Camper engagement is the key to high retention rates

This is your most productive & creative time at Summer Camp

Summer Camp Staff Training

Summer Camp Staff Training

The days are flying by and camp is almost here.  There are so many details to address and you are at the top of your game.  That is why I am sending three short 'HINTS' this week to enhance the work you are doing to create an even better camper experience. ~JWS

Directors all over the country know that camper engagement is the key to high retention rates, but they complain that their counselors and staff do not naturally connect with kids.  What can you expect from those who would rather sit beside each other and text their conversation rather than speaking with each other?


  • Start at the top.  Prep your leadership team about your focus on engagement.  Define precise steps that you and they can take to create a culture of engagement and establish it the minute that staff arrive.
  • Role model engagement during orientation.  Use people's names, encourage eye contact and expect friendly acknowledgements when individuals pass each other.
  • Script out a 'perfect' activity.  Detail how the program should start when the first camper arrives and how staff should be leading, coaching and engaging campers in the fun until the period ends.  Focus on athletic as well as creative environments and plan for all staff at the venue to be involved.
  • Run engagement workshops.  Show staff PRECISELY how you want activities, bunk time, meals and events to run.
  • Monitor performance.  In focus groups, counselors are unanimous.  Most realize how important their work with kids is ... and they want to be mentored so that they can increase their impact.

Camps that have worked on engagement in this way have increased their retention rates by 3-5%.  Go for it!


Need an objective perspective on any aspect of camp?  Give me a call at 310-451-1876 or email

(Note from Travis:   We are so thrilled to be posting the always brilliant HINTS from camp consultant Joanna Warren Smith!  If you don't already you should sign up to receive theses HINTS in your email - in the right-hand column of Joanna's website: