The key ingredient to any successful camp summer is the staff. All camps are only as good as their staff. They are by far the glue that keeps a camp together. The road to assembling an outstanding staff is a long process of calls, personal meetings, interviews and due diligence. This process typically takes about 8 months. I have been traveling throughout the USA and internationally over the last 18 years recruiting staff, and I always find speaking to prospective staff so unique, rewarding and interesting.
As far as how the process works, most staff whom I interview are referred directly to us from college coaches (I used to work for the NCAA and have many intercollegiate contacts), professors and former/current staff members who refer their friends to us. In addition, I typically visit 5-7 colleges each winter and address specific teams and guest lecture in classes. This is how we initially generate prospective staff leads.
The next prong is getting the prospect excited on embarking on the venture of being a camp counselor. If the prospect has never attended camp, which is the case for many candidates, a big part of the initial conversation is articulating the culture of camp and all the superlatives that camp offers. Once it is determined that the prospect is interested in pursuing a job, the next step is to set up an interview. This is my favorite part of staff recruitment. Each candidate is so unique in terms of personality, interests and backgrounds. During the course of the interview, you learn volumes about the prospect’s family, upbringing, interests, activities they would excel in, academic interests, ability to handle specific hypothetical camp situations, who their role models were growing up, problem-solving abilities and most importantly, why they want to work at a residential camp and be a role model to a young campers. Some of the responses we receive and what stellar backgrounds and experiences our staff prospects have are simply amazing. Often, when I meet a prospect in person at a university, I will invite him to play pick-up basketball at the college’s recreation center. I really learn about his character when doing this. Besides, it keeps me in shape!
Finally, once we determine we are going to hire a candidate, we begin our reference and background checks. One of the most unique elements of staffing occurs the first few days of orientation when we create a community of 100 people, most of whom do not know each other, come from totally different backgrounds and some who have traveled thousands of miles. The most incredible part of this process is that by the 4th day of orientation, almost everyone becomes a family and in the case of Owego, a brotherhood.
Staffing is not an exact science and it requires an immense amount of time. However, it is time well spent since staff is the most important ingredient to insure a successful camp summer.