Front Line Stuff

Edited by Mark Ray
Illustration by Bill Basso

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.

Top of Page

September 2008 Table of Contents