The Blog of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen

Why we insist on 5 essential coaching skills at our summer camp in NH

Posted by Jason Sebell on Nov 18, 2015 9:10:00 AM

Yesterday, the head counselor at our summer camp for boys posted a blog about the 5 essential skills quality coaches use when communicating with their players. He actually wrote it on Friday, and I spent much of the weekend thinking about how insightful his ideas were. These 5 skills are a major reason that our coaches are able to help our athletes grow so much during our 7-week seasons.

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Topics: summer camp in nh, sports coaching, david walsh, 5 essential coaching skills

Interviewing counselors face-to-face, and a great UK Camp reunion

Posted by Jason Sebell on Jan 24, 2015 10:00:00 AM

In speaking with prospective parents we’re often asked the question so how do you find and interview your staff? It’s an important question, since our camp counselors, coaches and teachers are such a vital part of what makes the Kenwood and Evergreen experience so powerful. Thankfully, most of our counselor and specialty positions are already filled for this coming summer, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still interviewing lots of quality candidates.

Currently, our Program Director David Walsh is traveling to universities throughout the United Kingdom. As part of our interview process, it’s important that we have a chance to sit down, face-to-face, with the men and women who may become mentors and role models to our counselors. On this trip David has personally interviewed almost 100 candidates, and hired 9.

David has an incredibly good track record at hiring quality staff. It's really his specialty. Before he left I asked him to list some of the questions he asks that help him best understand the applicant he is reviewing. Here’s what he told me:

One of my favorite questions is, "tell me about a time when you have put other peoples needs before your own." It provides me with insight about how empathic they can be, and also if they grasp how crucial it is that this position requires them to put their campers’ needs first all summer long.

I also ask several hypothetical questions. What would you do if/when...? I try to use both situations that typical counselors will experience in and out of the bunk, and scenarios we have seen counselors respond to in less-than-favorable ways. As much as possible I try to ask hypothetical questions that require multi-tiered solutions, and where the preferred answer is not so obvious. Here’s a question that I always ask counselors interested in living and working within a cabin:

There is a new camper in your bunk who is struggling socially in the first few days of the summer. During activities he/she seems quite happy, but during unstructured time back at the cabin you can see that he/she seems disconnected from the other campers. As you are getting to know him/her better you also have observed that occasionally the camper does things in the cabin that the other campers don’t like, and this is causing friction between them. What could you do for this new camper, and what could you do to reshape the dynamic throughout the bunk? (I often then take this further by telling the applicant that his or her first ideas haven’t worked, and then challenge them to develop a more nuanced plan. I also ask them about how they would work with the many different personalities in the cabin, including the new and veteran campers, and even their co-counselor). I want to understand if this candidate can be a fully present leader and facilitator. 

With regards to our summer camp’s focus on teaching 21st century skills, I also go into great detail about what it means that we run an intentional community, and why these outcomes are so crucial for our campers and parents. Once I have explained how our campers need to experience growth in skills like leadership, problem solving, effective communication, and independence, I then ask the interviewee to help me understand how he or she will help our campers further develop their non-cognitive skills.

I'm not only looking for what skills and experiences they have, but I also have to gauge if they will be a good fit with our community. My mission is to find people who are kind, fun, safe, responsible, thoughtful, and honest, and I take the mission very seriously.

David also employs a multi-layered approach to his hiring process when he’s at universities and colleges. While he conducts the full face-to-face interviews, he brings along some of our most seasoned counselors that live in the area to help with the sorting process. At each UK fair this year he had experienced Kenwood and Evergreen counselors, specialists and unit leaders on hand to first meet our applicants. They helped to gauge if these young men and women had the requisite hard and soft skills to even warrant a sit down with David. Literally hundreds of young men and women never made it past this stage of our vetting process.

We can’t wait to meet the 9 general and specialty counselors that David hired during his UK travels! Every summer, some of our best, most creative, most nurturing, most dedicated staff hail from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales!!

One thing about our staff and alumni from the United Kingdom: they are incredibly passionate about our little summer camp in New Hampshire! This past Saturday more than 30 current and past K&E counselors gathered together for a night of celebration. Our UK Camp Reunion is now a major annual tradition, with people traveling hours and hundreds of miles to spend a night laughing and hanging with their Camp friends. As I look at the photos from this gathering – which I am so sad to have missed – I certainly see staff from 2013 and 2014, but also from almost a decade ago. I love that our camp community now extends all over the United States and the globe, and that it is just as powerful for those who didn’t join it until they were adults.  

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Topics: david walsh, interviewing, incredible staff

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