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10 Questions To Ask When Taking a Summer Camp Tour

Summer Camp Resources

10 Questions To Ask When Taking a Summer Camp Tour

One of the best things you can do as you choose a camp is to schedule a tour. America’s best summer camps realize the value of these personal visits and will encourage you to see the camp and meet some of the staff.

I have conducted hundreds of camp tours for campers and families over the past 30 years. There are certain things I know the kids especially want to see and understand to relieve potential anxiety. I also know that parents have important things they want to know too. If you are a first time camp family (especially overnight camp where there are a lot of new things you haven’t even thought of yet) it can be hard to get all the information you want on a tour. So here are my Top Ten questions you should ask before, during, or after the camp tour. I absolutely recommend a camp tour before sending your child to a camp. Think ahead. If you are interested in a camp that is inaccessible part of the year because of snow or other weather conditions, you may need to take a tour the summer before you plan to enroll.

  1. Where will I sleep, shower, and go to the bathroom? These are the number one concerns of a young camper on a camp tour. Trust me, they are excited by the climbing wall and swimming pool but make sure you see the cabins and bathrooms. I have seen anxious campers melt with big smiles once they can climb on a bunk bed, make sure the bathroom is not smelly (or too far away) and realize there is a place to shower. A great follow up question if the camp has bunk beds (most do) is “how do you decide who sleeps on which bunk?” Some kids are very anxious about a top or bottom bunk and knowing how that will be assigned is comforting information.
  2. Where and what will I eat? Super important for kids to understand where the food comes from. They worry about this stuff but may lack the foresight to ask the question. So, ask it for them. After all, Moms and Dads want to know this stuff too.
  3. How do parents and campers communicate? Ask the Camp Director this question with your campers present and listening. As a parent it is very important that you support the camp communication policy. And, it is important for your child to understand that communication will probably be limited. It is also a great way to make it real for them that they will be handling this experience by themselves without calling or messaging you every 5 minutes.
  4. Where do your campers come from? There is no right answer to this question but it is an important one to ask. First, it gives you a very good idea that the Camp Director or person giving the tour has a handle on who they serve. It also allows you to focus in on the camp environment you want your child to be a part of. Do you want your camper to have camp friends that he/she/they can see throughout the year? In that case a camp with a strong local presence is important. Want to increase your child’s world view and understanding of other cultures? Campers and staff from around the world can provide awesome insight into life in other countries.
  5. Can you show us where a camper can go if they need help? I love it when people ask this question (and if they don’t I answer it anyway.) For many campers, Summer Camp is new and a bit intimidating despite all the fun and energy. So having a visual reference of the office, health center, or wherever they can go when they need guidance is very helpful. I notice that the kids I can remember meeting on a tour are much more comfortable walking into the office with questions. They know it’s okay to walk through that door because they have already done it.
  6. How does the weather today compare to a typical summer day. Many campers may not understand temperature as a number of degrees but can will certainly understand “Cooler, warmer, or about the same.” It is important that you and your camper prepare for the climate at camp and this question, asked on a tour, makes it easy to understand.
  7. Are you accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA?) There are two reasons to ask this question. 1) ACA is the only nationally recognized accreditation body for camps. So if a camp is ACA accredited they have chosen to pursue a very high level of standards for their camp programs. 2) This is a bit sneaky but asking this question sets you apart as a person that has really done the homework. The fact that you mention ACA will get the Camp Director’s attention. They may pay just a little bit more attention to your needs on the tour because they recognize you as a savvy customer.
  8. Do you have any materials we can take home? Many camps no longer mail a brochure home but rely on their websites to convey the feel and philosophy of their camp. But most camp offices are filled with swag! Your campers will feel special if they have a sticker, comic book, or giveaway item that isn’t widely available. You should get something special because you came for a tour, right?
  9. What’s one thing my camper should bring that’s not on the packing list? Every camp I have ever visited or gotten to know has a packing list. And, they all have this kind of secret menu of items that returning campers and staff know about but first time campers couldn’t possible know. At one camp I visited it was glow sticks (for night hikes) and at another it was laundry detergent to add to your own bag of dirty clothes on Wash day because the camp never seemed to use enough. Nobody was trying to keep these things secret from new kids but nobody thought to add them to the packing list. By the way, if you were to ask me that question on a tour I would say “Ping Pong balls!” We sell thousands of boring white ping pong balls in our store for a nickel each (Comes out of the kids camp store account.) So save your camp money and stand out from the crowd with orange or colored ping pong balls. You will also save your spot at the table when you don’t have to run to the store for a new ping pong ball. (Ping Pong is very popular at our camp. We have 6 tables!)
  10. Finally, one for Moms and Dads: Can we see your kitchen? Food is very important and seeing where it is made and served is a nice touch. But seeing how clean the kitchen is, how well organized and fresh smelling it is, tells you the camp pays attention to details. They didn’t just clean the areas you were about to see but they make sure the camp is safe and clean at all times.

