Game of Life to Eagle: Helping Scouts reach the finish line

Longtime Life-to-Eagle coordinators offer their best advice for ensuring every Scout comes out a winner.


BECKY DORN THOUGHT she had seen it all. But the veteran Life-to-Eagle coordinator for Troop 876 in Carrollton, Texas, was wrong.

One evening about five Decembers ago, a 17-year-old Scout named Travis arrived at Dorn’s house to wrap up his Eagle Scout requirements. He just needed to check his records, finish a merit badge, have his Scoutmaster conference and do it all before he turned 18 — the next day.

Dorn pointed out the time crunch, but Travis was unconcerned. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I have three hours before I turn 18.” That was true, she admitted, “but we all want to go to bed.”

Despite the late hour, Dorn helped Travis complete his paperwork and prepare for the other stops on his birthday-eve itinerary, and he eventually became an Eagle Scout. While Travis might not have learned much from his brush with last-minute accomplishment, Dorn certainly did. “That hasn’t happened in the last three or four years,” she says. “I’m on them quicker than that now.”

Preventing procrastination is just one thing Dorn and other Life-to-Eagle coordinators do. Each of them, in his or her own way, helps shepherd Life Scouts along the sometimes-bumpy trail to Eagle. A coordinator’s goal is not to direct a Scout on the road to Eagle, but rather to encourage him to make decisions ultimately leading to his success. It’s a position that demands both time, which many Scoutmasters lack, and experience, which most parents lack. But it’s a position that could benefit the older Scouts in your troop.

AS A LIFE-TO-EAGLE coordinator, you’ll typically start working with a Scout as soon as he reaches the Life rank. But just how you start can vary greatly.

Because Dorn’s troop is large — about 80 active Scouts — she holds semiannual Life-to-Eagle orientations for new Life Scouts and their parents. During these hourlong meetings, she goes through all of the Eagle Scout requirements in detail and fields any questions. After that, her first one-on-one contact might not come until months later, when a Scout is ready to start planning his service project.

Photo by Daniel M. Reck
Photo by Daniel M. Reck

Another large unit, Troop 677 in Glencoe, Mo., takes a different approach. When a Scout reaches Life rank in the 150-member troop, Life-to-Eagle coordinator Jim Keller presents the Scout with an Eagle Scout binder. “That’s really more of a security blanket for mom and dad than it is for the Scout,” Keller says. “Mom and dad have a lot of questions, and I keep referring them back to the binder.”

If your troop is small, you might opt for a more informal approach. In Troop 107 in Indianapolis, which generates about three Eagle Scouts per year, Life Scouts know to approach Assistant Scoutmaster Chuck Sparks, the troop’s de facto Life-to-Eagle coordinator, for help. “I don’t have an official title, as such, but everybody kind of knows you come to me,” Sparks says.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is the most complex project most Scouts have ever undertaken. As a Life-to-Eagle coordinator, you can help each one decide how to break a mammoth task into more manageable steps.

Begin by helping the Scout figure out which merit badges and other requirements he still needs to complete. He might be surprised to learn that he didn’t finish that Environmental Science merit badge or that he has only served five months in leadership positions, not six.

Next, help him prioritize. That might mean encouraging him to finish his merit badges before he tackles his service project (or vice versa) so he can concentrate on one task at a time. It might also mean getting him to think through issues like how the weather could affect his service project.

Setting deadlines is also important. If one of Dorn’s Scouts has several merit badges to go, she’ll suggest a schedule for when he should complete each badge.

Keller actually sets regular deadlines for his Scouts, asking each one to call him weekly with a brief update. “It may be, ‘I opened my Eagle book this week.’ OK. It may be, ‘I’m ready for my first review.’ That’s fine. But I need something,” he says. “Until they do that, I don’t overly engage them.”

How much to engage a Scout — and when to disengage — is an issue with which every Life-to-Eagle coordinator must grapple. There’s a fine line between guiding and directing, as Sparks says he has learned over the years. “I tell kids, ‘If I ever find myself working harder than you’re working, then I quit,’ ” he says.

BEYOND SCHEDULING and motivation, the biggest task most Scouts need help with is Requirement No. 5: “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community.”

It’s easy to exclude obviously invalid project ideas. It’s harder to determine whether a particular idea will pass muster with your district advancement committee. (Remember, coordinators do not approve final plans.) Sparks suggests focusing on these words from Requirement No. 5: “plan, develop, and give leadership.”

“I really pay a lot of attention to that,” he says. “How’s this kid planning this? Can he develop it into something significant? And when he does it, is there plenty of opportunity for him to give leadership?”

Take the classic example of building a bridge on a state park nature trail. The project would be valid if the Scout had to research plans for the bridge, solicit the materials, create a work schedule, and lead a team of Scouts and adult volunteers to build it. But the project would probably fall short if the park manager already had secured the plans and materials and the Scout and his dad could slap the bridge together in a couple of hours.

If that judgment sounds subjective, it is, which is why an Eagle Scout coordinator’s experience is so important. A coordinator can help screen project ideas that would most likely be approved by the advancement committee. But ultimately, the committee is the deciding authority.

Recognizing this scope and depth might be tricky for a new Life-to-Eagle coordinator after the BSA adjusted the requirements in 2011 to ask only for a project “proposal” (versus a detailed project “plan”) for approval before starting a project. Before this change, approved project proposals were required to include so much detail that a Scout’s project could be carried out without needing additional information beyond what appeared in his approved Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook (No. 512-927). But, as the most recent Guide to Advancement states: “It is inappropriate to expect a Scout to invest the time required for detailed planning, only to face the prospect of rejection.”

Councils and districts now approve a project proposal, which represents the beginning of the Scout’s planning process, explains Christopher Hunt, team leader of the BSA’s Program Impact Department. “Further planning necessary for success continues to be important, but it is evaluated as part of the project at the Scout’s board of review,” Hunt adds.

LIFE-TO-EAGLE coordinators should become familiar with the latest edition of the Guide to Advancement (No. 33088). Section 9 covers the Eagle Scout rank, and topics through are devoted to the Eagle Scout service project. But it is also very important to understand how the district operates and how its advancement committee works with BSA procedures.

Photo by Dave Clark
Photo by Dave Clark

Recently, Sparks worked with a Scout who was running out of time before his 18th birthday and was likely to miss a monthly deadline for getting his project proposal reviewed. “Knowing how the district works and knowing the people who were there, I was also able to tell this boy, ‘Call the district advancement chairman — here’s his number — and explain your situation. They will work with you,’ ” he says. The Scout took Sparks’ suggestion and was able to get his project approved at a special time.

If you’re just starting out as a Life-to-Eagle coordinator, consider asking to see completed Eagle project workbooks that have been approved or returned for revisions. After reviewing a handful of workbooks, you’ll quickly get an idea of what your district wants to see.

Although being a Life-to-Eagle coordinator has its challenges — including birthday-eve visits from 11th-hour Eagles — Dorn thinks she has the best position in her troop. She especially enjoys reading the statements of ambitions and life purpose that Scouts must write as part of Requirement No. 6. Often, she says, “I’m just blown away.”

For Keller, the highlight comes at the end of the process. “It’s sitting back after the Eagle court of honor is over and watching the proud parents and the proud Eagle Scouts taking their family pictures,” he says.

They’re photos that might never be taken without the support of the Life-to-Eagle coordinator.

Eagle Scout Mark Ray, author of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, writes regularly for Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.

The Life-to-Eagle Binder
You can head off a lot of questions by giving each of your Eagle candidates a binder with the following contents:

  • The Eagle Scout Rank Application (No. 512-728)
  • The Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook (No. 512-927)
  • Reprint of topics through from the Guide to Advancement (No. 33088)
  • Supplemental Life-to-Eagle materials your council or district publishes
  • Thumbnail descriptions of recent Eagle projects from your troop
  • A printout of the Scout’s advancement record
  • Contact information for the Life-to-Eagle coordinator and district advancement chairman

Did You Know?
Contrary to popular belief, an Eagle Scout project doesn’t have to result in something permanent such as a playground or nature trail; events like a book drive or a bicycle rodeo also can count. And there’s no requirement that the project be original or take a minimum number of hours, so long as the Scout has room to plan and give leadership.

There are some limitations, though:

  • Routine labor (a job or service normally rendered) should not be considered.
  • Projects involving council property or other BSA activities are not acceptable.
  • Projects may not normally be performed for businesses or an individual.
  • Projects may not be of a commercial nature.
  • Projects may not be fundraisers. Money-earning projects are permitted only to secure materials needed to carry out the project.

(Source: Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, No. 512-927)

Five Tips From the Experts

1. Encourage Scouts to set a target date for completing their requirements, and make sure it’s several months before they turn 18.

2. Emphasize to Scouts that every step will take longer than they think.

3. Suggest that Scouts concentrate on merit badges first and then the service project (or vice versa) so they won’t feel overwhelmed.

4. Family Life, Personal Fitness and Personal Management merit badges all have requirements that take several months. Urge Scouts to get those requirements out of the way early.

5. Never work harder than the Scouts you’re working with.

Eagles by the Numbers
While many Scouts sit at the Life rank for a couple of years, the Life-to-Eagle coordinators we talked with say they work with the average Life Scout for six to 12 months. That typically includes an orientation, several months while the Scout finishes his merit badges and leadership time, and then an intense period from the service project through the board of review.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that most Life Scouts who decide to pursue the Eagle Scout Award achieve it, although a few run out of time or simply give up. According to the BSA, the average Scout reaches the Eagle rank at 17.3 years of age.

A Youthful Perspective
In the past couple of years, Jim Keller has begun experimenting with having young Eagle Scouts work alongside him as Eagle mentors. “It gives them a chance to participate at a leadership level in the troop, to give back, teach, mentor and train the younger Scouts, and still maintain other interests and activities outside the troop meeting,” he says.

Among Keller’s first Eagle mentors was his son, Andrew, who spent the summer of 2009 working with a special-needs Life Scout. Two or three times a week, Andrew spent an hour or so helping the boy on his requirements. The following January, the boy became an Eagle Scout.



  1. Having helped many Scouts along the Life to Eagle Trail it is always valuable to the Scouts if I help them learn to break large goals into smaller, clearly defined parts.

  2. Excellent summary of the travails of being an Eagle Adviser! I was the Adviser for about 40 scouts, and believe me, I experienced all of this. It is especially important to know the procedures of your council and district. Potomac District in the National Capital Area Council holds three “Life to Eagle” conferences a year, open to all scouts and parents and led by our district Advancement Chair, which is a great way to get everyone in sync.

  3. I sure wish the article had spent more time on how to prevent the 11th Hour Eagle (aka Cardiac Eagle) phenomenon. It is not fun for anyone. In my experience, it is a bad habit passed down from generation to generation within a troop. It is much better to pass along a tradition of finishing Eagle before you get to High School. If articles like this helped us build programs that encourage a Scout to earn Eagle by, say, 14, then most of the “move back” squares simply disappear. I recognize, of course, that there will always be procrastinators, but why extol 11th Hour Eagles?

      • I disagree in part. Scouts that earn Eagle before 14 have not truly experienced Scouting or had the opportunity to truly give leadership. Plus, what keeps them active and engaged in Scouting after obtaining Eagle?

        I never encourage my Scouts to advance quickly. While I do prefer they finish Eagle six months before their 18th birthday, I see no advantage to encouraging them to finish earlier.

      • I also agree that 14 is too young to be the targeted age for an Eagle Scout. Although some are able to accomplish at a young age, I am skeptical of a scouts ability to effectively lead at that immature age. It shouldn’t be a race, but a journey of experiences.

      • I’ve been observing scouts in Eagle boards for over 40 years and find that some are more prepared to accept the responsibility of being an Eagle Scout than others. Individuals mature at different rates. I’ve seen 12 year old scouts who are more mature than some 18 year old young men!
        The biggest problem I’ve observed in all those years is that we, as leaders, fail those who achieve Eagle status early by not helping them reach back and help others realize the values of Scouting!

    • I earned Eagle at 13. Not the most mature guy in the troop but I kept earning badges at a regular pace and then completed my project. I stayed with the troop going on many outings and most meetings until I left for the Naval Academy. I was a pretty good role model for about 4 years to that troop. Since that time I have retired as a Captain in the Navy and have served on my City Council for more than 12 years. Two positions that show my leadership skills.

      I would NEVER slow down a scout on his path to Eagle. I know of a scout that moved with his family when he was a Life Scout to an area that did NOT have a good program. He never earned his Eagle. I am sure he would have earned Eagle if he had been allowed to work faster or stay put.

      Always help a Scout to advance at his best pace. Don’t try to slow him down.

      • Exactly. As you point out in your example. Eagle is not the end of a scouts experience but can be just a milestone along the path of scouting. More merit badges can be earned, camp outs attended, and other awards earned. Some scouts will get frustrated if forced to slow down by arbitrary road blocks put up by adults. Others will need more time and will slide in at the last hour. The scout program has the time requirements already built in and does not need someone creating arbitrary age requirements or wait times beyond how the program is created. The program works because it works at the scouts own pace and desires. I know a scout who earned first class just after becoming 12. One of his friends was a Star Scout at the same age but with a few more months in the program. The Star Scout had the goal of becoming Eagle within a year which also got his friend excited and wanting to go on the journey with him. The Star Scout is now life and working on his Eagle Project. His friend is still at First Class and not motivated to advance now. Normally that would be fine but the scout who stopped advancing and is not motivated became that way because his own father kept telling him he needed to slow down and wait until he was 16 or so to become an Eagle Scout. He artificially put the brakes on the boy and now the flame of excitement is about snuffed out in the scout. If he had just left him alone to go at his own pace he probably would be a Star and very close to Life himself. The boy is very mature, gets excellent grades, and is a leader in his school but got frustrated fighting with dad. I tried telling the dad that what he was doing in slowing down his own son and dampening his enthusiasm was not how the program was designed. But, by the time he was convinced the damage was already done and the flaming fire of excitement and enthusiasm was out. Any leader that tries to dampen the enthusiasm of a scout to advance because they think they are going too fast or need to be older, I now set strait quickly.

    • I totally agree Mitch! From my experience as a parent, I’ve noticed some troops do NOT want every scout to attain Eagle because then it would lose its status. In my son’s troop, meetings are purposely disorganised, which causes many of the boys to lose patience and drop out. Most of the scouts in our troop that have reached the rank have parents at most of the meetings organizing and facilitating everything! Sure, some muddling through things is a good learning experience, but purposely giving boys the run-around so they can’t achieve what they’re trying…that’s not leadership! Instead, troops could integrate many of the merit badge requirements into the meetings and campouts. They could also have a MB coordinator helping boys through the process. The more trained and capable young men that enter the world, the better for everone!

      • Sara, I totally agree with you on your recommended process. EVERY young man deserves the opportunity to become an Eagle Scout! How do you justifiably pick and choose who will and who won’t be allowed to reach the pinnacle of Scouting? Why? Because when he does he should epitomize the values we want EVERY Scout to exhibit – good citizenship, moral cleanliness and trustworthy leadership. Anything less than that is a disservice to every other Scout, his community, and to God.

      • Sara – after nearly 30 yrs in cub and boy scouts, no one who is to organizing mtgs are trying to fail. I’ve been in 3 districts and 5 den/patrols…..i currently have 3 boys and 2 girls in scouting (2nd gen). We’ve launched new packs, my husband learned how to be a cub master and a Scout Master – NO ONE does this with a malicious motive, but leaders are dependent on volunteers helping, or chaos consumes, and teen boys cannot tolerate chaos. It makes a mess. Maybe its not too late for you to step in and be a helper not expect other volunteers to be the answer.

  4. I totally agree with Mitch… However many troops have a policy of “only 17+” year old Eagles. (I’ve seen many leave their troop because they couldn’t earn it when they were ready…) Many SM’s are afraid the young Eagle will fly the coop, never coming back to the troop to “give back”.
    I was an early Eagle (as young as i could make it back in the 70’s, did 5 palms, worked on camp staff, national Explorer Pres Association, etc, still active… My middle son wanted to “beat dad” – earned it at 13 (about 3 months younger than me). His SM stated he’d never met anyone as focused and dedicated as Aaron, he’s now working on the Eagle equivalent in his Church organization and the troop says he can’t earn any more palms as he’s not there often enough. Frankly, the troop attitude has chased him further away as well.
    My third son is now back on track after getting frustrated and is almost 2nd Class.
    Make sure the Scouts EARN Eagle prior the vapors – fuel (a car – best is “no wings no wheels”), perfume (girls), sweat (sports or band), money (part time job).
    Encourage them to stay around – give them a job in the troop (i.e. JASM) and encourage them to get active with OA and possibly Venturing.

    • Scouts who are excited and motivated need to be allowed to advance at their own pace within the program as it has been set up by the BSA. What a waste that a troop would not allow scouts to become Eagles until age 17. They are depriving the troop of the very growth and example those great leaders can bring to the troop. I would love a troop with lots of Eagle Scouts working to teach and mentor the younger scouts. I know a guy who earned Eagle as a young scout. He stayed involved and earned several palms. Wanting to do more, he also became a sea scout and earned the Quartermaster award. He then went into Venturing and earned the Silver Award. He loved scouting and after becoming an adult even worked in the scout shop for a while. I can only imagine what would have happened if his troop decided arbitrarily to not allow him to advance to Eagle until he was 17 or some other arbitrary age.

  5. Great advice, as always from Scouting magazine. But, the sub caption really bothers me: LONGTIME LIFE-TO-EAGLE COORDINATORS OFFER THEIR BEST ADVICE FOR ENSURING EVERY SCOUT COMES OUT A WINNER.

    I seriously disagree that if a scout does not achieve Eagle, the are a “loser,” or at least are not ” a winner.” I may be a bit prejudiced – I timed out on Eagle at 18 myself. But, I have been a a life long scout/Scout leader, a successful professional and family man and a “winner.” So have many of the boys I have been involved with who also didn’t make Eagle. I applaud those who do, it is a great achievement and an excellent target. But, our ultimate goat in scouting should be to help boys grow to men reflective of scoutings values and not just who achieved some singular endpoint.

    • I agree with your statement completely. I have seen several boys that did not achieve the Eagle rank but are still reflect the values that we try to instill in them. I have also seen some that have achieved the rank that I don’t believe have these values.

  6. Our First Son finished Eagle.
    Our Second Son dropped out at the rank of Life due to the frustration seen by the First Son.

    First Son (Eagle Scout) is now struggling in life,
    Second Son is now a successful honor student in college. He holds a job and commutes to college full time.

    Across the USA, extreme differences in scouting’s Eagle Scout admission processes abound. Council advancements are run by well intentioned but only minimally trained volunteer leaders. Some of whom are Eagle Scouts, some not.

    Many of the Scout Leadership Eagle Board volunteers base opinions on what they believe an Eagle Scout means. And that definition changes from one person to the other.

    Eagle Scout Candidates should not be treated as recruits in the Navy, nor should their projects be mini PMP (Project Management Professional) examinations. These kids are high-school Juniors and Seniors, not college grads. They should be able to have some flexibility and make some mistakes and grow.

    After 40 years around Scouting, I observe that the process of getting to Eagle Scout is as much about the individual adult-to-scout coaching that one family has vs the other. Sometimes in the same Troop, one Scout can take the high level of push needed, and sometimes the scouts push back.

    Some scouts are in heavily-coached families or troops, some are not. That plays as much a factor in actually achieving Eagle.

