There is a post over on Facebook, I don’t know who all is in that group, but in a nutshell (why a nutshell and not a teacup, or a bowl?), the post rabbit trailed a bit from “why did you join the troop that you did?” to talking about quinzees and Eagle factories.
For those of you that don’t know, I also have done a podcast with an online friend of mine, Bryan Spellman, and we talk regularly. One contrasting thing between the two of us, is, he has a troop of +120 Scouts, and I have a troop of 19. Now, when his troop signs up for summer camp, they are the summer camp for that week; mine takes up one site. The our campwide games are Troop XXXX vs. Troop XXXX vs. Troop XXXX…his are Patrol vs. Patrol. Two of his patrols are my entire troop. He has more ASPLs than I have members of my PLC. We can pack our entire troop and their gear for summer camp in the back of 8-9 cars…he needs a couple of trailers. You get the point. His troop is large, mine, not so much.
It makes for good comparisons, but when it all comes down to it, we run our units the same. To take a saying out of boxing, pound for pound, we are close to being the same. Using JTE, we both hit about the same numbers. Attendance for meetings, outings per year, advancement, summer camp attendance, courts of honor and trained leadership. We just are about 100 Scouts different in numbers.
With that said, and getting back to the original reason for my post. The rabbit trailing that followed the original question.
There are units that do it right, and some that do it less-than-right. Are there tell-tale signs? Sure, and if you are prepared and educated and know what you are looking for in a troop, your Scout will soon find a good home.
These are some replies to questions that I have asked myself, or overheard others. You can formulate the question yourself, in your own words.
“We work on Merit Badges in troop meetings” – There is no place for MBs in troop meetings. It’s not in the Scoutmaster’s Handbook or any of the other literature that’s out there that National posts. (If you find something, repost the link, please). Besides, how many years does the Life Scout want to work on the Cooking MB? And don’t get me started on “well, he can help teach it”…unless you are at summer camp, no Scout can ever teach or sign-off on a blue card. Read the MB counselor requirements.
“They are only kids” – Mr. Scoutmaster, you are in the wrong position. They need to be entrusted to do the things that need to be done. They set up their tents and cook their meals. They are the ones that plan and execute the activities. Let them try, they will surprise you.
“What is TLT/NYLT?” – Run, seriously. Any Scoutmaster that doesn’t know what that means is a detriment to the rest of the program. It’s a huge part of our program, and it’s ongoing. Scouts, just as adults, need constant training and updating.
“We have a hard time getting them to wear uniforms” – WHA!?!? Now, I know that there can be financial restrictions that prevent wearing uniforms, and the BSA doesn’t require a uniform to participate, but unless a Scout is fresh off the bus, he knows the deal, and should be in full uniform. Oh, and it needs to be worn correctly and neatly.
“We don’t get outdoors much” or “We only attend summer camp”- The woods is where you truly learn. Most meeting places don’t want you building fires or cutting wood in their buildings, so where else are you going to get that training? On campouts and day events, in the woods. Summer camp is a great experience, but is only one building block into having a successful unit.
“We try to get our kids to Eagle before they get to high school. We lose them to girls, cars and sports” – while this may be true, but if the Scouts take ownership of their unit, they will stick around, and make Scouting a part of their life of cars, girls and sports. When I pressed further, I would hear, “Well, that’s what happened with me when I was that age.” – You didn’t buy-in, and Scouting wasn’t as important anymore. Build the program, and they will make it work. Really, they will.
“All/Almost all of our Scouts become Eagle” – The tell-tale sign of the proverbial “Eagle Factory”. An Eagle Factory is more common than not. Honestly, I don’t know why units push and push Scouts to be an Eagle. This is where the term Paper Eagle comes from. This is someone who’s advancement was pencil-whipped and rubber-stamped. Everything is good on paper, but the excitement and experience of the journey is lost.
Here is a phrase that I hear often at Roundtable, usually from a Scoutmaster to a District Executive…
“Hey, we didn’t get any Webelos this year. Why not?” – Uh, here’s your sign. Never expect to “get” Scouts. Go out there, recruit. Work the Cub program. Get in touch with those Cubs and their families…you know, the ones that you want to populate your troop? Yea…we don’t get things in life for free…get off you butt and recruit like the rest of us. Or offer great program and they will come to you.
“Every Scout should be elected to the OA..” – Not true. It’s Scouting National Honor Society. You should only be elected based on your worthy-ness, not because of popularity. If the candidate is someone who you would trust to look out for you if you were ever stranded in the woods, he’s the guy.
Along the same lines as above, and this usually happens after the Scouts have completed their Ordeal and have gotten their lodge flap and sash…
“We don’t do anything with the OA, they take away from our troop experience” – Why bother with the election and going through the Ordeal? Does it mean that much to wear the flap and sash? Every spring and fall, we have a camp full of Ordeal candidates. We then never see them after that. Most of them pay their dues, some don’t. What bugs me is that Scouts who still represent the lodge by wearing their flap and sash. You ain’t in involved, remove the regalia…and stop coming to the summer camp ice cream socials.
So, if you have anymore witty sayings, feel free to post them in the comments. Thanks for your support and have a good week.