Continuing Education for Experienced Camp Pros - CampHacker #114

Podcast: Subscribe in  iTunes  |  Stitcher

Podcast: Subscribe in iTunes | Stitcher

Learn outside of camp, to lead at camp.

Following along with our last episode’s theme of learning, we wanted to bring this podcast episode to you at a time where you may be planning your professional development for the year. However, even if you aren’t, it’s never too early or late to start thinking about how to invest in your professional development.

Watch out though! It’s easy to get stuck in the camp body of knowledge when you’re trying to be better for your job and for your camp. It’s good to stay up to date with the latest in all things camp, but it’s important to think about reaching outside the industry as well. The best camp pros take inspiration from many places and if you’re Joe, Gab, and Travis, those places can get VERY cool!

Conferences or opportunities that the hosts talked about on this episode:

What do you consider professional development? Any wicked conferences to plug? Let us know in the comments!

Tool of the Week – Make Yourself a Better Camp Director

Travis:  Superfans by Pat Flynn

Gabz: DYI Standing Desk, or Top 5 Standing Desks

Joe: Photo Resize:

The Best Bedtimes - First Class Counsellors #6

Because bedtime is still program time.

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Welcome to episode 6 of First Class Counsellors!

We’re back with more First Class Counsellors! We’re borrowing some rent from the CampHacker Podcast for the start of this season, but we’ll be in our own space soon, so hang tight!

This is a Podcast by young Camp Pros for even younger Camp Pros. Camp Directors, these podcasts are meant for you to train your staff on the little things; the bits of common knowledge that you don’t have time to stuff into staff training, but wish you could.

This season, we are going to really focus in on tangible skills for camp counsellors. Transition times, making meals special, leading games, etc. Our goal is to take the best counselling tips that camp directors and leaders have gathered in their careers and give them away to camp counsellors, for free.

To start off this season, our hosts Matt Honsberger and Oliver Gregan discuss all things bedtime. New camp counsellors may have never had the experience of trying to get a kid to go to bed. Even if they have babysitting with one or two kids, counsellors are 100% in charge of getting 6-10 kids ready for, and in bed, happily, and on time.

It’s. Not. Easy. Let’s get learning!


As usual, we hope that what we offer to your staff is incredibly useful. If you do send this along, we would be happy to hear about it. Please let us know by emailing Matt at


Get Ready - Counsellors, do this NOW to level up your counselling skills

  • Oliver: Go offline for two whole days. No screens. Make sure its during normal life too, not on a weekend when you are going on a camping trip anyways. Try to see what it feels like when your campers do it. Journal about it for the three days, one for the day you have your phone back. 

  • Matt: Work on your bedtime routine. Figure out what works for you and how you can apply it to camp next summer

Host Links

What is First Class Counsellors?

Camp Directors, this Podcast won’t be for you. It’s time to delegate! First Class Counsellors will be for your counselling staff, or, the staff who are on the ground, playing with kids and changing lives.

Each week, we will hear from young camp directors and leaders to draw out practical and accessible tips that will level up their counsellor skills.

Our two hosts, Oliver Gregan, Summer and Families Camp Director at YMCA Camp Jewell and Matt Honsberger, Camp Director at Pearce Williams Summer Camp are excited to be able to provide this resource to camp counsellors and up and coming staff, who they believe, have the most important job at camp.

This is free professional development for your counsellors! We would love your feedback. Please leave your comments below, or, send Matt an email! Thank you!

Bonus Resource - Thanks for reading the show notes!

Matt and Oliver’s Bed-Time Routine for Counsellors

The Door

  1. Campers can’t open the cabin door

  2. Set the schedule, and time limits

  3. 5 min bunk time (When you first walk in)

    1. 5 minutes to shoes off, use the bathroom (if it’s in the cabin) drop your bag off at your bunk and then meet up.

    2. It’s important to take this time to collect yourself

  4. 3 Parts that can be interchangeable:

    1. Cabin chats

      1. Debrief the day, bad days can be improved, good days can be cemented

      2. Devotions or processing tools - Use adventure programming resources,

    2. Clean the bodies

      1. Shower schedule, Toothbrush chart with stickers, breath checks, change into Pjs 

      2. Matt - Pro-Tip, if you don’t have a bathroom in your cabin and have to transport get a cabin shower caddie with ziplock bags for toothbrushes and toothpaste especially.

    3. Structured unstructured time or ETB

      1. Card games, look them up on youtube. 

      2. Board games

      3. Never can tells

      4. Appropriate conversation

      5. Interacting with campers

  5. Nightly ritual - The in bed time

    1. Set it up and explain the why, 

    2. Song, book, short story, poem. Can be the same poem every night if you memorize it. Last 2-4 minutes. Campers know to be quiet, sometimes campers can do it.

  6. Flashlight time 

    1. : At a set time, everything is quiet, campers can read, or write a note or anything that doesn’t disturb others

    2. : This is a privilege and can be gained or lost

  7. Lights out

    1. This was set at the door, it does not change.

    2. Stay in the cabin until kids are asleep

Lessons Learned from Summer 2019 - CampHacker #113

Podcast: Subscribe in  iTunes  |  Stitcher

Podcast: Subscribe in iTunes | Stitcher

We are always learning.

We’re back! After another wonderful summer of camp, Travis, Gab, Dan and Joe are here for Season 9 of the CampHacker Podcast.

To get things started, our hosts share the biggest lessons that they learned from their 2019 camp season. That’s right, even these camp pros with over 50 years of combined experience are still learning. The best pros in the industry are the ones that are hungry for growth and one of the best ways to grow are from the hard-earned lessons that camp has a way of teaching us year after year.

