The Spirit of Camp

As most are at the end of the camp season, I feel compelled to comment about keeping the camp spirit alive.

It is understandable that the level of spirit can drop near the middle or end of summer. Counselors become tired, and plans for the fall come into mind.

When it gets to this point, a reminder may need to be made about keeping the camp spirit alive. So, here's my advice for counselors and directors…

Smell the Roses

First, counselors should attempt to "stop and smell the roses" of camp. Though there may not be actual roses at camp, figuratively, counselors should take a step back and realize the magic of the summer.

Just as we tell homesick campers, camp is such a unique place, and counselors and directors should remember that too. At home, how often can you play hunt-the-counselor where you paint your face, wear camouflage, and hide in the woods?

How often can you swim or canoe on the lake every day? Simply stated, camp is a unique opportunity that should be enjoyed and cherished. Once counselors realize this, it's easier to continue the camp spirit.

Even during the off-season, keep in constant communication with your counselors, or as much as you can. Remind them how important they were and how much fun everyone had. These reminders will go a long way toward making the next camp season even better and more special.

Also, counselors can be motivated by the campers' love for the sacred place. Just by watching the campers' enthusiasm for games and activities, the counselors can gain spirit.

The reverse is also true. If counselors are really "hype" (a camp term) about a certain activity, the campers become more involved and excited about it. It's somewhat of a snowball effect.

Another way to keep the spirit alive is to realize and reinforce how much camp has given to you. Most counselors express what an awesome place camp is because it allows them to grow and learn about themselves.

If you can reflect on how camp has affected your life positively, it makes your love for camp grow. Once the love grows, the desire to give back to camp also increases.

The spirit comes from the love for camp and also from the desire to leave a positive impression on camp. At my camp, several of the counselors have been campers for years, so their love is strong and they pass that love onto the new counselors.

Even though I was never a camper here, I still have so much affection and loyalty to the camp because of the overwhelming spirit and magic.

Whether a counselor has been there for five years or this is their first year, encourage them to share their feeling with their campers, if not through words, then through actions. Again, in the off-season, try to maintain that spirit through your communications, including your Web page.

It is important, as a counselor, to remember to think like a kid and often act like a kid (while still sticking to responsibilities). This not only helps you to bond with the campers but also helps the overall feeling of camp.

Most of a camp's spirit comes from the campers and their enjoyment in activities, and counselors can express this when playing games and leading activities.

The Tradition Connection

Tradition is a unifying force when it comes to camp spirit. During staff training or even during the middle of the summer, it is important to keep positive camp traditions alive.

Guide the old counselors to inform the new counselors about the camp's different stories and tales. Help the kids enjoy and experience camp by telling them the story of Bubbling Springs, how camp was named and started, or the legends about campers and counselors. It gives the counselors and campers something magical to believe in.

Tradition also unifies in the off-season, as the camp's history and legends could be an exciting feature of the camp Web page. Often, the truths of camp life make for exciting copy on Web pages or brochures without the need for marketing hype.

Beneath all this talk of magic and spirit, basically my message comes down to this… Take a moment to realize the beauty of nature, the kids and camp.

Realize what positive and wonderful things happen at camp and what an awesome opportunity it is for campers and counselors. Let the spirit of camp grow in you so it can grow in others.

Christie Enders is working for the second summer at Camp Al-Gon-Quian on Burt Lake, Mich. In the summer of 2000, she worked at Camp Pendalouan. Currently, she is a senior at Michigan State, studying community relations.

Bryan BuchkoComment