Engaging Return Staff During Training - Camp Code Episode #35

Keeping Your Return Staff's Attention When They Think They Know It All


"Coming back for your second, or third, or 85th season at camp can be a glorious thing. You understand the weird rituals and chanting that seem to spontaneously erupt throughout the day and when somebody whispers Color War, you understand exactly what is about to happen. But man, training is such a drag because it is all the same stuff all over again. Why do I have to attend training when I've seen it all before?" If your return staff seem to take this attitude, then this podcast is a definite must listen for you.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Hold a Program Area Fair during staff training. Activity Leaders staff a booth about their activity. This gives Program Staff an opportunity to share some of the ideas about what they will be doing in the activity for that summer. Play a game, display a craft, or decorate your booth in the best way possible to represent your game. The rest of the staff can mosey from booth to booth carnival style and learn more about the various program areas around camp. This helps staff to understand what will happen at that activity all summer and also allows Activity Leaders to take ownership and show off their talents and specialty area for the summer. 


Summer Flings and Healthy Partnerships: Training for Relationships at Camp - Camp Code #34

Training Staff How to Treat One Another

Ah...the birds and the bees and the smell of hormones at camp in the summertime. Whether in a single gender or co-ed environment, the reality is people fall in love at camp. And some people think they fall in love at camp. It makes sense as folks are living and working closely together and acting genuinely and passionately day in and day out. Many of your staff likely have common values in life and when they find each other at camp, it can be a beautiful thing. Or it can be disruptive and fueled by drama. Today's podcast focuses on how to train your staff on what it means to have a relationship at camp and some best practices that Beth, Gab, and Ruby have found can lead to a drama-free summer.


Best Practice for Leadership Training

Never underestimate the power of a handwritten note to provide praise and establish that you acknowledge the impactful work another person is doing. Whether it is an employee, a supervisor, a conference presenter, or a random person you encounter in life, everyone can appreciate a small token of acknowledgement from another person.

Is This How It Looks To Get Fired? - Camp Code #33

Training Camp Staff On Being Let Go

By talking about what it looks like to get fired from camp, you may find that your staff make better decisions, which, in turn, actually reduces the likelihood of you having to fire staff as often. Gab, Beth, and Ruby discuss how they train their staff about the termination process, what worked and what didn't, and some best practices for letting someone go at camp be as drama free and mission-focused as possible.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Gather your male and female staff members separately and discuss with each of them how they want to treat the other gender. Bring the groups back together and have the groups share with one another their commitment to how people should be treated at camp.



Teaching Your Staff to Sell Camp - Camp Code #32

Why your seasonal staff need sales training and why it is worth your time

Your summer staff are trained on your mission and are bought in to the why of camp. Who better than your staff to help you market camp than those who really know it inside and out? Tune in to today's podcast to learn how to teach your staff some basic sales strategies that will impact your bottom line.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Track which of your cabin staff from the previous summer have the most campers returning this summer. Give public praise to these staff members (whether they are returning or not) during staff orientation this summer and challenge your summer staff to be one of those counselors that managed to provide such an incredible experience for their campers, that they all HAD to come back to camp. Additionally, tell your staff the retention rate from the previous summer and challenge them to go above and beyond that number.

10 Things Your Staff Don't Want To Hear But You Need To Tell Them Anyway - Camp Code #31

Training for Your Camp Staff That They Need

Let's face it. As the camp director, sometimes you have to tell your staff things they don't want to hear. Often these are the tidbits and pieces of life advice that it will take time for the staff to really appreciate. Go on! Speak up! Tell your thoughts because your staff need to hear it to make camp be the best it can be. Beth, Gab, and Ruby share their "must-tells" during this episode of Camp Code. 

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Remember to thank your year-round team throughout the year. Include some staff appreciation dollars in your budget to show appreciation for your full time staff as the rad camp professionals that they are! Consider gifting them a subscription to Go Camp Pro, the year-round camp conference. 

Managing Up: Training Your Bosses and Board - Camp Code #30

Training for How To Get What You Need From Those Above You

When hiring seasonal staff, directors look for applicants that are trainable. However, you inherit your boss/board/Executive Director/CEO when you accept a job. Ever wish you could conduct staff training specifically for your higher-ups so they will do things the way you want to do them? In this episode, learn what it takes to get those above you on the organizational chart on board with your ideas. Big shout out to Rosanne Badowski for the term Managing Up. You can check out her book on Amazon right now.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Today's best practice comes from our friends Scott Arizala and Dr. Chris Thurber and their unofficially titled "Stump the Hunks" EPIC session at ACA National in New Orleans in 2015. When asked how to get the boss to do what you need them to do, they suggested this tactic. Have your boss happen to accompany you to witness whatever challenge/inefficiency/problem that you are hoping to address. Ask "Have you noticed how when it rains, our staff get particularly grumpy while waiting in the rain with the kids to go into lunch? Do you have any ideas for how we could make this better?" or for the bold ones of you out there, instead state the following as a follow up to your Have You Noticed question, "I've noticed this as well and I wonder if we gave each cabin a large umbrella to decorate to use on rainy days if they would be more excited about rainy days?" By simply asking "Have you noticed...", you bring the boss into the discussion and make them a part of the problem solving, even if they don't do any of the problem solving.


