How to help youth leaders build a Scout-led troop

Is it CHAOS or CONSTRUCTIVE DISARRAY? Here’s how you can help your troop’s youth leaders take charge.ScoutLedTroop1

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW how not to create a Scout-led troop, talk to Dale Werts. In the fall of 2012, Werts’ unit, Troop 714 in Edgerton, Mo., decided to become completely Scout-led. The adult leaders made the switch quickly — the youth leaders, not so much. Given the chance to sink or swim, the Scouts promptly sank.

“The adults got the message to step back and let the boys lead, but the boys had never done that before; they didn’t do it in Cub Scouts, and they hadn’t done it in Boy Scouts yet,” recalls Werts, an assistant Scoutmaster. “So when the adults stepped back and the boys didn’t immediately start humming like a finely tuned machine, it kind of foundered. Camping suffered; meetings were not organized; fun was not being had.”

The failure discouraged the troop’s adults, but it didn’t deter them. They regrouped and developed a transition plan built around three key strategies: training Scouts, training adults and training parents. In the fall of 2013, they tried their Scout-led experiment again — this time with better results.

“The boys are doing everything,” Werts says. “They’re feeling more empowered, and they’re also feeling more accountable. When something goes wrong, they don’t immediately point to some adult.”

And what about the adults? “The adults say, ‘This is cool. I don’t have to work as hard,’ ” Werts says.

With a solid plan, you and your fellow Scouters can also discover just how cool Scout-led troops can be. Here are some tips to get you started.

Define Your Terms — and Your Limits
One of the first things you should do is decide just what you mean by “Scout-led troop.” Consider these questions, for example: What is the role of adults in a Scout-led troop? How involved should adults be in troop meetings and patrol leaders’ council (PLC) meetings? When should the Scoutmaster exercise veto power? Should he or she even have veto power? What happens when the PLC drops the ball?

According to Assistant Scoutmaster Joe Smith from Troop 1002 in Richmond, Texas, many Scouters mistakenly think a troop is either Scout-led or it’s not. Instead, he points out that being Scout-led is “a spectrum, not a condition; the level of independence given to the boys is dependent on the maturity and cultural personality of the troop.”

Moreover, no matter how much authority you give your Scouts, you can never delegate your responsibility as an adult leader. That obviously means stepping in before health and safety are threatened, but it also means backing your Scouts when their good-faith efforts turn out badly. “Angry parents get to deal with me and not the Scouts,” says Patrick Provart, a pack committee member in Springfield, Ill., who has twice served as Scoutmaster. “Rest assured that the Scouts and I will be talking later.”

Unite Your Adults
If your adult leaders all have different ideas of what it means to be a Scout-led troop, your transition will be rocky at best. Before you make any changes, make sure everyone has the same vision in mind.

That was especially important when Troop 1882 was founded in Haymarket, Va., in 2012. The troop consisted of 15 graduating Webelos Scouts and their parents (along with one slightly older Scout), so it was important for the adults to make a smooth transition to Boy Scouting.

“We made sure the Scoutmaster and all assistant Scoutmasters were fully trained, and three adults immediately attended Wood Badge,” says Scoutmaster Matt Gallagher. “We felt the adults needed to set the tone and get as much knowledge as we could as to how it ‘should’ be done.”

Two years later, the troop has more than 40 active Scouts — and a group of leaders who continue to share a common vision. “That’s one very good thing we have, from the committee to the assistant Scoutmasters,” Gallagher says. “We all talk about being ‘checks’ on each other to make sure we don’t impose our will on the Scouts.”ScoutLedTroop2

Train Your Scouts
While many adults have led groups before, most Scouts haven’t. That’s why it’s important to hold Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops (ILST) and to get as many Scouts as possible to attend National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT). NYLT has been a top priority for Werts’ troop, which subsidizes the cost for its Scouts. “This summer, we had two boys on staff and five boys attending as participants,” he says. “These boys are all seeing and experiencing how a boy-led troop operates.”

Since Gallagher’s Scouts have been too young for NYLT, he has made ILST a priority. He emphasizes the importance of running ILST for each group of new leaders. “We didn’t do one after the last elections we had, and I’m kind of kicking myself for not pushing that harder,” he says. “On our annual plan now, for the weekend after troop elections, there will always be an ILST.”

