Being a camp counselor is hard, but it’s the best and most rewarding work you’ll ever do. As someone who spent 17 summers at camp as a camper, counselor-in-training, cabin counselor, lifeguard, horseback wrangler, arts and crafts coordinator, and an assistant director, I can promise your time at camp will be well worth it. There will be early mornings, rainy days, and long nights, but the summers you spend as a camp counselor will stay with you forever and provide countless stories that will always make you want to go back.

You have an incredible opportunity to teach kids, help grow their love for the outdoors, and be a role model. Parents, while very excited for their campers, are trusting you to keep their most prized possessions safe. The two most valuable gifts you can give your campers are safety and your time. And, yes, it is a huge responsibility! You will never regret sitting down to talk with campers, joining in their games, or teaching them a new song. I will always remember how special I felt to know how much my counselors cared about me. And trust me, those memories will never go away. You have that opportunity to make a difference with every kid who comes through the gates of your camp. Hopefully, one day your campers will pay it forward too.

Camp has always been a magical place for me. As a child, I counted down the days until it was time to go back to camp. I couldn’t wait to make friendship bracelets, sing camp songs, and see my favorite counselors. When I grew up and joined the staff myself, I still got to do all of those things, but it was even better because I got to share my favorite parts of camp with kids who were just beginning to open their eyes to the camp magic. I look back on my time as a camper with so much joy, but my favorite memories will always be those from my time on staff. The more energy, time, and love you put into being a great camp counselor, the more you’ll get out of it.

Now that I’m in the “real world,” I am constantly reminded of lessons I learned from being on staff. Camp is where I gained confidence, learned how to make friends, and became selfless. It’s also where I learned that the most heartwarming compliment is being asked if you’ll come back to be a counselor again next summer. I hope that you will invest your heart and your energy into being present with your campers. I hope that you will be respectful of them and learn from them as much as you can. And I really hope that you always have a pair of dry socks!

As you look forward to the beginning of camp, don’t forget to lean on your fellow counselors and leadership staff, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Be patient, keep an open mind, get some rest, and know that you’ve made the right decision. Happy camping, y’all!

Photo courtesy of McGaw YMCA Camp Echo, Fremont, Michigan.

Katie Sheets was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. She grew up attending Camp El Tesoro in Granbury, Texas, where she became the assistant camp director in her last summer. After attending Texas Christian University and graduating with a degree in Film, Television, and Digital Media, she returned to the TCU Athletic Department to continue her work in sports and social media.