    I honor my second’s son decision not to pursue Eagle Scout as he likened the process to a video game where you had to guess what the next level was. At least that is was how the process was percieved in our County in Maryland.

    I now equate Eagle Scout with something like “All State” or ‘All County” athlete. Or even a large STEM project sequence. It’s an OK good mark in a young person’s life, if you get it, But if you strive for it and dont get it, can be a HUGE negative.

    Too many people start conversations with “Oh, Scouts…Did you make the Eagle?” … No. Hmmm. That is sort of like asking “Football… did you make All State?” or
    “Army… Did you make General?” I try to never ask any former scout if they made eagle or not. Sometimes that question is actually hurtful.

    The boys in our troop who had Dad’s to plan out each step of Eagle made it, or were willing to have coach lay out each step, on a schedule made Eagle. The others flew away.

    Frustrated Eagle,
    Dan R, near Baltimore, MD; Harford County.
    adult leader for 30 years after Eagle (1982)

  7. I feel very frustrated. Both my son’s Eagle Mentor and our Troop Committee are requiring him to put together and present a complete project plan in a binder before they will sign off on his proposal. They say this way has worked in the past, ensures greater chances of success, and they are unwilling to embrace the new approach. How can my son either get them to wake up and smell the coffee or work around this without going to another troop?

    • You should talk with your council office, They should be willing to help. If ever you have an issue that you feel is not being addressed do not be afraid to bring it to the council.That is why they are there. The other thing is also, Not saying your Scout master is correct, but having the boy do the work is part of the process. we also require our Scouts to prepare their project in a binder to present it to the Troop and Council board of review.We have a coordinator go over this but it is ultimately the Scouts job to make the preparations to show their project. It does work, we find in our troop that it works well. If the boys take the extra step to present a well put together presentation they tend to know what is expected of them better. And it also prepares them for working for people in the real world. being able to put together a project and present it in a professional manner is part of what we are trying to teach them.

    • Dear WR,
      Yes, talk with your Council office. This is an example of how a District committe sets it’s own rules based on the way it always has been done.

      It’s also an example of how different groups interperet different words and concepts.

      A proposal should be just that, a proposed set of ideas about work to be done. He is not bidding on a government contract and does not need a whole statement of work to be prepared yet.

      A ‘complete’ plan means different things to different people. The Eagle Scout Workbook has good guidelines, and a fill-in-the-page approach.

      IF it is a typical building or cleaning effort, I’d recommend to add photos of the concept project before the service project is done, and a sketch of what will be in effect after the project is done.

      Dan R.
      Harford County (Near Baltiomre) Maryland.

      • What I love is this topic… the proposal. Not sure how many people actually sit the Eagle Scout Project Proposals for a Committee but I have done lots and lots of these as CC over the years. “Proposal Must Be Approved …
        Before You Start”
        The Five Tests of an Acceptable Eagle Scout Service Project.

        The proposal is an overview, but also the beginnings of planning. It shows the unit leader and any representatives of a unit committee, council, or district, that the following tests can be met.
        1. The project provides sufficient opportunity to meet the requirement.

        2. The project appears to be feasible.

        3. Safety issues will be addressed.

        4. Action steps for further detailed planning are included.

        5. The young man is on the right track with a reasonable chance for a positive experience.

        The detail required for a proposal depends on project complexity.

        That is straight out of the Advancement Guide. I suggest these tests be evaluated each time.

    • This is against BSA policy. The proposal is approved, not the final plan. When I approve proposals (I’m on the district advancement committee), I tell the Scout that the plan is part of their leadership.

      If the troop is requiring a finished plan before the approval signatures, that is adding to the requirements. The 2016 requirement 5 specifically says that the proposal is approved. Period.

    • WR, this may be a matter of interpretation of what a “complete project plan” is. If your concern is that the troop leadership wants the entire plan approved from start to finish before being submitted, that is wrong, as has already been pointed out. If your concern is that your son is asked to submit his proposal in a binder before it is approved, I agree. I have been a scout leader for 22 years now, 10 as Scoutmaster. We’ve had 22 Eagles earned in our troop since I’ve been scoutmaster. Starting out, I did not encourage the Scout to prepare much of a formal proposal. But when the Scout office sent proposals back for further work before they approved it, I began to see what they were after, in other words how an Eagle scout project proposal should be prepared by the scout. Remember this process is to prepare a Scout for his adult life. The written plan, from proposal to completion, should be prepared in a manner benefiting a project proposal he would submit in a job. Also serving on the Council Eagle Board where we approve proposals, many are turned in simply paper clipped together, very little documentation included, no real plan of how the project can be accomplished. A scout must realize that although he knows the location of his project, he knows what the project area looks like, he knows how he plans to build/restore/gain access/get his labor/get supplies/get transportation/get lunches, etc., no one else does. So he needs to complete his proposal showing that all the 5 steps of an acceptable project have been met; specifically #2; “the project appears to be feasible”, and #5; “The young man is on the right track with a reasonable chance for a positive experience”. If he does not show us how he plans to get supplies, get permissions needed, get lunches, has a plan for building whatever with dimensions needed for it’s construction, how he plans on raising the money, how safety issues will be addressed, how he plans on getting to the physical location, etc., he has not shown people who are looking at his proposal for the first time that it is feasible. If he does not include pictures, we don’t have a good idea if the project is feasible. If he has pictures but has not included captions, we don’t know what the picture is showing. A 3-ring binder to hold the proposal is a more professional appearing proposal which we are trying to teach him to do, it helps him to organize, it shows him how this is done in the adult world he will be in someday. Our Eagle Board does not require that a proposal be presented to us in a binder, but when one is not, I always note upon approval of the proposal, that his final should be in one.

  8. “Helping Scouts reach the finish line”
    Now you are perpetuating the idea the BSA has been fighting for a long time – Eagle Scout shouldn’t be the finish line!
    Especially for the Scouts at the younger end of earning Eagle, there is much more to do.

    • Exactly! A couple scoutmasters ago in our troop and we had that same idea going. The scoutmaster saw Eagle as the last thing the boy does before leaving scouting. When I came on as an assistant he was surprised to see I had earned a palm when I was a scout. He said he had met very few who had enough time left to earn any palms before aging out. I told him I could have earned more but I was busy with sports and took my time earning merit badges over the next couple years but still did camping and other high adventure activities in scouts. He seemed surprised I was an Eagle before I was 15 which was the average age in my old troop. He soon moved and the next scoutmaster also felt that Eagle was the graduation award before turning 18. That’s how it had been for him also. Fortunately, he moved away shortly thereafter and we finally got a scoutmaster who was motivated and saw it as up to the scout when they became an Eagle. He had been a young Eagle himself and was proud of having a record still for the most merit badges earned at his scout camp in one week. This guy was and still is on fire and his energy is catching. But now we have a gap in the program due to the change in expectations. Young, involved boys of high rank advancing quickly, mid age scouts of lower rank bumping along still under the expectations drilled into them by previous scoutmasters, and a couple getting ready to age out at Life that can’t seem to find the motivation to do anything other than show up to meetings. The younger scouts look at these unmotivated scouts like something is wrong with them. What is wrong is that some adult crushed their enthusiasm for advancement early in their scouting career and had them seeing Eagle as some kind of graduation from scouting award.

  9. The Rank of Eagle is a Journey, not a destination. It is the combined effort of the boy, the parent and the Scout leader. I’ve served as a leader in the Scouting program for over 15 years and experienced the procrastinator and the early Eagle.
    My opinion is that a well planned program (with support of the aforementioned) starting with 11 year old scouts will produce Eagle candidates at the age of 14 to 16. If the program is run properly these boys have been leading at the capacity they are able to handle. I see no problem with advancing at a pace they are comfortable with as there is greater opportunity for adventure after achieving the rank of Eagle.
    Once they turn 14 they can be registered as both a Varsity and Venturing Scout where they will apply much of what they learned as a Boy Scout on a higher level with more high adventure activities. These activities are age appropriate and engage the boys.
    What retains a boys interest in scouting is a strong program where he has been given true leadership opportunities as opposed to puppet leadership that has been traditionally practiced. The youth are amazing and have great ideas if we will get out of the way and let them lead…with some guidance.
    I have Calendars and activity ideas I am happy to share with anyone who wants them.
    My hat is off to anyone who gives sincere time to the scouting movement in helping boys become better leaders. After all, that is what it’s all about.


  10. I wanted to comment on the reply that said a Scout earning Eagle before 14 has not truly experienced Scouting. How does one define “truly experiencing”? My son is 12 now (June birthday) and a Star Scout. He plays to have his Life rank by November / December, and then Eagle before his 13th birthday. That’s no push on my part, nor my wife’s. We support him and help guide him in any way we can, but it’s all on him.

    He’s completed somewhere in the realm of 21 merit badges, has 3 Eagle’s in progress and 3 to go. He’s been a Patrol Leader, Den Chief, ASPL and for a week of Provisional camp was elected SPL by Scouts he didn’t know in advance. Seems to me he has experienced Scouts and has had the opportunity to give leadership. In his first year and half of Scouts he has attended every campout, even if he didn’t stay overnight at them all, was elected by his peers to OA, and done lots of Service Work with various groups, and organizations.

    I haven’t encouraged my son to get Eagle as quick as possible, but I sure am not discouraging. If he wants to do it then he should go for it. Is every Scout going to fit that bill? No, but neither will every Scout fit the “just before 18” billing. We as adults, families, and Scouters should look to support and grow each Scout as an individual, not a template.

    Lastly, we’ve talked at great lengths and often about what happens once he gets Eagle. My son already has plans to join Venturing crew, plan some troop high adventures for younger Scouts, and continue camping to pass along skills he has learned. He looks forward to hopefully attending NOAC next year and going to Philmont and other High Adventure bases that he can’t because he is too young still.

    • Sounds like you as parents and your scout are doing it right. My hats off to your son for his motivation. I personally would like to see more active troops with Eagles of all ages participating. It can only make for a better troop. If the BSA did not intend for scouts to be able to earn Eagle at a young age, they would have included ages or grade levels for each rank like cub scouts. Boy Scouts is not Cub Scouts and each scout should be allowed to advance at his own pace. For some that will be much faster than others. I can only imagine how crushed and deflated your son would have been if some adult in his life crushed his enthusiasm or desire by telling him he was too young or placing artificial barriers in his path to slow him down.

  11. “Helping Scouts reach the finish line”!?! What?!? Eagle Scout is not the finish line! The rank of Eagle is not the “final level” in the game of Scouting. Once you achieve it, you’ve not “won,” “beaten” or “finished” the game. There is still much more to the game beyond Eagle. You’re perpetuating the notion that once a Scout hits Eagle he’s done with the program, he’s finished. Eagle Scout shouldn’t be the finish line! Stop this idea and you’ll improve the program. Getting a Scout to Eagle is not the goal or objective of the program; advancement, after all, is just one of the eight methods of Scouting.

  12. I just read the blog about wearing one’s merit badge sash on one’s belt. I’m surprised no one mentioned the picture of the pocket with both an Eagle pin and an Eagle square knot.

  13. I’m glad that I am not in the minority thinking that BSA and parents-at-large seem to be qualifying the Eagle rank as a token of participation. This is the first I’ve heard of “Life to Eagle Coordinators,” and was dumbfounded. I’ve got ~30 LtE Coordinators in my troop – they’re called SCOUTS! If they want to coordinate their way to Eagle, I’ll gladly help them and do whatever I can to mentor and guide them (my own son included). If they just enjoy camping, living the values of a scout, keeping good company, and doing some fun stuff, I’ll provide the vehicle for that as well. The only “requirements” are those mandated by BSA; there is no age requirement. The requirements are plainly listed in each scout’s handbook. I truly do not understand the need for direct adult supervision of a simple, clearly worded checklist that already exists in a BSA publication. Troops that are mandating additional requirements should be reported to their council and visited regularly by their commissioner. I do agree that a 12 or 13 year-old Eagle is most likely (there are probably exceptions) not mature enough to understand and value his accomplishment and was more than likely pushed along and attended many of the wildly popular merit badge academies that now exist (not a fan of those either, but that’s another subject) to complete requirements. I’m 42 and an Eagle Scout. I have met and worked with folks that were Eagles as well, but didn’t know we had that accomplishment in common initially. I was never surprised to learn that any of them were Eagles. I have been surprised as of late, however, at some of the young men (~13ish) strutting around summer camp, flaunting and taunting their rank to older scouts wearing Star and Life ranks. Clearly these young men are not living the loyal/helpful/friendly/courteous/kind/cheerful points of the scout law in their daily lives…

  14. I’ve learned a lot just by reading comments from this post and your post made us share our thoughts and experiences about scouts. Hope there are many others like you out there. I am also trying to work on some scout forms here Good thing I came across your blog to find more information. Thank you Mark!

  15. I noticed a lot of talk about what happens when a boy gets Eagle early, how many boys simply stop caring and leave the troop, whether its through boredom or the sense that they’ve done all they came to do. From my personal experience (I made Eagle at 15) its all about how you push yourself. Scouting is a journey, and one that has its challenges. Whether you make Eagle or not, Scouting is all about the fun you have and the distances you cover on your trail. If you really want it then I say go for it, heck go full speed ahead if you want too, but remember priorities. Enjoy life, have fun on activities…its not a race, its not even a marathon; its a trek with no finish line in sight that you will carry with you the rest of your life. Let your scouts know that; encourage them that the program is all about having fun, and the ranks and badges will follow suit.

    • Advancement is only one of the eight methods of Scouting. None are more important than the other. Fifty years after EARNING the rank of Eagle I am still convinced that the values I learned then are just as important today – Service, Fitness, and Citizenship. Even with thirty-four years of service to our country, I still feel that my “repayment” for what Scouting has given to me can only be “repaid” by helping other young men rise to the level of Eagle Scout. To me that means learning to give more than you get while having fun along the way. Yes, Being an Eagle Scout has its perks – jobs are offered to more men with the title Eagle Scout than the “also rans”! The military offers a two rank promotion upon entry into the armed forces to those who have attained Eagle rank. The list goes on….. As a former Scoutmaster and Varsity Coach I have found that those who attain Eagle status also do better in school than most of their peers who fall short of the mark.

  16. NEVER wait until they make Life!!!!! I catch them as they leave their First Class BOR. First meeting we sit down and review what he has towards Star already. We then choose a Merit badge (maybe 1 of the 4 long ones?) and check on a position. Twice annually, I conduct the Life 2 Eagle seminar at council. We walk thru it all, including how to fill out the workbook. If you wait until Life, you are waiting way too long.

