Instilling pride in a new troop and its patrols
Edited by Robert Peterson
When Scoutmaster C.R. asked for help in motivating his young Scouts, readers noted that unit pride starts with adult leaders setting the right example while providing a program full of "gee whiz" activities.
As a retired Army master sergeant, I have found that instilling pride in a unit has to start at the top. When I joined a Cub Scout pack five years ago, I began by ensuring that the leaders were properly trained and uniformed at all times. A uniformed leader stands as a beacon for the boys to emulate.
We made sure our boys were involved in council, district, and community activities. The boys' uniforms were immaculate, and the den and pack flags were carried at every event. Pride in the boys, their dens, and the pack began overflowing. Pride is an emotion that can be caught and should be spread.
Our troop had a group of older Scouts who did not seem to know how to lead. They were lost in a fog and needed a guiding light.
To encourage them to use and enjoy the patrol method, our adult leaders formed the Lighthouse Patrol. We have a patrol flag, a call (a foghorn), and a patrol medallion. We set the example by using the patrol method in a very enthusiastic and visible way.
We challenged the Scouts to follow our example. As the Scouts' patrols started to function as effective units and began building pride, the Lighthouse Patrol quietly slipped to the sidelines.
Anytime a patrol starts having trouble, the Lighthouse Patrol comes back to set the example. We encourage all Scouters to join the Lighthouse Patrol and have some fun guiding their Scouts who are lost in a fog.
The secret lies in programdoing the usual in an unusual way that causes "gee whiz" feelings. A no-utensil camp-out (cooking bacon and eggs in a paper bag, boiling water in a paper cup in the coals) is always a great gee-whiz story. Schedule a local historical trails hike with a patch awaiting each participant. In warm weather, plan a "shoebox" hike-in overnight camp-out (all of a Scout's gear and food must fit in a shoebox).
Even doing pizza in Dutch ovens during star study and not telling the Scouts what's cooking until star study is finished and the pizza is done can cause excitement.
Motivation is internal for each Scout. It must come from achieving something with the patrol or troop that he probably would not have done alone. Pride will follow "gee whiz" programs.
Pride is built with patience and consistency of message. It is generated by a lot of things but starts with the Scoutmaster's example. It takes constant reinforcement and lots of pats on the back.
Stress wearing full and correct uniform and let the Scouts run the troop through the patrol leaders' council. Praise Scouts who participate in the troop's hiking, camping, and adventure trips. Take every opportunity to praise Scouts. Tell them how proud you are when they do community service or even just help another Scout.
All you need is the Scouting program, right out of the book. If boys do Scout things, they will develop pride as Scouts.
Pride comes from accomplishment, the realization that the members of the troop have done something worthwhile, but only if they have done it themselves.
If Scouts are not participating, there are two places to look for the problem. First, who is deciding on activities? Does the patrol leaders' council plan activities? Scouts won't take pride in an adult leader's decisions, only their own.
Also, insist that some parents sign up as assistant Scoutmasters and form a proper troop committee. Committed parents make for committed Scouts. Leadership starts at the top.
Troop Committee Chair P.M.
While you may have a new troop, you certainly are part of a larger, older organization. A sense of pride will develop if the young men are exposed to the history of Scouting and the BSA.
An appreciation for the uniform comes with a knowledge of its origin. A respect for the advancement system comes when they understand where we are trying to take them. A reverence for the organization comes when we share with them the stories of 91 years of Scouting tradition in the U.S.A. Even with an established unit, these lessons take time.
With a new group, you have a unique opportunity. While you are temporarily handicapped without an experienced senior patrol leader, the boys will rise to the challenge. Youth generally preform to the level of their adult leaders' expectations, be it a positive or negative expectation.
Get the troop's adult leadership involved to create special programs, trips, and activities. Tap each Dad, for instance, to contribute an activity related to his job. Attendence at the first few events might be low, but keep up the effort for a year. Word will spread among the boys about the fun they are having.
Next, involve the boys in planning and tell them they are learning how to choose and run events in future years (when they become your "older Scouts"). Apathy comes when troops do not have any activities or when the activities are not boy-planned.
The boys in a young troop do not have the imagination or the knowledge to grasp all the fun Scouting can offer. But after the adults demonstrate the planning process, the boys can eventually take control.
I might also suggest making "fun and learning" the goal over "pride." When the troop is active, fun, and teaching, you will have no problem with a lack of troop "pride."
May-June 2001 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2001 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.