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My Fickle Friends - The Slushy Machines!

People often ask me, “What are the most important skills you need to be a good camp director?”

Some answers are obvious:

  • Caring about children
  • Focusing on safety in activities and in the living environment
  • Being patience
  • Understanding some basics of psychology for chidren and counselors
  • Being willing to embrace silliness when needed and seriousness when needed (and knowing when to be each)
  • Having a sense of humor

But one skill may not be obvious. It may not be a universally needed skill, but it is critical at Camp Champions for at least one person:

Slushy machine management.

The slushy machine is a volatile member of our household. It laughs at my attempts to understand its wily ways:

  • Q: Why does it occasionally stop working overnight? A: Hypotheses abound. Everyone has an opinion. It is like the question, “why does the shower curtain come into the bathtub”. I have heard at least 4 explanations of each, and I am fairly certain that all are not applicable.
  • Q: What flavors are most popular? A: Whichever ones I do not select. Previous preferences are no predictor of current preferences. If I put the most popular flavor into 2 bins, the campers will spontaneously change their minds. I respect the almost karmic-like element of this. That is a mystery for a greater mind.
  • Q: How do you assure that campers do not “raid” the machine at night? A: YES! This is one we figured out. We moved the machines inside (they had been on our upstairs deck). Sure, the floors might get sticky, but we do not wake to find that the supply is down.

This travails of the slushy machines must seem unworthy of worry, but it illustrates one of the oddest parts of being a director: on any given day, your responsibilities toggle between the mundane (slushies) to the profound (talking with high school students about having dominion over their phones) to the challenging (helping a cabin resolve a dispute).

In my previous jobs (in finance and consulting) there was no such variability. Every task was a 6-9 on a 10-point scale. Here, you can go from a “1” task, to a “10” task and then need to be silly all in just 30 minutes.

The only job that is comparable to it is being a parent - one moment you are comforting a sad child and then you are pretending to be a velosiraptor. The difference is that this family is bigger than most!

Steve Sir