So there we have it. Ten questions to ask on your camp tour. And, please make sure you do schedule a camp tour if you possibly can. It will make you and your camper feel much more prepared for the adventure ahead.

Andrew Townsend is the Director of Kennolyn Camps, based in Santa Cruz, CA. Kennolyn offers overnight camps in Santa Cruz and on Huntington Lake as well as Day Camp and Family Camp. Kennolyn has been a Bay Area favorite since 1946. Kennolyn is accredited by the American Camp Association. 831 479 6714.

National Parks & Summer Camps: Essential Sanctuaries in the Modern World

August 25, 2016 marked the National Park Service’s Centennial (100th) anniversary. Some might say the National Park system is our nation’s “best idea” – for a great number of reasons; some of the most poignant of which can not be easily translated into mere words as a substitute for one’s presence amidst the sublime natural surroundings National Parks afford to those who cross their often frail boundaries into the unique ancient landscapes and habitats contained therein.

A long range historical perspective might reveal how the establishment of the National Park Service represented an effort to not only preserve our natural treasures, but to establish a foundation and cooperative framework to afford what might be considered the equivalent of large scale “communal camp facilities” for generations to engage and establish connections in perpetuity — amidst a contemporary world which often bombards us with a constant stream of trivial information and unending artificial stimuli.

Just as National Parks provide a physical venue for people to come together and perhaps form unseen yet enduring bonds with untrammeled natural landscapes and wildlife, summer camps might be thought of in a similar light in so far as providing a “sanctuary” from some of the more obtrusive aspects of modern life which might affect young people’s ability to better engage in meaningful social interaction and relationships with other individuals at a formative age.

As the sprawl of modern life has enveloped much of our natural surroundings, perhaps so too have technological advancements encumbered relationships among people – young and old.  As a society and individuals, we’ve seemed to have generally drifted further and further into the individualized compartments of virtual worlds, electronic devices, and gadgetry; often at the expense of establishing and developing meaningful bonds with others – in real time, in person.

Summer camps offer a forum for kids to establish real life relationships with one another; many of whom are experiencing similar issues in navigating the complicated waters of modern life. A camp environment may facilitate more thoughtful conversation and interaction with others “in the moment” vs. the often caricatured reclusive behavior of reflexively retreating to one’s mobile device or gadget.

In a similar light as National Parks, some camps are able to provide a direct connection to our natural environment at various levels of immersion. Given the apparent decreasing scope of nature (with a capital “N”) from our collective consciousness, the value of such a portal is immense; even as a simple reminder to all of us regarding our essence as human beings and what ultimately sustains us as creatures who inhabit the Earth.

Summer camps come in all shapes and sizes with respect to:  locale, facilities, and programming emphasis.  Likewise, not all camps take place outdoors in a natural setting; however, even camps that utilize an indoor facility(s) still offer a meaningful venue to congregate and interact with others in a positive fashion.

It is difficult to refute how technology has improved the human condition – offering tremendous breakthroughs and conveniences on a number of fronts. However, without the adoption and nourishment of constructs pertaining to real life bonds and relationships to people and the natural environment, technological improvements will invariably not live up to their potential to help people to prosper;  instead, perhaps even serve to perpetuate and amplify disconnects between people and nature alike.

In addition to such commonalities, the National Park Service and summer camps also share the same general historical era with respect to some of their early implementations. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, had extended federal protection to an unprecedented amount of land and wildlife during his terms in office from 1901-1909; a combined effort including: five National Parks, eighteen National Monuments, and the beginning of the United States Forest Service – totaling nearly 250 million acres.  It was on the heels the Roosevelt administration the National Park Service formally sprang into existence in 1916.

During the same approximate time frame, the first traditional residential summer camps in the United States started to appear in the early part of the 20th Century, such as the following summer camps which are still in operation to date:

Awosting (1900)

YMCA Camp Mason (1900)

Frost Valley YMCA (1901)

Surprise Lake Camp (1902)

Camp Highlands for Boys (1904)

Pok-O-MacCready Camps (1905)

YMCA Camp Lakewood (1905)

Camp O-AT-KA (1906)

YMCA Camp Copneconic (1915)

Fairview Lake YMCA Camps (1915)

Keystone Camp (1916)

For well over 100 years, enrollment in summer camp programs has been strong and durable; helping to provide children growing up in the midst of unbelievable technological advancements to be afforded the essential tools for establishing and improving interpersonal dynamics at a young age — holding great promise that such can be imparted from one generation to the next in the years to come.