Tune in to this episode hear more about:

  • Joe’s inspiration to teach people to have hard conversations and his experience touring East Coast United Church camps in Canada

  • How Gab and her team filled in when they (temporarily) lost 3 of their 4 admin team

  • Dan’s summer highlighting LGTBQ+ inclusion in the YMCA community and transition into a new role within the YMCA.

  • Mental health in staff and campers in a new generation

  • Much, much more!

Podcast Survey

As well: We wanted to share our first ever listener survey. We want to get to know you, the listeners a little bit better! If you can spare 4 minutes, please fill out the survey.

To say thanks, if you fill out the survey before October 15th, 2019, you'll be entered to win One Personal access to, for free, for life.

Head to

Thanks, pros, for helping us be better!

Tool of the Week – Make Yourself a Better Camp Director

Travis:  Franz app


Joe: Internet Archive - Joe’s Library - Canadian Camping Magazine Archive:

Dan: Originals book by Adam Grant

Your Hosts:

Rate and Review the CampHacker Show in iTunes 

(Thank you!)

Mental Health, Breaks and Self Care at Camp - First Class Counsellors #5

Easy ways to practice mental health and self care as a staff member at summer camp.

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Welcome to episode 5 of First Class Counsellors!

Camp Directors, this may be our best episode yet. If you’ve been waiting to send one to your staff, this is it.

Here’s why:

  1. We are talking about PRACTICAL, EASY ways for your staff to stay mentally healthy this summer.

  2. Dr. Deborah Gilboa (Dr. G) is our guest. If you don’t know her, Dr. G is a youth development and parenting expert who ALSO happens to be a long-time camper and camp staff member. Needless to say, she is AWESOME at what she does both in her practice and overall for the summer camp industry.

Okay, a bit more. On the fifth episode of First Class Counsellors, Oliver and Matt are joined by the ONE the ONLY, Dr. G to share some ways to help camp staff stay mentally healthy this summer. Dr. G, Matt and Oliver talk about not only why a place as great as camp can sometimes be a place of stress and anxiety, but what all camp staff can do to be resilient and re-focus on having the best summer of their lives.

Tune in to this episode to hear more about:

  • From a practical and clinical side, why is it important that camp staff be aware and take care of their mental health this summer while at camp?

  • When it comes to taking breaks DURING a camp session (an hour, or couple hours off, or a night if you’re a day camp staff), what are some great ways to effectively re-charge?

  • How about when it comes to taking breaks BETWEEN camp sessions, (weekends, change-overs, etc)?

  • What are some of the things that prevent us from being our mentally healthiest at camp? What are some ways to overcome those challenges?

  • Any last strategies, tools or things to keep in mind when it comes to being your mentally best at camp?


As usual, we hope that what we offer to your staff is incredibly useful. If you do send this along, we would be happy to hear about it. Please let us know by emailing Matt at



Check out Dr. G’s “Prescription for Preventing Stressed out Staff. Camp staff, talk to your directors about this and send them these links to check it out.

Watch the video here

Find out more here


Get Ready - Counsellors, do this NOW to level up your counselling skills

  • Oliver: Video tape yourself singing a camp song, have some friends help if its repeat after me. Send it to your camp director with the message “I am excited for camp.” Or even do a challenge 3 friends thing on social media. Send them to me too, I want to learn some new songs before summer.

  • Matt: Plan your own session and show your passions to the campers this summer! Feel free to use the session template that we use at Pearce Williams. - Download the template here

  • Dr. G: Think about how you are going to do on a “camp amount” of tech use in the summer. Turn on the functions on your device that tell you how much you’ve used certain apps and use that data to see where your coping strategies may be and how you may be able to turn them into camp friendly activities.

Host Links

What is First Class Counsellors?

Camp Directors, this Podcast won’t be for you. It’s time to delegate! First Class Counsellors will be for your counselling staff, or, the staff who are on the ground, playing with kids and changing lives.

Each week, we will hear from young camp directors and leaders to draw out practical and accessible tips that will level up their counsellor skills.

Our two hosts, Oliver Gregan, Summer and Families Camp Director at YMCA Camp Jewell and Matt Honsberger, Camp Director at Pearce Williams Summer Camp are excited to be able to provide this resource to camp counsellors and up and coming staff, who they believe, have the most important job at camp.

You can find our first episode and more about why we’re on the CampHacker feed here.

This is free professional development for your counsellors! We would love your feedback. Please leave your comments below, or, send Matt an email! Thank you!


Podcast Transcription

Intro:            This is First Class Counselors another other innovative podcast brought to you by Camp Hacker. First Class Counselors is dedicated to young, up and coming camp mavericks. By equipping and empowering your on the ground staff camp directors can rest easy knowing that our campers are having the true life changing experience that parents expect. Find our show notes and our blog for camp leaders and professionals at

Oliver:            Hello Camp Pros, this is Oliver Gregan summer and family camps director at YMCA Camp Jewel.

Matt:            And I'm Matt Honsberger camp director at Pearce Williams Summer Camp and retreat facility and you are listening to first class counselors a special series of the Camp Hacker Podcast

Oliver:            This series is for camp directors to give their counselors as they hire and prepare them for the upcoming summer.

Matt:            That's right because great camp directors know that counselors and frontline staff have the most important job at camp. They're the key to retention and a great counselor will have your campers coming back year after year.

