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What improvements could Camp Staff make?

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I've served on our Council's Camp Staff for the last 2 summers, and will serve on it again this summer.

For me, it's always been hard to get a read of many of the scoutmaster's attending camp, as they either are unwilling to tell you what you're doing wrong or complain about so many things that it's difficult to sort through all of the complaints and figure out what's legitimate and what's not.

So what do you guys thing could improve about your respective council's camp staff?

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I was one of three camp Commissioners for a week last summer. I had four troops assigned to me and I did a camp inspection each morning and checked in with the Troop leaders morning and evening.


I think that was pretty effective in picking up on issues and dealing with them.


One evening troops were responsible for cooking their own dinner. I discovered the next morning that one troop hadn't succeeded in getting a fire started and mostly starved that evening.


This was a Scoutreach Troop and the Scoutmaster was an Eagle Scout paid by the council to serve as Scoutmaster. I don't know where he was that evening --- he should have been available to help them when they needed it.


Perhaps I should have done another walk around to check on how troops were doing with their meal, but I didn't think of doing that.


I remember one issue brought to me by a Scoutmaster. He had gone to check out an axe for use by the troop, and was handed an axe with a broken off handle with a splintered end. THAT was disgraceful!


I would suppose that the staffer issued him what he had, rather than taking the initiative to see to it that the axe was repaired and delivered to the troop when it was repaired.


Since this was a staffer who was using poor judgment, I suggested that the Scoutmaster bring the ace to our morning meeting with the camp director and program director, which he did. That solved the problem and probably resulted in the staffer getting some counseling about how to deal with that kind of problem.


Another issue was smelly kybos. My experience was that these problems were generated by inadequate cleaning by Scouts. I was a little slow figuring that out or I would have helped organize an effective job of cleaning the offending kybo by Scouts to see what difference a quality cleaning job would make.


The Camp Director was the District Executive in my district who I had worked with and knew quite well. He was promoted to be District Director in another district while we were in camp.


The Program Director at camp that week was hired as District Executive a couple of weeks later so I'm working with him regularly.


(This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)

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I've attended and staffed Summer Camps in about six councils, so I think I have seen some really good and unfortunately some really lousy. Alot of the campfires, morning/evening assembly stunts, songs, etc add to the magic.


I would say the most serious critique is the behavior of the staff, working under an appropriate Camp Director (usually a professional Scouter) and approrpriate staff SPL.


The worst I've seen was when the youth staff rode their mountain bikes all hours of the day, when they were suppose to be conducting Merit Badge classes. If they weren't riding their mountain bikes, they were sleeping thru their own Merit Badge class cause they were up to 4-5am playing video games. I've seen poor camp directors and camp SPLs which didn't care about staff playing games all day and all night. I cannot think of any complaint, that could top a lousy staff.


The best I've seen was when the youth staff were conducting the merit badge classes, along with their adult area directors. If Scoutmasters are seeing their Scouts come back to the troop site with completed projects or accomplishments during the day, these Scoutmasters are usually overjoyed.


If the Scouts are learning, and the youth staff is actually working with the younger boys. Model Campsite, good campfood, clean KYBO, songs, skits, etc are all "icing on the cake". I would imagine your area Scoutmasters would be extremely happy if youth staff and adult staff are honestly teaching their boys. If my Scouts were happy and learning, I could care less about any other camp improvements, to me they cannot compare to Scouts actually learning.


A good Staff Development should solidify a good team. It seems that a good Camp Director and good Camp SPL should be fully aware of the difference; when it is time to work and when it's time to play.


I hope you have a great 2012 season!


Scouting Forever and Venture On!

Crew21 Adv

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Kinda think the first thing is to look at how things are.

Some things are what they are and can't be changed.

When a staff member sees that something isn't working he needs to let someone know.

If he is working in an area that needs something? He needs to communicate this.

The one change that can be made is you.

You are the face of the camp.

You set the tone.

Your attitude and your appearance matter.

People will pick up on if you care or not.

The Scouts will pick up on your enthusiasm.

Everyone will notice how good a job you are doing.

How do you ensure that you are doing a good job?

Treat others the way you like to be treated.

Know your subject.

Plan ahead. Be prepared.

When need be make the best with what you have.

Avoid inside jokes and name calling.

Be where your supposed to be when your supposed to be there.

Step back and try and see the camp and your role in it from a little Scouts point of view.

It's worth remembering that a lot of Scouts look up to Staff members. In their eyes you are a hero. The person that they hope to be like in a few years. The example you set carries a lot of weight.

Good Luck.


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What did the Adult Evaluations say needed improvement?


Did you do youth evaluations as well, and if so what do they say?


If you don't do evals, that's one suggestion I can make. Those are a tool to create a better camp.