    • Yes!!! There is nothing wrong about asking a scout, particularly the scoutmaster in scoutmaster conferences, the board of review, or even the parents, what his goals are for scouting going forward or where he sees himself in the next year or two. Most times they already have an idea of what they want to accomplish and do. If they don’t it gives them the opportunity to consider it. It’s a good exercise that will benefit them throughout life.

  17. I made Eagle Scout when I was 14 in 1964 in Waco, Texas and let me tell you I was proud of all I had to do to get to that rank.

    • Robert, what Troop? I lived in Waco until I was 12 as a part of Troop 498 out of Elm Mott. That was 1992, so a few years between us… 🙂

  18. Have the Scout consider doing all ’90-day’ merit badges at the same time. They have to maintain a log to one merit badge. Keeping an extra sheet or two for the same period is an easier than having them maintain logs for 6-12 months…

    • Yep and a good scout leader might explain to a scout early that logs are required for certain merit badges to be kept over several months so they don’t find out when it is too late. Conversations are good for helping scouts plan for their life and for scouting. Planning is a good skill to develop while in scouting.

  19. Reaching Eagle Scout is not a finish line! Getting a Scout to Eagle is not the goal or the objective of the program, nor is reaching it the end of the line. We need to stop this thinking that earning Eagle is like earning your Scouting diploma! You’re not graduating, you’re not “winning” the game of Scouting by earning it… it is merely a mark of a Scout who has done a particular set of requirements and demonstrates good character (and hopefully that’s something that continues long after he earns the badges, and not something he ever “finishes”). Completing the advancement path is not one of the aims of the programs; in fact advancement is just one of eight methods of Scouting. I can’t believe BSA would publish this.

    • I couldn’t have said it better. When the adults and adult leaders in a scout’s life stop treating it as a graduation from scouting award, it will stop being seen that way in the troop.

  20. Having been a Troop leader for 21 years; 11 as ASM and 10 as SM, I have seen only one Scout make Eagle that did not have his parents pushing him to earn it. So you have to get the parents on board. Our troop does not have a goal of “Every Scout an Eagle”. We do have an advancement and activity plan in place and will indeed encourage Scouts to earn Eagle. But it is of the Scout’s own choosing, not the troop leadership’s. There is a reason that only 4% – 5% of all Scouts become an Eagle Scout. It takes motivation on the part of the Scout himself, he has to do the work himself. Not every Scout has what it takes to become an Eagle Scout.

    • Gerald, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment that it takes motivation to become an Eagle Scout. That motivation comes in many forms, sometimes from parents, sometimes from peers, sometimes from within the Scout himself, but more often than not from a caring mentor/leader. My son and I were both influenced by the latter to make the effort to press forward and achieve Eagle Scout status. I think it also requires some desire on the part of the Scout to really “…do [his] best….” It’s when he internalizes the Scout Oath and Law that he makes the greatest growth. This assessment comes from over 40 years of working with Scouts in various capacities to help them “do a hard thing” and stretch themselves beyond what they think is impossible. Most boys start off excited about becoming an Eagle Scout, but along the way they lose the vision they had as an eleven-year old Scout. There are too many factors at play in each individual Scout’s life that are the reason for this loss of vision, but most frequently it is from the parents wanting their son to be a star athlete, or an outstanding scholar (both of which are highly commendable, but not as well rounding of character as the striving for excellence required to become an Eagle Scout).

  21. It is amazing to me to see the differences in today’s path to Eagle Scout. My motivation was a brother two years older that i was trying to keep up with. We were awarded our Eagles together.

  22. Eagle is not every scout’s goal and that’s okay. Whatever experience he gets out of the program will benefit him and the world around him.
    My son earned Eagle at 13 years old. His goal and his motivation. He developed a timeline of what he had to do and it’s deadline. The SM tried to deter him because he was young. He even changed troops after his project was completed because the SM refused to sign his workbook. The project was painting an USA Army tank used in the Korean War with CARC paint and painting surrounding benches. He decided during the project to replace wall the Armed Forces flags, retire the American flag, replace the cords, plant flowers, and take pictures of families that had loved ones deployed or KIA. He sent them each a thank you note with 2 wallet sized photos. Sounds huge for a 13 y/o, but HE did it!
    Since reaching Eagle, he has earned 12 Palms and all 137 Merit Badges that BSA offered, has attended Jamboree, OA NEXT training, held troop positions such as JASM and OA positions such as vice chapter chief and Lodge Chief. He has participated in OA Ceremonies team. He has taken every training he could- BSA/ ARC lifeguard certified (worked summer camp and BSA monthly pool days), advanced wilderness first aid certified, CPR,AED,Oxygen administration certifications and so much more.
    More important that the above, he LOVES scouting and has turned into a fine young man with awesome leadership abilities, loves living by the Scout Law and Oath, and plans to be a lifelong scouter. By the way, he turns 17 the end of November. As his active parent, I love seeing not only his accomplishments, but every boy that he has helped accomplishments and the friendships they have formed regardless of their ages. There is a whole new world in scouting after Eagle and it’s up to us to make them aware it is there for their benefit!

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