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  • Dillema in selecting a Boy Scout Troop

    My son is getting ready to crossover into Boy Scouts. Last night we had the visit with our CO's troop. It did not go well.

    A little background. Our CO has a very active Scouting program. We've been involved with the pack since my son was a Tiger. Our pack is very active - lots of camping and activities, good leaders, strong dens. For the last two years, I've been CM of the pack.

    Our CO's Troop is very large and has a very active program. Lots of trips - usually more than one a month. A good mix of local camping and high adventure. There is a very active leadership team in the Troop. There is an active New Scout program.

    Our visit last night was not very good. There was a session for parents that ran that was a long discussion of mundane Troop details. There was almost no program for the Webelos. Some Boy Scouts told the Webelos that they'd do some fire building - some of the boys came up to me and said "but we already know how to build fires". In the end, the Boy Scouts ended up standing around with the Webelos roasting some Marshmallows. My son was back inside bored 10 minutes after he went off with the Boy Scouts.

    The Troop meeting was going on at the same time as all this, but in a different part of the CO. The Boy Scouts never took the Webelos to see it.

    After the parent session was over, I grabbed my son and said "let's go see the Troop meeting". When we got there, they'd just broken up for a game. When the game was over, the Troop went back inside for a discussion of the upcoming Troop meetings with the SM. It was really boring. My son lasted for about 5 minutes and said "let's go home".

    When we got to the car, I asked my son what he thought - all I got was an "it's OK". We talked a bit and he said - "I think I'd like to see another troop". I asked him again at breakfast what he thought. He just kinda shrugged his shoulders.

    As dad, I'm 100% behind visiting other troops. As both dad & CM, my interest is in helping the boys find a good Troop and encouraging them to continue in Scouting. As a Scouter, I plan to take some time off, so my son is clearly in the driver's seat here.

    The Troop had a bad night that I expect exposed some of their latent faults. They do have an active program with a lot of engaged boys. I'm pretty sure that the night visit was due to poor planning by both the adult & boy leadership. I'm sure this exposes some of the Troop's faults.

    So, my dilemma is how to deal with a poorly planned & executed Troop visit. I'm sure we'll go see another Troop. But, how much room do you try to give the CO's Troop the chance to recover?

  • #2
    Some troops bend over backwards to entice Webelos to join. I saw one such Troop just a few weeks ago put on an amazing overnighter that, despite some bad weather, the kids loved. My nephew was among the Webelos there and he said he doesn't even need to see another Troop, he wants this one.

    I think you're right to view this as evidence of possible faults with the Troop. If they can't even get things right when it really matters, at a time when they have an opportunity to grow their ranks, it is probably an indication of other problems and likely indicative of standard operating procedures with the Troop. I say "likely" because it probably is a little harsh to judge based on one experience, so maybe a second visit is warranted. But generally, what you see the first time around is what you get in the long term.

    You should definitely see another Troop for comparison. And maybe give the other Troop another chance to show what they're about. Ideally I think it would be good to see them outside of the CO, if at all possible. Personally I suspect a 2nd visit will probably just confirm what your son feels about the Troop already. But you never know, sometimes they can surprise you. Maybe it was just an off night for them and ordinarily they're more engaging and fun. It's probably worth giving them another chance and finding out for sure.
    Last edited by EmberMike; 02-12-2014, 11:26 AM.


    • #3
      Well, some troops are better than others with visits. And some days are better than others for troop programs. Give the troop another visit if you really want to consider them. But how to handle another troop if the same situation happens again is ask the SM if you and your son could meet the SPL for a few moments. Then ask both of them together some questions you would like to know like "Is this a typical troop meeting?". After you run out of questions, look at the SPL and ask him for a tour of the patrols to meet the patrol leaders. If he is too busy (likely), ask him if he could ask another scout. I think that is a non intrusive way of learning about the program without disturbing their meeting. And those few small actions will let you see how the boy run/ adult relationship works. Have few key questions you want to know ready before the meeting. Barry


      • #4
        What you saw was a section of a troop meeting supposedly designed for a Webelos visit. Keeping that in mind, don't go with first impressions. Take in 2-3 visits and then do the same for other troops. Give them a chance to show what they really do, not what they want you to see.

        Once you have done all that, you are correct in letting your son decide. It's going to be his troop in the long run. There's always the possibility that by looking at all the other troops in the area, he'll come back to the first option. At least he will know what other options are out there and they weren't any better.