Oliver:            Each episode we will meet with some all star camp staff and other special guests to give your counselors the tools to make this summer the best one yet. In today's show, we're going to be talking about breaks, self care and mental health tips for camp staff. Today, joining the conversation will be the wonderful Dr Deborah Goboa

Matt:            or Dr G. Dr g, welcome!

Dr. G:            Thanks you guys. I'm so excited for the conversation.

Matt:            Doctor G, can you, for the people who, the crazy people in the world who don't know you yet already, could you please share some stuff about you?

Dr. G:            Absolutely. I'm a family doctor and I'm a parenting and youth development expert and I'm myself, a former day camper, overnight camper day camp counselor, overnight camp counselors, unit head, leadership staff, camp parents of day and overnight campers and now the parent of an overnight camp counselor for the first time this summer. I'm also the medical director of an overnight camp in Wisconsin.

Oliver:            Yeah. I got to say right off the bat, I'm very excited to have you on the show Dr G, my camp staff idolizes you. and when I got to announce to them that I was going to be doing a podcast with you today and everyone was like, can I sneak in? And then I'm like, nope, I'm closing the door.

Dr. G:            Hahaha. That's awesome.

Oliver:            So we have a great guest with us today and we're really excited to talk to you guys about our conversation, which are these breaks, this mental health and the self care that you as a counselor are going to need this summer. So I think, I haven't heard every single camp director start off a training with summer is a marathon, not a sprint. It's line most of them use, and it's pretty true and it shows how hard camp can be. Physically, it's pretty obvious on your feet, its the hot sun, the kids have boundless energy. These are common things that we know happen at summer camp. However, mentally it's another matter. Many staff don't know or they struggle with the role of being a role model. The expectations is that you're supposed to be the perfect version of yourself. Always honest, always responsible, always patient. And it can get exhausting. So we're calling in Dr. G for help and we're going to see some ways that we can improve our mental health lower camp with these breaks and our staff care.

Matt:            That's right. So in this episode we're going to, our first four episodes of First Class Counselors we went on for a long time and we shared some great stuff. We want to keep this quick and dirty and practical for all of you. We'll get to the point, but if you want to hear more, you can always email us or get in touch. We'll cover how to get in touch with people in the show notes, but we want to get started right away. Oliver, Dr. G, let's do it let's do it!

Oliver:            Yeah. First off, Dr G, you ready?

Dr. G:            Yes.

Oliver:            Okay. So from a practical and clinical side, why is it important that camp staff be aware and take care of their mental health this summer while at Camp?

Dr. G:            One of the amazing things about the relationship that counselors get to have with campers is that they're what's called near peer mentors, which means counselors are usually somewhere between 5 and 10 years older then the campers they're responsible for and campers really respond to that age difference and that relationship. Whatever, as a counselor, your life is like the rest of the year when you're with your group at camp, you're the coolest person in the room. You're the person that your campers are watching or paying attention to what you're doing and they're most likely to come to you and tell you true, important things that they 've rarely talked to other people about. Also, you're going to notice stuff that they're dealing with. You're going to notice what's uncomfortable for them, what's stressful, what's scary, what's sad, what's amazing and joyful, and you're going to spend a lot of your time helping them to navigate those things and appreciate those moments and and feel better and do better. That work can take a great deal out of you. It can add a great deal to you as well. It can be wonderful, but just like for your campers, even the joys can be a little bit exhausting or overwhelming. Also as a counselor, the work that you do, the stuff that feels great and the stuff that feels draining all takes a toll on you. And if you want to be able to do that in week 7 with the same excitement and fervor and ability that you did in week 2, that will not happen unless you take care of yourself. And, and this is the other reason that as a parent of campers really want counselors to know this, they're watching that part too. They're watching that you don't just say self care is important, hydration is important, sleep is important, smiling and laughing is important, being mindful is important, but you actually do it.

Matt:            And I would say that if, if you're a camp director and listening to this episode that same thing is so important that the counselors and the frontline staff, they're watching you too and the leadership team, they're watching, they're watching how you interact with yourself and how you take care of yourself. So yeah, setting the standard is huge there.

Dr. G:            It's absolutely true. Travis Allison has been saying to us all year, you are always teaching. Every person at camp is teaching whether they mean to be or not. So we should keep in mind that everyone we interact with is not just looking to see how we take care of them, but also how we take care of ourselves.

Speaker 4:            So how do you bluntly tell that to a staff member? Say, at staff training, because they come in with such high expectations of what they're going to be capable of and then they get hit with all of this information at once of what they have to do and how we have to be. And then they try to maintain that. So how do you give the information to them right off the bat?

Dr. G:            There are a bunch of different ways that we let people know besides modeling, which we've already mentioned, but making sure, and I would encourage anybody who's listening, who supervises, any staff to make sure that we're asking people, hey, what's your plan for self care? What is it that you're thinking you're going to do? You know, if you're at the pool or at the lake this summer, what's the schedule look like? And when people rotate off of life guarding, what are they doing for 25 minutes so that when they go back out into the sun or the drizzle to watch those kids, they actually have the focus and the attention. What's the plan, full idea for recharging during their time, not in one of the lifeguard chairs.

Oliver:            Yeah. I love that. It's a plan that even when you're taking that break, you've got to have a plan. It's not just, you know, what do I do now? I have 15 minutes. It's cool, I have my 15 minutes coming up, what am I going to do now that I have that time? So when it does come to that time and you're taking breaks during the camp session this is that hour off that you have, or maybe it's the evening campers are asleep. What are some great ways to effectively recharge?

