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

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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.

How to Start Working on Training Now - Camp Code #14

Camp Consultant Beth Allison's Camp Code podcast

A great leadership training takes a year to plan. Starting on leadership training now allows you the time to craft creative ideas, to gain buy-in from staff as you hire them, and to gather resources to support your brilliant vision. Identifying where your areas of strength and weakness were during training now will lead to a clearer picture of what leadership training should look like this summer.

A Best Practice for Leadership Training

Ask your staff the question "What tips and tricks would you share with someone in your position next year?" This can be done during their exit interviews, final coaching sessions, or during return staff interviews for the next summer. Asking this will tell directors what lessons really stuck with the staff throughout the summer (what you taught well or what the staff needed the most) and it will also show what was missed or not stressed enough during training. When you are wondering where to start with building training now, this question will provide your foundation. 

That was LAST Year...this is THIS Year - Camp Code #12

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Camp Code

“That’s not the way we did it last year.” “The former director let us do this…” Whether you are a new director who is running the show for the first time or a veteran who just had a rough summer, how do you hit the ground running this summer towards positive change?

A Best Practice for Leadership Training:

Help your staff members to learn to arrive to training sessions on time by making the times memorable.  Have your sessions begin at times like:  9:03, 10:47 or 2:18.  If they still have trouble, take a page from Michael Brandwein and wait for the stragglers to arrive, calming and gently explain that you will all leave the room together and, in 2 minutes, all come in together to begin the session.  Chances are, they will never be late again.

Intelligent Leadership Training Design - Camp Code #11

Make the Most of Your Camp Staff Training

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We CANNOT stress enough the importance of well-thought out, well-planned, and exceptionally intentional leadership training.  As camping professionals, we need to think through every minute of every day of training and use each one to our advantage - whether it’s making the most of a learning session, a time of community building or ensuring our staff is well-rested and ready to go when the campers finally arrive.  As always, we want to be intentional with everything we do.  

A Best Practice for Leadership Training:

It is vitally important to learn the names of your staff.  It is an important step in making your staff, especially new ones, feel like they are appreciated and being cared for.  Do whatever you have to do to learn their names ahead of time:  create a cheat sheet, study your staff bios, practice with other staff.  Repetition is the key. Be sure to introduce your staff in engaging and personal ways.  

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Staff Manuals: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Camp Code #10

Give Your Camp Staff Something USEFUL

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Because there are a couple of different strategies, because they are critical for accreditations, because yours could make or break you...because there is lots of room for creativity.

A Best Practice for Leadership Training:
 “Wreck this Journal” is a book that has instructions for destroying it.  Check it out and see how you can add this concept into your staff manuals.  Here are the 1st three instructions in the book (1) carry this with you everywhere you go (2) follow instructions on every page and (3) order is not important.

Returning Staff Facilitating Training - Camp Code #9

Leadership opportunities for experienced camp staff

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If we are running successful camps, we have a large number of staff returning every year.  Instead of it becoming a problem where our returning staff are bored, disengaged, and quite possibly disruptive, we want to challenge them and help them take it to the next level; we also want to use their skills and experience to help teach the next generation of staff. What avenues can we explore to make training a useful and positive experience for staff who’ve done this before?

A Best Practice for Leadership Training:

Thanks to Dr. Tim Elmore, we learned to put our training on ICE:

When teaching this generation of staff, make sure to use...

I - images that lead to

C - conversations that lead to

E - experiences that change their lives.

Training Youth Development Professionals - Camp Code #7

Preparing Your Summer Camp Staff to Become #CampPros

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Those not in the industry can sometimes think that “camp staff” means glorified babysitter, someone who is simply watching children and making sure they have fun.

Those of us who truly believe in the importance of summer camp understand that a youth development professional is fundamentally different; we want to grow the whole person.  We want to create people who will change the world and make a difference. How do we prepare our staff?

A Best Practice for Leadership Training:

P  - Present your best self
R - Respect others
O - Own your actions
F - Find the right words
E - Establish proper communication
S - Social Media - the who, what, when, where, and why
S - Social Graces, if you please
I - Interact well with others
O - Own your “own” stuff
N - Never miss an opportunity to listen
A - Always be receptive to feedback
L - Leave ‘em wanting more

Teaching Them To Teach - Camp Code #6

Building Camp Staff Leadership Skills

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 Summer Camp Staff Training Podcast

What we do is so much more than help children to have fun; we are at camp to develop the whole person. We are teaching not only specific hard skills like sailing or climbing or the j stroke but we are also teaching soft skills like  communication, conflict resolution, and  resiliency. So it’s important that our staff members understand (a) that they are teachers every moment of every day and (b) they understand how to be creative, intentional, well-prepared instructors.

A Best Practice for Leadership Training:

The games and activities that we actually play are not made to just go through the motions. As we develop our skills at camp, sometimes the intent behind what we are doing gets lost.  What are your goals, what do you want the end picture to look like?  Make sure staff members experience the intent behind what you are doing.

Training Beyond Training - Camp Code #5

Making Summer Camp Staff Training Last All Year 'Round

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There are three reasons for exploring this topic:

  1. Staff training is never long enough. Ever.
  2. There are great tools available to aid with this process.
  3. Youth development→ we want our staff to grow not only at work but also beyond. (and if they are growing, they are doing a better job at work!)

A Best Practice for Leadership Training:

“To pay or not to pay” - when do we pay for seasonal staff members to get certifications or training that we need them to have to meet accreditation standards?

Teaching Boring Topics in Innovative Ways - Camp Code #4

Keeping Staff Training Interesting

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This podcast shares creative ways to cover those important “must-do” sessions that have to be presented year and after year and can be, if we’re not careful, boring and uninspiring.  

A Best Practice for Leadership Training:

Provide summer staff additional training and recreation outside of Staff Training week.

Have any questions or need Beth to come lead some training at your camp?  Email her