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  • Nick M. Teich, PhD, LCSW

Directors share their 2023 insights: what are the issues of today and the future?

Just within the last month, I have interviewed 26 camp directors about their various experiences. As we wrap up 2023, I wanted to show you just a glimpse of what I heard in these interviews. I look forward to delving into many of these categories in more detail throughout 2024.

Let's start with the positive, which is why we're all in this business to begin with: camp is the antidote to all that is rough for kids right now. It doesn't mean camp will be easy, and we know kids and staff bring these issues with them, but here's what directors wish the public knew:

At camp, kids are: away from technology, making and nurturing face-to-face friendships, learning to resolve conflict, living as a community, being independent from parents/guardians, trying new things, spending a lot of time in nature, understanding that working as a team is critical, and gaining confidence in themselves. One can argue that every single one of these items is neglected in the rest of society.

How do we ensure that camp continues to provide wonderful experiences for many more years to come? We work together to figure out how to navigate the waters.

When interviewing directors, I started with this question: Looking to the future of the industry, what do you think are the most important issues or items to prioritize?

Each of the bullets below indicates a central issue that directors mentioned in response to this question.

Categories in bold were the ones that were mentioned the most during these interviews. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, these bolded categories aligned exactly with the three categories that I chose to ask about as the final question of the interview, before I knew how people would answer this first question.

Here is what directors mentioned:

  • Educating families and the public about how beneficial camps are

  • Raising tuition rates - how far can/should we go?

  • Rising costs of running camp

  • Mental health needs of campers and staff

  • Programming

  • Other events competing with the camp season (vacations, speciality camps, clinics, etc.)

  • Staff recruitment, retention, salaries, and demands

  • Using new technologies to help run camp

  • Security

  • Climate change/environment

  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB)

  • Director "work/life balance"

  • Parental expectations, including being honest with camp families about what our camps can and cannot do

  • Flexibility of staff

  • Managing crises

  • Camper behavior and boundaries

  • Ownership of private camps: individuals vs. group/corporate ownership

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts: Let's keep working together as camp leaders as we approach the 2024 season.

Happy New Year!

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