Scouting magazine

Creating functional Boy Scout patrols

Scouter A.S.’s troop has two patrols: the “chaos” patrol of new Scouts and the “I’m too cool” patrol of veterans. He asked for ideas on creating a better unit structure, where older Scouts teach younger ones.


The only age-based patrol our troop uses is the new-Scout patrol. As soon as a Scout reaches First Class, he is eligible to be recruited by an experienced patrol. Younger Scouts have a ready source of leaders within their patrol; older Scouts see the necessity of helping the younger ones so that the patrol is strong.

Scoutmaster W.W.M.
Seattle, Wash.

Change to mixed-age patrols as soon as possible. The ideal patrol has two older boys, two or three middle boys, and two new Scouts. If you have too many new Scouts or are uncomfortable with a complete shuffle, use a new-Scout patrol for the first six to nine months, with an older troop guide who functions somewhere between a patrol leader and a den leader.

Webelos Leader C.D.
Poway, Calif.

Our senior Scouts rejected new-Scout patrols on the grounds that the leadership, boy-to-boy training, and mentoring elements would be lost. I think that they were right.

To give new Scouts opportunities to interact, we pair them for advancement training with senior Scouts as instructors.

The troop has a stronger sense of unity when there is interaction between the new Scouts and the older Scouts.

Scoutmaster T.J.M.
Moraga, Calif.

Per BSA literature, a patrol is made up of eight or so boys of “similar age, interests, and ability,” so grouping by age is perfect. I know of many units with mixed-age patrols, and very few run well. It leads to intimidation and bullying and makes older guys feel like they are babysitting. Stick with the program as written and guide your PLC to get more creative when they plan troop meetings or outings.

Assistant Scoutmaster P.N.
Nottingham, Md.

Assign “cool” Scouts to separate patrols. If they want fellowship with their own age group, they can have it once their patrol has accomplished its tasks. If they need more time to themselves, encourage them to join or help start a Venturing crew. That will give them time away from younger Scouts and create an opportunity to bring (or bring back) other “too cool” youths who hunger to participate in age-appropriate BSA activities.

Assistant Scoutmaster and Crew Advisor C.J.G.
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Organize your patrols with the full range of ranks. Requiring older Scouts to mentor intermediate Scouts, who in turn mentor new Scouts, develops maturity and responsibility. This forces a “buy in” for older Scouts because they know that an improperly pitched tent is as much their fault as that of the younger camper.

Assistant Scoutmaster M.B.
Sarasota, Fla.

We have started using Baden-Powell’s technique of assigning buddies by age and experience on selected activities. The oldest and most experienced is assigned to buddy up with the youngest and least experienced and so on. This gives the older boys an opportunity to become mentors. It also lets the boys get to know one another better.

Assistant Scoutmaster W.J.
Riverton, Utah.

Web Exclusive Responses

The following responses do not appear in the print edition …

We recently reorganized into two patrols by lottery. Each boy’s name was put into a hat and drawn out, alternating between the two patrols. It worked extremely well; both the older and the inexperienced boys were fairly evenly divided. Now we have two strong patrols. We will keep graduating Webelos Scouts in a new-Scout patrol until they’re acclimated and then use the lottery system to divide them up.

Scoutmaster C.A.
Warwick, R.I.

When I became Scoutmaster, the boys wanted to be with all their old friends.
This was not going to accomplish our goals in Scouting, so I came up with a new idea that we still use more than 10 years later. First, all of the the Scouts elect the senior patrol leader. He and I select the assistant senior patrol leader. The patrol leaders are voted on by the whole troop. Then, we put everyone’s name into a hat, and the patrol leaders take turns drawing names.

Scoutmaster B.G.
Pasco, Wash.

The sooner you place new Scouts into existing patrols, the sooner they will become full-fledged troop members. To keep your existing patrols vibrant, there must be an influx of new Scouts. As new Scouts move up and become patrol leaders, they will remember how those who came before helped them, and they will, in turn, help those who follow. A Scout troop is a dynamic family; to isolate members by age is unimaginative, unnatural, and unhealthy.

Chartered Organization Representative W.A.W.
San Antonio, Tex.

We assign new Scouts to existing patrols, usually two to three boys in each. A patrol normally has three to four Scouts who are 12 to 14 years old and one who is 15 to 17. This older Scout has specific duties: to mentor the patrol leader and to serve as an older brother to all the Scouts.

Scoutmaster R.L.S.
Lutherville, Md.

After recent patrol leader elections, we had the leaders pick teams for a game of basketball — or so they thought. Afterward, our Scoutmaster introduced the leaders to their patrols. Choosing like this made for a good mix of older and younger boys.

Assistant Scoutmaster J.K.
McKeesport, Pa.

We elect a troop guide to mentor the younger Scouts. That way, the newer boys hear from someone who has experiences to share and can learn from his mistakes. This builds leadership skills for the older boys and teaches the younger boys on their level.

Patrol Leader C.L.
Richmond, Tex.