The first step in a successful Webelos (Webelos-to-Scout) transition is finding the right Scouts BSA troop to join. Some packs, like those sponsored by many churches, are already “feeder” packs for specific troops, which makes this step easy. Parents and Webelos Scouts, with help from their pack leaders, should do some homework in preparation for the move by learning about all of the options available in their local area.
A key factor in deciding on a troop is the location and time of meetings. Make sure both of these fit your needs. But finding a good troop goes deeper than just schedule considerations.
“The key is getting the Webelos Scouts introduced to the Scouts in the troop,” says Bob Scott, the BSA’s Cub Scout experience manager. “It’s a relationships business.”
Meeting with potential troops — either during a formal visit or at an activity — allows parents and Scouts to interact and decide if the troop is a good fit. Visits can be scheduled by parents, packs or even with help from the district. Some districts also sponsor activities designed to bring Webelos Scouts and Scouts BSA members together, such as a Webelos Woods campout, daytime activity or troop open house.
“Visit at least three troops on two different occasions,” suggests Katie Bradeen, committee chair for Pack 51 in Schertz, Texas. “Talk with other parents and leaders and ask questions about fundraising, communication styles, advancement, troop gear, committee needs, types of activities and other troop functions.”
Works on Many Levels
If possible, look for a good age mix in a prospective troop.
“It is helpful to join a troop which has Scouts at each grade level, so that when you join there are still some older Scouts in the troop,” explains Sue Miller, a former Webelos Scout parent in Portland, Ore. “Make sure to join a troop that is Scout-led.”
Some troops have a new-Scouts BSA patrol designed specifically to welcome and include younger boys and girls in a comfortable setting. Or, if a Webelos Scout has special needs, such as a learning disability, search for a troop with knowledge on how to deal with his particular situation.
Boys and girls can talk to current Scouts BSA memebrs to find out what they like best and what they would change in their troop. Then, parents and Webelos Scouts should compare notes and discuss their choice together.
Cathy Burks, a Webelos II leader from Texas, took her den to visit a different troop every month from August through January.
“The boys and their parents used a chart to track the differences and similarities between each troop,” she says. “Then they compared the troops and decided which factors were most important to them.”
In addition to visiting and participating with local troops at their events, Salt Lake City Scouter Kathi Robertson says, “We also invited Scouts to attend a few of our monthly Webelos outings. The Scouts were excited to come, and they all became friends, so the transition to the troop was much easier.”
Find a Fit
How do you know when you’ve found the right troop?
Bradeen remembers: “I could hear it in my son’s voice and the way his face lit up when he talked about the experience he had. It felt like the troop fit.”
“Fit” is a good description regarding the BSA’s official advice on the subject. Webelos Scouts and their families should be familiar and comfortable with the youth and adult leaders of the troop and feel excited about beginning this new adventure.
Webelos Scouts in Burks’ Pack 177 transferred into three different troops.
“One boy chose the troop where his brother already attended, while another Scout chose a troop in a neighboring town,” she says. Her son intentionally chose a smaller troop “where he could have more personal attention and early leadership opportunities.”
One caution from Bradeen: “Remember that even if the troop chosen turns out not to be the right one initially, don’t leave Scouting. Instead, change troops!”
Find troops near you at http://beascout.org.