Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Investing in Your Community to Invest in Yourself & Your Camp

Running a year round camp that offers summer camp, retreat and outdoor education programs is demanding. Long hours, crazy schedules and sacrificing many weekends and holidays are all part of the job. With everything a camp director has to do, it's easy to think we don't have time for activities outside of camp. Yet to keep us growing as leaders, to generate new ideas for our camps and to build support for our programs outside activities can be invaluable.

Many years ago the athletic director at my son's middle school asked me if I would be interested in coaching soccer at the school. My initial reaction was that there was no way I had time to coach and fulfill my responsibilities at the camp. After some arm twisting I reluctantly agreed. For 12 weeks, five days a week I spent two hours at the school. Once or twice a week the time increased to three or four hours as we traveled to and from away games. The time commitment was tough. Often I had to work several hours in the evening after practice or on weekends to catch up on work. I regularly came to work early to get in some extra time before the rest of our staff arrived. At the end of the season I was tired but happy with what had happened both on the soccer field and at the camp.

That first season began what became eight years of involvement in coaching middle school soccer, high school football and middle school and high school basketball. Over the years the kids I coached taught me important lessons about dealing with kids that I use every day at camp. The other coaches (mostly professional teachers) introduced me to great strategies for working for young people. I learned to delegate more to our staff because of the time I was away and they learned to take on more responsibility.                                                                                                                                       

Not only was the investment of my time in the schools good for me as a leader, but for the camp as well. The school's administrators learned about camp, became advocates and regularly urged school groups to use our facilities. Parents of my players introduced a wide variety of new user groups to our facilities. We started several very successful sports camps using connections from the school. Outstanding young men and women from our local schools became camp staff members. 

What I originally thought might be a waste of my time really become a investment in myself as a leader and in our camp as an important member of our community. The long hours I put in out on the field or in the gym paid huge dividends. Both I and the camp grew stronger.

Are there things you're passionate about where you could invest your time in activities outside camp? While committing time outside of camp might seem difficult, consider the opportunities it presents for you and your organization to grow.