What Makes a "Rock Star" Staff Team?

Posted by: John Duntley

Seasoned camp directors work with many different staff teams over the years. The most memorable teams are often the “rock star” teams–staff who are high-performing, fun to work with and super-motivated to nurture the potential of all youth. Rock star teams translate into the #BestSummerEver for both staff and families. 

Feet standing next to one another around rocks placed in the shape of a heart.

How do camps staff a “rock star” team? Most camp directors credit the hiring and onboarding process paired with good professional development practices. New and creative energy helps, too. But all those ingredients alone won’t ensure every camp staff team reaches “rock star” status.

So, what’s the secret sauce to hiring “rock star” summer camp teams?

To reach this memorable level, one must build upon MOTIVATION and OWNERSHIP. These two ingredients are not as tangible as say, trainings or hiring practices, but they are infused into the culture of a team environment. Read on for more details… 

  1. Motivation: Camp directors can build upon a shared motivation among a staff team that centers on campers’ experience–providing them with an unforgettable summer filled with strong friendships, new knowledge and tons of fun. According to Camp Leadership for the 21st Century by Bob Ditter, the key to motivating staff teams is pride:


    “What motivates people is pride. What de-motivates people is when we hurt their pride. When camp leaders acknowledge staff members' contributions; when they show them how meaningful and significant their work with campers is; when they recognize their effort, energy, and positive intention, those leaders are nourishing their staff members by making them feel proud.”  

  2. Ownership: Let summer staff take ownership of the programs and activities they lead. Allowing them to make their own special adjustments, additions and flairs will provide a closer connection to the work at hand–or create a sense of ownership of the program or activity. Keep in mind, too, that while staff are developing ownership, a leader’s role is to support and guide them in making this the best experience for all campers.

Offering motivation and freedom to “own the summer” is powerful and positively impacts campers. It’s the secret sauce that keeps staff returning each summer and families thinking of a specific camp as the place to be year after year.

Looking for more tips and support? 

Let’s keep this conversation going! Follow me, @JDuntley on Twitter.

More Buzz

Male Y staff in a white polo and khaki cargo shorts standing with his hands on his hips.


To female teens standing in front of an outdoor jungle gym slide.


Two boys playing soccer while a male coach watches.
How High-Performing Camps Onboard Staff


Don't Forget to Celebrate Your Summer Staff!


Why Summer Camps Should let Kids Lead



Find Your Y

Share This Page

Bookmark and Share

Copyright © 2017 YMCA of the USA. All rights reserved.
The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.