How To Be An Effective Camp Counselor

A job as a Camp Counselor falls under the broader career category of Recreation Workers. Camp Counselors work in public, private, or volunteer agencies or recreation facilities. There are many types of camps like sports camps, religious camps, fitness camps, gender-specific camps, special needs camps, themed camps, adult camps, and scouting camps. Camp Counselors help organize and oversee activities such as arts and crafts, sports, games, music, dramatics, social recreation, camping, and hobbies, taking into account the needs and interests of individual members. There are no specific educational requirements to be a camp counselor, and no compulsory need of experience. But a certificate in CPR or lifeguard training or first aid will be an advantage, as will achievements in scouts, sports, or other extracurricular activities. The role of a camp counselor is to give emotional support to campers, motivate them to take part in different activities, and keep up the discipline, so leadership skills are a must. Young campers look at the counselor as their role model and get inspiration from the camp counselor.

By Dov Shapiro

While being a summer camp counselor offers a lot of opportunities for adventure and fun the job is equally rewarding and challenging. Summer camp counselors have several roles to play — surrogate parents, camper’s best friend, a counselor and coach.

With all these roles to play, how does one become an effective camp counselor? What are the things/ traits does one need to have in order to become an effective camp counselor? While there are no hard and fast rules to answer this question, experts have a number of tips to help aspiring counselor become effective leaders during camp.

Be a leader, above anything else. That is perhaps the first thing that a camp counselor must remember. And being an effective leader means being able to make sound decisions for your campers. Always remember to put your wards’ interests and conditions first. Some counselors fall into the trap of making decisions that will benefit their career goals. So when faced with a difficult decision, an effective camp counselor should learn to ask himself: Whose well being am I serving – mine (I get to be popular; I get to have fun doing what I want to do; I get to be with my friends) or my campers?

Get to know each of your wards as much as you can. Your campers need to know that they are important to you and that you want to get to know them better. It will be very helpful if you spend time at the beginning of camp to get to know who your wards are — their likes, their pet peeves and what different games each one likes. This will enable you to establish a special rapport with your ward from day one.

Keep your distance. While it is encouraged that you spend ample time getting to know your campers, it is also important to be able to keep a safe distance from them. Camp won’t last forever and it will help your ward if you don’t create such a deep bond with them — deep enough to make it hard for them to leave when the time comes.

Avoid a power struggle with your campers. Cliché as it may sound, familiarity really does breed contempt and this is very evident in camp. It is almost inevitable that campers and counselors will find themselves disagreeing on even the most trivial of things. When your campers “throw in the rope”, avoid getting into a power struggle with them. Just stay calm and do not let your temper get the best (or worse) of you.

Smile. Yes this seems like a very simple thing to do but when the pressure gets too much (and believe us, it can get very high), smiling will help. There will be instances when kids don’t get along and fight often or when the kids kept you awake all night, thus preventing you from getting a goodnight’s sleep. All these can help ruin your mood for the next few days. During times like these, it is important to remember why you signed up in the first place: helping campers have fun. Practice what you preach.

These are but just a few steps on how you can become an effective camp counselor. Take these to heart and we guarantee that you will enjoy your job as much as the kids enjoy having you as their camp counselor. And that is a reward in itself.

Dov Shapiro is owner and co-director of Camp Chateaugay, located on Adirondack Lakes in New York.

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