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Inspire Me, Please.

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  • Inspire Me, Please.

    My Boy Scout Troop is not moving. I've been working hard to get the boys interested in scout skills. Basic stuff that any boy 50 years ago would love to learn and practice. I've worked to make it fun, to make it interesting, and to present it so that they can learn it easily.

    And they're just too damned lazy to care. They don't want to hike in the woods. They don't want to camp if it involves walking more than 100 feet from a car. They don't want to have knot tying or wood cutting competitions, because that would involve knowing how to tie knots and cut wood. They like playing in the fire but not gathering the firewood.

    And that may be because they see no need for having scout skills. Cutting wood and tying knots are skills that they would only use in an emergency. Being prepared is not a motto that they take to heart.

    I'm tired of swimming upstream. I don't know if I can ever change the mentality of the troop. The older boys who matriculated before I became SM are spreading the Car Camping culture more effectively than I can promote the Woods Skills culture. And why not? Car Camping is easy. Video games, computers, and smart phones have created a generation of boys who are accustomed to instant gratification and no appreciation for work.

    I don't know how to change that.

  • #2
    I wish I had a good answer. I feel your pain.


    • packsaddle
      packsaddle commented
      Editing a comment
      Me too! I wish I could help with a solution but all I can say is to keep your nose pointed into the current and swim as hard as you can.

  • #3
    Yep, I'm feeling the same pull ... but let's see if we can inspire you to be that "special kind of crazy ..."

    Where do you camp? On the back acre of a local farmer or the nearest BSA/State Park campground?
    Who pays? The parents or the boys? When the boys pay they learn pretty quick that if they find a local site, that's more money in their pocket for games.
    What do you, Mr. SM, sleep in? Younger scouts think I'm crazy when I throw my bag and tarp on a picnic table, and don't bother with my tent unless I'm really sure I need it.
    Where do you lay your head? How far from the boys?
    Do you send them on hikes? Or do they put up with you tagging along?
    Do they see you trying to learn a new knot, or remastering one you forgot?

    As they grow older they gradually imitate, each in their own style. My bag is cheap, my hammock is cheap, my matress - not so cheap but the Mrs. says I need to take care of my back.

    P.S. - My "inspiration" should be taken with a grain of salt. Our troop has been declining in numbers. (Crossovers going to two new troops in the neighborhood.) But the boys who are in it aren't quitting.


    • qwazse
      qwazse commented
      Editing a comment
      Sounds like tremendous fun. But, is there anything that involved, say, meeting at your scout house and hiking to a campsite (even someone's back yard)? I hike through some local game lands? A town hike, maybe where each patrol hauls some rope and sets up some demonstration pioneering projects in a public square? Or, simply visiting the sheriff and maybe sing a song for the guys in lock-up?

      These "low adventure" projects serve two purposes. First they are stepping stones to "big name" activities. They work the "have fun anywhere" muscle. Second, because the event is less stressful, and travel time is reduced, there's more time available to really work those skills. I usually find we need to do two of these "structured unstructured weekends" for every one of our events with specific agendas.

      Sometimes this is disciplinary. For my crew, for example, I've made it clear that we aren't considering a trip out West until I see some more care with fire on our local hikes. "He who is faithful in little things ..."

      Finally, when sure a fair balance has been made in terms of free time and structure, I've found it a waste of time trying to please the masses. If there is one kid who is glad for the activity, that's all I need to tune out 10 "whiners".
      To the whiners, consider using this phrase: "Since when is your prepubescent angst any concern of mine?" (Practice it in front of a mirror, because you need to deliver it deadpan when the time comes.)

      I remember one time years ago when Son #1 was watching me map out a hike for a to-be-determined weekend. He said "You'd better be ready to hike alone."
      I replied something to the effect, "Do I look like a pretty boy in some popularity contest?"
      Fast forward: his pack is ready so that after work, today, he'll team up with a couple buddies for a night insertion into a trail-head in the Laurel Highlands (accumulation, I'm told, is 'bout 5 feet). After previous outings, some of his buddies have told me of his uncanny knack for cheerful disposition in pretty foul conditions.

      So, keep the faith. Be yourself -- maybe change what you need to. Find a little more of that inner "crazy survivalist" or "drill instructor" or whatever you need the boys to see. The end product might be more hopeful than you can foresee at the moment.

    • JoeBob
      JoeBob commented
      Editing a comment
      "Since when is your prepubescent angst any concern of mine?"
      "Do I look like a pretty boy in some popularity contest?"