Dr. G:            Anytime you read an article about how to recharge, they tend to give suggestions that require either electronics, which isn't a great option. It most camps because Wifi is poor or because we don't want counselors to always be on devices or are they suggest going and doing something. G,,oing and having a cup of coffee, going and getting a massage. So those are things not available to us at camp and when I work with camp staff, they often say to me at training, well I can't do any of the self care stuff. I would say camp is a fantastic place to recharge. If you can take even 10 minutes to, well one of the best ways to recharge is to play and there are kids playing all the time. So getting your heart rate up and getting out of your head can be as simple as going out and playing tag with a bunch of kids or tetherball or getting in the pool and swimming a few laps or just horsing around a little bit in a fun way. And if you're someone who needs to recharge without kids on you, then it's really okay to go and go behind, you know, go somewhere that's a kid free zone for a little bit during that time to recharge. And do the things that are meaningful to you to do a little bit of yoga, do a little bit of deep breathing or read a book you really like or page through a magazine you really enjoy. Nature is a fantastic way that people recharge and calm down. And at camp we're surrounded by nature. So one of the things I really encourage staff members to do before they get to camp, whether it's day camp or overnight camp, is to figure out what their positive coping strategies are, now. I actually have an exercise for staff to do where you make a list of all of your coping strategies when you feel stressed or uncomfortable, then narrow it down to the positive coping strategies and then circle all the ones that you think you could do at camp. It could be knitting, it could be exercise, it could be music, creating music, singing music, listening to music. It could be talking to someone who's important to you. There's lots and lots of different things that we do already. Every person listening to this is an expert in their own stress management. The question is again, being intentional about making sure we've thought ahead, what can I do at camp.

Oliver:            So I like how you can separate kind of saying there's two ways to get some great mental health at Camp and one of them is play, go out there and do something and the other is separating yourself from what's going on and then list out all those different ways that work. So something that I always find surprising is whenever I say well go play with the kids during your break, my staff come back to me and say, well that's my job. Why would I do that during my break? Why do you think playing with those kids during that break time is so beneficial mentally for that staff member?

Dr. G:            It is only beneficial for some people if someone feels like that isn't a break. What I want is to not have people being like, hey Oliver, Oliver watch me do this, or Oliver check this out what do you think about that? Right. If that feels like, wow, that's no kind of recharging time for me, then it's totally reasonable to take that break. But if you can remind yourself why you thought a job at Camp would be fun in the first place. It's often about playing with the kids, not trying to get them to move from one place to another, remember their towels and their water bottles and their hats, but actually just be silly or just be running or just be kicking a ball or just be playing - jump rope, jacks... anything. And that reconnecting to play for someone who's willing to try that as one of their recharging self care experiences. You might find that not only does it recharge you, it makes you more excited to go back to work because you remember what you do like about this.

Speaker 4:            Yeah, I think the, I love that idea of going to play with those campers just because in that moment you may not actually have to be the primary supervisor during that time. So play could be your focus, which I think really helps you.

Dr. G:            I think it's a good example is someone whose life guarding at the water versus someone who takes part of their break to get in the water and play.

Oliver:            Okay, so Matt, do you have any kind of points to answer this as well?

Matt:            Yeah, I'll, I'll give two quick ones. One, we any break time at Pearce Williams whether it be an hour or a night off, not weekends, but we call that self care time. And we really have kind of taken that brand to remind staff members that self care is so broad, whatever you can do to help yourself feel full and nourished for going back. And I love the idea that Dr G shared about sharing your positive coping strategies. Another tool. Oh, sorry, the other thing was that I asked our staff members prepping for this podcast, I said, what is a proven way that you can spend an hour off and feel fully refreshed? And the vast majority of them, I would say over 80% said shower. So just as a quick tip, a shower can really wash off all the bad vibes. And then if you're looking for something more private and mental to do something that helps me stay my best at camp is keeping a gratitude journal. It doesn't have to be anything formal. Just a little, a small notebook that I keep in my desk and I pull out and write down 10 things, 5 things, 1 thing, sometimes you can like go through the alphabet and say, hey, I'm grateful for the apples we had at dinner or something like that. It's amazing what gratitude can do to help lift your mood and get you to a new place. What about you Oliver?

New Speaker:            Oh I talk about kind of taking on the task that you don't have to think about as much. So it might be going like randomly breaking some leaves on camp or going to the office and ask if you can stuff some envelopes. But these kind of easier tasks that you don't need to be making decisions for or be concerned about somebody else's welfare, but maybe necessarily don't have to be finished by you. You can do them until you feel, oh, cool. I feel better now. But you've helped somebody else out along the way and they don't feel betrayed if you don't finish, they're just happy they got a little bit of help. For me that's always something refreshing because I mean, as a director we make decisions all the time, it's nice to do a task that doesn't require the decision making process. So Dr. G if I move on to the next question, how about when it comes to taking breaks between camp sessions? So this isn't the hour break, but this is the weekends and the changeovers inbetween when campers are on camp and you get some time off of camp,

Dr. G:            This is a really important thing and actually for any counselors for listening to this before summer starts, I want to encourage you to think about this also for the break that you have from whenever you finish your school, your obligations, whatever that might be and when you start camp. Because that idea of taking time to recharge and refresh in the middle or before something that is going to be challenging can be really difficult, especially for the kind of high achieving people that often work at camp. We tend to pack our schedules and I've seen it so many times, the counselors get to staff training tired. They had to fit an entire summers worth of family visits or prepping for something for the next school year into just a few weeks or even just a few days where they have that time on the weekend between sessions or every weekend for day camp counselors where they feel like, gosh, there's things I ought to be doing, or people I ought to be seeing. And I want to very much encourage counselors to be choosy and really possessive of that time. That is the time that's going to allow you to catch up on sleep and to do the things that make you feel full, that make you feel ready for challenge. And when you get pushback from people who are important to you, whether they're friends or a partner or your family, I want you to remember that you can, with gratitude for them wanting to be with you, remind them that you want the same thing they want, which is for you to be able to do your job well and also be a whole person for them. And so to do that, you have to protect some of your time and be really intentional about the time that you do spend giving to others on your time off.