Likewise, National Parks have been a huge success – especially in recent times – with an ever increasing number of park visitors from year to year.  Even in spite of the potential detrimental impact to park infrastructure from high visitor usage, it is a heartening sign in a contemporary life filled with distractions to see our National Parks being “loved to death” – for it might very well represent the heartbeat of a society trying to maintain its way in quickly changing and fast paced world.


Cell Phone Policies at Summer Camps

While many summer camps are located in relatively remote locations, there are nonetheless very few areas which are completely off the grid these days regarding cell phone service areas. Regardless of coverage, it seems the majority of camps have adopted a “no cell phone” policy of one form or another; providing a distinct set of rules and guidelines which might prohibit campers to possess or use cell phones (as well as other particular personal electronic devices) while at summer camp.

As a parent, it is important to learn about out your camp’s cell phone policy and the rational behind it. Hopefully, the camp director has communicated your camp’s policy – one way or the other – regarding cell phones usage. If not, be sure to check the “what not to bring to camp list” or inquire directly with the camp office … since many camps which have a no cell phone policy will confiscate all mobile devices until the camp session has concluded.

While it might be tempting for a parent to try and circumvent a camp’s no cell phone policy, there are many reasons to observe and respect such rules. For starters, compliance with all camp policies — not simply picking & choosing only those which one likes — provides children with a good example of how to follow rules at camp which have been designed for everyone to get along with one another. Perhaps most importantly, a cell phone represents a tether to one’s parents and may serve as an impediment for a child to learn how to solve problems on their own in what might otherwise be a structured and supportive environment for growth and independence.

Not only are cell phones expensive and can get stolen or lost, but their usage can interfere with and sabotage a child’s overall experience at camp … such that a child may immerse oneself in technology or communications from a far at the expense of getting to know one’s fellow campers and counselors in the immediate here and now. Summer camp offers a great opportunity to learn about and navigate social situations while not being constantly connected to & immersed within a digital/virtual world. A no-electronics policy at camp might actually be one of the very few occasions a child has to take a real hiatus from their prized gadgets and the constant drone of repetitively using the controls of an electronic device. It might actually be a welcome surprise for a child to know they are able to connect with other humans without busily moving their fingers over a screen, or simply being able to enjoy physically turning the pages of a book while reading on a rainy day. In the end, most campers agree it’s well worth it.

For those especially anxious parents who simply want to keep in touch, there is always the old fashioned way to connect via letter writing. At the end of the day, nothing beats a letter from home! Likewise, it can only be helpful to a child in this modern digital age to reinforce the traditional skill of sitting down with a simple piece of paper and pen in hand to communicate one’s thoughts. If immediacy of contact is of importance, many camps offer the ability to email campers at camp. Likewise, some camps will publish photos of campers during camp to their website.

Cell phone policy for staff? Many camps also have restrictions for cell phone usage by camp counselors and staff such that they are only to be used off duty and not in the presence of campers. Likewise, campers are also typically prohibited from making calls or sending text messages on counselor’s cell phones.

While it seem the majority of camps generally prohibit cell phones outright, other personal electronic devices (i.e. iPods, MP3 players, mobile gaming devices, etc.) have a much greater variance of rules from camp to camp. It is important to specifically inquire with the camp office about rules governing any given electronic device your child is considering taking to camp.

In the cases of camps or programs where cell phones are allowed, it is important to understand and respect rules which stipulate when, where, and how often a camper is permitted to use their cell phone.

Camp Jobs: Differentiating Camp Director Positions

There are wide assortment of different types of summer camps and so too are there a variety of different Camp Director positions which entail various roles and responsibilities.

Generally speaking, a “camp director” is a camp staff position of greatest authority with respect to summer camp operations.   Relatively small camps and summer programs typically have only one camp director (and is referred to as such) and is sometimes the owner of the camp; however, some larger organizations might have several camp directors with slightly different titles such as Executive Director, Program Director, Marketing Director, and Assistant Director … each of which are designed to fulfill a particular division of labor at a relatively high level of authority in the camp staff hierarchy.

Executive Director

An Executive Director is charged with ultimately overseeing all aspects of the camp entity and often more specifically with respect to administration aspects of running the organization as a whole.   An Executive Director might serve as a liason between a camp owner (or governing body) and other camp directors and staff.   While executive directors might generally be accustomed to administrative roles at camps, this is not to say many will not engage in day to day in the field management and oversight of camp operations during camp as well as events during the off-season.