      Have we met?
      I can use these.

    • qwazse
      qwazse commented
      Editing a comment
      Just one poor beggar telling another where to find food ...

  • #4
    I feel a little better today knowing Im not the only one that feels this way about my troop. Day in and out I see the laziness and lack of respect...what really bugs me is I didnt see it sooner so I could try to bring it up during all the BORs I sat on. My son was SPL for the last half of the year, came in bright eyed and full of confidence after attending NYLT. 2 months in and he felt defeated, and learned that boy-led means very little if the boys around you that are supposed to be leading as well just dont care.

    I want to take SM training to become an ASM (I feel its better to try to help instead of leave for "greener pastures"), but at the same time am not really sure I could get thru to them. We get very little parent participation, so its no surprise that apathy has filtered down to the boys.


    • #5
      Sorry, this is demotivational rather than inspirational. "I don't see that challenging activity on my Eagle checklist my parents insist I get".


      • #6
        My scouts are looking forward to our backpacking trip. The first 3 yrs my oldest was in the troop, we did no backpacking. Talked about it a lot, but never got around to it. Last year they did their first one. The boys loved it, and we are doing a more challenging trip next year. Not sure what you can do to change your troop. Ours like a bit of challenge.


        • #7
          On the particular question of knots, how is this being presented? Are you/PLs teaching knots or are you tying it in (I’m here all week folks J ) with something else, eg we are doing a climbing trip so we are going to cover climbing knots in advance, or teaching lashings as part of a pioneering project?


          • JoeBob
            JoeBob commented
            Editing a comment
            I'm presenting knots that they need. The troop practiced figure 8s for the climbing trip. I demonstrate to everyone and then the PLs and older boys work with the others.
            In SMCs I ask them to show me their square knot, and then show them how a thieve's knot is similar.
            I wear a cord on my belt to test 2 half hitches and taut lines.

            Held a lashing patrol competition when it was too cold to go outside. "Let's don't do that again. It took too long and was too hard."

            PL's teach the knots? Only if they have the book handy to look at!

          • qwazse
            qwazse commented
            Editing a comment
            Then let them use the book! Throw away EDGE, which presumes that the instructor is the font of all knowledge, and let them teach using the method it took to bring the West out of the dark ages ... find a reference, read the reference, do the reference.

          • qwazse
            qwazse commented
            Editing a comment
            Also, those pesky electronic devices? Have the boys use them to scout out the best knot guide. Or maybe, if the one boy who has the skill is absent, have them give him a call and see if he can talk them through it.

            The point is that teaching/learning is about servant leadership. The teacher is actually at his best when he starts out with a little humility, "I'm a little rusty, but maybe between the two of us, we can figure it out."

        • #8
          I think you really answered your own question, "And that may be because they see no need for having scout skills."

          Unless you have a lifestyle or career that needs those capabilities, I think that Scouting is probably nothing more than recreation to most boys. At most a hobby, but not a lifelong state of mind that is appears to be to prior generations.

          I think kids growing up today have a different agenda and a different lifestyle that what we ever thought about having....but then I'm sure we have a different lifestyle and agenda than what our parents had. It's not good, or bad, it's just different.

          Times change. And what was thought to be permanent fixture in our lives has gone the way of the buggy whip factory.

          My one son that is "in" Scouting is clearly not "into" Scouting...for him it is something to do when there is nothing else to do. That is his priority to set. He passed up a camping trip this weekend to go to his friend's birthday party. I can see where that might frustrate the adult leaders...but that's the way it is.
          Last edited by Engineer61; 03-07-2014, 11:16 AM.


          • perdidochas
            perdidochas commented
            Editing a comment
            My two are into scouting. It is a hobby, but it is also part of their lifestyle. In terms of the knots, whenever I'm working with the boys, I talk about the knots I actually use, and where outside of scouting they can use the knots. My favorite example is "when you're in college, and the cute girl you're dating is moving, you need to know the knots that will let you strap her futon to the roofrack of your car." I give similar examples for the cooking merit badge--"when you invited that girl you are dating over for dinner, you're going to want to cook something good, and have all of the parts to the meal ready at the same time."

        • #9
          Geez JoeBob, maybe I should get a white cowboy hat and sunglasses as we must be related.