Oliver:            Such a great point. Matt, you actually wanted to talk a little bit about that time as well, as far as reconnecting with loved ones, right?

Speaker 5:            Yeah, I think it Dr. G's advice there is so important there if not like over programming yourself. But it's a great exercise to kind of like narrow down who are your core relationships, who are those people that you don't get to spend as much time as you would like to during the summer, but that are the most important to you. So for me, that's my partner. So I know that between camp sessions, I'm going to go home and spend relaxing time with the person that I care about the most. And my friends know by now, I've been doing this for a couple of years now and they know that, you know, I'm not as available in the summer and that's okay. But the ones that I care about the most, I'm going to fill my bucket and fill my time with the person that does that the most where there's no social pressures, you can just fully be yourself. You can talk about camp or you can not talk about camp and it's all good. That helps me feel the most refreshed and be ready and then also keeps some of those most important relationships going over the busyness of the summer.

Oliver:            I think being with those loved ones, especially if they are a little bit out of camp, you can have discussions about camp with them and if it matters or not, it doesn't because they may not know what you're talking about, but at least they're there to listen to you and you know, you can vent a little bit and not have to have any repercussions for that. Yeah. I like to take international staff or first year camp staff when I was a counselor off of property to do something fun like I'd show off my hometown or we'd go to an aquarium or a zoo or something just so that they had a little bit more experience because I always saw them stuck on camp and I didn't want to leave them there. And it gives me a little bit of time to reconnect with something that I really care about. So if they're willing to come. I mean, I got four seats in my car and we can go on a little bit of an adventure that isn't too crazy. So what are some things that prevent us from being our mentally healthiest self at camp and what are some ways we can overcome those challenges?

Dr. G:            I see that there are really two problems that most staff run into because of the intensity and the importance of the relationships that they have with campers and other staff. And that is most camp counselors have an abundance of empathy, which is such an amazing, giving trait. But if you don't make sure empathy with a little bit of Teflon. Teflon being that stuff that's on cooking pans, that doesn't allow stuff to stick and burn on. If you don't mix your empathy with a little bit of that Teflon, then every difficulty that you helped someone else with can stick to you a little bit and drag your drag your mental health down. And so knowing how to listen to someone else with a little bit of objectivity to figure out, first of all, how worried do I need to be about this person and should I take this up the chain and get someone with more expertise or more experience to help me help this person? And how do I listen and help this person without having the same reaction to it that they're having.

Oliver:            So that communication is really important then?

Dr. G:            The communication is really important. And remembering that, listening to someone, someone you care about, tell you about what is making them feel embarrassed, ashamed, hurt, angry, frustrated, sad. You can do that and help them without also feeling that kind of embarrassed, hurt, frustrated or sad or angry with them. Empathy doesn't mean feeling the exact same thing with the exact same intensity and it often doesn't help someone if they also make you feel terrible.

Matt:            I think that's huge because it reminds me of of there's that classic Brene Brown saying that it's, empathy is like looking at somebody whose in a hole you don't go down into that hole unless you know, you have the skills to get back up as well.

New Speaker:            Right. Which is absolutely the second problem, which can be, it happens so often as counselors that we meet people or take care of people at camp, whether they're campers or staff who are experiencing something we actually have experienced and it's too easy to get pulled back to that point of feeling 9 or 12 or 18 going through that moment when we did. And that sort of regression, that sort of experience of past trauma all of a sudden can make it very hard to then get up and do your job as if you didn't just feel all those things. And at that moment, if you realize that you're talking to someone about an experience, that's enough, like you went through that it's really affecting you, that's another time to collaborate with another staff person.

Oliver:            Okay. Yeah, that was perfect. So Matt, what about you? What is something that's preventing staff from being mentally healthier camp?

Speaker 5:            Yeah, I think someone posted the other day in the summer camp professionals group what training do you want to give your staff before they come to camp? And I think one of the things I suggested I said like Improv training as a bit of a joke, but also I think problem solving training is something that prevents not just our frontline staff, I think everybody from being their mentally healthiest. When we take a problem and we bottle it up or we take our frustrations and bottle it up, that's when resentment starts to build. And that's when trust and empathy and relationship starts to completely deteriorates. The, the other side of that is if you're venting that on people, if you're venting it sideways to your coworkers, you're gossiping and you're potentially talking about people behind their backs. It's causing drama. And every camp director in the world hates that kind of drama. We love music and drama and we hate that kind of drama. So the solution to that in my mind is what we tell our staff at Pearce Williams is go to the person that can directly solve your problem. Go to somebody that can help. And we want to be very clear in our staff training about who that person is. Everybody has a person at camp. We've set up our staffing team specifically for that a counselor knows who to go to and who the backup person is. If they can't go to that person for some reason. So make sure you as a counselor listening to this, make sure you know that support structure and who your go to person that can actually make a change because if you're just complaining to someone that's not solving your problem, you're just hijacking someone else and offloading your problems onto them.

