It’s one of our favorite times of year in the “off-season” — conference and networking season for camp owners and managers. As camp geeks we find these opportunities wonderfully enriching and fulfilling as we interact with other camps and their administrative staffs. It’s a time of new ideas, fresh thinking, and all-around renewal as we share the wealth of knowledge and experience in the camp world.
Recently, we (myself, Sam, Bonnie, Taylor, and Louise) attended the American Camp Association’s (ACA) Virginias Winter Conference, held again at the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. We’ll also all be attending the ACA National Conference in a week, taking place in Orlando. At that conference will be me, Sam, Bonnie, Taylor, and Garrett.
Florida you say? In this Arctic winter? That sounds nice just about now. Well right you are! So yes, we’ve tacked on a short family vacation. Matt and I are taking Mason to Disney World for the first time (I’ll tell you more about this when we come back, but look for photos on our Facebook page as we go through the conference 🙂
Also, I’ve long wanted to attend the annual Tri-State Camp Conference, held every year in Atlantic City in March. Everyone who attends says it’s such a great time and an amazing learning opportunity, but something always seems to come up for me. And this year seems to be no different. If you don’t know already, I’ve got a baby due in April. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to be gone this late in March, so I’ll have to try again next year.
As for the Virginias conference, which is a regionally-based ACA conference designed for camps in or near West Virginia and Virginia, we, of course, had a blast!
The keynote speaker was one of my all time favorite speakers, Scott Arizala, of The Camp Counselor (in a service he calls “counselor for the counselors).” I’ll be writing about that presentation in part two of this blog, on Friday.
Overall the theme of the conference seemed to be centered around Leadership Development.
I hold a position on the ACA Virginia’s Local Council of Leaders LOCL, (formerly just called the Board), and my position is actually the Leadership Development Chair. The LCOL had a meeting the day before the conference, that I was supposed to attend, but because Mason was sick I had to send my regrets.
But I sent my report ahead of time, and in it I included this article, “The number one reason leadership development fails”, (by Mike Myatt in Forbes Magazine), which outlines the differences between leadership training and leadership development. I hadn’t thought much about the difference before, but the more I considered Myatt’s case (that training is more about a top-down monologue while development is an ongoing process rooted in dialog between stakeholders). As Myatt writes,
Don’t train leaders, coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them, but please don’t attempt to train them. Where training attempts to standardize by blending to a norm and acclimating to the status quo, development strives to call out the unique and differentiate by shattering the status quo. Training is something leaders dread and will try and avoid, whereas they will embrace and look forward to development. Development is nuanced, contextual, collaborative, fluid, and above all else, actionable.
This is exactly what we want in our staff and what we want to cultivate for our growing young campers. I like the idea of “development” so much that I plan to switch my lingo permanently when referencing the Junior Counselor program at camp, as well as Upstarts, and all other leadership programs we have.
This makes me giddy, motivated and excited for another season at Camp Alleghany. And that is exactly what conferences are supposed to do.
Tune in on Friday for more news from the Virginias conference!
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls