As trip leaders, we are responsible for keeping a watchful eye on our groups, regardless of their number. With so many things that require our attention, a larger group size can benefit from what we call “The Buddy System.”
What is The Buddy System? Pairing our campers or clients together to have them look after one another. All that is needed is some simple guidance and encouragement from the group leader to instill a sense of responsibility in the campers.
Common problems often begin to manifest by way of subtle mood changes that can be uncovered early and quickly by using The Buddy System. Hypothermia, dehydration, and low blood sugar can all be revealed and treated quickly with teammates who keep an eye on each other.
A few tips for trip leaders using The Buddy System:
- Be honest. Tell them this is an important system, and tell them why it is so important. Even young children will feel empowered when they know they can contribute to the group in a meaningful way.
- Test them. Do this by asking specific questions related to The Buddy System. For example, instead of asking “How much water did you drink today?” ask “How much water did your buddy drink today?”
- Use your imagination. Using the same techniques for a 7 year old won’t work for 16 year olds. Tailor, create, and imagine – make it FUN whenever possible!
- Know your group. Are they well acquainted? Let them pair themselves. A group of strangers? Pair them up to avoid placing them in a nerve-wracking situation.
The Buddy System is a great way to instill a sense of community and responsibility in campers, while subtlety promoting the idea of personal and group awareness. Camp staff, try this trick as another way to help monitor overall health and wellness in your groups. Most of all, enjoy your time outdoors safely and responsibly.