        With that being said, now you work with the troop to make things better if all the options didn't come up to one's ideal expectations (which it never does). If he decides with the first troop and he had a bad experience, maybe he ought to take the lead on running next year's Webelos program to make it better than what he had.

        The worst case scenario is he looks at them all and decides Scouting is not for him. Throughout this process, you will need to stay excited and communicate with him. I wouldn't accept an "Okay" answer, nor would I accept shrugged shoulders. Talk with him and let him express his concerns with you and you with him! Maybe the game they were playing wasn't the best for him, but remind him that the troop probably has more than one game they play and the next one will be more fun. As an adult you will be better able to see where he might fit in and be able to offer some good leadership challenges for him to consider. You are his #1 support person who is there to mentor him into a good experience.

        Best of luck with your boy's search,



        • #5
          Drop in on one of their activities. You hardly know anyone unless you've spent a night in the woods with them.
          If the SM asks, make it clear that your boys expected to sit in on a meeting, and that was not what happened.


          • #6
            This sounds like a case of having a preconceived expectation going in, and then realizing that your expectation did not match reality. I say this as a good thing.
            Listen, when a Troop plans for a WEBELOS visit, they try and make it fun, or what they perceive as fun for the WEBELOS. So your son knows how to build a fire. Did he pay attention and take notice of what materials the Boy Scouts were using for tinder and kindling? Did he ask any questions? I would think that fire building and toasting marshmallows would be kinda fun.

            One thing to remember too is that some Troop meetings can be pretty dry. The real action happens on the outings. I would ask the Troop if they would be willing to host you and the WEBELOS on an upcoming outing. That is where you will see the Troop in action.
            Last edited by ASM162; 02-12-2014, 02:07 PM. Reason: Edited because spelling does count!


            • ParkMan
              ParkMan commented
              Editing a comment
              I think I was writing my append as you were posting - sorry!

              The word expectations seems very appropriate here. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but I was surely expecting something to happen. Perhaps I was looking for a little bit of idealized Troop behavior. SPL in charge, scouts working in patrols on something.

              Thinking about it, I'm not quite sure what to expect from a Troop meeting. I remember attending many as a scout myself - but the only ones I have any recollection of was when we were planning for a campout, or cleaning great after one. Maybe I'm expecting too much patrol behavior.

              Attending an activity sounds like a good idea - I see precisely what you mean.

              Just to close the loop on the fire building. I talked to my son. The story I got was that there ended up not really being any fire building going on. While that were going to "teach" it, the older boys ended up just starting the fire and handing out coat hangers to roast the Marshmallows. Some of the Webelos ended up just running around and playing. My son was feeling tired last night so he didn't proactively ask questions. This also meant he wasn't into running around last night with his friends and so was bored. It sounded like there were good intentions, but they didn't quite happen as they thought it would. So, had he been a bit more energetic, he could have probably made more out of it.

          • #7
            Thank you all so much - your suggestions are immensely helpful.

            We'll be back to see how a meeting really runs this time. We'll definitely visit another troop(s?) and do the same thing there too - maybe even more than once.

            We've camped with them numerous times in the past and do think they are generally a good group. They do a ton of outreach to the pack. But for all that outreach, I couldn't tell you what life is like for a scout. Thinking about it more today, one of my concerns (as Dad) was the lack of patrol structure I saw. It always seems like a bunch of Scouts and the SPL or SM. We definitely need another visit.

            Thanks again all


            • Eagledad
              Eagledad commented
              Editing a comment
              Structure is always a problem for parents in boy run troops. You need to get your son to hang out with the patrol to really see how it works. I had a mom once visit us four meetings in a row. Her son liked the troop, but she was less than pleased because it appeared to lack structure. She tried with the last three visits to convince him we were not right for her son. I felt sorry for her because she admitted she was not comfortable with our troop but needed the visits to convince her son. She was pretty embarrased. Long story short is that all three of her sons aged out of the troop with an Eagle. And she was the best CC we ever had. See if your son can slip in with a patrol to follow them around. That will give him a real idea of the troop. Barry

            • ParkMan
              ParkMan commented
              Editing a comment
              I like that idea. That feels like a good way to see just how much of a patrol oriented troop it is.

