How do you prevent burnout as a super-involved Cub Scout leader? For this Scouter, it's all in the family.
Photograph by Andy Levin
Kelly Rodrigue wears many hats in Scouting. He’s the commissioner for the Southeast Louisiana Council’s Bayou District, chairman of the Catholic Committee on Scouting for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, and Scoutmaster of Troop 820, which he organized last year. He recently stepped down as Cubmaster of Pack 820—but only so he could become his younger son Zachary’s Tiger Cub leader.
In between his Scouting, family, and work responsibilities—he’s the registrar at Nicholls State University—Rodrigue took a moment to discuss what he’s learned from his years in Scouting.
Given that you wear so many hats in Scouting, how do you avoid burnout?
The biggest thing you need to do right off is to get the support of your spouse. Get him or her involved in Scouting. Scouting can be a wonderful family activity, but it helps tremendously when your whole family is involved. You must also remember to take the time to recharge your own batteries.
What keeps you going as a Scout leader?
Knowing that I can make a difference in my sons’ lives. Also, the friendships I have entered into with other leaders and their families, many of whom I certainly would have never met if not for Scouting. But more than that, it’s knowing that I can make a difference in other Scouts’ lives as well.
When you started Troop 820 last year, you only had a few Scouts. What have you learned about working with a new troop?
You have to start somewhere. Beginning with a small number can certainly allow for bonding between the Scouts. Continue to hold outings even with small numbers. Get them involved in volunteering at Cub Scout events where Webelos Scouts will see them. Our troop doubled in size after the first year.
The transition from Cub Scouting to Boy Scouting can be hard for boys—and for their parents. What advice do you have about working with new troop parents?
Many parents have a tough time letting go and allowing the boys to make decisions and take control. You have to gently remind the parents from time to time that Boy Scouting is supposed to be boy led. It is designed to help them mature and learn. Sometimes the best leaders just get out of the way.
Shifting gears to Cub Scouting, what have you learned about recruiting parents?
Watch the parents and how they interact with the Cub Scouts at meetings to recruit assistant den leaders. You never know what will happen to a leader as a job may change and require a move. This way you will have someone ready to step in if necessary. It also helps to lessen the load of the den leader.
Once you’ve recruited them, how do you get them to training?
Keep on them. Once most of your leaders are trained, others actually feel the pressure to get trained as well. The “Every Scout Deserves a Trained Leader” mantra is so very important to believe and act upon any chance you get.
Many packs lose momentum over the summer. What’s the secret to a great summer program?
Plan one or two fun events per month. Work in belt loops, rank requirements, etc., if you can, but just make sure the events are fun. Have a barbecue at someone’s house. Show a movie and pop some Trail’s End popcorn, or order pizza. Play miniature golf. Hold a derby. Take a day trip to a nearby festival.
What have you learned about serving as a role model for your Scouts?
Realize that you are a Scouter and setting an example at all times, whether in uniform or out of uniform, whether at a Scouting event or just shopping at the supermarket. Good Scouters are Scouters for life in both attitude and lifestyle.
What other advice would you give to new Scout leaders?
Never stop doing your best and always be prepared. Those mantras aren’t just good for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts; they’re good for everyone.