Recovering When Things Go Really Wrong - Camp Code #29

Training Staff for What to Do Next When the Unthinkable Happens

In episode #28 we talked about when the literal stuff hits the fan. This episode addresses some of those worst case scenario moments and how camp directors can best recover and move forward with their staff members. From the tough conversations to doing what is right for camp to some of our worst nightmares as directors, Beth, Gab, and Ruby share some of their best tips for handling circumstances no one wants to talk about and training your staff to minimize liability exposures in their jobs.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Following a bad or hard situation, show staff members how to align their focus with the solution, not the problem. Teach staff that professionals focus on where the organization is headed from here, rather than reveling in the drama or sadness of the crisis itself. Give staff time to feel and be human and process the experience. Provide external resources to help with that processing. Then set your sights forward and lead them towards healing. At a time of crisis, staff members are looking to their leaders for guidance for how to react, process, move forward, and heal.


It's Everywhere and You Have to Clean It Up - Camp Code #28

Training for Camp Staff About Bodily Function Regularity and Clean Up a.k.a. The Poop Episode

It's the topic nobody really wants to talk about but at camp it always comes up. Going to the bathroom can make or break a child's day at camp, especially if they have any anxiety about using new and different bathrooms, being heard while they are going, or missing out on cool activities because their bowels are rumbling. Camp staff have to quickly establish a level of comfort with children to address their ins and outs without being crude while maintaining the health and safety of the child. This episode addresses some of the best ways to train your staff on creating an environment of openness, comfort, and regularity.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Teach staff that all children and staff are coming with different levels of comfort for talking about bodily functions. Some may be very comfortable sharing every detail while others are mortified at the thought of others knowing that they used the restroom. To put everybody on the same playing field, create your own poop vocabulary. Saying, "I have to go to the bathroom" may be embarrassing for some children so if you give them language for how you talk about pee and poo at camp, it suddenly becomes a little less scary and a little more ordinary to talk about. At Ruby's camp, campers are told that going to the bathroom in the woods is called "taking a seefar" because you want to go as far away as you can see before doing your business. It's amazing how a little bit of language leads to a lot of empowerment for children and many more successful seefars in the woods!



Training for Camp Directors for Detoxing from Summer - Camp Code #27

This business of camp is hard. You must rest.

Hooray! The off-season is upon us! The campers have gone home and your staff are returning to their mundane lives. It is time to start all over again. But wait! It is critical for directors to understand that there is a certain "detox" period from camp every year. Everybody experiences this re-programming a little differently and the Camp Code team returns for the podcast's third season to share tips as well as their challenges with adjusting back to off-season camp director life.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

At the end of the summer, consider yourself an athlete in recovery. Olympians wouldn't be asked to jump right back in the pool and compete at his highest level immediately after the Olympics have concluded. You need time to recharge and reflect and get away. At your next annual review, ask your supervisors for the time you need at the end of the summer and for these days to not count as your vacation days. Consider asking to work only half days the week after camp. Perhaps your only responsibility for that week is keep up with email. Or, perhaps you will turn on your vacation reply and have a staycation. Make a list now for what you need at the end of next summer and ask for it.

*What happened to episode 26? Good eye! Keep looking. It'll turn up eventually.

Maximizing Training Time to Get to Know Your Staff - Camp Code #25

Getting to know the most about your staff during Staff Training

At the end of staff training, you are making some critical decisions for how your summer will play out. You will likely make decisions about counselor pairs, age group assignments, and who will be supervising whom. For all of them, it is helpful to know your staff so you can plug them in to play to their strengths. There's a lot of going on during staff training and so it can be difficult to make time to get to know your staff as well as you can.  However, it needs to be a priority. Getting to really know the people that you've hired to fulfill the promises you've been making all year to parents is critical to lowering your stress level this summer. 

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Present a session about the Art of Public Speaking. This can happen just prior to a meal so that during the meal your staff can give toasts during that meal. Give staff topics and a small notecard and a writing utensil to write notes if they need to. This will show you how staff rise to the occasion, how comfortable they are speaking in front of others, and how they operate creating something on the spot. Who shares gratitude? Who is sarcastic? Who is hilarious? There is much to be learned from this activity and much to be shared. Enjoy!

