One of, if not my favorite, jobs that I've ever had was working as a summer camp counselor for the YMCA during the summer months of my college years.
For one of my summer jobs each year when I came home from college, I got to spend the day playing sports on the campus of McDaniel College and then end each day with a swimming lesson and pool time. I had the most awesome boss who gave us general directions and then let us do our thing under her watchful eye. She was always supportive and often times rolled up her sleeves and jumped in to games with the kids. I worked with a great collection of fellow counselors who had a great time working together and always made sure the campers were safe and having fun.
They even helped me launch my first soccer camp for what was the fledgling girls soccer team from Westminster High School in the early 1980's. It was the first time I was able to organize and execute a camp from start to finish and helped me with my planning skills not only for future camps but many of the events — golf tournaments, indoor soccer tournaments, charity fundraisers, and team management — that I would later have the opportunity to run on my own.
I've been working this summer providing soccer and lacrosse clinics for a boys camp that has decades of history of generations of family members attending the same camp year-after-year, forging friendships with other boys from all over the place that will last them for their lifetimes. They start as "rookie" campers for a week at a time and many grow in to full-fledged campers that spend their entire seven week summers — get this, without any electronic communication devices — playing sports, doing arts and crafts and theater performances, making day trips, going fishing, ziplines, go-carts, and skateboarding.
The thing that caught my attention when I first started working there this summer was the generational aspect of the attendee and the number of years boys, and sometimes now men, have been attending this camp. I heard boys comparing their number of years they've been coming to camp and then tracing the same thing back for years with their fathers and grandfathers. Many spoke about their mothers and aunts attending a sister camp not far away that itself had its generational followers.
Summer camps have been a part of the American fabric for many years, even before this old man himself went to a summer sports camp as a young boy. There are camps that are focused on sports from start to finish that give the camper a chance to participate in practically every sport imaginable. There are theater camps that provide a crash course in theater production culminating in the execution of a play at week's end. There's also band camp and science camp; faith-based camps and school-based camps; special needs camps and specialization camps that allow you to focus on your interests alone, concentrating your camp time on one specific activity.
Attending summer camps is not for everyone. There are children who, when attending a camp, especially a sleepover camp, have psychological or social nuances that can make the camp very uncomfortable. Many parents still drop these kids off hoping that the many interactions they have with other campers or counselors somehow will help them overcome their issues. Sometimes it works like a charm and the comfort of their peers or the guidance of a counselor whom they look up to helps them mature through adolescent nerves and issues.
Other times not so much.
But there are many benefits for the kids that are able to survive the initial shock of being away from the safety and comfort of their homes. The American Campers Association touts the benefits of participating in camps on their website by stating "Children interact with positive role models who have time to listen, talk, relax, and reflect. They learn to work together, make choices, take responsibility, develop creative skills, build independence and self-reliance, and gain confidence. All are necessary steps on a child's path to a healthy, productive life."
Whatever your motive is to sign up for a summer camp or to send your child off to camp to learn new skills, relax, exercise, and make life-long relationships, there are so many opportunities available that a parent should be able to find a camp that suits your child's needs and wants.
It's important that you spend the time researching the multitude of camps available to match with your goals for camp and your child's maximum enjoyment.
Make sure that the goals of the selecting a camp are designed around the education, experience and enjoyment of the camper, not on the benefits that parent reaps while their kid is away at camp, because as American artist and performer Raymond Duncan once said, "A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp."