Help Scouts change the perception that Scouting’s not ‘cool’

Scouts in assistant Scoutmaster J.P.’s troop enjoy awesome adventures, yet they still get teased for being in Scouting. She asked how leaders can help change Scouting’s uncool perception.

What Would You Do Cool FactorCOMEBACK KIDS
We teach our Scouts how to respond when someone makes a negative comment. Examples: “Scouting is for wusses? When was the last time you hiked 63 miles, rappelled 40 feet, biked 60 miles, climbed a 12,000-foot peak, or canoed 60 miles?” “If there were an emergency, you could trust me to be able to take care of you. Would you be able to take care of me?” “Where do you think I learned the leadership skills to be the captain of the track (or cross-country, tennis, wrestling, football, basketball, or soccer) team?” “At least I’m able to put achieving Eagle Scout on my résumé/college application. What are you putting on yours?” “Are you part of anything that you and others our age plan and lead? I am. We plan and lead our meetings and activities. It’s not like everything else where the adults are in charge.”

When Scouts respond in such a manner, it usually shuts off the negative comments and often recruits the one making the comment about Scouting.

Scoutmaster B.W.-F.
Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Since entertainment is so immersive today, we have to step up our efforts to keep up. For example, I’m currently working on a “Zombie Survival Edition” of the Emergency Preparedness merit badge. The requirements are the same, but the instruction is delivered in a theatrical and imaginative way. I’m pretty sure that earning that badge will be memorable, effective, and comment-worthy. Measuring the effectiveness of our program by boys’ willingness to tell others about it will keep us adults heading in the right direction.

Unit Commissioner M.G.
Lehi, Utah

Many people choose not to join Scouting because the uniform is all they see. More attention has to be shifted away from what we wear to what we do: going on great trips, making amazing friends, and learning leadership, service, and new skills. We have to change the image of Scouting from a tan shirt and green pants to one of rock climbing and backpacking.

Junior Assistant Scoutmaster J.O.
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

Have the unit purchase some of the cool tech shirts that Scout Shops have been selling and let your guys wear them from time to time as a uniform alternative. You still look uniform as a group and increase the coolness factor a bit. 

Take action shots of your boys doing the fun and cool stuff that Boy Scouts do, and try to get those photos into the local paper. Scouting is a year-round sport; market it as such.

Scoutmaster J.P.
Loganville, Wis.

Packs and troops need to start working together to show the community how cool it is to be a Scout, not just because you get to go whitewater rafting or shoot a gun, but because you serve your community and make a difference. We need to do a better job making sure the community knows who we are and what impact we have; then the boys will find it cool whether they are cleaning up a park or hiking a mountain trail.

Pack Committee Chairman M.L.
Wayzata, Minn.

Ask your Scouts, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Executives, public leaders, military officers, and athletes were all Scouts. We need to give some examples and demonstrate how the life lessons and skills learned in Scouting contribute to future success. Plus, who doesn’t think knives and fire are cool? 

Mount Pleasant, S.C.


  1. I would like to know more from the Unit Commissioner M.G.
    Lehi, Utah about the EP program you are creating. Can you get back to me so that we can incorporate your idea? It sounds wonderful.

    • only because you don’t have a kid being teased for being a Scout or you don’t care that he/she is being teased.

  2. Zombie themed Emergency Preparedness sounds like it could be a lot of fun. But I’m not so sure I can get my head around a Special Forces themed Wilderness Preparedness… I’m an Eagle Scout that was also Marine Corps Force Recon. I suppose you could tell the scouts anything and they would believe you, but my reality conflicted greatly with what we would want scouts to do -namely stay in one place and wait to be found. The reality for me was that the moment the sun went down, we were moving. Day was when we hunkered down.

    I suppose I could see one way to do it very realistically. Tell them to move to specific grid coordinates and wait for extraction. Then leave them there a few days longer than they expect :-). Now that would be REAL! Haha

  3. I like all of the suggestions and encourage my kids to challenge their peers when confronted with “here is what we do as Scouts… what’s not cool about that?” but I need to toss this out there…

    National is doing a good first step in the National Recruitment Campaign. Districts and Councils HAVE to step up and pitch in to help units with advertising. The money isn’t available at the unit level to purchase billboards with quality graphics, etc…

  4. I can some it up in a lot of ways, but the best thing I can think of is media and how scouting is put out to the world. Currently there are 2 boys in out town that are Boy Scouts. They have to go to another town for scouts and that troop encompasses 5 small towns. We have had 4 boys in the past 3 years who should have made Eagle, but aged out. Why, it is simple. They get both TV and written recognition for sports. Several times a year there are exposes on current or past athletes. I sat the last 2 Eagle Boards in our area and both boys were also athletes. Neither would tell you that making Eagle was as near as cool as playing in the State Championship game. They lost the game, but appreciate that experience and having their names associated with that team. When they made Eagle the local paper printed a small one to 2 paragraph article about the boys. There was a huge article week after week about the football team and the players.

    The only big media coverage scouting gets anymore is when it is negative. I never see anything about scouting in a positive way anymore. The boys are having to deal with the “Scouts are Wusses” as well as all the negative stuff coming out of the national office. Even the President won’t go to the National Jamboree anymore.

    I could go on, but I will stop now. I will end it with, the boys earn and pay for everything they get. They also fund the national office with their fundraising efforts. It is time the National and Councils did something to put Scouting on the front page in a positive way. Quit whining “We need more money” and do something to encourage boys not make them suffer the stigma that scouting has become.

  5. A few years ago while at a summer camp with the theme castaway my troop made up scout shirts using Hawaiian shirts with the council strip, troop number, rank, American flag, knots,and world crest on them. To this day the troop loves to ware them they are cool so the boys say. So much so that as new scouts come in they make up there own. We now ware them to at least one evening meal at summer camp

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