Camp Staff Have a Ball

Staff members of Camp Gan Israel of Parksville and Camp L’man Achai had an actual ball during a training session.

By COLlive reporter

Where is the best place for staff training? In camp!

With the latest push by staff members on taking the summer seriously, two Lubavitch overnight camps invited life and leadership coach Rabbi Shmuly Rothman to their Upstate New York grounds.

Camp Gan Israel in Parksville and Camp L’man Achai hosted Rothman for intense staff training on their camp grounds, ahead of the campers’ arrival.

“This is a huge step in the right direction for our overnight camps,” Rothman told “In traditional secular overnight camps, staff spend a week to 10 days on camp grounds training for their positions.”

On Monday, June 25, a full day program took place in Parksville, the first overnight Chabad boys camp, and participants quickly learned that serious business can be fun too.

The training program began with an 8-foot colorful beach ball. Staff members were told lie in two rows and pass the ball from the beginning to the end of the line. Within seconds all the staff were interacting, laughing, having fun and supporting each other.

Rothman then moved on to discussing important topics such as “nurturing unzere kinder,” personal goal setting and internal inspiration to be a good counselor all day and every day, the skills and tools for viewing each and every camper as Hashem’s only child and positive discipline and “friend-raising.”

“Having Shmuly on camp grounds while the counselors were settling in made all the difference,” said Rabbi Nachman Dov Vichnin, senior Head Counselor at CGI Parksville who arranged for the program. “Staff had ample time to ask their specific questions, and get the support they needed. It was total ‘tachlis.'”

The many hours of training were interspersed with brain teasers, ice breakers, games and initiatives that put staff up close and interacting with each other.

Rothman, a resident of Pittsburgh, spent the next day at Camp L’man Achai, an overnight camp for Jewish boys ages 8-16, located in the town of Andes in Delaware County, NY.

As a camp geared for boys from homes that are not observant, Rothman spoke about sensitivity to campers coming from broken homes and who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

And in addition to topics raised in Parksville, he discussed healthy communication and relationships between staff, head staff and campers and how to set needed boundaries between staff and campers.

“The staff really appreciated it,” said Rabbi Yitzchok Steinmetz, director of Camp L’man Achai. “I’ve heard only great feedback and I’m sure it will make a huge difference.”

Staff were heard commenting, “The games were great! I got to meet fellow staff in a fun way! I never knew so many of the counselors by name so early on.”

To get the most out of the time allotted, counselors from both camps viewed Shmuly’s newly released staff training DVD on the bus ride up to camp.

The payoff was huge says Rothman, “By the time I got started, the counselors had a very good primer and were actually quoting the DVD training throughout the day.”