Scouting Is Cool
By Jean Dunning
Being cool is in the eye of the beholder - unless, of course, you are between the ages of 10 and 14, and then it is in the eyes of your friends.
When my oldest son, Ryan, crossed over from Webelos into Boy Scouting, there was a boy in our pack who had been very active since Tiger Cubs. He had attended most of the meetings and outings and had successfully met his Arrow of Light requirements. To our shock, just two weeks before the crossover ceremony, he quit.
What would cause this boy to quit? What had gone wrong? The boy’s mom, who was as disappointed as I was, said her son told her that he didn’t want to be a Boy Scout; being a Boy Scout just wasn’t cool.
My husband and I did some quick damage control with our son, so he would not “catch” this boy’s attitude. We pointed out all of the fun things that were just across that bridge -- Boy Scouting’s promises of more camping, adventure, friends, and independence.
The ‘coolness factor’
Combating the “coolness factor” has long been a struggle for both Scout leaders and parents. Unfortunately, many Scouts drop out along the way. While parents and leaders can’t protect their Scouts from peer influences, there are things they can do to help their Scouts stand strong.
Feeling like the new guy is not cool. Jim Turba, assistant Scoutmaster for Minooka Troop 464 in Illinois, says being the new kid can be tough. A Scout who feels apart from the troop is a prime candidate for quitting.
To ease new Scouts into his troop after crossing over from Webelos, Troop 464 hosts “Rookie Camp,” a specially designed outing to introduce new Scouts to the ins and outs of camping, knife and ax safety, and being away from home.
Most Scout leaders will tell you it is the camp-outs and opportunities for adventure that make Scouting fun, and thereby “cool.” For parents to let go, especially with the younger Scouts is hard, I know. But as my husband, who is an assistant Scoutmaster for Plainfield Troop 13, says: “The boys won’t want to be in Scouts if you don’t let them do any of the fun stuff.”
Eye on the goal
Scouts need goals. Alex Halaska, Troop 464’s senior patrol leader, says he rode through middle-school peer pressure on the wings of a dream -- to become an Eagle Scout. Now at 15, Alex is awaiting approval of his Eagle Scout project -- the only thing left between him and that dream.
As Boy Scouts grow older, so should the challenges. Alex says his troop rekindled interest among the older boys when they introduced a Venture patrol.
“The outings the Venture [patrol] plans are high adventure. Last winter we did a winter survival camp-out,” he says proudly. “We hiked a mile and a half in eight inches of snow and camped on the backside of the Scout reservation.”
Alex says the Scouts were only allowed to bring the supplies that they could carry on their back or pull on a sled. “Our tent was just a small tarp. It was cold . . . but a lot of fun.”
If your son starts talking about quitting Scouts, Turba advises parents to try and pinpoint the reason why.
“Be prepared to ask a lot of questions, because the boy probably doesn’t know. It may be that Scouting is conflicting with another activity, he is being teased, something happened on a camp-out, or he is just bored.”
Our oldest son is now a Life Scout working on his last required merit badge for Eagle. Not only has he stayed in Scouting, held numerous leadership positions, and participated in the Order of the Arrow, he has cleared the way for his younger brothers Andrew (a Star Scout) and Matthew (a second-year Webelos Scout) who have seen first hand that being a Boy Scout is definitely cool.?
Jean Dunning is the wife of an assistant Scoutmaster and the mom of four -- two Boy Scouts, a Cub Scout, and a Daisy Girl Scout. This story is based on an article she wrote for the Joliet, Ill., Herald News.
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