Program Director

A Program Director’s role will vary from camp to camp; however, such a position is usually closely intertwined with the formulation, implementation, and management of a summer camp’s program as well as direct administration and supervision of camp staff.   Often times, the Program Director is simply referred to as the “Camp Director”.   Such a position generally involves a critical “boots on the ground / life blood” connection between the day to day activities of how a camp operates in real time in relation to a camp’s general and specific programming architecture.   As a Program Director, it may be necessary to wear several hats during the course of a camp’s primary session(s):  one might be charged with developing schedules, procedures, and other camp routines.  A Program Director may also be directly involved with assigning campers and staff to particular groups, units, or cabins.  Organization of general records and inventories, as well as supervision of the provision of food services might also be shouldered by the Camp Director.    Additional responsibilities might include the oversight and management of facilities during the “shoulder” and off-seasons (i.e. pre and post-camp programs such as mother-daughter/father-son, family camp, alumni events, etc.).   Duties will also often involve preparing the camp grounds and facilities for use by campers and other attendees, pre-camp training of new and existing staff, as well as coordination of closing day procedures.   Lastly, but of the utmost importance, the safety and well being of the entire camp ultimately falls squarely upon the shoulders of the camp director; who is charged with generally establishing a safe camp environment across the board and insuring adequate medical services are available – along with a comprehensive crisis management plan.

Marketing Director

Mostly found in larger camp organizations, the role of a Marketing Director is often similar to marketing positions in other non-camp related business settings; typically responsible for promotional campaigns and activities involving both online and print advertising, branding, and public relations.   Such a role may also involve establishing and/or continuing relations with alumni and families.

Assistant Director

Just as the title implies, an assistant director is a camp staff position which incurs a delegation of authority from either the primary Camp Director  or possibly a role in tandem with one of the other special directors (i.e. Assistant Marketing Director, Assistant Executive Director).    Assistant directors will often serve as an extra set of hands in the field for the camp director.  The level of authority granted to assistant directors can vary tremendously depending upon the situation.  In many scenarios, assistant directors are crucial leaders in the day-to-day operations of a camp and often serve as a “first contact” (of authority) for all camp counselors and camp staff in the field.  Similarly, some camps empower assistant directors to take the initiative with respect to implementing camp programming on a daily basis.     In the setting of a small summer camp, there might be only or two  Assistant Directors – one of which might considered the “second in command” or the Camp Director’s “right hand”.  At the other end of the spectrum, in the context of a larger camp organization there might be quite a number of assistant directors which have authority greater than most camp staff; however, work in concert as more of a coordinated team of assistants with a well defined system of division of labor.   In such cases, given the hectic pace during camp and the great range of projects and responsibilities facing a Camp Director during the off-season,  an Assistant Directors are often tasked with a lot of the “busy work” to keep the system humming along.

 Qualifications for various director positions will vary depending upon the scope of the particular position and may include:

  • A degree in camp administration or related programming or educational field
  • A Director certification by the American Camp Association
  • Experience in camp administration such as head counselor
  • Demonstrate an ability to supervise both campers and staff.
  • Ability to interact with camp families and the general public.
  • Various other certifications (i.e. first aid, CPR, etc.)
  • Organizational skills

While it might be convenient to try to distinguish camp director positions on paper, the fact of the matter is that each situation regarding how a particular director position is defined at any given camp will be different.  To this end, it is important to have an open and in depth discussion with the camp owner (or individual in charge of hiring) about the scope of the director position you have an interest for being hired.    Sometimes situations are more fluid than others in terms of overlap of duties and if you excel in a particular skill set, it is possible you might be given responsibilities which might not otherwise have been afforded to others in the same position.


Winter Camps & Programs

With the winter solstice and holiday season quickly approaching, it might be of interest to know there are many “camps” which are gearing up for their winter sessions; designed to provide programming options for youth during winter break from school.

While some winter camps might be tailored specifically for winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, sledding, etc., many will extend their same core programming activities offered in the summer, but packaged for a condensed session during winter break.  Depending upon the location in the country and the nature of any given “winter camp”, such sessions may be held outside; however, many will be held entirely indoors … especially with respect to camps which are located in cold weather climates or those which offer programming which can easily be held at a more generic indoor venue or facility such as:   arts, academics, computers, dance, drama, music, martial arts, etc.