Building Confidence in Leaders - Camp Code #24

Training Camp Leaders to Step Up and Exceed Their Potential


As camp professionals we want what is best for our camper families. For this to happen, staff must be at their absolute best. For staff to give 100% commitment, they must feel good about themselves. Staff members must fully understand the mission of the organization and have a keen knowledge of where their support systems are throughout the summer. Millenials may be labeled as unconfident, unsure, and constantly desiring feedback but the Camp Code team thinks they make wonderful leaders and explain how to get your young leaders to reach their full potential.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Add a spot at bottom of lesson plan or curriculum for your training sessions for “What would I have done differently?” After running a session, write down quick notes based on a  self-evaluation of the session. What would be more effective if shifted around? What seemed to really speak to the staff? If there are training pieces or “I wish I had done…” moments, then you can add some of those throughout the rest of the summer. This process will really help when planning for the next year.

Best of #ACANat15 - Camp Code #23

Staff Training Take Homes for Camp Leaders

When camp professionals gather for a conference, there is much to be learned. With the backdrop of jazz music and beignets, the Camp Code team was fortunate enough to gather in New Orleans for the American Camp Association National Conference. Highlights included the opening keynote starting with a marching band, meeting Dr. G. in person, and all three Camp Code hosts meeting in person together, and then presenting a session together too.
In this episode, the Camp Code team reflects on their key take homes from the week of networking, education, and fun.

Ultimate Tic Tac Toe
Notes from "I'm Going to Make This Place Your Home"
Tool: Evaluation of your camp day - Ritual vs routine

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Thanks to Scott Arizala's presentation at the National Conference for this tip. Today's best practice is backward induction. First, set the goal and then work backwards so staff will know, do, and believe everything about their job. Start with with the end product and figure out the steps immediately proceeding reaching that end goal. Next write down the steps for those steps and so on until you have worked backward to where you are standing right now. This process helps take a seemingly huge task and break it down into smaller projects while also building your program as intentionally as possible.

A big thanks to all of our listeners who attended our session at #ACANat15! We loved meeting each of you. Please remember to tweet your love for the show and leave us a rating and review on iTunes.

Staff Training Themes - Camp Code #22

Creative leadership training for this summer

Camp Code Logo

To generate excitement, energy, and buy in from our staff, a theme during training can quickly communicate that this job is like no other. Themes can range from connecting to the history of camp to making references to current popular culture. A great staff training theme can put a fresh spin on information that is taught every year and inspire your returning leaders to create a memorable experience for those around them. On this episode, the Camp Code team presents nine different themes and activities that can be plugged in to your staff training today. 

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Have your staff "come as a child!" Everything about training can be framed through the experience of a kid. When staff arrive, greet them with known childhood characters. Make time everyday to play for the sake of playing. Build forts and have story time. Hold a meeting as superheros in secret headquarters. Host a tea party. Make puppets. Plan a birthday party evening program. Create a space that reminds your staff of the audience they will be catering to all summer long. It will help your staff reconnect with their childhood experiences and teach them how take those memories and recreate them in more intentional and purposeful ways. 

Use This Video Clip! A Quickfire Dozen YouTube Videos to Enhance Training - Camp Code #21

Videos for Staff Training and Leadership Lessons


Gab and Ruby share their favorite videos that they incorporate into staff training. Listen to this episode for how they use the videos below.

Specifically for Summer Camps:
Where Do the Children Play?
Play Again

YouTube Videos
Meatballs - "We want gossip!"
Andrew Solomon - Love, no matter what
Wet Hot American Summer - Are you going to pick that up?
First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy
Jack Vale - Social Media Experiment
Sir Ken Robinson - School Kills Creativity
Arc'teryx - 35
Jessica's Daily Affirmations
John Jacobson - Double Dream Hands
Aimee Mullins - The opportunity of adversity
10 Most Awkward Moments
Improv Everywhere - Subway Art Gallery Opening, Salvation Army Bell Choir

Please comment below and tell us some of your favorite video clips to incorporate into staff training.

Also, please remember to tweet your love for the show or leave us a rating and review on iTunes.

Training at a Boys Camp - Camp Code #20

Staff Training at Boys Camp - Interview with Luke Durham


After examining training at a girls camp, the ladies of Camp Code called in an expert to talk about training at boys camp. Luke Durham is the Program Director at Camp Laney in Mentone, Alabama. After spending many years as a camper and then transitioning to summer staff, Luke came to be living the dream as a full time Program Director. As if life is not busy enough as a year-round camp pro, Luke is also finishing up his masters at Vanderbilt University and launching a new camp training business called Camp Sense. He took some time to share with us about his favorite moments at boys camp, how to teach young men to talk about the gushy stuff, and how to train staff to make the most of all that is special about a single gender camp.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Provide a wrap up to your staff training and utilize role-playing to put the skills learned in to practice. Have return staff set up in a series of rooms or cabins with each ready to perform a scenario as the new staff come in. The new staff will have no idea what they are walking in to and must jump in and try out the strategies they have been learning throughout training. From walking in to a fight in progress in to the next room with a homesick camper to the next room where a camper is being bullied, this provides copious teachable moments and opportunities to rewind and try again.