Besides formal training, Troop 158 in Shrewsbury, Mass., held a leadership retreat before it made the transition to youth-led, says Thomas Bodden, who was senior patrol leader at the time. Thomas, his assistant senior patrol leaders, the troop’s patrol leaders and a few adults spent a weekend at a cabin where they discussed the Patrol Leader Handbook and Senior Patrol Leader Handbook, watched the Scout movie Follow Me, Boys! and talked about how they wanted the troop to run.

“That really set the stage for us,” Thomas says. “We drew the line and said, ‘OK, we’re starting boy-led now.’ It was definitely a daunting task, but it was definitely successful.”

Orient Your Parents
According to Thomas’ mother, Erica, it’s important to get parents on board. Take the first day of summer camp, for example. “Dads would (previously) help the boys set up their mosquito nets and lay out tarps and things like that,” she says. “When our new Scoutmaster took over, we were basically told, ‘OK, everybody go home.’ That surprised us old-timers, but he was right.”

That doesn’t mean newer parents always understand the Scout-led concept. “When their boys were Cubs, the parents called the shots and ran things,” Werts says. “When their boys cross over to Boy Scouts, these parents generally need to be taught that Boy Scouts operate differently. This is not self-evident, although a lot of troops think it is and never explain it to the parents.”

To educate parents, Werts’ troop created Boy-Led Troop 101, an informal training course it offers alongside troop meetings in the fall. “Boy-Led Troop 101 is all about letting parents understand that it’s OK to let your kids fail; they learn from that,” he says. “Once you explain it, parents will usually make a good effort not to interfere, although they don’t always succeed.”

Support Your Youth Leaders
As you make the transition to a Scout-led troop, you can expect to work harder than ever — at least for a while. Your 11-year-old patrol leaders don’t know how to control their peers, and your 13-year-old senior patrol leader might never have run a meeting.

When Shaye Larsen took over as Scoutmaster of Troop 52 in Pleasant View, Utah, seven years ago, he focused on coaching his new senior patrol leader. “It takes a lot of work to make sure he is prepared — meeting with him before meetings, having reflections after meetings, meeting with him and his parents regularly, calling and texting often,” Larsen says. “It was a lot of behind-the-scenes work on my part, but it paid off. The SPL started getting more confident and capable, and the troop flourished under his leadership.”

Supporting your youth leaders also means giving them space — sometimes literally. Gallagher, for example, leaves the room during PLC meetings. He also gives youth leaders permission to tell him, “We’ve got this.”

“When I see them looking to me more,” Gallagher says, “I try to back off and start asking more questions.”

Embrace Chaos
Finally, you have to be willing to embrace a little chaos. “That’s a natural condition that’s going to exist anywhere you have boys in charge of anything,” Smith says.

The trick, he says, is knowing when and how to step in (short of obvious health and safety situations). “Ultimately, that chaos is the opportunity for these kids; it’s how they’re going to learn in a group,” he says. “You have to learn to be comfortable with some of it and to recognize when the chaos has become completely unproductive and is turning some other kids off.”

Just remember that when you end the chaos, you end the learning that boys can get only in Scouting. “If you don’t go through Scouting, how can you say you were in charge of 40 kids, the budget for a troop, the whens and wheres of everything?” asks Thomas Bodden, a former senior patrol leader. “You can’t do that without Scouting. If the troop’s not boy-led, the leaders are essentially a damper on this experience. They’re not giving the kids the full opportunity that Baden-Powell intended.”


Starting Them in Cub Scouts
Although Cub Scouting is adult-led, there’s plenty of room for Cub Scouts to learn leadership skills. Den leaders and assistant den leaders can lead ceremonies and games, while all boys can learn by watching a den chief, a Boy Scout who assists the den leader.

To help Cub Scouters better understand what boys are capable of, Pat Meadows of Richmond, Va., relies heavily on Boy Scouts during the Outdoor Leader Skills for Webelos Leaders courses she runs. “I mentor the boys, and the boys do the leading,” she says.

