The good, the bad, and the incredible about working at camp.
I would like to tell you working camp smells like roses, is perfect every day, and that you can reasonably expect to know what will happen every time you show up to work. But, alas, this is not true. Camp is tricky, sticky, and full of terrors. But I firmly believe that it is an experience that EVERYONE should have.
It is humbling, it is gratifying, and it is the best job I have ever had. I truly loved my summers as camp counselor (and site director), and it is the reason why I have never left the camp world.
Here’s why it is so great:
Ok, to you this may not seem great, but trust me. There is safety in numbers. When everything smells (kids, staff, parents in hot cars, shoes, locker rooms, teens in the gym), there is great camaraderie. When everyone smells, really- no one smells. But the real reason why it is great? It is physical evidence (eeewwwwww) that great things are happening at camp. It means we are running around, playing games, being outdoors, wearing sunscreen, and truly enjoying where we are. Smelly = Fun at work.
EVERY DAY IS PERFECT
Camp is the ultimate version of Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong). You can plan for every outcome, possibility, and eventuality, but we are still going to have a wrench. Someone is going to use the wrong supplies, a child is not going to want to participate, and it will rain. And it will rain longer than you expect or want it to rain. But this reality is what makes every day perfect. By knowing that something will go wrong, our team learns the intangible skill of being adaptable. Our staff learn the concepts of problem solving and get to flex their creative muscle. It then creates a sense of teamwork and bonding that can only occur when people pull off a plan they happened to create only a few minutes ago. When you work at camp, every day becomes perfect. Whether it starts that way or not.
YOU KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT EVERY DAY
I know, I know. How can I laud this concept when I just said everything will go wrong?! Well it’s true. You can expect to have fun. You can expect to hone your leadership skills. To verify this: if you can lead 5 year olds in paper mache crafts, you can lead a group through a board presentation. You can expect that you will make a difference. Each year we get stories from former staff about the kids they run into at the grocery store, while out to eat, or while on a walk. And each time our staff tells us how great it was to know they made a positive difference in that child’s life. Many of our staff come to work for us because of the inspiration they had from their own camp counselor.
As always, I have to edit myself. I would like to tell you every benefit I have received, every story from staff about why, but I fear that I would still be writing by this time next week. This is my topic this week because I want more people to experience the benefit of working camp.
Brian Shelley is the Senior Program Director for Day Camp at the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and encourages thoughts or feedback! He would also like you to know, The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis is hiring for Summer Day Camp! Visit indymca.org/jobs to apply today.