3 Ways to Be a Better Camp Director in 2014

Posted: January 21, 2014

This guest post is by Audrey Monke, owner and director of Gold Arrow Camp.

I love flipping my calendar to January and the promise it offers of a fresh start. There’s something about the clean pages of a whole year stretched out in front of me that makes me believe I can accomplish more this year than I ever have before.

One thing I’ve learned is that just flipping to the fresh page doesn’t actually make anything different. I have to put some effort in. After being a camp director for more than twenty-five years, I’m still trying to get better at my job. I’d like to share three ways I’m going to be a better camp director in 2014, and I hope you get some ideas you can use, as well.

1. Look Back

As you look back on 2013, ask yourself two questions:

  • What were my strengths as a camp director?
  • What were my biggest failures and what did I learn?

Are you not sure what your greatest strengths and failures were? Then take a morning to read through evaluations and feedback you received from campers, parents, and staff. See what the trends are. Jot down some lists of the good stuff and the not-so-good stuff from camp last summer. Then you’ll know your strengths and areas for improvement!

2. Use Today Well

Now that you’ve reflected on the past, don’t get overwhelmed by a humungous list of way too many to-dos. Instead, ask yourself:

  • What is ONE thing I can do today to make camp better this summer?

Like me, you have a lot of e-mails and phone calls and miscellaneous, seemingly urgent items to do today. All that sometimes not-so-important stuff jumps out at you calling you away from actually getting anything done. How many days have you reflected and said, “What did I do today?” and you can’t come up with anything tangible?

So just think of ONE thing you can do today that is important but not urgent. Maybe you can spend thirty minutes researching ideas to make your staff training really have a WOW factor this year. Or maybe there’s a key staff member you can call to get input on how to improve a specific activity they taught last year. What about reading an article or part of a book about child development, 21st-century skills, or some other topic that will help you present yourself as a youth development professional to your campers’ parents? Allot thirty minutes today — AND EVERY DAY — to do ONE THING that will make you a better camp director this year. ONE THING. That’s all.

3. Look Forward

What are your strategic priorities for 2014? Get your key people together this month and figure out three priorities to focus on this winter and spring to make your camp better this summer. Or, if that’s too hard or overwhelming for you at this point, then just circle back to “Look Back” above. Your answers to those questions will help you prioritize for this year.

Get organized! How do you keep your long-term projects organized and on track? There are a lot of project management software programs available that are relatively inexpensive and help you outline steps of each project with deadlines and specific responsibilities. Whatever your system is, take your priorities and plan out how you can, over the next five months, accomplish those projects before camp starts. Don’t put vague, huge items like “hire staff” on your project and deadline list. Instead, put very specific, tangible items like “post a message to returning staff about specific job openings this summer.”

Take the time now to plan ahead to accomplish some small things that will make you a better camp director this year. Enjoy your fresh start and make 2014 your best year yet!

Audrey Monke, with her husband Steve, has owned and directed Gold Arrow Camp (Lakeshore, California) for the past twenty-five years. They have five children (ages ten to twenty) who keep their life camp-like year round. Audrey has been a member of ACA since 1989 and was President of WAIC (Western Association of Independent Camps) from 2007–2010. She writes about camp and parenting at sunshine-parenting.com.

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