Helping Meadows has let Boy Scouts hone leadership skills they’ve used back in their home troops and beyond. As the Cub Scout leaders in attendance witness examples of youth leadership, they see the potential for leadership (albeit, in age-appropriate doses) among their own Cub Scouts. “The youth of today will be the governor or president of tomorrow,” she says. “We really do need to set the youth up for success.”


SHARE YOUR TIPS for boosting boys’ leadership skills in a troop setting, below.

29 Comments

  1. William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt said it best in the 3rd ed. SMHB:

    “Train ’em.” “Trust ’em.” “Let them LEAD!”

    I have been extremely surprised AND pleased with my troop’s SPL, who has only been in the troop a year. If adults guide and mentor, and then get the heck out of the way. they kids will go far.

    Even us old fogeys who have been around a while sometimes need a reminder of that.

    • Greenbar Bill is right. Our Council had “boy run” camporees for many years. The scouts set up on one side the road in the camp, the adults set up across the road from them. The SPL was the only youth member allowed to cross the road (except for health & safety). Because we’d operated like this for years, our scouts did well. It was a challenge for the SPL and since he ate with the adults, he got lots of counseling and coaching during meals and the limited downtime he had. We turned out some great SPL’s during those years, and all of them became Eagle Scouts. Boy Led troops are what BP planned for and it does work.

      • Try this:

        How to help youth play baseball

        Is it CHAOS or CONSTRUCTIVE DISARRAY? Here’s how you can help your little league team’s youth play baseball
        .
        IF YOU WANT TO KNOW how not to create a little league team, talk to Sgt Rock.

        In the Spring of 2012, Sgt Rock’s team committee decided that, instead of having mostly the adults play in the baseball games, only kids should play.

        The adults made the switch quickly — the youth, not so much. Given the chance to sink or swim, the kids promptly sank.

        “The adults got the message to step back and let the boys play, but the boys had never done that before, said Sgt. Rock. “So when the adults stepped back and gave the boys the balls, gloves, and bats, the boys didn’t immediately start humming like a finely tuned machine, it kind of foundered. Play suffered; practices were not organized; fun was not being had.”
        The failure discouraged the team’s adults, but it didn’t deter them. They regrouped, took back the balls, gloves and bats, and developed a transition plan built around three key strategies: training the kids, training the coaches, and training the parents.
        In the meanwhile, the team ran like a well tuned machine, winning the League championship behind Sgt. Rock’s fine pitching.
        The following season, In the Spring of 2013, they tried kids playing the games again — this time with better results.
        “The boys are doing everything,” Sgt. Rock says. “They’re feeling more empowered, and they’re also feeling more accountable. When someone makes an error or strikes out, they don’t immediately point to some adult.”
        And what about the adults? “The adults say, ‘This is cool. I don’t have to work as hard,’ ” Werts says.
        With a solid plan, you and your fellow coaches can also discover just how cool boys playing little league baseball can be. Here are some tips to get you started.
        STOP: What would you think if you read this story? When do we think it’s appropriate to have adults playing the kids’ game instead of the kids?

        Scouting is a game to be played by Boys, not adults.

  2. As the scoutmaster of a large troop we tapped into the plan set by those who walked in these shoes before us. We relied on the basics, the troop meeting planner sheet allowed us to pre plan every meeting theme and assign time for each activity. Remember the short attention span and patience of the scout age boy. The structure is on paper and not noticed by the scouts. There has to be a plan for every activity at a troop meeting and an appropriate amount of time allowed. Don’t reinvent the wheel. This stuff works. You will be saying “what a great meeting”. Instead of “boy, am I glad that’s over. The scouts will love it and you can take all the credit for all the great ideas. Try it.

  3. The message that boys are allowed to lead only when they produce a “well tuned machine” and that boy leadership is not required unless the boys have enough “maturity” and the troop has the right “cultural personality” directly conflicts with the current authoritative B.S.A. materials that I am honor bound to use in training Scouters. I will, therefore, refer to Mr. Ray’s article only as an illustration of error. As the Little League coach is not allowed to take the mound in a game and pitch simply because the boy pitchers cannot find the plate, Scouters are not to plan program or lead program. That is a role for Scouts.- the very “core of Scouting” according to B.S.A.. Either the boys are leading or they are not – not in a Boy Scout troop. Only the quality of their leadership is to be “a spectrum,” and it is on us to train, coach, and mentor them to better performance, not to take away the “ball” and begin “pitching.”

