You see us running around all summer long, playing, laughing, micromanaging…but have you wondered what it is that our camp staff does outside of the summer months? After a few busy months, what is it that we all do when the kids head back to school and the weather cools down? Contrary to popular belief, we do not make like a bear and hibernate for the cold months, nor do we travel to the southern hemisphere to get a second dose of summer camp. Instead, we spend our entire year devoted to the thing we love most: camp. For some of us who are lucky enough to make a life out of camp, we get the pleasure of working hard all year long to get ready for each and every camper that comes through our gates and for the exciting summer that is to come. As busy as we are during the summer, our non-summer months have become nearly as hectic as we constantly add to our camp to-do lists. Here are a few of the items on the long list of things we do when camp is not in session:
Get in contact with other camps
The camp community is like a huge family, and throughout the year, camp directors and camp staff work together to make sure that the summer runs smoothly for every summer camp. In the off season, we work to build a network of camps that support each other all year round. At camp conferences and events, we get a chance to meet with other camp staff and to learn important new skills and guidelines for summer camps. Building positive relationships with other camps means that there is always someone to bounce ideas off of or to help answer tricky questions. Plus, it sure is fun to hang out with other people who love camp as much as we do!
Our counselors are what make camp great, and recruiting high-quality counselors is a huge priority in the off season. Every year, we go to great lengths to make sure that our counselors and staff are the very best around. Whereas many jobs have a simple, quick recruitment and hiring process, hiring for a summer camp job often requires traveling around the world, college visits, and several rounds of interviews. Even after potential staff members have been interviewed at length, background checks have to be processed and references must be checked. Although it is time consuming, hiring and getting to know our new staff members is one of the most rewarding parts of our off season.
Prep and plan
They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if you ask us, the saying should be camp wasn’t planned in a day. As soon as the last camper gets loaded onto the bus at the end of the camp season, we begin planning for the next summer. Every aspect of each camp session has to be perfectly organized and coordinated. We brainstorm for weeks around spirit days, evening programs, campfires, and all the events in between. Just when we start to think we have it all figured out, we shift our focus to the most appetizing area of our planning- our meal menus. Once we are sure that our vegetable-to-dessert ratios are perfectly balanced, we move on to planning bunks, making sure every camper will be happy in their cabin group. Although all the planning gets exhausting, watching camp run like a well-oiled machine makes it all worth it.
Reach out to campers
Our campers mean the world to us, so spending time talking to our campers and their families is one of our favorite ways to spend our time. Throughout the year, we constantly field emails, chat on the phone, plan visits, and find various other ways to make sure we stay in touch with our past campers and start to build relationships with potential campers. We love to hear our veteran campers’ feedback from their summer at camp and their excitement for the next summer. We also spend time reaching out to potential future campers to let them know about camp and all of its glory. Camp tours, home visits, and community events are great opportunities for families to get a good taste of camp, and for us to begin getting to know our future campers. We even attend camp fairs all over the country in hopes that we will be able to share camp with more and more eager kids each year!
The ultimate goal of the off season is to make sure that we go into each summer feeling prepared, invigorated, and excited for the triumphs and challenges that are to come. While the non-summer months are an incredible amount of work, as soon as our campers arrive and we see those radiant smiles on their faces, we are instantly reassured that it was worth all of the blood, sweat, and tears. Speaking of which, we we had better get back to work, the spirit days aren’t going to plan themselves and there are checklists calling our names!