Motivating Scouts who don't advance in rank

Scouter M.A. noted in our March-April issue that some Scouts almost never advance in rank. Should the troop committee’s board of review find out why? M.A. asked. What else might motivate boys to advance?

Illustration by Bill Basso

Shine a spotlight of attention on Scouts who have bogged down or just plain jumped off the advancement wagon. A board of review is one option for such boys, but I recommend giving them mentors and advocates. This is where a dedicated assistant Scoutmaster and/or troop guide can make all the difference.

These leaders should be aware of each Scout’s advancement needs. They are the boys’ advocates to the troop’s leaders, making sure that the planning process includes activities to meet their needs.

They are also mentors, providing instruction and guidance at troop meetings. Often an assistant Scoutmaster or troop guide is a Scout’s main source of inspiration.

Faced with an assortment of advancement needs among our younger Scouts, our troop guide planned an “Advancement Weekend” camp-out. He brought in instructors and filled the weekend with a variety of advancement-related activities. The Scouts who participated made First Class rank by the next court of honor and are now actively seeking the next rank.

The pride and self-esteem that are instilled by success will inspire these Scouts to higher levels of achievement. It is difficult to fail in an atmosphere of interest and support.

Assistant Scoutmaster B.C.K.
Valley Forge, Pa.

The answer to M.A.’s first question is on page 122 of the newest edition of The Scoutmaster Handbook: “In addition to reviewing Scouts who have completed requirements for advancement, boards that meet regularly might also choose to meet with Scouts who are not advancing. A board can give those Scouts support and perhaps help them discover ways to overcome obstacles hindering their progress.”

My troop committee’s board of review found that the troop program sometimes wasn’t meeting the needs of unmotivated Scouts. When this was the case, we made the necessary changes to provide ample opportunities for them to advance.

We also used the Troop Advancement Chart so they could see where they stood in relation to others in the troop, because peer pressure is a great way to motivate Scout-age boys. We gave immediate recognition when a rank was earned and used good ceremonies when presenting badges. In addition, we used the Scoutmaster conference to help Scouts set obtainable goals and encourage them to achieve them. Finally, we made sure that our troop meetings and camp-outs provided opportunities for Scouts to complete requirements for advancement.

Council Executive Board Member
and former Scoutmaster W.F.S.,
Marshalls Creek, Pa.

A Scout who is not advancing should not attend a board of review. Instead, he should have a conference with his Scoutmaster so the leader can determine why the boy is not advancing. It will also give the Scoutmaster an opportunity to explain to the boy in a private setting what he should be doing if he wants to advance.

Port Monmouth, N.J.

M.A. should use the ideas for meetings and outings contained in the 36 monthly segments in the three volumes of Troop Program Features.

Our troop’s Scouts are more excited and participate more avidly since we started using the program features when planning our troop calendar. [Editor’s note: Beginning with the May-June issue, a total of 12 of the 36 troop program features are also bound into five of the six copies ofScouting magazine sent to Boy Scout leaders each year.]

M.A. should remember that troop meetings should be run by Scouts, not the adults.

The junior leaders seem to be more interested if they, and not the adults, are providing the hands-on training for newer Scouts.

Assistant Scoutmaster H.C.D.
Seaford, Del.

I’m sure that Scouts dragging their feet on advancement have plagued Scoutmasters ever since Scouting began. We urge boys to make First Class rank in their first year in the troop. We point out the importance of advancing now, because as they get older they will become more involved in school activities and jobs, leaving less time for Scouting.

Others foul up. I know of two Scouts who had their Eagle service project done and never got their applications sent in and thus did not make Eagle. What a waste! I’ve never talked to any of these young men later in life who didn’t regret it.

My son sat on his Life Scout rank for three years before he determined to make Eagle, and he did.

Unit Commissioner C.R.W.
Belmond, Iowa

While I don’t condone bribery to promote rank advancement, it worked in the case of a Scout who didn’t think merit badges were worth earning. Basketball was more important to him. At summer camp, he and some others hung around wishing they had their Game Boys and computers to play with instead of working on advancement.

So I offered to give a Swiss army knife to the boy who earned the most merit badges during camp. By the end of the week our troop had earned the most merit badges of all troops in camp. The real surprise was that the winner of the knife was the Scout who was more into basketball!

This seemed to be a turning point for him. Before camp, I would have been surprised if he had gone further than First Class. But just before his 18th birthday, I was invited to attend his Eagle court of honor.

Knowing your Scouts through Scoutmaster conferences or other means is one key to stimulating advancement. Sometimes you can get Scouts to work on merit badges without them knowing it. For example, they can complete requirements for the Computers and Camping merit badges by drawing a campsite on a computer.

Pleasant Grove, Utah


  1. How refreshing to hear of troops that actually ENCOURAGE advancement! Our troop charered organization rep believes that our boys are too “obsessed” with becoming Eagle Scouts. The adults in the troop engineer the pace of advancement (to the point of “failing” scouts) to keep them around through senior year of high school. Needless to say, this is dishonest and demotivating. A severe disservice has been done to many boys in that troop, including one who ultimately quit because he was denied a Scoutmaster Conference for over eight months. Yes, these adults care more about their own power than the boys they are supposed to be serving.

  2. I have recently been asked not to remind a scout to get his book (which is already signed) checked by advancement chair to be input into scoutbook. I was told they should be responsible to bring the book to her themselves without reminding. I’m trying to motivate scouts and they have req. signed off in book that are not logged into scoutbook. I want to encourage but let them be responsible at the same time??

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