    • My issue with your comment is that you sound as if you’re one of those leaders who just lets the boys go and do what they want, without any guidance. To me that is just WRONG. You need to properly train them. No, that little league coach does not take the mound, as you mentioned but he does prepare those boys for the game. He sets up the practices, establishes the skills that needs work and comes up with a training plan. So should scout leaders. Too many times I see troops that are in total chaos and the catch-all phrase is “boy led”. It is incumbent on us as adult leaders to properly train them, show them how it is properly done, and THEN let them do their thing. I think this article is spot in that yes, a troop should strive for that maturity that is discussed. If you let them sink, perhaps the boy in the leadership position will learn a lesson, but the entire unit will suffer, and this will lead to boys quitting (and parents also). This is like going on a long range hike, and not making the needed adjustments on your compass. If you azimuth is off, you can correct it a short ways into the hike, but if you don’t correct it soon enough- the deviation might be too large to overcome.
      As to planning, some scouts might not have the maturity or knowledge to plan an intricate event. Case and point: our troop will be visiting a foreign embassy in DC, adults are conducting the coordination with that embassy, the boys will execute that plan, with proper adult guidance and supervision. Again, with scout input, adults can assist in setting up and coordinating an event, and the scouts execute. You make it sound like the scouts should be doing everything, and to me, that is a recipe for disaster.
      As to experience: Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow, Scoutmaster 2 times, Asst. Scoutmaster 3 times, unit commissioner, cubmaster, etc etc. And perhaps I do know a little about leadership- 28 years in the Army as an infantry officer. This is how I’ve done it, and it’s worked for me and the units I’ve been associated with.

  4. The first thing that needs to happen in every troop at the beginning of their Scout year is to hold a leadership training for all of the boy leaders. The second thing is to send them to your Councils NYLT course. The third thing is to take them to the NAYLE course at the Philmont Training Center. You may notice that I said “Take Them” meaning that you have to go also, along with the adult leaders. Check in with your Council Philmont Ambassador for more information about Philmont and the adventures for you, your scouts and your family.
    Alvin Crown, GSLC Philmont Ambassador.

    • Training is certainly important. After safety, it’s the No. 1 job for adults.

      But the “first thing” to accomplish if you wish to have a Scout-led troop is to have Scouts lead. I have seen troop after troop that is “trying” to “become” youth-led, but the “boys are not ready yet.”. (See the article in this month’s Scouting showing how that is justified in the minds of some. )

      If the Patrol Method were important, what might be done? Might someone at National at the very least — clearly and unambiguously – announce that the Patrol Method is absolutely required in order to have a registered Boy Scout Troop?

  5. I am really glad that this was writen. I am currently the ASPL in my troop, and i am looking to fix my troop and putting the patrol method back into use as well as teaching the leadership positions

  6. When a new Scoutmaster tries this, the first thing that may happen is that people line up and tell him he/she is doing it wrong because, “They are just kids”.

    Better to lead by example while addressing each Scout as Mr. X while finding that first young man willing to take responsibility. Take him under your wing and start by asking his opinion of this or that activity. Respond with meaningful advice about personal development.

    It takes about two years to train an SPL and he is your key to success. Frequent conferences while asking about the other scouts will enable you to identify a cadre of future Patrol Leaders to work together.

    As each scout rises through the ranks the best will shortly fill your Patrol Leaders Council. You will surprise everybody when one day you turn to your SPL and ask him if the scouts are ready to take on this or that task and he in turn asks the patrol leaders what they think and a real dialog develops.

    Now it your job to support that monster you have just created. By all means retain veto power for activities that do not represent the Scouting Way of doing things. Other than that occasion back way off.

    Remember A Scout Troop is by design a small community. Organizationally it is more of a republic than a democracy.