          I think there are a couple of things going on. One is that the boys know crap when they see it and the minimum requirements for getting Eagle, at least the way most troops operate, is mostly crap. A few years ago I asked some older scouts that didn't really do much for the troop, but would bust their butts on summer camp staff what the deal was and they told me they knew they were critical for the success of the camp but the troop didn't need their help. They were right.

          Next, boys are afraid to compete or challenge themselves in something they don't feel comfortable with. The 14 and 15 year olds are starting to see how big the world is and how small they are and their reaction is to be cool and ignore it when I think they're insecure. Furthermore, peer pressure is horrible after puberty and even though there are some scouts that want to push themselves, they are encouraged not to.

          Third, culture has lots of momentum and it's the culture that needs to change. 11 and 12 year olds will just jump in and do it. 13-15 year olds will only do it if they see it. 16 and 17 year olds will not change, so they will either help out or need to be sidelined.

          Finally, sitting around and taking it easy is like dessert, good for your soul but easily abused.

          So, the question I started a few days ago with my ASMs is how do we change the culture to include more challenge. We don't want every campout to be Seal Boot Camp but .... Challenge will be the norm and being lazy is rare and appreciated. Rank requirements will be a challenge because they will have to show mastery, not just squeak by. Most events will have a challenge built in, preferably patrol based.

          I have no idea if this will work. Some scouts will drop and that's fine. Some will thrive and that's who I want to do this for. I disagree with Engineer61. My son, who is now 22, recently told me that he now understands what scouting is about. This is the kid that was shy as could be when he joined scouts but was all in for the adventure when he left. It still works. Hang in there. Do your best. Help a few kids. Ignore the rest.


          • #10
            Sounds like a good program. Did the boys have a hand in planning it? Even so in our Troop we had a lot of complaints when the boys planned a canoe trip and then that was what was carried out. We got a couple boys who are really into 'Glamping' then camping. But for some boys a camping trip just seems like more work than fun. Takes a LOONG while to change the culture and there is a lot of backsliding along the way. But all it takes is a cadre of 'real' scouts who like that stuff to start turning things around. I agree with Qwazse (again!!) that some easy activities might be the way to go to let the boys get to bond and hang out. We did a movie night and sleep over at our church (though the boys opted for board games and poker) and the PLC leadership campout was mostly a paddle out to an island, sun, sleep and eat event. I think some boys are pretty over-booked these days and want a break. So there is hope. But some whining non-camper talk can be a downer--I think some of our worst campers are only staying in to get their 'Eagle College Application Credential'.


            • #11
              I just put together a board with a mounted pole on it. It is marked with all of the knots on the Trail to First class: Square, 2 Half Hitches, Taut Line Hitch, Bowline, Timber Hitch, Clove Hitch.

              I set up a cracker barrel on the campout out of my pocket, and anyone who wants the grub just has to tie all of the knots and they can come on in. It has increased use of the knots, and the board comes out at meetings too. Next step is a competition for time to tie all 6, with rankings and some sort of a reward.

              We run a couple of campouts without tents - we bring tarps, poles and ropes and everyone builds their own shelters. We make it fun, and I include myself in the competition as well. Thinking of doing a plains tribe teepee this year using bamboo poles and a oversized tarp I have sitting around.


              • #12
                You just have to put your head down and prepare yourself for the long game--it takes at least 5 years to change a troop culture. You're not going to get the 15+ crowd interested in basic scout skills because they're already free and clear, so you just have to start with the newest scouts and inculcate (there's a vocab word from the original aims & methods you won't find anymore, too slow-sounding) the culture you want in them while you wait for the older scouts to get out of your way.

                As for refusing to learn the stuff, if the carrot doesn't work use the stick. I don't know how your troop does sign-offs, but whether you allow older scouts, only ASMs, or only yourself to sign off, don't sign it off til they know it. Sit down with whoever signs things off, and make it crystal clear that pen isn't to touch paper until the boy can do it. When boys don't know a skill they ought to, get their book and see who it is that's undermining your program and tell that numbskull he's not allowed to sign things off anymore until he gets with the program (and when he gets all puffy about his being volunteer by golly tell him his time is worthless to you if he's fouling things up). Advancement is a method, not an aim (or a right, for that matter) and when boys are advanced without actual skills, they're robbed.

                Yeah, I'm real popular with the SMs and ASMs who mass sign off for a round lashing around two poles for a useful camp gadget (then deride a real scout's real gadget as "another useless camp gadget haw haw haw") or sign off all three ranks' cooking requirements for boiling some Ramen once, plant IDs based on photos of mom's flower bed.

