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60 Seconds With a Gymnastics Coach

To find out more about gymnastics and what it means to be a gymnastics instructor at summer camp, we checked in with Steph who’s been returning to camp for 7 years… if Steph doesn’t have the answer, we’re not sure who will!

Author: Rhiannon
13 Aug 14:14
What was your job role at camp?

My first summer I worked as a golf instructor at a summer camp in America and returned as a gymnastics specialist the year after. I was a gymnastics specialist for another year and then was actually head of gymnastics for 4 summers.

What did you do?

Whilst at camp I had the opportunity to do all sorts of jobs and activities. Working as a Gymnastics Specialist provided me the opportunity to work with children of all ages and abilities. I taught gymnastics from 9-5 for 6 days a week and absolutely loved every minute. In the Gym you get the opportunity to see campers improve and grow to love gymnastics. During a Gymnastics session I would coach all events alongside men’s gymnastics and rhythmic. Being able to teach so many types of gymnastics provided the chance for the camper to try new types of gymnastics and learn new skills.

At our camp we were bunk counselors alongside our speciality areas, so when you finish with your classes you head to your bunk to help out and care for the campers. You become responsible for taking the children to their different activities, helping with meal times and helping to build friendships. Working as a bunk counselor is a great opportunity to build great connections with a smaller group of children alongside getting to try new things for yourself.

What did a day look like? Can you talk me through a timetable?

A regular day at camp for me began at 6.45am and finished at 9.30pm. At my camp the children would wake up around 7.30am but before they were up I would often wake up earlier to shower and get myself ready before the chaos began.

  • 7.30am Wake Up and cleaning time
  • 8.30am Line Up This is when the campers and staff received information about the day and would be filled with cheers and camp chants.
  • 9am - Breakfast
  • 9.45am - 12.30pm - Periods 1-3. During this time I would be teaching in Gymnastics and campers attend different activities
  • 12.45pm - Rest Hour
  • 1.30pm - Lunch
  • 2.45pm - 5.45pm - Periods 4-6. During this time I would be teaching in Gymnastics and campers attend different activities
  • 6pm - Shower Hour
  • 6.45pm - Dinner
  • 7.30pm - Evening Programs. This is time where campers get to do activities and games with all their staff. So as a gymnastics coach I enjoyed this time as I got to spend time with just the campers in my bunk.
  • 8.15pm - 9.30pm - Bunk Closure and Lights Out.
  • 9.30pm - 12.15pm - Night off for staff who are not scheduled to stay in the bunk
What was a high point for you?

One of the best moments in camp for me has to be in 2015 when I was chosen to be a Colour War Captain. Being a Colour War captain is a great experience as you are leading half of camp for 3 days in an all camp event. There’s nothing like it in the UK, the best way I can describe it is that it’s like a Camp version of the Olympics.

This was one of the best memories as I got to spend time with my campers. It was super competitive, as ofcourse we wanted to win.

At the end of the three days we had a final event where we performed a song, dance and designed and created a wall plaque for our team. Best of all, we won! The celebrations were insane, everyone went wild, we had campers jumping on us, some were even crying they were so happy!

Can you think of a low point? How did you get through it?

Whilst at camp everyone will have a low point and everyone around you will help you to get through it. My lowest point was and still is the same every year! Saying goodbye to my campers and then leaving camp.

Every year when I say goodbye to my campers I have to remind myself that both the children and I have had an am amazing summer and loved every minute of it. Having other staff around is alway a great way to get through any tough time as everyone understands how you're feeling.

What advice would you give to someone else?

The best piece of advice I would give to somebody would be to speak to returning staff members and find out more about the camp and what your jobs role will be like.

The best piece of advice that I would give to a fellow Gymnastics coach heading out to camp would be to get as much experience coaching and working with gymnasts of all ages as possible. Camps will vary with equipment and the size of your classes so understanding how to adapt is key to having a great summer.

What did you need to pack for camp?