    • It’s the “Patrol Method.” There is no “Troop Method.” The Scout is to primarily experience Boy Scouting in the context of his patrol. There, and not in the troop, is where he primarily is to learn Scout skills, exercise responsibility, form friendships, and experience teamwork and democracy. The patrol is to have its own meetings, hikes, and campouts. Therefore, the Patrol leader is the key to the operation of a Boy Scout Troop, and this has been the case according to the BSA since at least 1930.

      Somehow, we have misplaced the most important feature of of Boy Scouting, and that is a shame is every sense of “shame.”

      • Thanks Tom for the input, it is a gift. I was afraid everybody would let my remarks slide without challenge.

        To your comments: Agreed 100%.

        To support a boy led troop/patrol is a process of growth.

        The patrol and it’s leadership require a support structure to guide them. That is the Patrol Leaders Council. The PLC is the Troop and they employ the patrol method in their meetings as well.

        BP’s “Patrol Method” is a way to teach and learn skills, not merely a structure.

        Rule of thumb:
        (Assuming a new or a young (age) troop.)

        If your troop only has 4 – 6 scouts you have one patrol. If you have 6 – 8 scouts help them reorganize into two patrols with an added goal of growing to 8 scouts each. When you hit those goals reorganize patrols again and so on.

        You will provide growth in leadership opportunity while employing the patrol method to develop basic skills.

        An ASM can be appointed a “temporary” Senior Patrol Leader while growing new 1st Class or above Scouts. As soon as you have two or more immediately have an election for a proper SPL to lead the PLC.

        At least initially, each patrol will need an advisor (ASM) to “coach” (not manage) the Patrol Leader’s effective use of time and resources.

        Next is the really hard part: Try to sustain at least one more ASM than you have patrols. The extra ASM should be experienced enough to take the place of the Scoutmaster for emergency coverage. Else the troop become so dependent on the Scoutmaster that everybody assumes it is his troop.

        Most importantly have all your SM/ASM (Scoutmaster Council) meet monthly separate of Committee or PLC to evaluate program, operations, and get on the same page.

        The beauty is that these skills can be adapted to any part of the troop development cycle by joint agreement and employment.

        Having a structure allows the scouts lot of time to bond and have fun.

        KISMIF (Keep It Simple, Make It Fun)

        You are the best,
        – DC

  7. If the Patrol method were important, what might be done by BSA to encourage its use? Nowhere else does BSA present a coherent definition.

    Training? The new syllabus for Scoutmaster-Specific does not even have a goal of teaching what the Patrol Method is, much less define it.

    Recognition? When I joined my “new” troop, the SM had just been named “Scoutmaster of the Year.” There had been no PLC meetings in twelve years and even the “Patrol Leaders” could not tell me what patrol they were “in.” Where is the PATROL METHOD ribbon?

    I understand the world is not a simple place for BSA, but it seems that Scouting’s most important method should be somewhere towards the top of the priority list. It manifestly is not there. I agree with my friend that it seems to have been, largely, misplaced.

    The legend is that Coach Vince Lombardi began every training season with, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

    Gentlemen, this is Boy Scouting.

  8. Actually, in this case, maybe we should start by saying, “Gentlemen this is the Patrol Method.”

    You are right the definition is a bit obscure. This is a flaw in Scoutmaster Handbooks produced currently. In older books it was explained much better.

    The subject is most definitely taught in Woodbadge. The whole program is focused on teaching students, how it works and how to use it.

    The whole concept is based on leadership by example as a teaching tool and sharing leadership while leading a group. Avoiding the “big boss” way of operation and empowering others around you with authority from the group. In this way each patrol becomes a unique self sustaining entity.

    It is a way of accepting responsibility for your actions, decisions, and results.

    The ribbon if you will is, “Honor Patrol”. A distinction frequently given at camp. Where patrol cohesiveness become clear.

    • As to WB teaching the Patrol method, I have not staffed in six years, so I allow that things may have changed. What section of the syllabus defines the Patrol Method these days?

      When I raised the question of why Scouting’s most important method did not deserve a session in 2009 (Trouble-Maker!), I was told: 1) the method was taught in WB by example (i.e. the example of adults doing everything except the session led by Venturers); and 2) the participants had been taught the method in basic training – which was emphatically not true if the official syllabus was followed. Even today, the Scoutmaster-specific syllabus does not define the Patrol Method. Mentioning only some of the aspects of the method is hardly defining it. You may know what you are seeing, but EDGE includes the Explain part before the Demonstrate part for very good reason.