Winter camps which engage in more specialized athletic activities may also be held at indoor facilities specifically designed for particular sports or activities such as:  tennis, hockey, basketball, gymnastics, swimming, soccer, skateboarding, etc.

If you happen to live in a region of the country where the year round weather is suitable for outdoor activities such as Southern California, Florida, etc., you might find a wider selection of outdoor winter camps and related activities available.

A keyword search for “winter camps” on the Camp Channel currently reveals upwards of about 75 different listings which have made mention of some form of winter activities offered.  It is important to note that many of these camps and organizations may provide a winter session as an option in light of a much larger array of summer session program offerings.  In other words, camps which are primarily engaged in summer programming might not necessarily advertise their winter camp in the forefront and you might need to inquire further to obtain more information or details.

Many religious based camps offer winter retreats and other programming options, which may include programming for the entire family.

Another common program appears to be “Winter  Zoo Camps” which take place at various Zoos; providing a fun, interesting, and educational experience for kids.

It is important to note that winter camps come in all shapes and sizes in terms of the type of programming offered, facilities, and other important aspects you may wish to consider.   Some might be more akin to a class or workshop, while other programs might be setup more along the lines of a traditional camp in so far as social activities and interactions are concerned.   Similarly, some winter camps are designed to be mini-vacations or getaways – whereby you or your child will sleepover at the camp or excursion, while other programs might occur during the day only and it would be necessary to go back home (or to one’s accommodations) at night.   Regardless, winter camps allow kids and older individuals to engage in both fun and educational activities in a social setting during a time of the season which often limits interaction with others due to the seasonal nature of winter weather being typically much colder/harsher.

Regardless of what type of winter camp you might be interested in attending or sending your child, it is important to inquire with the camp director about the specific nature of a winter program you might be considering.


Annual Camp Reunions & Off-Season Gatherings

It doesn’t have to be summer for children who have attended the same camp to get together.  In fact, during the so-called “off-season” (when camp is not in session), many summer camps will hold reunions to allow kids a chance to catch up with one another in a fun setting.

Adults might be most familiar with high school reunions – which occur once every five or ten years (long past being a student); however, annual camp reunions or other related social gatherings are often geared to kids who have attended camp the previous summer and perhaps plan on going back for the next.   This is not to say there aren’t long-term camp alumni reunions geared mainly toward adults who attended camp long ago (which we will address reunions of this type in another article).

While some day camps will hold off-season reunions or other social gatherings, residential camps will typically be most apt to promote and host such events given the nature of an overnight camp being more of a continuous “home away from home” where campers and counselors may have spent upwards of 8 weeks together as an extended family.  Likewise, residential camps may attract campers from all over the country (or world), whereas campers who attend day camps typically live in the same or adjacent neighborhoods and see one another regularly in school during off-season.  Nonetheless, day camp reunions provide an opportunity for kids who may have spent considerable time together during the course of the summer to assemble in the context of their “camp family” which shares a common bond away from school.

Although it varies from camp to camp, reunions may incorporate:  a meal or snacks (such as an ice cream social), a photo slideshow or short video, as well as fun games, activities and camp traditions which allow campers to interact with one another and re-establish bonds created during the course of the previous summer.  Sometimes small prizes, mementos, and other memorabilia are awarded during reunions to reflect achievements.   Often times, previous or future counselors who live the area where the reunion takes place may attend the event.   Most of all, reunions are meant to be a shared fun experience for campers while camp is not in session.

It is also possible to see an “open house” run in conjunction with an annual reunion to allow future or prospective campers to gain a first hand experience of the social fabric which binds the camp community together.

If a residential camp has several different main locations across the country where campers reside, there might be several reunions located in different cities.    Not all camps hold reunions, so you might want to contact your camp’s director to inquire as to whether your camp holds a reunion or any other sort of off-season gathering; however, if they do, chances are you’ll be informed of the date, location, and other pertinent details.



Summer Camp Jobs: What To Expect For Compensation

Being a summer camp counselor can be a very rewarding experience for young adults which pays off numerous intangible dividends on many fronts for both counselors and campers alike; however, the question of what form and level of compensation one should expect from a summer camp job can vary tremendously across different situations and circumstances.

At one end of the spectrum, some camps – such as some special needs programs – may rely entirely upon volunteers or interns to comprise the bulk of their staff and perhaps only provide “room and board”.   On the other side of the coin, a year round camp director position at a large private facility may require a substantial and full time investment along with a very high level of responsibility; which might entail signficant monetary compensation along with a full benefits package.

