Have you ever heard someone say that camp doesn’t build lifelong skills in kids, that it’s just a place for them to be kids? Well, that’s only half true! Summer camp is a place for kids to be themselves and have fun, but it’s also where they develop leadership, confidence and career skills.
On this gorgeous sunny day that I’m writing this post, it’s impossible not to reflect on how important camp has been in my life. I could make a career out of being a camp person. As a matter of fact, I’m trying to. I can’t wait until next week (which will have passed by the time this post is online) when I will be visiting a camp to speak to their staff and get them excited and ready for the summer ahead.
At about 10:00 am this morning, one of my best friends invited me to go on a canoe trip this summer. I also received a note from a reader of my book, The Cabin Path: Leadership Lessons Learned At Camp (www.cabinpath.ca) who said that last week he met up with a friend from camp who he hadn’t seen in over 30 years. WOW. Camp is powerful and runs deep through our veins. While these heartwarming moments in my day give me a warm fuzzy feeling, one of the things camp also gives, which is one of the topics I am most passionate about, is preparation for success when we say goodbye to cabins and hello to cubicles in the professional world. Camp builds leadership and career skills into its people.
What great timing for this post as thousands of young leaders are heading to camp either today (Friday, June 22, 2012), or will be or have already within the last two days. They are now up north for the summer and will soon be in 5th gear working with their campers and developing themselves as managers.
I use the term managers above seriously, because our 18-year-old camp counsellors are doing work similar to that of mid-level managers in the tall towers of Bay Street in Downtown Toronto. Let me explain. At camp, the counsellor has to:
- Manage multiple groups of people—Throughout various phases (points in time) of their day. Whether it’s motivating the campers to get out of their warm, comfortable bunks in the morning, to ensuring the group stays and progresses together along the trail route on their mountain bikes.
- Make decisions, implement them, and deal with the consequences—Whether it’s disciplining a camper, deciding on a program theme or costumes, or figuring out a rainy day plan, the counsellor has to be comfortable in their “action oriented” environment, and actually make a decision and face the consequences. I don’t think many interns or professional world employees make half as many decisions as camp staff do over the course of two months.
- Lead, literally, through the wild—On canoe trips, the counsellor has to plan a route (career skill = forecasting/planning), form canoe groups (career skill = team building), navigate (it’s just important), assign tasks upon arrival at the campsite (career skill = delegation), encourage along a long portage (career skill = motivate, persist, coach), and more.
These are three small examples of how camp actually prepares its attendees for their careers. While on the surface level, these camp tasks often seem to be unique to camp, but when you look at these important jobs from a different angle or perspective, you’ll realize how parallel an experience camp can be to an internship or any other role in the professional world.
Here are two of my favourite article links, because they make me feel so positively about my conviction that summer camp is the most important, relevant, and foundation building job a young leader can have for the summer.
If your kids are camp this summer, make sure to ask them good questions about how they’ve grown as a leader, and ask them what applicable skills they developed this summer. Then if you haven’t already, you can give them a copy of my book to inspire them as they reflect on a great summer at camp and prepare for an exciting academic year ahead.
“I’m in love with camp, it’s in my heart and soul. Just a special little place on the edge of a lake that keeps me from growing old.” —original song from Camp Huronda
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Has summer camp helped your child develop career skills? What was something you were surprised they learned from camp? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.