Not knowing your camp or yoru staff, I cannot make any further recomendations.



But what do YOU think you can do better? What do other staffers think? What have you folks heard that you could do better? what complaints did you hear?

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Customer service! Ever been to a store where you can't get help? Where you see employees everywhere, but they refuse to interact with the customers? I remember a day and time when you couldn't get anyone at Best Buy to help you, or if you did, you had to wait 15 minutes. Now, they practically knock you over coming and asking if they can help or if you have any questions. Lowe's and Home Depot have made the same switch. We all know those teenage guys who stare at the ground and mumble and avoid contact with adults. Those are not the guys you want to hire for camp staff. You want guys who are outgoing, confident, service minded and actually know their stuff. You want guys who take ownership of their job and the camp. Guys who want to make it better and do. All it takes is one season for a summer camp to get a bad reputation and it takes 5 to 10 years to recover from it. The troop I served didn't go to our council's camp for a decade because of a bad experience. It took a number of us to convince other folks that it was time to give it a chance.....and it was a positive experience. But when people come home and talk about the poor quality of food, or MB counselors, evening programs, unresponsive staff, etc, it can do harm for years to come. Good "customer service" is key. Staff needs to be positive, friendly, smile, helpful, knowledable and quick to fix problems.

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Providing the most broad spectrum of options possible may require more moola than the camp has access to UNLESS this is done as a questionaire well before camp plans by the camp are finalized.


Many bad KYBOes are due to improper design. Rather than a seat over a hole in the ground, I wish more would get with the "VIP latrine" design. Also, wood walls can be hard to clean. If they don't want to go with ceramic tiles (common in city latrines late 1800s), they could build the hut out of fiberglas or ABS plastic.

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SR540 has it right. We are customers. Treat us like you want us to come back again and again. Be accommodating to our wishes, within reason. When we go to the Boundary Waters we use a private outfitter instead of the Sommers Base as we have found we get better food, better equipment, and a much better attitude from the staff. They want to do anything they can for us. That's the attitude we need at Summer Camp.

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A few thoughts:


1) When I go to Ace Hardware, they all have these headsets on. If you ask someone a question, they IMMEDIATELY get on the headset to find the expert who has the answer. It rocks. Having a way for any staffer to immediately contact the right person would be great (walkie talkies, everyone has a map of the campground with a listing of the classes and activities on them, etc.)


2) Training for adults. I have just taken a 1 week vacation without my family. If I could fill in some slots and get some of the BSA training done - that would help make the week for me. At one camp, I renewed my CPR for example - that was great. They split it over a couple of days, and I did not have to take a day (that I don't have) back home. I would love a Wilderness First Aid course taught at summer camp - and I would pay for it as well.

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1) Every week is week one to the boys. Even if it is week 6 for the staff. Trading post should have a full stock, all sizes and all kits, books and supplies. food should be the same as every other week. enough gear and supplies at the ranges. Hearing that you are out of one item after another gets old real fast. Each week cost the same, each scout deserves the same.


2) Staff are "on" anytime they are with in site of a scout. Friendly face and manors. Greet scouts as you pass them. Be ready with a kind word or a quick tip. If your not up to it, return to staff campsite or other staff only areas.


3) Eat and mix with the campers. Accept invites from troops for camp fires, dutch oven goodies or other camp site events. Interaction with the staff is a big part of camp to the boys.


4) Rules should have a reason. Don't allow staff to make them up just to show who is boss. Use them to address safety, legal and fairness issues.


5) Make sure each troop is having fun. Newer scoutmasters may need a bit of extra help knowing how much fun they can pack into a week. Let them know that you will do your best to see that the boys have 6 great days at camp. (and enough down time too.)


6) Ask for feedback over food not just at meetings. a simple How was your morning can give you more feed back than any formal SM meeting.


7) For troops that have limited adult coverage, offer to cover for them so they can get showers without having to worry about the scouts. You can't imagine what a difference this can make.


8) Be flexible. The SM may have caused his own problem but you may be able to dig him out of a hole. Remember, he is doing this for free and has limited experience with camp. I recall my new SM when I was SPL turning to me on the way into cam saying "I don't know how I'm going to keep the kids busy all week". No one told him there was a program, he thought he was on his own.


9) keep the tour short, no need for each area director to go on for 20 min about their area. Some of us have been in a van for 2 hours just to get to camp and can only take so much on day one. Too much info is like trying to take a drink from a fire hose.


10) limit list to 9 or fewer items.



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I second the comments on "Friendly,"" "Courteous," and "Kind."


Do not forget "Trustworthy," as it has customarily come to be forgotten in the interest of marketing Merit Badges.


When it comes to Merit Badges, stress quality over quantity.


If you don't have a qualified staffer, do not offer the badge - period.


