As with everything in life — you get out what you put in! Preparing for and taking the Certified Park and Recreation (CPRP) exam is no exception. This may sound strange, but I absolutely loved studying for the CPRP exam. How did I make the CPRP a good use of my time and resources?
To best illustrate this I am going to reflect on my internship from nearly 20 years ago. I was a maintenance worker on a world-class golf course. There were nearly 20 other interns there from all over the country. As the summer went on, other interns quickly grew frustrated with the monotony of their daily tasks. They thought they should be doing more important things and complained about not learning enough. By the end of their internship they'd given up on learning and were simply going through the motions. For those individuals, the internship was disappointing, and they did not experience the kind of professional growth and development they had expected.
Contrast that with my experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my internship and experienced tremendous professional growth and development. I left at the end of the season with a much better understanding of the scope of work involved with maintaining a championship level golf course, running a large staff of diverse individuals, dealing with customer service and public relation issues, problem solving, and on and on…
Why was my experience a positive one while other interns were disappointed? I had the same basic knowledge, skills and abilities as everyone else. I was assigned the same basic “monotonous” tasks as everyone else. Why did I get so much more out of it than the rest of my aspiring colleagues?
Instead of complaining about having to walk-mow greens again, I would say to myself, “Great! I’m walk-mowing greens again. I’m outside on a beautiful morning watching the sunrise over the Rocky Mountains. I’m getting great physical exercise on a pristine landscape in one of the most beautiful settings in the world, and to top it all off I’m actually getting paid for this.”
I did my assigned tasks, but I also paid attention to what everyone else was doing. I observed and took note of how all of our individual efforts combined to produce the results our customers had come to expect. If I didn’t understand why we were doing something a certain way, I would ask the boss. His insights along with my observations through the season gave me the perspective of “running the show” without the responsibility and stress of actually being the superintendent.
What does this have to do with becoming a Certified Park and Recreation Professional?
You guessed it – you get out what you put in!
If you look at preparing for the CPRP exam like it’s just another test, then you probably won’t get a lot out of it. Much like my former fellow interns, you will be disappointed with the experience.
On the other hand, if you prepare for the CPRP exam like it’s an awesome opportunity to learn, grow, develop and gain a broader understanding of your profession and how to become a leader, you will probably enjoy studying for the exam as much as I did. More importantly, you will:
- Elevate your understanding of what it means to be a top-tier parks and recreation leader.
- Gain a broader perspective of your profession.
- Gain leadership skills.
- Continue to update your parks and recreation education.
- Hold your organization to a higher professional standard.
- Improve the lives of community members using knowledge you'll gain.
Of course achieving CPRP status is just the beginning. It’s up to you to implement the best management practices you learn in ways that can make the biggest positive impact on your specific organization and in turn your community.
If you are an aspiring leader and you have not yet attained CPRP status I encourage you to do so. The CPRP challenges you to think outside yourself and your daily routine and see your organization through a broader, more comprehensive lens. You will gain better insight and appreciation into what your coworkers are doing and how their role is important to the success of your organization.
Kris Ammerman, CPRP, is the Parks and Recreation Program Manager for City of Roseburg.