, the 80s. PS I tried out and scored the lead role. Looking back, I realize that “Leenie” boosted my confidence and helped guide me whenever I felt I was faltering.

    Good Counselors Increase Camper Confidence 

    And that’s exactly what good counselors do. According to a recent survey from the American Camp Association, 92% of campers felt that the people at camp made them feel good about themselves and that all starts with the staff and then trickles down into the group dynamics. When groups are kept small, the counselors can provide the campers with individual attention and focus on camper’s personal achievements. They can also help campers when they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable trying a new activity.

    Establishing a good staff/camper ratio is crucial according to Gordon Josey, Breezemont’s owner and director. At Breezemont, the staff/camper ratio is one staff member for every 2.5 campers. There are 200 counselors and 75 activity specialists at the ready to give your camper a summer of fun memories all while keeping safety a top priority. In fact, many of the staff are CPR-trained including all the lifeguards, nurses and 5 full-time staff members.

    The Staffing Selection Process 

    The staff is really the “secret sauce” to a great summer. That’s why Gordon and his team spend a lot of time interviewing candidates until they find just the right people to work with young campers. At the top of his list, Gordon is looking for staff members to be “kind, patient, consistent and fun.” There is a lot of vetting that goes on behind the scenes too, including background and Social Security number checks and even sex register offender checks so that campers are in safe hands. The face-to-face interview is key and then three references are also carefully checked.

    For younger campers, each group is assigned either a teacher or a parent with camp experience to lead the group. Gordon believes this approach to staffing is best. “After all, I became a better camp director after I had children,” he said. “Parents just get it and understand young children.”

    One of the best feelings for any camp director is when the staff comes on-site for three days of training. Waterfront staff, specialists, bus staff and first time staffers get extra training as well. The excitement when the staff comes is palpable and will crescendo when those first campers set foot on the campgrounds. “That’s really the moment that we treasure-when campers first meet their counselors,” notes Gordon. With the training that Breezemont provides and the careful staff selection process, there just might be a few new “Leenies” at camp this summer.

     

    Stacey Pfeffer is a writer, editor and blogger. Her work has appeared in Westchester Parent, Westchester Family Magazine, NY Family Magazine, Inside Press publications, Kveller.com and Bookedparties.com.