      As you know, I think the line ought to be, “Gentlemen, this is Boy Scouting.”

      Here is a great, current statement by BSA. To bad it’s not in a training syllabus: “[U]nless the patrol method is in operation, you don’t really have a Boy Scout troop.”

      Now, all we need to do it tell them what it is.

      Try not. There is no try. Scout or Scout not.

      • I bet you thought I was disagreeing with you. Contrary.

        BSA is a mature organization. To assume we all understand the patrol method without explanation as to what it does and does not cover … well … we all know the definition of ASSUME don’t we?

        I was just saying that it was once explained better in older documentation. New is not always better. I do agree it is time to move back in time a little bit for quality learning.

        It is not safe to assume that today’s higher education produces better understanding, of a concept that also requires participation to learn, without even an outline of the process.

        You are also correct that Basics courses do not teach this subject well either.

        As a trainer it was my job to teach learners that the Patrol Method was a process and a structure.

        The Basic program has been dumbed down so far that it is almost worthless. Basics should be taught as Woodbadge prep with the clear understanding that one is not a substitute for the other. The former is only a window into the Woodbadge program.

        I have syllabus that we used to augment the current guidelines. The Council Training Committee told us not to use it even though we used the slides for the national syllabus without alteration. The presentation was the same number of total hours and included everything in the BSA syllabus plus everything a new leader would need to understand how to operate within the Patrol Method.

      • Heck no. I really meant that I didn’t know. Ever hopeful, I thought after six years some of the errors and omissions might have been corrected. For all I knew, the WB syllabus now has a goal of having the “participants” know what “Scouting most important method” actually is. As you mentioned, that is not a goal in the 2014 Scoutmaster-Specific syllabus, nor is a definition in that syllabus.

        The Trainer’s oath used to have us swear to deliver the message BSA “intended.” Now we have to “use the materials.” Based on the scattered comments about TPM, I would argue that BSA intends Scouters to know what the Patrol method is, and I teach accordingly, “using” the incomplete materials. Hey, if they fire me, lose out on my Fifty-year pin, but life can be that way.

        Funnily, when I last staffed, four of the six Beavers had experienced no Scouting training whatsoever. Zip. Nadda. Gotta’ “file the course.” But they were eager to learn.

      • WB is supposed to teach TPM by example under the Troop Guides tutelage. Fundamentals are for basic.

        You are also right that they expect us to prepare new scout leader in basic and outdoors. Because they have eliminated specifics from syllabus it is not taught in CT Rivers any more and no amount of arguing will bring it back.

        Apparently our council is not the only one taking the syllabus too literally and dumb.

        Hopefully BSA is monitoring this and will jump in soon with sage advice we can use to turn the bull.

      • Nothing has stopped me from teaching the patrol method at roundtables, University of Scouting, Baden Powell Institute, and on line. I invite all supporters of Boy Scouting to do the same. Boy Scouting does not have to wait on BSA.

      • We had an active staff of about 20 (up to 30) repeat offenders. ; ))

        They all quit when our council refused to recognize our improvements to BSA syllabus, without learning what it was we were doing. The current staff has whittled down to two and a TV.

        We can’t help but notice the new leaders are not nearly as enthused (forget about informed) and WB recruiting has become tougher also. TPM has suffered a great deal.

        Oh yeah and then there is membership. That has really tanked.

        Many feel the local council has become a punitive organization (The beatings will continue until moral improves).

        FOS has suffered because of this and there is no way to talk to anybody. If a DE takes our cause he/she is fired.

      • Don, you make me feel blessed by comparison. In my older council, council-level is comatose (except as to the required, annual WB course – where totally untrained Scouters are allowed to be.) participants). District committees are the trainers, and they do what seems best.

        In my newer council it’s the same except WB is semi-annual and participants actually have to meet the qualification. Hence, I have only 60 minutes for plant AND animal ID for IOLS on Saturday.

      • Like I said earlier I just hope somebody is paying attention. It seems the majority of Scouters and we agree.

