June 29, 2017
Yesterday and today, we had a visitor. Sam Goodgame is the son of a dear family friend, Dan Goodgame. Dan was a Rhodes Scholar with my older brother and was one of the senior writers at Time before moving to San Antonio. His son Sam went to West Point, trained as a Ranger and served in Afghanistan. He is now finishing up a Masters degree in data science.
He is also one of the most personable and impressive young men I have ever met.
For years, the Goodgames have joined us for weekends at camp in the off-season. During these gatherings, Susie Ma’am and I would talk about our favorite topic: camp, our campers and our counselors. Sam said that he was tired of hearing about camp and promised to visit.
This was that visit.
He chose to visit on Wednesday for two reasons. First, he wanted to see a camp dance. Tropical Shirts and Poodle Skirts was a perfect opportunity.
But he also wanted to check out the weekly counselor meeting that happens after the dance. Once the dance is over, the counselors turn their cabins over to our leadership team and Senior Campers and come to the counselor lounge for the meeting.
I truly love our weekly meetings because they are a celebration of our community and reminder of why we do what we do.
Typically, camp meetings focus on logistics, instructions and admonishments. We, however, avoid details (which are communicated through written updates and divisional meetings) and constructive feedback (which is better given one-on-one). Instead, our meeting consists of three parts.
The first part is simply “shout-outs”, during which counselors compliment each other on examples of extraordinary counseling. The best shout-outs are specific and provide ideas for other counselors to make a bigger impact. For example, we heard some great ideas to make Nightly Rituals more poignant and ways to add zest to an activity that might be getting stale. We learned that several girl counselors are singing to their cabins at night.
These shout-outs create a positive and supportive environment in which our counselors know we want to catch them doing things right rather than doing things wrong.
The second part is three recognitions from the Leadership Team: the outstanding female counselor, the outstanding male counselor and the outstanding instructor for the week. These announcements are essentially super-charged shout-outs written in advance by a Division Leader or Department Head. Once again, we want to celebrate what is working and give examples of what we value.
Finally, we have 3 short speeches: one from a director, one from Susie Ma’am and one from me. Last night, Robbie reminder the counselors about the KEEESS to great activities (Knowledge, Enthusiasm, Engagement, Efficiency, Skills training and Safety) and Susie read a story about finding hidden talents.
I told them a story about going to a business school reunion. While there, my former classmates would ask me, “What is the best part of running a camp?”
I think they expected me to talk about the fun activities or the long “off-season”. [Note: there really is no off-season. We work on camp for 9+ months, including camper meetings, counselor recruiting and site improvements. In fact, I think the one question that camp professionals least like is “what do you do during your downtime”? as if we were all on a beach. Sorry for the rant.]
After thinking about this question, the answer became clear to me, “My favorite part of working at a camp is the fact the my children grew up thinking the world was full of fun, loving people who want to make s difference. Over the years, our counselors have been wonderfully positive role models to our 4 children.”
Now, three of our four kiddos are counselors themselves and are continuing the pattern of support and love.
So Sam came to camp to see this meeting. He was delighted. In fact, it gave him a lot to think about, so he went on a walk around camp and took some pictures that we think you will appreciate.