If the staffer can only handle ten candidates, ten it is.


Since National Council has indicated that Merit Badges not given in accordance with the rules have not been "earned" for any purpose, the "Merit badge Mill" days appear to be on their way out. That means earned MB's - qualified Counselors doing individual testing on all Merit Badges.


Don't want to tell the customers there is no room for more in First Aid? You do NOT want to have the conversation with the parents about why the Scout is not advancing after all. You really don't.

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Ok alot of great general advice.


I am gonna flip it around a little: KEEP THE STAFF HAPPY!


You gotta build your staff into a team. Yes each program area will be their own little clique as they work with each other all day. But you need some time set aside for the entire staff to get together as well. Staff week is good for this. I've seen it where the entire staff helps set up an area and moves on to the next. I've seen staff socials, i.e. one nite is take out nite in which someone makes a taco or pizza run. I've seen where the CD surprises everyone with a late nite snack inteh dinning hall that he, the PD and QM made. And my personal favorite, a staff symbol, in my case Dominos, that not only recognized the staff and how long they have been on staff, but also serves as a phycical reminder of why we are on staff. The Friday Night Staff Week camp fire Domino Ceremony is one of the highlights of my scouting career.


I've seen a top of the line camp facuility wise be horrible b/c the camp staff didn't care. No morale, not customer service, nothing. And I've seen a not so great facility wise camp with an awesome staff be a much better expereince.


And it starts at the top. I worked at one camp two years in a row. A lot of the same staffers both years. But the first year we had an AWESOME CD and PD who built morale, took care of the staff, and the staff would do anything for them the CD and PD. Both emphasized customer service and that year was AWESOME. Unfortunately for us, the CD got a promotion and moved to a different council. The new CD was only interested in the bonus he got from working summer camp, and the new PD, which I'm sad to say I actually thought we be a good one b/c he did a great job in his position the year before, didn't do much at all. Morale sank like a brick, which in turn affected customer service, and not only did problems among staff occur, but also the units at camp. It got to the point the council sent in another DE to 'assist" the CD, but in reality he was told to prevent the staff from having a mutiny and destroying the camp expereince for the troops at camp.



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sublimation, let me give our experience with two camps


The first summer camp was, one of two camps in our somewhat newly merged council, our home each summer for a good many years. In resent years, the staff tried there best with what they had but there was an underlying sense of low moral. Perhaps this was because no one stayed in the CD position for much more than a couple of years. Perhaps it was because the camp was in need of major work and there was no funding in place for any renovations. Great staff moved on to other camps. The food wasn't good and there wasn't enough of it. (One summer we had the troop picture before dinner, at the camp staff request, then entered the dinning hall to find the kitchen had run out of dinners.) Well, both camps in our council were closed last year, in a cost cutting measure, and we found ourselves in a camp in a different council that summer.


This camp had been around just as long as the first camp but their facilities were in good shape. The campsite, in which we stayed, was brand new having just been built that spring by their "service" group of volunteers. (The old site was retired.)

The staff was a bit more wooden but would go out of their way to fulfill any request of the troop. I could put in a site request at the office and before I could walk back, the requested item was at the campsite. No Scout got shut out of a merit badge class as the camp added extra classes as needed. The food was my highlight. Even the pickiest 11 year old never left the mess hall hungry and I never had to use the last resort PBJ. This camp offered an incentive to hold prices at the 2011 rate if we booked early for 2012. (My council hadn't decided at that time if they would open camp in 2012.)


When I asked the PLC what they wanted to do regarding summer camp the choice was very clear - the second camp.


A month of so later, my council decided to open in 2012 one camp (but had not decided which camp) for two weeks of Boy Scout camp. Details on camp would follow months later. Too late for us to stay in council.




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Like it or not folks, a scout camp IS a business. Our Cub resident camp has had the same camp director and program director for at least the last 10 years. While they certainly have their challenges with Council allowing over bookings, not enough resources and sometimes being short on staff, it hums like a well oiled machine. It should. They have the experience and know all the tricks of the trade. On the other hand, our Boy Scout camp is on their fourth, fifth or possible sixth CD and PD over the last 10 years. For Boy Scout camp, the Council tended to assign the job to already overworked DE's. Sure they got paid, but they already had a job to worry over. We had one DE that was there either 2 or 3 years as CD and was beginning to turn the camp reputation around when they fired him. I never heard why. They hired a retired SCouter who lasted a year. This year they hired another Scouter who was unemployeed. Nice guy. Hope he lasts. While our Boy Scout camp has made great strides over the last 5 years or so (capital campaign certainly helped since the place was falling apart), it could certainly benefit by having a good management team in place from year to year for continuity and experience. I tend not to frequent businesses where the managment and staff seem to use a revolving door. Same for camp.

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