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Seattle, I don't intend to sound mean or anything but our troop has run well for 5 or 6 years now, I and ths scouts and parents don't see the need to add things unless they are fun or unique or a great opportunity. We put enough in trying to have a successful troop by just about all measures, that seems to be plenty.
The troop is essentially the customer, the side stuff offered through BSA are like many small businesses, reaching out for units (Scoutmaster's) attention be it career night, roundtable, FOS, Popcorn, Denver Nuggets Night, Merit badge classes, Soccer games, college hockey, OA, Venture, Explorer, Food drives, sporting clays and on and on. All are providing something but OA is one of those things that tries to go above the mere mention of an opportunity troops and scouts can decide to participate or not, they are making a harder effort to push OA, to sell it and lament that participation is not what they wish it to be.
OA is a great tradition but those wanting to reverse the negative trends in OA need to understand that the customer (Units) need to see something they want or value in OA in order to "buy". God Bless anyone who is trying to improve/expand OA but they are mostly doing it from their love of OA and trying to sell their viewpoint to the units. The units (customers) are not seeing anything they want and that is why so many pass on it. Adult volunteers, parents, kids have loaded schedules as it is, why add a similar program that requires more time, travel, communication etc when the existing troop program provides that and maybe more in the customer's eyes. OA contacts our unit every year with the exact same sales pitch and the exact same program that adds no value to us the customer and they ask me why no interest.
I don't know what OA would need to offer for our unit to take interest in and it's not the customers job to come up with a product we want in order for OA to try to sell it to us. Selling us the same thing the saem way every year certainly is not going to work but their approach is to just try to sell it harder every year. Taht is becoming an aditional turn off. As I noted we are busy enough and have focused on a successful troop and program, if OA wants units like ours to get involved they need to come up with something wanted or needed, not try to sell us with the same sales lines every year the scouts don't need and to be honest do not want. A couple of lodge parties and the chance to spend hundreds going to the East coast to learn Indian Dancing they wouldn't be caught dead doing. Those boys highly motivated are not looking to OA, they are advancing in the troop, taking charge in leadership-boy led and if they want more have added school sports.
Hi, Playtypus. It is always good to hear the persepctive of the Scouts here. Too often it is missing.
It is terrific you are having such a great experience with OA. Actually, what you describe is a lot like what I experienced in OA as a Scout. We lived in a small town with a small chapter and only one high school. But we had quite a few strong troops. While many of they guys I was in OA with were from my troop, and I knew the rest through school, OA was an opportunity for all of us to get together in a Scouting setting with our friends from other troops. BUT, not one of my troop leaders were ever required to drive us anywhere or attend an OA function. We made our own way to meetings and the OA adults were only OA leaders -- not Scoutmasters pulling double duty. Of course that was pre-two deep days, so one chapter advisor could take 10 or 12 arrowmen out for the weekend.
In my current lodge, Scouts' participation in OA is reliant on the efforts of the adult troop leaders. OA functions are essentially troop functions requiring troop resources to get arrowmen to and from events and to provide adult leadership. For three our four years, I've been the only adult OA member in our troop and it has fallen to me to attend OA functions with my Scouts. This is in addition to my other responsibilities as the Scoutmaster of an active troop with 60 boys. Fortunately, this past year I recruited one ASM to be troop OA advisor and he's taken most of the responsibility. But his focus on the OA means one ASM I don't have for general troop programs and I still have to accompany our brothers to events when he's unavailable.
Perhaps your Lodge's rules for adult attendance are different, or maybe your Scoutmaster is also interested and active in the OA. Maybe he has his own circle of friends in OA and enjoys attending. If that is the case, hauling a car load of Scouts to OA activities is no additional effort.
But the point some of the adults here are making is about priorities and resources. To some of us leaders here, OA is just one more Scouting activity asking for one more night a month and three or four more weekends a year away from our families. We neede to ask ourselves if OA is the best use of our time. Is providing you the opportunity to hang out with your friends more important that us handing out with our wives and daughters?
Look, we are all already Boy Scout volunteer leaders. We have already made the choice to devote a great deal of time to the program. But as others have said, OA becomes just one more in a very long list of program options demanding our time. There is no lack of opportunities to do something else within the program. If I click on our council web site, the entire home page is full of programs our troop could participate -- some require a few hours of my time, some require a few weeks.
So with all the options and competing interests, how do we decide where we invest our time? Of course in a youth-led program, we ask the Scouts. But personally, we each decide if the added value of the program justifies the cost of our time and effort. If our troop's involvement in the OA requires me to attend a chapter meeting every month, then four additional campouts per year and the only added benefit is the Platypus get additional hang time with his pals, it's just not going to happen. Frankly, you can set up your own play dates. Have your parents drop you off at the mall like every other teenager in America!
Of course I'm just kidding about the mall. I absolutely see the value of you spending time with your OA buddies. But I need a better reason than that to invest in the OA.
You, as an Arrowman, can help tip the balance in favor of OA. Hicountry posted some pretty good stuff about how the OA should approach it's relationships with troops. Perhaps you can guide your chapter and lodge to put more emphasis on Service than Brotherhood. How can your lodge serve the troops? What can you do to make your SMs jobs easier? (Usually anything involving coffee is a good start.) When was the last time you thanked your SM for making OA available to you? (That will go a lot further than you may imagine.) What can you do to involve more Scouts from your troop?