Oliver:            Of course. Yeah. My advice today is to make sure that they're planning those breaks. But Dr. G already talked about that. So I'm only three questions behind her. But yeah, Dr. G, are there any last strategies or tools or things to keep in mind when it comes to being your mentally best at camp?

Dr. G:            Yeah, I think that one of the best things to remember is that when someone brings you anything that is not a matter of life or death, right. That's like, hey, can I talk to you for a minute? That's something we hear all the time at camp, whether it's a camper or another staff person. If you can't, either if you're in the middle of something that's really genuinely important or if you're feeling to yourself that feeling of, ugh, I really am not sure I can hear one more difficult thing right now. It's actually okay to say, could we talk about it in a little bit and make an appointment, and I know it sounds crazy to say make an appointment at camp, but at overnight camp, a lot of those, can I talk to you for a minute come when someone's just exhausted, right? Late at night or just at bedtime. If you have the sense that this conversation is going to be the straw that breaks your back or the back of the person who wants to talk to you, it can be really helpful to remember that. You can say no. You can either say no, but let me get you to someone you can talk to you right now. Or no, I actually can't do a great job of this the way I would like to right now, but I can in an hour, I can tomorrow after breakfast I can at rest hour. Now I have some tools for people to know if there are yellow flags in front of them and it really can't wait, but if they can wait, it's OK to let it wait. People at camp are so used to saying yes that we forget that sometimes when we say no to something we're saying yes to something more important.

Matt:            Dr. G would you mind sharing some of those yellow flags? I think, you know, we want to be direct and quick and to the point of blah blah blah, but we want to hear what you have to say. Could you tell us some of those yellow flag strategies?

New Speaker:            Yeah and I'm a little worried I'm going to forget a couple in the resources that I developed, but the few things that you really need to do if you're looking at someone and trying to figure out if what you're looking at is an emergency or not, then there are a few things to keep in mind. One is everything you can see in this person right now, listen with your eyes, not just your ears, so you're listening to their tone of voice, the stress level in their voice, the volume of their voice, their eye contact, their body language. Then everything you know about this person in the past day, we'll really look at this camper or the staff member and think, have I noticed today that you weren't participating in the way you normally do or you weren't laughing the way you normally do or you weren't where I expected you to be? Those are reasons to be a little bit more worried. And then in the bigger picture, I just want to say if you're ever not sure your job is to recruit someone with more experience and expertise, then you. If you feel like this might be, and this is an old phrase, but above your pay grade, if you're like, this might be bad and I don't know, every camp in the world would rather you checked in with somebody with a little bit more expertise about it and just said, I don't know if I should be worried about this person, but I think maybe we should be.

Oliver:            How about with someone checking in on themselves? So having that self awareness to go up and say, I think I need that break. How do you encourage them? What's a tool that they can use to make sure that they're going forward to say, you know, I think that this point, my self evaluation of myself as I need to check in with somebody.

Dr. G:            Oh, that's a fantastic question. It's such, we encourage so much at camp people bragging about how little sleep they've gotten, bragging about how hard they're working and sort of martyring ourselves and that doesn't actually, I know that's a big part of camp culture, but it doesn't serve our kids and it doesn't serve us because it becomes really difficult to do the same great job in week seven as we did in week 2 when we do that. So what you have to be an expert in is own stress management, not just your positive coping strategies, but also your warning signs. And I think it's incredibly responsible and mature to let your staff person, your supervisor know and say, hey, just like a heads up and I hope that they'll think to ask you, but if it doesn't work out or you don't know that there are crystal clear to say, just a heads up, if you hear me like I don't know one possible thing, if you hear me swearing inappropriately, it probably means I am too tired or too stressed. That might be one person's yellow flag to themselves. You are an expert in your own mental health and everybody's going to be looking out for everyone the best they can, but nobody is psychic. So if there is any hint that you can pass on to the people around you so that they can keep an eye on you, I promise they want to, we all want to help each other be the best versions of ourselves at camp.

Oliver:            Yeah, I love that you addressed that stigma, that a lot of camps havet, you know, everyone has to be a martyr. I have to prove I'm working the very hardest out of every counselor on camps and it almost becomes competitive to who can be the greatest martyr if there ever was at their respective camps. Matt, what about you? What's a strategy that you want to bring to the table.

Matt:            Well I just have two quick, quick and dirty tips. I loved all those brilliant things about yellow flags and have a check in on yourself. These are just two things I know that works for me, take it or leave it. One is laying in the grass Oliver, I saw you, you wrote in your show notes earlier. That is like my go to as well, just like laying face up, face down, just chilling in the grass, watch out for ticks, of course. But just relaxed and chilling in like the grass and looking at clouds is one of my happy places. And also hammocks are my happy place as well. We were working really hard to build a hammock village at Pearce Williams for the summer and I've just been like the biggest trumpeter of that because hammocks are my go to. I don't think you can be upset in a hammock. I don't think it's actually scientifically possible. I'm not a doctor, Dr. G but that's, that's my theory at least.

Dr. G:            I think that's worth a research study.

Matt:            Yeah. Oh, Oliver, what about you?