While the above extremes do exist, the compensation levels for the majority of camp jobs fall somewhere in the middle and typically depend upon several factors such as:

  • Type of Position
  • Level of Authority
  • Number of Years at a Camp
  • Level of Prior Experience:  Qualifications, Certifications, Past Experience
  • Demand for particular positions
  • Length of Camp Session(s)
  • Profile of Camp Program

As a general activity counselor, one’s pay scale is typically determined by one’s prior experience or number of years at a given camp.   While it might be viewed as a “entry level position”, general camp counselors are the backbone of any given camp’s operations in so far as direct interactions with campers.

Kitchen staff, office, and facility maintenance positions are all necessary components of many camp operations and are essential to allowing the overall system to function smoothly in many respects.   It is important to distinguish levels of responsibility among such positions in so far as compensation expectations.  For example, an individual who’s duties are confined to washing dishes and tables in the mess hall should expect to receive less pay vs. the head cook/chef who’s responsibilities might include selecting, ordering, and preparing food for the entire camp.  There can be similar distinctions within both office and maintenance departments of a camp.  By the same token, if you have acquired a great deal of experience regarding any particular facet, you might be rewarded with a higher level of compensation.

Many residential camps will have a registered nurse on the premises and some will have a doctor.   Since the level of experience and qualifications for either of these positions is relatively high compared to most other positions, the relative pay scale will typically reflect such a distinction.  With respect to doctors, some camps may try to offer individuals the ability to bring their families up to camp for an extended amount of time as part of a compensation package.

In a similar light, other qualified speciality positions such as certified Lifeguards, Horseback Riding Instructors, Musicians, Sailing Instructors, Computer Instructors, etc. also have specific areas of expertise and unique qualifications which might be in high demand for a particular summer camp situation.   Some camps offer certification training; however, it is important to learn whether or not you will be responbible for payment for any given course you might elect to take … as some camps will foot the bill and others will not necessarily.

Laundry facilities are often made available as well, but it is important to inquire about particulars.

Room and board are also typically factored into the overall compensation package.   Residential camps typically provide staff with some form of sleeping arrangements as well as three meals a day.  While day camps normally do not provide housing for counselors, they often provide at least lunch.

The use of camp facilities can also be considered a benefit.   Some camps might allow counselors the ability to water-ski, sail, and participate in other camp related activities on their days off if it does not interfere with the regular day-to-day operations of camp and campers.

Transportation to and from camp depends a lot upon the particular nature of the camp.   Day camps require counselors and staff to commute to and from camp on a daily basis.  Depending upon one’s particular position, one might be able (or required) to ride the bus and assist with supervision of children who are being picked up and dropped off to and from camp.  On the other hand, you might need to arrange for transportation independently.

Time off is another factor to consider.   It is important to understand the allocation of time off – especially at a residential camp – prior to committing to a full summer.  Some camps might offer a single day per week, while others might not have any time available beyond an hour here or there during the days/nights.

Pre-camp is often a required training period prior to camp as well as post camp – the period directly after camp sessions end where facilities and equipment are “broken down” and put away – might also be factored into the equation.  If you are expected to appear at camp for duties prior to or after the primary camp session, your compensation may or may not reflect your time investment during these periods.

So, at this point you might be wondering about the actual wages you might be able to earn at a summer camp?  It is difficult to answer this question with any sort of consistency or authority given the great number of different camp job situations which exist.  However, to give you a very broad and general idea about what to possibly expect regarding direct wages, we’ve compiled some data from the Camp Channel Job Board with respect to reported direct monetary wages for the summer of 2013:

  • the average (mean) range was $1443 – $2207
  • the highest wage offered was $6,000

It is important to note the data regarding wages above were solicited by asking camp directors to report the lowest and highest wages for “an entire camp season”.  Since the length of a season can vary greatly among camps (typically from one to eight weeks), the average range does not reflect a consistent unit of time and should be interpreted as only a very loose approximation to give you an idea of direct monetary compensation.  Along the same lines, it is also difficult to flush out the various other forms of non-monetary benefits (as noted above) which might also be included in a compensation package in so far as being able to compare “apples to apples” of an overall compensation package.

Bonuses are always possible, but unless explicitly detailed in your work agreement should always be looked upon as an unexpected additional income.

Given the wide variety of different types of summer camp jobs, it is important to inquire with the camp director as to the particulars of your situation.

Email A Camper At Camp

Campers love to receive letters from home & letter writing has long been a very popular form of communication used by campers to send and receive information from family and friends while at a sleepover camp.  In recent years, many camps now offer the ability for parents, family, and friends to send a “one way” email  – which is in turn printed and given to a camper during the course of the regular mail call.