          • #8
            The concept of expectations has been brought up in earlier posts. As an experienced pack leader, you know how to run a fun-filled, exciting meeting that is organized and efficient. Do you expect something similar in a troop? Even with plenty of mentoring, I doubt that a teenager will be able to do as good a job as you can. But, that is not really the point in Boy Scouts. The point is for the boys to do the planning and implementation. There is a huge difference between what I would like to happen and what actually does happen. Things are forgotten, people aren't prepared, stuff happens. These are all learning experiences that allow the youth leaders the opportunity to grow. As a scoutmaster, I can tell you that it is a constant task to work with the youth leaders to develop their skills. Once you understand what is going on, you can see the magic of development happening from the back of the room instead of seeing unorganized chaos. Could I run the meetings better than the SPL? Yes, but I won't. I would be cheating him out of the opportunity to develop as a leader.

            ​By the way, I don't hold special Webelos nights. I welcome them to come and see us in our natural state. I have a CC or ASM who talks to the parents and explains what is going on while the boys are integrated with a patrol.

            As you visit your CO's troop and other troops, consider whether you are looking for a Webelos III experience or a Boy Scout experience. Both types of troops can be fun, but your son will grow so much more as a person if he gets to participate in the Boy Scout experience.

            My advice to you is to be involved, but get a chair and a cup of coffee so that you can sit back and watch the magic happen. Oh yeah, you should go through the SM/ASM training so that you can understand what that magic is supposed to look like.

            Have fun with it!


            • #9
              Ya know ... nothing in the original post points to a bad troop.

              ---- With any organization, some nights are good and some are bad. Unless things are critically bad, it takes more than a few meetings to get a feeling for it.

              ---- Troops often change personality as the SPL changes. Usually the SPLs who I think will do great are not the best and those that I worry about shine. Go figure.

              ---- if you don't have a show stopper issue with the troop, then work it out and help them be a better troop. Your CO supported you in your cub scouting year. Show support for your CO and their Boy Scout troop.


              • perdidochas
                perdidochas commented
                Editing a comment
                Things can change from one SPL to the next. I know things were a bit more orderly with the previous SPL than the current one. Don't know what will happen with the next one.

            • #10
              As others have posted, it seems as if the troop had a "bad night" in planning activities for Webelos. Sounds as if they are following some old, established routines for Webelos visits, and haven't changed with the times. Gotta remember It wasn't until recently, 2002 or thereabouts,that Cubs started to do active camping, and some packs still don't, or cannot, camp. I know of 1 CM who still cannot comprehend that Cubs can go camping becasue she was around when they couldn't.

              As for the "boring" section after Game Time, that was the norm growing up as we played hard and had the "boring " info stuff right before closing and dismissal.

              My advice is to visit the troop when you are not expected. Will there be organized chaos, absolutely. if it is boy run. Lookfor things like, who is teaching, who is running the meeting, how old are the Scouts ( IMHO if you got 15-17y.o.s and/or 18-20 y.o. ASMs, the troop is doing something right.)

              Finally, GO CAMPING WITH THE TROOP (caps for emphasis, not shouting. OK maybe a little shouting as I'm going through camping withdrawal ) I have found that camping with the troop will make, or as happened with my son break, a troop.

              And if you want to read about what to avoid, look up some of my recent posts, staring from about October 2012. My CO's troop is a "Charley Foxtrot" at the moment.


              • #11
                Thanks all for the continued advice and coaching.

                We'll be going back to visit again. Perhaps it was a great meeting, but my son & I didn't realize it. Perhaps it was a bad week, not indicative of a regular meeting. Or perhaps they are not the Troop that will excite my son. I just don't think we saw enough to know.

                To add a little more background. We have camped with the CO's Troop many times. They usually invite the Webelos to join a camping trip once or twice a year. As a cub leader, I usually attended these. My son has joined me several times. When we do camp with them, we interact with the Boy Scouts - but generally camp with the Troop adults or in an area set aside for the Cubs. The trips have been fun and we've enjoyed going. These trips are generally organized by the Troop adults, so we don't see much of the Boy Scouts in any sort of capacity other than participants - really just as older peers to the Webelos.

                I'm fine with chaos and a lack or order. I think I was just hoping to see more "activity". Scouts breaking off into groups, working as patrols, etc. Again, perhaps we just hit the meeting at the wrong time.

                One strength of the CO's Troop is some pretty neat trips - in fact in the parents meeting, we heard all about the trips. Yet, it makes me worry that the Troop is all about the trips, but they don't focus as much on developing the Troop as a unit. But maybe that's OK?

