Swim Camp Counseling 101: A Crash Course to Your Best Summer Yet

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Photo Courtesy: Robert Williams

By Daniela Navarrete, Swimming World College Intern.

As younger swimmers, most of us had a blast while attending summer swim camps. You make new friends and get to splash around under the sun while learning about the sport you love. But when we grow up as high school or college swimmers, we tend to lose sight of the fun and original love we had for the water. We put our heads down and train with our teams, take summer classes, and work. We embrace the grind.

But there is an option that can renew your love for the water, all while having a blast and adding some coaching experience under your belt. Have you ever thought of working as a swim camp counselor during the summer?

Yes, you are going to be responsible for the health and safety of several energetic kids in the job. But in the end, they will turn into many little brothers and sisters. The role of a swim camp counselor is a fun and rewarding way to give back and earn more than just income.

Skills Learned

Before Camp

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Photo Courtesy: Pexels, Pixabay

Most camps require prospective counselors to fill out an application and answer some questions about past swimming or teaching experience. Camps want the best faces to represent their organization and the sport. Then, those in charge of hiring camp staff will schedule an interview to get to know you better.

During your interview, they gauge your emotional quotient (EQ)―the ability to manage behavior, identify and express emotions. As you go through this process, you are introduced to the challenge of completing job applications. You haven’t even started, yet you are already gaining skills for future jobs! 

Regardless of your college major, being a swim camp counselor overall encourages you to develop marketable skills in addition to relational skills. As a counselor, your main role is to take care of and develop children. Therefore, your interpersonal abilities are essential to both yours and the children’s success throughout the camp experience.

During and After Camp

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Photo Courtesy: Matheus Araujo

Mitchell Hovis, current swimmer and Bio/Education major at the University of Wyoming worked at his college’s camp for the first time this year. As he hopes to become a successful high school science teacher one day, Hovis is grateful for the skills this experience has given him. “I learned different techniques on how to get the attention of large groups of kids. Also, I worked on how to best approach learning situations. As a result, the kids understood exactly what it was we were trying to get them to learn,” he says.

Current varsity swimmer for the University of Houston and 2014 Central American Games bronze medalist for Team Mexico, Gaby Jimenez shares how leadership is a skill she has been developing as a counselor at her college’s swim camp. “Not only you are solely responsible for a group of little lives, but you are also in charge of entertaining them during breaks and meals, keep them organized, and on time,” Jimenez explains.

Counselors have the opportunity to increase their swimming knowledge and learn new teaching skills. Positivity is essential, as a main goal – particularly for the younger ones – is to make the campers fall in love with the sport. James Richardson, camp director of the University of Michigan swim camp says, “Counselors end up learning the balance between ‘pushing a swimmer’ and being compassionate in an environment where having fun and building passion for what they do is key.”

People You Meet

Working at swim camps can also open the doors for networking. We all know elite college coaches such as Dan Shemmel or Greg Meehan. What many don’t know is that they also started out as camp counselors and coaches.

“We employ 25-30 full time coaches in addition to 15-20 student athletes per week of camp. That is a large number of opportunities for networking. Dan Schemmel and Greg Meehan worked as coaches at our Michigan Swim Camps when they were collegiate assistant coaches.” -James Richardson

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

From coaches to campers to coworkers, you can build strong professional and personal relationships. It can’t hurt to have people on your side in another city, state, or even country.

Gianluca Alberani, head coach and camp director of Azura Aquatics, based in South Florida, shares: “In our sport, contacts and constant networking is very important. I was a counselor myself back in the mid-to-late 2000s. I think that was one of the key decisions I took in my career.”

Inspiration and Motivation

College swimmers (or swammers) who work at swim camps can also learn a lot from the little kids. “It is such a rewarding experience to work with a swimmer who might be struggling in a certain aspect of a stroke. Helping them break through and accomplish their goals is amazing,” Hovis reflects. Campers sign up because they love swimming. They dream of becoming Olympians and world chamions, so attending a swim camp is a great way to charge down that path. 

Utah Swim Camp

Photo Courtesy: Utah Swim Camp

However, some of the campers are starting at ground zero of their swimming dreams. Because some of them might be inexperienced, it may be difficult for them to complete a set. It is important for counselors to be patient and meet the camper where they’re at. Jimenez had the chance to work one-on-one with a kid who really wanted to swim butterfly but couldn’t complete one full stroke. After 30 minutes, he was able to swim complete 25s with single-arm butterfly.

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Photo Courtesy: Gaby Jimenez

Furthermore, counselors can learn a lot about themselves. “One of my favorite parts of working at the swim camp was listening to Coach Dave Denniston instruct the swimmers, and then thinking about how I can apply his knowledge to my own strokes,” Hovis recalls. Being a counselor outside of the context of your home pool can help you gain perspective and get in-touch with why you do what you do. Richardson explains, “Sometimes you see yourself in a swimmer you are coaching, and this can increase self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.”

Final Tips

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Photo Courtesy: Matheus Araujo

A swim camp counselor job is not for the faint of heart. It demands a great deal of time, commitment and overall responsibility.

“I believe college swimmers or ex-swimmers starting their career as young assistant or volunteer coaches are the perfect fit for a counselor position. Their capacity for working on a team, knowledge of the field, and – above all – swimming skills will make them perfect figures for all campers looking for role models and people they can trust and follow during a camp experience.” -Gianluca Alberani

Therefore, if you are one of those young adults who would like to be involved in swimming as a career, starting as a swim camp counselor is a great choice. 

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.