Every camp is different, so it is important to obtain the specific details about an “Email A Camper” service your camp might offer — from either the official website or a direct inquiry to the camp director or staff member.  Depending upon how an “email a camper” system has been setup, it is possible there might be a nominal fee associated with sending email messages … since there are costs involved in so far as setting up the system, the actual printing (paper, toner, etc.), and time involved by staff.

It is possible you might need to register for an account online or receive a pre-approval code allowing you to submit an email via a designated form — linked directly from the camp’s website.  Some camp programs might have a particular direct email address established for one-way communication whereby the camp will only receive, print, and distribute emails to campers; however, campers are typically unable to reply via email … as most traditional residential camps (but not all) try to encourage activities other than being tethered to electronic devices 24×7.

Camps might have a particular day and time set as a designated “cut-off” in order for messages to be delivered to campers by the pre-determined mail call.  It is important to understand the particular protocol being used by your camp if you’d like to insure emails are received in a timely fashion.   Due to both time and other constraints, some camps might place restrictions on the frequency of emails you’re allowed to send, such as one per day.

It is important to note that printed emails are typically viewed by staff to some extent in the course of being printed and ultimately their delivery should not be considered confidential.

One way email service may also include staff members as well.   Day camps and “travel camps” typically do not offer such services due to the particular nature of the programs.

If your camp does not offer an email service, don’t dispair the U.S. Postal Service is still in operation and is capable of delivering letters the old fashioned way — there is always something special with respect to a hand written letter which has the easily recognized handwritting of a loved one or close friend!

Selecting A Football Camp

At it’s very essence, football is a highly competitive team sport which incorporates individual physical strength, agility, speed, coordination; all in the context of an integrated team dynamic which relies upon a coordinated effort in the context of an overall strategy or “game plan”.

Summer camps which focus exclusively on the sport of football will invariably carry over such a competitive undertone to some extent and may vary in their approach to the sport in terms of a camp program.

Although it can vary, many football camps allow campers as young as 6 or 7 and as old as 18 years of age. When there is a wide variation of ages, campers are normally broken up into age appropriate groups.

A few basic questions to consider when choosing a football camp:

    • Are you seeking a football camp which offers full contact or non-contact?
    • Are you interested in attending a residential football camp (sleepover), or do you plan to commute from home on a daily basis? The latter requires you to live within driving distance of the camp facilities; however, you can attend a sleepover camp in just about any location … although such programs typically involve added expenses such as transportation, room & board, and more supervision by counselors or staff.
    • How long of a session(s) throughout the summer are you seeking to spend at a football camp?  Many football camps offer single week sessions; however, there is no across the board rule about any sort of standard session length.  You might find some programs which offer an abbreviated session over a long weekend, while others are multiple weeks in duration.  It really depends upon the particular program.  If you are seeking to attend multiple sessions at the same camp, you may wish to ask about the nature of the different sessions and whether they differ substantially in programming or even if there’s a “progression” of sessions where it’s necessary to have taken Session 1 to advance to Session 2.
    • Most importantly, you may wish to evaluate the general nature and scope of any given football program which is of interest to you in light of your personal goals and objectives.   Some football camps are extremely competitive and geared toward players who have aspirations to not only improve their current skills, but to advance and continue playing at the collegiate level and perhaps beyond.    Other programs – while still competitive in their basic nature – might be a bit more rounded in their approach.

While most football camp programs will include some degree of on field instruction with respect to either offense skills or defensive skills, they may differ in regard to the specific area of focus. Some football camps might be specifically billed as a “quarterback camp”, while others might include a wider focus of “passing & receiving”. Likewise, there are kicking & punting camps as well as programs tailored specifically to being a lineman. Just as there are programs which focus on position specific skills, there are also a great number of football camps which cover all positions and skills across the entire gridiron.

Most programs will include drills, scrimmages, game play, and on field instruction. Some may get into great depth about strategy and team play – depending upon the particular program. Similarly, fitness, strengthening, and agility training may also be components of an overall program to one degree or another.  It is important to inquire with the director about the amount of time allocated to any given facet which might be of interest to you, since activities and the time dedicated to such can vary greatly from camp to camp.

Some programs are geared for athletes who have aspirations of playing football at the college level and may offer the opportunity for recruiting connections.  Likewise, many colleges and universities offer football camps which are affiliated with their school or coaching staff.   Some professional football players and coaches run camps and may even take a daily role or make special appearances.

In your quest to find the best football camp for your interests, you may also find there are also many “general sports camps” and other non-specific football camps which offer very strong football programs while also offering other sports or activities – providing a bit more variety.