        Here, it is just a small click of well connected locals who want to have everything their way and are spoiling it for everybody especially the kids.

        I have served on committees to save camp property and reorganize other income producing operations. Every one has defied research and recommendations to do what they da…d well please.

        Now I look at who is running the committee before I volunteer. They still get their way and I am less frustrated. Hate to be that way but I am not Don Quixote life is too short now.

        Would go to work in a New York minute for a council/district that wanted to do the right thing.

  9. Excuse me, I meant to say they actually put out a directive saying that graduates of our slightly modified syllabus would not be recognized as trained. Needless to say we were furious.

    That is why the training team quit.

    • Good observation.

      There is an old saw that asks somebody, Do you know the difference between the Army and the Boy Scouts?
      Ans.: Boy Scouts have adult leaders. ; ))
      (Now, we have that out of the way.)

      Freedom to fail does not mean encouragement to do so.

      The Scoutmaster Corps is there to see that does not happen without (micro-managing each decision and) pushing the scouts aside.

      As you aptly observed training is required. Sometimes a Scout is selected for a key leadership position without the qualifications required to do the job. Sound familiar?

      The Scoutmaster sets a pattern by requiring the new leader to become trained (yes the patch applies to youth as well). Everybody in the troop needs to get basic leader training right off the get go when they arrive. There is a new syllabus for that and it can be incorporated into regular meeting structure (it is best that way).

      Scoutmaster and Assistants owe the boys an “I’m from Missouri, show me,” structure. This review process makes everybody aware that we have a decision process that will be followed before the Scoutmasters will approve an activity.

      It is the job of the Patrol Leaders Council to plan the activity and use the troop adult resource list to recruit a proper number of Registered Leaders and helpful Parents to support the needs of the activity.

      Once the activity planning is complete enough for the Scoutmasters to approve then the SPL or Scoutmaster can put it in front of the committee for financial support. Hopefully they will have thought ahead far enough to alert the committee that something was in the works.

      This should avert most of the disasters mentioned and be able to mollify all but the parent trying to keep their boy at home until they turn 35. (Yes they do exist and there is absolutely nothing you can do for them. They will have an argument countering every suggestion you make.)

  10. I took over an adult led unit with 6 boys. In 2 years we had a truly boy led unit with 40 boys. While I struggled like the above article indicated, the game changer for us was NYLT and sending our SPLs to it since then. Now Scoutmaster is the best job in the unit, guide and aid, but everything else falls on the scouts or the committee. We’ve maintained about 30 boys for 8 years now, and I’m 100% convinced a majority of that is because the boys own the troop and if they don’t like something they change it!

  11. My boy-led troop does great, until one of the veteran parents tries to shut down any of their new ideas. They keep saying that’s not how it was always done. How do you get a helicopter parent that is also been on the troop committee for a long time to let the boys do their thing. Have tried it going about it as Scout like as possible.

    • First of all is what they want to do safe and affordable?

      This might sound too simple and even a little crude. Remind the individual (in the most tactful terms possible (the first time)) the troop belongs to the Scouts not the adults. That is why it is not the way we used to do it and it is also why it may change again.

      Change comes hard so be as gentle as you can while advocating for the Scouts. We don’t want to offend volunteers or Scouts.

  12. SUMMER CAMP IS A GOOD PLACE TO SET THE MOOD….. ….. When our bus pulled up at Summer Camp….. the staffers came up to me….. giving me the skinny on what to do…… I told them, your talking to the wrong guy……. I directed them to our Senior Patrol Leader and Quarter Master……….. I said “Their running the show”! I asked the staffers “Where is our camp site”? They told me. I told our SPL, and Quarter Master “As soon as you get your gear, I will see you there. Bring your troop up when you get everything squared away…….Mr SPL If you can give me five minutes before dinner tonight to address the troop, I would appreciate it. Mr Quarter Master let me know of any improvements you might be making on our camp site, and if you need any assistance,i.e. supplies, etc I would be glad to help out. The younger Scouts would come up to me asking all kinds of questions. I would reply “Did you ask your Patrol Leader? Did you as the SPL? etc. etc. They soon caught on….. on who was running the troop.

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