                Maybe you don't have quite the same level of issue, but you see where I'm going: Your PLs who can't teach because they don't know got that way somehow, and they're not going to give up the gimme culture because you ask nice.

                So, work the youngest boys. When they outperform, heap praise on them and some of the older boys will get motivated and get on board, and most you'll just have to wait for them to go.

                Whatever plans you set forth, you have to spend the time to present your changes and your reasons to the ASMs and parents and youth leadership, and the one's that don't like it can hit up

                Inspiring? Sorry, not really.


                • #13
                  I don't like the saying boy-led. The program is adult-led boy-run. As an adult leaders we have the right to veto or change plans based on weather or the needs of the troop. My scouts decided they wanted a camping trip at a cabin. One of the scouts was working on wilderness survival. Friday at departure, as the SM, I told the scouts "why don't you all work on tarp skills and camp survival style to help out xx". Groaning ensued. Friday night (10pm) when we hit the dirt road to the cabin the cars stopped. The scouts were kicked out of the cars with their packs. I put my pack on, handed the SPL a photocopied aerial map with a north arrow and an x marking the cabin, and then waited for them to start off towards the cabin. We hiked for 2.5 hours in pitch blackness. Only myself and two other scouts had working flashlights. Sunday morning they were shocked to learn that the cars would be waiting for them at the hwy. So their easy cabin weekend turned into a backpacking/survival weekend.


                  • Scouter99
                    Scouter99 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Well, when you refuse to allow the boys to lead, I guess you're right that it's adult led.

                  • Oldscout448
                    Oldscout448 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    can;t help but wonder how many scouts came on the next campout.
                    I am sure if I usurped the PLCs authority, then undermined the SPL in front of the scouts as you describe, I would be told to my face at the next PLC, if I wanted to do their job, fine go right on ahead. I was now in charge of campout location, menus, duty rosters, advancement sign offs, etc.
                    I would then be handed a stack of POR patches that had just been torn off sleeves, as they walked out the door
                    17 and 16 year old eagle scouts who believe (rightly ) that it is THEIR troop, having spent a third of their young lives in it, resent having it stolen from them. they resent even more being treated like
                    cub scouts again.

                  • SM bob
                    SM bob commented
                    Editing a comment
                    --- All of the scouts signed up for the next months camping trip. ----

                    Cubscouts is adult run and led.
                    Scouting is boy run and adult led. Venturing is youth run and led. If the scouts can run a good program then it's hands off. When they refuse to plan or decide to spend a weekend in a cabin watching tv, they need direction. My troop believes in going on adventures. If scouts do not want to participate in scouting activities, they are asked if they want to transfer to another troop thier speed. We are not a rank mill, nor will I allow the scouts to run the program into the ground.

                • #14
                  Hi joe, from my own experience and working with other troops like yours thru the years, I learned that you have to build "your" vision with the younger scouts. The older scouts are set in their ways and will resist change. Appease the older scouts, but build your vision with young guys. Your program isn't moving because they resists every step of the way. Young scouts are empty vessels excited to try something new. Everything looks like an adventure to them. Sit down and figure out how you can give the young scouts the troop and still give the older scouts something that keeps them coming. I do not like aged based patrols, but this once instance where it us the solution because it separates the excited young scouts from the boring plop campers. Also remember that the young scouts will eventually be the older scouts. So what you build today will be the models of your troop next year. Good or bad, you're stuck with it. So it's best to try and get it right. One other thing I can see from your post and a few others here, you don't see them a young men who lack experience of life. As long as they are just boys to you, your body language and even the tone of your voice will never show them the respect of an adult. They have little reason to aspire into behaving like adults. I think you are going the right direction, but change has to come from the young guys. Barry


                  • #15
                    I'm with Barry on this one. Unless you have a vision and willing to go for it, the kids aren't going to even know what a vision is. Whenever the Mrs. and I head out for whatever road trip/adventure we make up, we always take pictures of what's going on. That way when I ask the boys back at the next troop meeting what they did last weekend and they say nuttin'. I haul out my cell phone and do the "wanna see my grandkids" kind of routine. Only my "grandkids" are vista views, whitewater kayaking, camping on sandbars, winter camping/skiing, museums, etc. etc. After all is said and done, I always top off with, "Too bad you missed it. Maybe next time." Within 5 minutes I prime the pump with, "Well, Gentlemen, what do you want to do this month?"