Why You Might Want To Be A Camp Director...
As someone who has been in this industry for over 3 decades, there are plenty of assumptions made about summer camp directors. The first is that they only work in the summers (ie: “Oh, you are a summer camp director…what do you do the rest of the year?”) and the second: it isn’t a professional role.
These misperceptions are somewhat grounded in “job description” reality…how many “managers” or “consultants” or “administrators” do we know that have the exact same job? In some camps, Camp Directors may be seasonal middle managers; in others, they might be the owners and legacy family members; in others, they might be full-time teachers who work at camp in the summer.
At Sanborn Western Camps, our Camp Directors are mature individuals, seasoned outdoors people, full-time educators and youth development professionals. They have been former classroom teachers and school administrators, they have held MBAs and other advanced degrees, and–in many cases–they have developed a deep passion for working with children and emerging adults through their experience working at Sanborn, in the classroom or at other camps.
Being a Camp Director at Sanborn is very much like being the Headmaster of a boarding school: you work closely with parents, students and staff to cultivate an enriching, intentional community that seeks to help everyone “live together in the outdoors, building a sense of Self, a sense of Community, a sense of the Earth, and a sense of Wonder through fun and adventure.” You must be an outstanding, responsive communicator for parents; an inspirational leader, supportive coach and for college-aged staff; and a caring, encouraging and present role-model for campers.
Unlike a boarding school, or most other youth-serving educational settings, the camp environment has a level of flexibility and agility that allows for consistent organizational growth and improvement. Even though Sanborn has a rich, 75 year old history, we like to think we are “a camp with traditions…loosely held.” We don’t hold onto or fall back on “this is how it has always been done,” but we seek professional development opportunities and educate our year-round leadership team.
There are plenty of day-to-day tasks to accomplish, like managing the enrollments of over 700 campers per summer and hiring over 150 amazing staff members, and there is a great deal of autonomy and flexibility that can be built into the year. Camp Directors–no matter which camp–work tirelessly and responsively during the 10-12 week summer camp season, the shoulder seasons and winter season–we have a great deal of time to evaluate, reflect, reimagine, learn and prepare for the next summer season.
Being a Camp Director has–without question–made me a much better parent, educator, student, follower, outdoor professional, co-worker and leader. Every year I have had the opportunity to reinvent and rework my training models, consider the needs of our stakeholders, and set aspirational goals for my own growth and development. My husband and I raised our children in this supportive, enriching outdoor environment until their developmental needs in middle school required a move off camp property to our “school house” down the pass. The flexibility in the off season means I haven’t missed any school day performances or classroom reading opportunities. Camp Directors work hard in the summer so we have the flexibility to take a ski day, or a reading day, or a cleaning day, or a day with our kids so we can have the balance we need to do it all again next summer.
I never imagined I would be a career Camp Director, with an incredible professional network of supportive, encouraging, collaborative colleagues throughout the country and the opportunity to be part of the network of thousands of former Sanborn campers, staff, camp families and alums whose camp experience was life-defining, life-changing and foundationally impactful.
If this is the work you feel may be a fit for you, for your family or for your life aspirations, I recommend reviewing the job description for our Big Spring Ranch for Boys Camp Director position.
We look forward to hearing from you.