Scouter Phillip Martinez shares his advice on how to motivate boys

This Scouter specializes in lifting up kids.

Growing up with five siblings, a busy dad and a mom who didn’t drive, Phillip Martinez never got a chance to be a Scout. 

Six years ago, his two sons switched from baseball to Cub Scouting, and Martinez signed on as a Webelos den leader. He then crossed over with them into Boy Scouting, where he became an assistant Scoutmaster. When a group of parents asked him to start a new troop, he agreed — as long as they attended training.

What sort of activities did the troop do in its first year? We did the Rio Hondo camporee in April, and we won three ribbons. In May we went to the international camporee at Camp Mataguay in San Diego and won four ribbons. We went to a merit badge university down in San Diego. We attended the Miramar Air Show. We’ve done a lot of outings down in San Diego. I don’t stay in my council. I look at other councils’ websites and see when they’re offering things and propose them to my boys. I like them to experience other activities.

How do you fund your program? We’ve been doing yard sales; we’ve been selling stuff. We’ve managed to raise $2,000. We’ve gotten gear, and we’re trying to get a trailer now.

You have a reputation as a hands-on Scoutmaster. Why? You can either sit on the throne and tell everybody what to do, or you can get down there and help them do it. I like to be down there with the boys. That shows them I want them to succeed and that I do care.

Give me an example. I could just say, “You’ve got to do the sit-ups, push-ups and all that,” and I could have my senior patrol leader write down the times. But I get out there. I have my gym clothes, and we run it, we do the sit-ups. They challenge me, and of course they beat me because I’m 46 years old, but it’s fun.

Why is it important to create a place where kids are accepted? Scouting builds on top of each requirement. As the Scout progresses, you see confidence building in him. At first when they are Scout rank, it’s all new to them. The Scout is looking to see if he has what it takes. “Can I do this?” That’s when we as leaders motivate them using positive affirmation. I remember the face on a Scout who built his first tripod. He had the biggest smile on his face as he sat on the crossbeam. He is saying to himself, “Yes, I can do this,” and of course deep down inside, he feels accepted and motivated to do more. Then at the next meeting he is using the EDGE method to show others what he has learned. These are the beginnings of becoming a great leader.

How do you lift up kids? The leaders in Troop 553 all agree our duty is to encourage and motivate these boys to succeed in Scouting and school. We know that being a middle-schooler is hard these days. When they come to Scouts, we ask how things are going because we want to know about them. Sometimes, we can see in their faces that they had a bad day, so for the next hour we help them forget and bring the smiles back. We are a true family — a band of brothers.

Have you seen a difference in your Scouts in your first year? Yes. There are two brothers who came over from soccer. They’ve only been in Scouting for four or five months, and their mom is really happy. She said the whole family sees how excited they are about Scouting, how motivated they are. They aren’t playing videogames as much. They get outdoors on campouts and learn compass, cooking and so much more, and they tell her all about it. You know they get so much out of Scouting.

What’s your long-term goal for your Scouts? I want to see them succeed. I want them to earn their Eagle Scout. I want to be there when they graduate from high school and college and see them become men of good works who show integrity. This is what we want as leaders and parents.

Are your Scouts already dreaming of becoming Eagle Scouts? The Eagle award is something far away in the distance, like a mountain, but they see they are climbing the side of the mountain and it’s within reach. Each merit badge requirement they complete is getting them closer to that goal.

Talk about a community service project you’ve done. Our pack and troop collected 8,751 items of canned food in November 2013, thanks to the city of Santa Fe Springs. The previous year, when we went to a church to deliver food we’d collected, the pastor said, “Oh, just put it in the corner.” We were like, “No, you need to see what we’ve got.” He was amazed. He told us how the week before they were really worried that they were going to be short on food for families because they didn’t have enough donations.

Why are projects like that important? We can’t be secret-agent Scouts anymore. We have to be out there. We have to help in our communities with cleanups, flag ceremonies and canned-food drives. That’s how people are going to know that we’re still around.

Any final thoughts? I’m doing something for the boys, and I think there are thousands and thousands of Scoutmasters doing the same thing. We believe in this program. We believe these boys are our future. We as leaders are the wind beneath their wings, and we want to see them soar in life. When they are older, they will give back because all the way back to Tiger Cubs, we have taught them to give back. Could you imagine a generation of Scouts living these values? What a beautiful future it would be.


Phillip Martinez

Years as a Scout Volunteer: 6

Current City: Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

Current Position: Scoutmaster, Troop 553

Day Job: UPS driver

Proudest Moment in Scouting: Watching my young Scouts do a flag ceremony at a city council meeting. “The mayor was so happy and so impressed. They invited us back to do some more flag ceremonies. When the boys were outside in the foyer, they were excited and giggly and giving high-fives.”

Favorite Camp: Forest Lawn Scout Reservation near Lake Arrowhead, Calif. “We did a horseback overnight with the troop. The wranglers were so nice, so patient. They came down to the boys’ level and encouraged them to ride on.”

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