Packing for camp was hard but manageable. There was nothing too specific but I did have to follow to some rules when packing. For example, my camp has a closed toe shoe policy meaning that flip flops and sandals aren’t worn on camp so I packed an extra pair of trainers. One thing which I now pack every year (and comes in very handy) is a pair of wellies. It’s not always sunny at camp and when it rains you really don’t want soggy feet!

Why would you recommend doing your role to someone else?

I would say be open minded and creative. Working as a Gymnastics Coach is a hard job but if you can bring new ideas, games and coaching methods to your camp you will have an amazing summer and gymnastics will be a huge success!

Top memory with a camper?

One of my top memories with a camper was two summers ago. This camper built up a huge amount of trust and confidence in me as a counselor. She was quite a quiet camper at the beginning of the summer but slowly came out of her shell. She felt comfortable telling me out her family life and how she had some issues at home. Together, with my camp directors, we helped this camper to enjoy her summer, talk to us about outside issues and to offer support. This has become one of my top memories as it just showed me that by giving your all, helping and listening to your campers can mean more than you know and how grateful they are for the love and support that we provide over the summer.

What surprised you?/ Was it different to your expectations?

The thing that surprised me the most about camp was how many activities and sports are offered to children. Camps do vary in the amount of activities that are offered but at my camp there are over 30 activities for the campers to choose from. The campers can literally do anything. Sciences, Sports, Drama, Arts and Crafts Horseback Riding, High Ropes, Water activities and so much more.

How much did you get paid?

During my first summer I roughly got paid $750 for 8 weeks working at camp. This may not sound like a lot but it covered everything that I had already paid to go to camp and gave me around $150 of extra spending money.

What were the hours like?

The hours were long but very enjoyable. An average day would be around 12-14 hours. I would usually spend 7-8 hours each day in Gymnastics and the rest of the time would be spent with the campers in the division. Some days did feel long and I was very tired but the children’s energy levels and my own motivation helped me to get through.

What did you do in your time off?

During my nights off I would often head in to the local town to get some food or head to Walmart. Some nights we would stay on camp grounds and just relax with other staff playing card games and talking, but there were equally the evenings where I would just stay in my bunk and get and extra few hours of sleep. On days off my friends and I would go on organised camp trips for staff. These trips took us to Manhattan, theme parks and shopping malls. Other days we would spend with our American friend at their homes, meet their family and just have a really relaxing day.

How good do you need to be? - Minimum skill level for being a gymnastics coach at camp?

Working as a gymnastics coach at camp is a very rewarding job but at times can be physically demanding. Having a qualification in gymnastics at any level will be an advantage if you want to work in the gym during the summer but is definitely not mandatory. Throughout my time as the gymnastics instructor at camp there have been gymnastics instructors who hold qualifications alongside other instructors who have previously participated in gymnastics or still currently participate.

Each camp varies when it comes to apparatus and facilitates but when it comes to coaching it is good to have at least one piece of apparatus which you can confidently teach basic and more advanced skills.

How big was the division/class size?

The division size at my camp ranged from 30 campers to 100 campers. My camp is split into 3 divisions for both boys and girls. The youngest division is for children from 1st grade - 4th grade. Our middle age group is for campers in 5th Grade and the oldest division is for campers in 6th grade. Gymnastics class sizes are very variable. Some classes that we taught could have as little as 2 campers whilst other classes could have 30 campers.

Where did you go travelling?

Over the past few years I have travelled across a few states mainly on the east coast but I hope to see more of America this summer. One of my favourite places to visit would have to be Philadelphia although New York City is not far behind.

Would you or did you go again?

I began going out to camp in 2012 and have returned every year since, I’m even returning this Summer!

Working at camp has truly become my 2nd home and can’t imagine what I would be doing today if I hadn’t gone to camp. Spending my summers at camp has provided me with opportunities to travel around America and make friends from all over the world.

Rhi is our company wordsmith. Having been to summer camp for 6 years, there's nothing this veteran doesn't know.

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