Ultimately, most football camps will seek to offer a general environment which allows campers to learn about teamwork, self-discipline, and to simply have fun playing football … regardless of the level of competitiveness.

Since there a great number and wide variety programs offered, you may wish to search the Camp Channel for a football camp which is of interest to you.

Typically, a camper is responsible for bringing their own helmet, mouth piece, cleats, as well as other clothing items; however, it is important to ask the director about what particular equipment a camper will be responsible for bringing along and which will be furnished. Often there is list provided by the program.

Late Season Options & Strategies For Finding Summer Camp Jobs

Summer is quickly approaching and many people already have their summer plans in place with respect to both employment and recreation. If you’ve found yourself procrastinating or perhaps circumstance has dealt you a joker from the deck, rest assured it’s not too late to find a fun and rewarding summer camp staff position.

While Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial start to the summer, most residential summer camps don’t get underway until the second or third week of June.


Late season options for finding a summer camp staff position


It is important to understand that most camp directors have started to change their primary focus of recruiting campers and hiring staff to the chores of actually setting up the day-to-day operations of camp. This can be an extremely significant undertaking; often encompassing a broad range of activities such as lining up transportation, food deliveries, basic utilities, etc. in addition to setting up essential facilities which might require significant maintenance after having been packed away for the winter.

Although most directors will likely be in a “high gear multi-tasking mode” at the moment, it is certainly possible there are still a few positions which need to be filled. Time permitting, most directors will be open to correspond with interested and qualified candidates; however, you might find yourself playing phone tag or perhaps trying to communicate with a director who is busy “in the field” engaged with other individuals or contending with important tasks at hand. Don’t let any of this discourage you, since it is a very typical circumstance with summer fast approaching.

In fact, conveying a respectful understanding of a director’s current hectic situation might help to illustrate you are considerate and a good team player. If you do happen to have an initial conversation of any length, it is important to be concise, on target, and efficient in communicating information about yourself … while gathering any information related to all possible work situations which are currently available.

In all likelihood, the majority of a camp’s positions have already been earmarked for other individuals; however, there might be a few remaining positions still available. It is also possible the director might have some reservations regarding the suitability of some of the existing staff members they’ve selected for particular positions. In such a case, if you’re truly an exceptionally qualified candidate for a particular position, it’s possible the director might hire you and re-assign the original individual to another position. This sort of re-shuffle scenario is ultimately a matter of chance and is not really something which you can anticipate or “try for” – other than to confidently express your qualifications and areas of expertise from the outset.

On the other hand, zeroing in on what might be the few remaining positions available is something which can be more actively addressed by an interested applicant for a summer camp job. You might already be aware of the remaining positions available, or a director may have simply rattled them off during the course of an initial conversation. Often at this stage of the season, and depending upon the particular nature the camp program, the remaining positions are typically those which require a relatively high degree or specialized set of qualifications (i.e. Nurse, Lifeguard, etc.), or positions which aren’t as “popular” (i.e. Office, Maintenance, Kitchen, etc.).

If you happen to be highly qualified in a particular niche or skill set, you might be in luck with respect to your immediate first choice in a camp; however, if your skills or expertise are in high demand, then you might also do well to seek out such a specific summer staff position by widening your search for summer camp jobs across a much wider spectrum of camps – in both type and location … especially if you have the ability to pick up and move for the summer.

If you don’t happen to posses expertise which is in high demand, yet still have an interest to work at a camp in some capacity, it never hurts to inquire about any openings.

If none of your “first choice” positions are available at a camp you’ve contacted, you can always look to another camp which might still be hiring or inquire to see if the camp has a “wait list” for particular positions. You might have luck at very large camps which often hire a great number of staff members in order to maintain a low camper to counselor ratio.

Alternatively, you may wish to consider pursuing any available staff position which you feel you’re qualified and have at least some level of genuine interest. While you might have preferred another position or role, it is important to understand that it is relatively late in the season & you won’t be afforded the same amount of choices had you embarked upon your quest earlier in the year. If you are flexible and maintain a positive attitude, you may find yourself working in a role which is rewarding in ways you hadn’t initially considered – aside from simply having fun and being able to make ends meet for the summer.

By accepting literally any position at a summer camp (whether it’s a general camp counselor, kitchen staff, nurse, etc), you will have effectively entered their extended “camp family” … which has it’s own intangible rewards, and may also allow you to more easily move to an alternate position of your liking in the future after having demonstrated a solid work ethic and general love of the camp community and the bonds it creates.

To get started on your summer camp job search, try visiting the Camp Channel’s Camp Jobs section.