What does it take to be a great camp counselor? Being a counselor is more than simply enjoying being outdoors. When you’re hired on as a camp counselor, it means accepting responsibility; for you, your campers and your camp family. So, what does it take to really be the best camp counselor you can be?
A Camp Counselor is Patient
Not every day as a camp counselor is going to be a walk in the park (or woods). Working with kids of all ages has trying times. There will be times that both the campers, and maybe even your teammates, will see and do things differently than you. These are the moments when patience comes into play, and the ability to take a deep breath and offer them empathy, because…
Empathy is Key
Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Being an empathetic person is an essential trait in this job because it allows you to see the world as a teen or younger child sees it, and offer your support as needed.
Sense of Humour
Kids love to laugh, right? You don’t have to be the most hilarious counselor at camp, but keeping a fun and light air about you makes you approachable. Humor is a great way to connect emotionally with kids, especially with those experiencing first day jitters. Plus, having a great sense of humor can also turn even the bad days into great memories.
Seemingly Endless Energy
Days at camp can be long. There will be times when sleep is at a minimum, but you still have to be there both physically and mentally. We all need our downtime, of course, but during those marathon days into nights where things may not go as planned, it helps to be able to stay alert and on your toes, no matter what.
One of the roles of a counselor is that of mentor to the kids. This means you need to be available to lend an ear when a camper is having a tough time, and really take in what they’re saying before offering your support and guidance.
Not only does being a good listener help with interaction with the campers, but your camp team as well. Have you tried improv? There are a number of techniques used in improvisation that force you to be a better listener to keep the scene moving, such as “Yes, and…”.
Not every day will go as smoothly as you want, but it’s up to you to still keep things relatively on track and make the best out of every situation. Being adaptable means making quick adjustments to the plan, so each day is a great one at camp.
As fun as being a counselor is, it’s still a job. It’s not just the campers that rely on you, but the whole camp employee team. There’s no calling in sick just because you don’t feel like going into work (especially since you usually live there for the summer!). Lots of people are relying on you to show up and be ready to teach, engage and be available when needed.
Camp isn’t just a learning experience for kids – counselors learn too! To keep educating yourself in life and in your job, you need a sense of curiosity; a sense of constantly looking at everything with new eyes and wanting to learn how the world works. Employers love hiring curious people – it keeps ideas from becoming stale and they know the employee (you!), will be constantly looking for ways to improve themselves and explore the environment around them.
Camp is all about giving kids new adventures and thinking outside of the box. A great counselor knows how to create new and fun games, help put together awesome skit nights, and is an essential asset when sudden thunder storms appear and activities are moved indoors for the day! Creativity also means being a great problem solver when the situation calls for some brainstorming. Having a creative-type on any team is a major bonus – even after camp is over.
Passion for Life
An adventurous spirit can be contagious for kids! Your enthusiasm and zest for life can bring out the best in those campers. A counselor with a passion for life is fun, nice, enthusiastic and ready for all the adventure that working at camp brings!
Looking for the perfect camp counselor position? Check out how the USA Camp Association can help!