                Deep down, I'd like him to find a Troop that will help him grow and challenge him. I think a Boy led troop would be better for that (as opposed to Webelos III) . To be honest though, I'd just like him to find a Troop that excites him - at least a little. I worry that he joins, does it for a year, then is bored. If he'd jumped in the car after that meeting and said "I want to join this one". Given that we have experience with that Troop, I'd have been happy with that. I'd also have been happy to let my own concerns go to the side. If it meant I needed to help out with the Troop at some point, I'd do that too - though it is not what I'm neccessarily planning to do. I was so involved in the pack and his den that I'd like him to be able to have some space from always having Dad involved. If I do tag along, grabbing a cup of coffee and a chair sounds like a great idea

                Needless to say, all this has reinforced that we need to see more and to see some other options. I'll also be sure to take Eagle92's suggestion of looking over some older posts to see what to look for.

                Thank you all


                • Eagle92
                  Eagle92 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  My recent posts have been on " what to avoid."

              • #12
                I hear some of these concerns from even our current parents and scouts from time to time, and sometimes it points to areas to improve sometimes not. Not every meeting is going to be "fun" in the sense that it will be entertaining. Our main focus is our monthly campout, 80% of scouting is outing. And at least part of every meeting involves work related to those outings, planning for them, preparing equipment, restoring and repairing equipment afterwards, and repeating the cycle.

                I'm not a great fan of sports analogy but one might be appropriate here. If you think of the weekend outing as the game, the meetings are the practices, and practices can be fun but they also involve drills and repetitiveness to get ready for what's most important which is the game or in our case the outing.

                One of the big challenges and changes for a scout that crosses over is that in Cubs the adults do most of the work and the scouts get to benefit from that and do most of the fun. In scouts you only get the fun if you put in the work.


                • #13
                  Had you talked with troop leadership about what day to visit?

                  I ask because I know for our troop and how the PLC plans things out there are certain meetings that are better to visit than others. I honestly don't think you can understand a troop without visiting for a couple of months straight.

                  For our troop we have committee meeting once every even month and on that night the boys have fun/game night in the main room or outside with our junior leaders (18-20 year olds) watching over and often joining in. Once a month (always meeting before campout) we have patrol meetings where meal planning and final activity planning is done by the patrols. Then the other meetings are planned out by the PLC taking into account what future campouts are from their bi-annual planning meeting. Like if they are doing a canoe outing we will have a meeting going over safety-afloat, Basics of how to canoe, and the like. The Patrol leaders keep track of what members of their patrol are working on for rank and will also put in some of those activities into the monthly meeting plan.

                  So basically if you can to a patrol meeting/meal planning meeting but were not coming on that campout or a member of the troop yet you'd probably find it loud and boring. If you came on the committee meeting and boys game night the boy would have a blast but not really get any scouting skills out of it, but it's what are boys like. Now if you come on any of the other nights it'd be great. And once we know cross-overs are started the PLC takes that into account and starts planning out some beginning skills for all to go over.


                  • #14
                    Why are WE visiting the Troop.

                    May you should stay in the car and let your son go and evaluate the meeting.

                    After all it is his scouting experience not yours.......Regardless of his decision you should support him


                    • Eagledad
                      Eagledad commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I've told this story before about my first year as a CM, just before I was about to send our Webelos across the bridge to the troop they choose, I asked them why they picked this troop. They all said this troop had the best game at the troop meeting. All eight of those boys quit the BSA inside of one year. While I agree that the boys need to have input in their selection, I also think it's naive to assume they always know better than the adults. As a SM, I asked parents attend with their son so that their family made an educated choice based on all the information. Barry

                    • ParkMan
                      ParkMan commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Thanks for the comments.

                      "We" were visiting the Troop because the Troop invited the scout and parents to attend.

                      As dad, I'm here to help him weigh and discuss the choices. But at the end of the day, yes, it's his choice.

                  • #15
                    and for crying out loud.....

                    Don't rush to follow your son to the troop, let him have a year or so of no dad hanging around.

                    As pointed out in many many thread....The absolute worst Boy Scout leaders are the newly crossed over Cub Scout leaders.


                    • perdidochas
                      perdidochas commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Absolutely. I'm so glad taht the SM at the time convinced this WDL to be the Advancement Coordinator. It gave me the chance to transition from Cub Scout Leader to Boy Scout leader while still helping the troop.

                    • ParkMan
                      ParkMan commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Thanks for the advice. Yep - my plan is to retire from scouting once he crosses over. 5 years wearing all kinds of Cub Scouting hats is enough. Maybe it's a year - maybe for good.