Please help us keep the show going by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes or tweeting your love for Camp Code!

Best Interview Practices - Camp Code #19

Staff Training Begins With Hiring and the Interview Process


Though we often consider the first day of staff training the time when we begin absorbing our new team into the camp culture, the reality is that staff orientation starts during the application process. Is the person trainable? How will he or she work on the team that is assembled? Does the applicant "get it?" Join Gab, Beth, and Ruby for a discussion of their favorite interview questions and time-tested ways to figure out if an applicant is a good fit.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Your hiring process has to be what is best for camp. It is a hard job but you, as the director, are the one that has the big picture. You must put the effort in to make the hiring process be whatever the camp needs. It may involve re-interviewing return staff and asking some hard questions. These are the most important decisions you will make all year. If something feels off, trust your gut. Ask questions to your return staff about things that didn't follow your camp philosophy that happened the year before. You can say "I am offering you a job but here is my concern from last year and that cannot happen again." Hiring is not about being their friend. Make sure they understand that you must do what is best for camp. And never apologize for high expectations.

Please help us keep the show going by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes or tweeting your love for Camp Code!

Live Different: Interview with Cristal Earle - Camp Code #18

Motivating and Empowering Young Leaders during Staff Training

Cristal Earle is the co-founder of Live Different, an organization that is about seeing change, building hope, and embracing a lifestyle of caring for people, not “stuff.” Cristal spoke with the Camp Code hosts about how to empower young leaders to greatness and how to help them fully embrace camp’s mission and become a champion for your organization.

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Episode 18 Cristal Earle

During orientation or mid-summer, ask your staff to visualize what they want the last day of camp to look like. What do they want to be thinking when they have said goodbye, packed their cars, and are driving out of camp? Ask them to really consider what it is they want to be excited to report about when they arrive home. And then encourage your staff live each day as if they have already accomplished those goals and to work each day towards being even greater than they ever thought they could be.

Please help us keep the show going by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes or tweeting your love for Camp Code!

Ask Dr. G: Respect, Responsibility, and Resiliency - Camp Code #17

Staff Training for a More Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Staff

The Camp Code team is proud to host upcoming ACA National keynote speaker Deborah Gilboa M.D., aka Dr. G, on the show to share her ideas on what parents are struggling with today and how camp can help. Dr. G. answers questions about how to make staff training great and get the behaviors out of our campers (and staff!) that we want.

One of the best tips we picked up from Dr. G is that parents today often strive to keep their children happy always. However, for a child to be able to seek out his or her own happiness as they grow older, they must learn how to cope with setbacks and seek internal motivation and rewards on their own. 

Best Practice for Leadership Training

Check out Dr. G's YouTube Channel for a parenting videos (uploaded every Monday) for tips on how to handle specific behaviors in your campers. These make for great content for your camp's social media, as well as training tools for your staff. 

If you like what you hear on Camp Code, please leave us a rating and review on iTunes or tweet your love for the show. Help us spread the joy of great staff training.


Training at a Girls Camp - Camp Code #16

Leadership Training and Staff Orientation for Girls Camp

The Camp Code team addresses what makes all-girl camp different and how to train your staff to embrace those differences to foster the best experience for participants. This is an episode for anyone who has females on staff, not just those in a single gender environment. Listen in for insights on exactly what it is that women want and how to empower your female leaders.

A Best Practice for Leadership Training

Credit those who came before you. When there are camp traditions that were started by a person, share the names of those individuals in that story. Camp is a social place where relationships are the priority. And these relationships become legend through story telling. Teach your campers the oral history of camp.  No matter how many times they hear it, every time it will help participants develop a tie to all that came before them, and perhaps inspire campers and staff to create a story that will be told long after they are gone.

Building Your Summer Camp Leadership Team - Camp Code #15

Summer Camp Staff Training for Senior Staff

Every director needs that group of people who can be there when they can’t be. These staff members are the eyes and ears of the director and must be capable of seeing and hearing the needs of the staff and the campers. Camp directors need teams of people who fully understand the camp’s philosophy and mission and who not only know what needs to be done to fulfill it but are passionate about the work to be done.

A Best Practice for Leadership Training

Look for leadership team members who want to have their own staff members succeed. That leadership team candidate must be capable of doing the frontline job but even more importantly, he or she must understand the value of letting others stand up and be in the spotlight.