Oliver:            For me it's, we always think that we have to be on all the time. So if I'm working, I have to be with my cabin of kids and I think that's really important. You want to spend time with your kids, you don't want to be that counselor who is always going off to do another task. But if you're doing an activity where there's a program instructor there, so there's already a counselor plus your co, then there's no issue with you taking say 15 minutes to go and do another task for your cabin. Maybe it's prepping the next activity. Maybe it's, you know, going back to the cabin and cleaning something that needs to get ready. But it gives you that 15 minutes away from being on and always having to be that supervisor. So just kind of divide and conquer. I do suggest that you don't leave for the entirety of that activity. You don't want to miss that experience with your kids, but there's no reason why you have to always be invested 24/7. With that being said, make sure you talk to your co counselor before, just ditching out on the activity and don't always be the person who ditches out on the activity, give your co the chance to go and prep something as well. That's kind of like my little bit of advice there for a strategy.

Dr. G:            you just made me realize guys that I think that some camp counselors get some recharge time when they're one on one with a camper and some do better when they're in a structured activity with a group of campers. So knowing which kind of counselor you are helps guide those moments where one kid needs to go to the health center or a whole group of kids just want to go and play tetherball knowing which is going to be more relaxing for you and communicating that clearly with your co's. You may find you're with the other kind of counselor and it works out really well for both of you.

Oliver:            Yeah, it is brilliant. One of the things I ask in all my interviews is, with counselors, who do you work well with? What type of person is your, is your match to work with? And most of my counselor saying the opposite of me, I'm looking for someone who can cover my weaknesses. So when you're a director and you're pairing the co's, or a leadership staff member, maybe it's a good idea to pair them opposites so that you know, you can't have that one counselor who's really good one on one and that one who's really good with having a group activity going on. So, uh, unless anybody else has anything else to add, that's all of our questions. So Matt, can you run us through the highlights of our show?

Matt:            Okay. I will try my best. There's so much brilliant stuff. Um, okay. So we talked at the very start about why it's important to keep your mental health and mind well while being at camp. And Dr. G shared that we have that unique ability to be close, closest in age to our campers. That's a lot of responsibility, but it's one of the biggest opportunities that we have, but it can be stressful and we have to remember that campers are watching us take care of ourselves too. And we're always teaching. We're always role modeling that. Some things that you can do to get ready for camp ahead of time is take your list of coping strategies, take out the bag, and keep the good ones that you can do while you're at camp because those ones that you are the expert when it comes to your personal mental wellness. So make sure you bring those positive strategies to camp. When you're at camp, when you're taking that hour off or the 15 minute break. Going back to that list of positive coping strategies. You can do some mindfulness tasks. You can help out with some mindless tasks in the office, stuffing envelopes, raking leaves between sessions. You can, keep in mind so this is when you're on the weekend or a day off between camps. Just don't be pressured to overschedule yourself. Don't be a people pleaser. Spend time with only the people you cherish most and be very, very vigilant about saying no to the things that are going to tire you out for the next session. When you're in the moment and you are kind of keeping in mind your mental health as you go be careful of not letting stuff stick to you too much. Dr. G shared the Teflon Metaphor. Don't let things stick onto you if you're not ready to emotionally deal with it in that moment. Make sure that you are well enough to move forward as well. Don't be afraid to be an expert problem solver. Go to people that can help solve your problems because that's going to make the situation better and keep the camp community in mind. And finally, in our little bits of tips and tricks, we said that it's okay to ask for a minute. Take a break if you need it in those times, if you need to step out for a second, make sure that things are covered and you've asked for permission. But it's okay to do that. It's also okay to ask to say no or to reschedule someone when they ask you to take a minute. Because if you think the situation is going to get worse, you know, 9 times out of 10, it can wait that little bit longer or you can pass it off or pass it off to someone who can help solve their problems as well. As well don't be a martyr. Don't take pride in how tired you are. We're all tired, we're all dirty, we're all sweaty. It's not a competition. And also just know your triggers. And if you're comfortable with knowing the things that can kind of set you off or really drain you share the behaviors that you show when you're in that moment. So if you are a swearer or if you are a face talker, if people can see it in your face go to a trusted person that can help you with that. Hammocks are good, grass is good. And do what you need to do to get the energy you need to be great with kids.

Oliver:            Perfect.

Dr. G:            Wow, that was a marathon too.

Matt:            One breath.

Oliver:            Awesome. While you take a breath, Dr. G and I can start the get ready section. So this is a time where we let counselors know what they can start doing right now in order to get ready for summer. So Dr. G, what's something that a counselor should be starting right now? It's before summer, you got maybe two months before everything kicks off. What do you think counselors should be doing?

Dr. G:            I'm going to give you a challenge and this is something you can do without making a change. It's just gathering information. Pretty much every adult these days uses technology in one way or another to recharge. It might be checking your in notifications, snapchat, whatever it is, but since that isn't a coping mechanism that's nearly as available during camp or might not be available at all during camp, I want you to start to think about how you're going to transition to a camp amount of tech use, but you don't need to start that transition yet. All I want you to do on the next week is to turn on the apps on your devices that will let you know how many hours a day you're using it now so that you'll have a good understanding and assessment of how much you use this now. And then you can look at where you need to get to and come up with a slow plan for change. Because for most people, a slow transition is much easier than a startling one.

Oliver:            Oh yeah, that's perfect. There's so much stuff going out there now about technology and how everyone uses it before coming to camp and out of, you know, have technology at camp and not have it at camp. So that's fantastic to talk about getting ready for what it's going to be like here. Matt, what do you got for us as far as a getting ready?

