Camp America ~ An Idiot’s Guide

I’m currently packing at home to move house again and while clearing through the paperwork, I came across my certificate from 2001 when I went to work on a summer camp in America.

I’ve also uncovered the blog post I wrote about my time as a Camp Counselor – here’s what happened…

☀ ☀ ☀

It’s a tough life, you want to travel the world but you also need a regular income. What could be better than combining the two? So simple.

Seems like it, when you’re 21.

I finished my degree and was steadfast in my one, future life goal – to avoid real work for as long as humanly possible.

I decided to take part in Camp Counselors USA with hopes of landing a west-coast placement with sunshine, beaches, free food and long nights partying while the kids were in bed.

The brochure fell through the door with images of golden children, laughing and running along sandy beaches. The job involves looking after your group of 12 kids, teaching your ‘specialism’ and having the time of your life.

One small glitch… A specialism?

How hard could it be? I turn up for my interview with a copy of my police background check and a seemingly convincing sporting history.

Two weeks later, I receive a letter:
‘Congratulations, Camp Counselors invites you to the USA: Tennis Coach in Pennsylvania.’

This is the point that my camp kids would describe as “Shit just got real!”

I sped off to the local sports park asking for one-to one tuition and high hopes to be turned into a semi-pro in the remaining three weeks…

So, we’d been throwing balls all over the court attempting to assemble some kind of forehand for endless sessions and I fear things aren’t moving on. I instruct the tutor to crank it up several gears post haste – I was going out there to coach teenagers, not play a light rally with the elderly!

Ignoring his astonished face, I stride off in the direction of the base line to assume my best pro-serve position before slamming the ball two courts over and into a table of drinks.

I can’t ignore his face this time. It says it all.
We call time on the tuition and I head off to the spa in an attempt to bury my thoughts in a thick fog of peppermint-scented steam.

✈ ✈ ✈ ✈

The flight lands in New York and I’m so excited to get to know my kindred work-dodgers on the journey to Pennsylvania.
The Camp is beautiful with rolling hills and wildlife and a stunning, huge open lake.
But far too quickly, it’s day one. Game on.

My on-court outfit is a winner – short white skirt and vest with pink belt and headscarf – only, I am a few minutes late and Coach and the other recruits are already there.

“Honey, get over here, we’re all waiting on you!!”

I was in fact late due to a wayward child spitting a family-sized bag of M&Ms all over her enemy’s bed but this didn’t seem the time to voice the injustice.

And this, is when it happens….

“Ok, I’m so sorry everyone. I’ll just go grab my bat”

There’s an eerie and confusing silence. Unsure of what’s happened, I mosey over to the net to retrieve the offending article to a growing chorus of laughter from the other trainers – who incidentally seemed to have got dressed in the dark.

Grab your what, now??? Have you even played tennis before? Heard of a racket ever?

“Oh yes, ha ha… I’m just because from Yorkshire, it’s just how we….” I trail off, realising the fat girl from Bolton is just about to pipe up.

At 4pm, me and my bat are doing the walk of shame up to Coach’s office for a ‘chat’.

It’s not technically a demotion, but I have been re-assigned. I shall hence forth be spending my time at the lake, helping children get life jackets on and off. I don’t remember this as one of the listed ‘specialisms’ but I’ll take it.

As I walk down to the lake with my friend, we pass the staff quarters and I hear: “A Bat.” “Ahahaha.” “Really? Bat??” More laugher.

Oh God.
I ask my friend if she thinks I might have to leave the camp and am relieved, and mortified, to hear her reply. “No way Dude, they’re far too busy laughing.”

I thought I was going to be greeted by golden children, wanting to gently engage in some pretend exercise while chatting to their mates. How could I have known they were competitive kids of the super-wealthy with tennis lawns in their gardens and pro-playing coaches on speed-dial!

Wasn’t all bad; I spent two months getting a tan and flying around the lake, securing small children on a banana boat.
Thinking about it, it couldn’t have worked out better.
Six hours a day clinging on to 18-year-old Brad from Miami as he commandeered the banana through choppy Pennsylvanian waters. I’d call that Game, Set and Match!

All’s well that ends well.

Actually, I’ve been thinking about working on a cruise ship lately – I’ve heard they’re looking for aerobics instructors on a route to French Polynesia…Maybe I’ll just Google ‘Zumba’ quickly.

Sara Hardman Travels

I made it!


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