Matt:            Yeah, for sure. I, uh, just, uh, a thing that is really useful for us at Pearce Williams, we do what's called passion sessions and the majority of our camp sessions, like, we don't have a high ropes course, we don't have a lake and we're not going to have those things. But one of the great things about Pearce Williams is that the staff runs sessions based on what they're passionate about. So we, we take a lot of pride in that and that's some prep work that our counselors and our staff, everybody does their own sessions. So what I'm going to share in the show notes of this episode, you can find at Is a session template. It's the passion session template that we use. And I would encourage you, if you have the brain space and you have the time, plan, a passion session! For me, I love Disc Golf or Frisbee Golf or whatever you call it in the states. It's, it's one of my favorite pastimes and I want to bring it to camp. We don't have the money to spend on nets and stuff like that. So I wrote a camp friendly disc golf session. And you'll see that in the session planning package, once you head to the show notes. So plan your own session, run it the summer, your director will be delighted to see you taking that kind of initiative.

Oliver:            Talking about an initiative that directors would like to see. That's kind of what my get ready is. I'm saying, take your phone, put in front of you. You can be in a car, you can be in your room, you can go outside, but videotape yourself singing a camp song, one of the classics or uh, maybe one that's just for your camp. Record yourself and then challenged three other friends to do it. Send it to them, send it to your camp director and just have the note underneath that says, I'm excited for camp. It will get everyone in the mood to get ready for camp and hopefully it will take off. And then eventually all the summer camps in all of Canada and America and everywhere else, we'll start having all these videos going up of different camp songs and we can challenge each other to keep singing.

Matt:            Oh, that is so good. I love that. Perfect, so that is it for our show this week. We hope that you found some inspiration in this, but before we go we just wanted to give a chance if you want to get in touch with us or send us an email or follow up on some of the things that we talked about. We want to give some space for all of us to share that. Dr. G, you're doing something really cool right now that I was hoping you would spend some time talking about. Would you mind sharing?

Dr. G:            Absolutely. This year at conferences, when I heard more than anything from camp directors was looking for new resources to help staff have stronger mental health, more resilience. And I know that camps are already working hard to incorporate this in staff training and keep an eye on each other. But the truth is, if that were enough, people wouldn't be saying to me, what else can we do? And it is the largest issue our society faces as we strengthen the next generation is helping people between the ages of 16 and 24 to be resilient and have strength in their mental health. Whatever their mental health challenges are, to have the resources they need to do the things they want to be able to do and we want them to be able to be fantastic counselors. Camps are looking for these resources and what I've created is a bundle of 22 different resources that is meant to be a buffet. Not that I think anyone day or overnight camp is going to look at my day camp bundle or my overnight camp bundle and say, Oh yeah, I have time and bandwidth to do all 22 things, but you know your staff the best and your culture the best. I want people to have all of these resources available and pick what makes the most sense. No one resource takes more than six minutes to digest. There are videos, there are worksheets, there are activities, there are games. There's also a vital sign check in so that we can keep better track of the mental health of our staff on a weekly or even every few day kind of basis. There's a help me get to know you form for supervisors to give to their front line staff to find out just some of the things you guys were talking about, like what kinds of supervision works for you? Who do you work well with? What do you really admire in other people? How will I know if you're stressed? Is there anything going on in your life you'd like to know about? Is there anything about my supervisory strategies that you'd like to know about. That we can use. I took the straight from corporate HR to have more successful relationships and help people be ready for whatever their next job is in really powerful ways. So I hope that people let me know if this might be useful to them. I'd be really happy to talk to anyone about it. And there are, there's a discount until early May. But either way I think this is going to be something that's affordable and useful for not just staff training but also before staff comes to camp and throughout the summer.

Matt:            Oh man, that's awesome. And if you're a camp counselor, listening to this and you're like, man, I can't afford that. Talk to your directors. If they don't know Dr. G, I mean, first of all they should, but you can have them listen to this podcast if they didn't listen to it themselves. And if the things that Dr. G talked about here are only like a snippet of the amazing things that I'm sure in that resource then it sounds like a worthwhile investment every way across the board. Dr G if people want to get in touch to ask about that or anything else, what's the best way they can get in touch with you?

Dr. G:            The best way to get in touch with me is email But you have to spell out the word doctor. So ask d o c t o r

Matt:            Amazing. That is so great. Dr. G, thank you so much for being with us on the show today.

Dr. G:            Thanks you guys. I think you're absolutely right that this is an incredibly important conversation and that every person will do their job better if they feel well supported.

Matt:            That's great.

Oliver:            Perfect. Thank you so much for being on the show Dr. G, I'm gonna bragging about this with friends for I don't know how long, probably the rest of my life. If you did enjoy today's show, we'd be so grateful if you could head over to wherever you've got this podcast and leave us a review, especially on iTunes. And don't forget that you can find the links and show notes for us at,

Matt:            We wanted to take a second to thank Travis the executive producer and head honcho over at Camp Hacker and Go Camp Pro for providing the space for Oliver and I to do this and making that connection with Dr. G. That's awesome. And we also want to thank you, our listeners, whether you are a front line staff or you're a camp director, listen to this. We want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do that. We know that life is crazy and it's almost May and etc, etc.. But you took the time to invest in yourself and your staff and we think that is incredible.

Oliver:            So thank you counselors and thank you staff. I thank you for everyone listening and for all the good work that you guys do. And remember, camp is camp and camps all good.

Speaker 3:            First Class Counselors is brought to you by Beth and Travis Allison summer camp leadership training and marketing consultant. Thanks for listening, friends.

Speaker 5:            Hey camp pros, we love that our industry is built on sharing in order to foster that spirit, we hope that whenever you share an idea that you learned from the Camp Hacker, podcast, conference, summer camp professionals group, or wherever else, that you're quick to give credit where credit is due. That way we can all encourage more camp pros to share the tips and tricks that will make camp better.