There is a Troop in our town that "doesn't do OA."
So, when anyone asks me why our Troop is better than theirs,as far as joining us instead of them, I say "They don't do OA and we do." Then I expand on the service theme of OA. So, I don't want them to do "OA."
Let me give you the other side of the picture. I've been a unit scouter much longer than I've been an OA Chapter Adviser (while still being a unit scouter). I've seen both sides of the fence. I deal every year at election time with the troops who say no thanks without any explanation why. If we do get a response, it's usually simply that they "don't do OA". Or the boys aren't interested. Or that they'll ask the boys if they're interested and let us know. Being a unit scouter, I know that it is usually code for the SM not being interested and thinking it is just one more thing he has to deal with. I always encourage the SM's who are not OA members to be the adult nominated from their troop so they have a working knowledge of the OA and can promote and encourage their boys from inside the troop. I recall one SM from last year with a very small troop of 5 or 6 boys flat out telling me that the only reason he is SM is because no one else would do it, his son loves scouting so he stepped up, he is in over his head and he can't afford to add "something else" to his plate....including training. I have another troop that tells their boys that the OA blackballed them and won't come do elections when the truth is, we contact them each year to hold an election and get turned down. I have another troop where the SM believes the OA is a cult. Then we have the troops that want nothing to do with the district or the council who refuse to get trained and run their own program totally of the top of their head.
The sales pitch is the same year after year because frankly, it's the sales pitch. I could lie to you and try to attract you with all sorts of sizzle, but in the end you wouldn't appreciate it very much and then it would just reinforce your already negative feelings about the OA. While you don't care for the yearly sales pitch, I can assure you that I don't care for the yearly cold shoulder of an SM not even willing to listen to the sales pitch and entertain the idea. What do you have to lose? Seriously, what do you have to lose by letting an election team come in once a year for 30 minutes to hold an election for the scouts in the unit to vote to honor their peers? It's no skin off an SM's back. Once elected as a candidate, it is up to the individual to determine if he wants to complete his Ordeal or not. If he does, hopefully there are other members in the troop who would assist him in accomplishing that goal. If not, he can come alone.
It's a long list of opportunities that the OA can provide a boy to enhance his scouting career. I've listed those opportunities before and won't extend this post by listing them again. For a boy interested, he can take those opportunities all the way to the regional and national level. Why would an SM want to deny any boy in their troop of any opportunity. It's kind of like discouraging a boy from doing merit badges. MB's exist for a number of reasons beyond advancement. Included in that are letting a boy broaden his horizons on a variety of subjects that could turn into a life long hobby or a career. OA is no different. It allows him to experience scouting on a whole new level and allows him exposure to scouts and scouters beyond his unit. It provides more service and leadership opportunities. It opens the door to working trail crews at Philmont or OA staff at Jamborees. Or he can simply continue to provide service to his troop which is an Arrowman's first responsibility.
No disrespect, I will reply honestly in respect for your devotion and interest......
Being a unit scouter, I know that it is usually code for the SM not being interested and thinking it is just one more thing he has to deal with. I always encourage the SM's who are not OA members to be the adult nominated from their troop so they have a working knowledge of the OA and can promote and encourage their boys from inside the troop.
Part of my point right there....when I was SM I had more than plenty to do, I didn't need to be the unit OA adult nominated. More calls to get and communications to handle, more requests I help organize something or line up a ride or weekend or meeting needed to commit to. I didn't need more education about what OA was, I knew enough to realize it didn't offer anything that justified our getting involved.
The sales pitch is the same year after year because frankly, it's the sales pitch. I could lie to you and try to attract you with all sorts of sizzle, but in the end you wouldn't appreciate it very much and then it would just reinforce your already negative feelings about the OA. While you don't care for the yearly sales pitch, I can assure you that I don't care for the yearly cold shoulder of an SM not even willing to listen to the sales pitch and entertain the idea. What do you have to lose?
The sales pitch is the same, it had nothing to really offer last year and is no different this year, I am not looking for sizzle. It is some OA rep calling ME, I have no obligation to get involved and see no reason to get involved. I am sorry for the cold shoulder you get from some, but realize you are reaching out to the units and some don't want to hear the pitch....that's life. You are calling volunteers, most of whom with very full plates, they don't owe anyone anything on a program that is pushed every year and offers little to nothing but more time, with in our case nothing in return.
I honestly don't mean to be disrespectful, I am just trying to give honest feedback from my perspective. OA reps pushing every year is like an annoying salesman who refuses to quit and doesn't really hear the customer's objections. They seem to think that if they push long and hard enough certainly the customer is going to buy. OA's pushiness while offering to what we see as a mostly empty product is the negative and turn off I see with OA. The more they push and try to sell me with the same pitch, the same product the more I was turned off to it. As for the cold shoulder, sorry about that but when the SM hears the same line about the same program they said no to year after year prior they have probably had it and reslly don't owe anyone any explanations, it is the OA rep calling HIM remember.
I mentioned earlier that the council offers all kinds of activities etc. They are simple "Available". There is too much but I offer a selection to the troop to particiapte in if they wish. Almost none of those folks involved with those opportunities and activities call me and hound me trying to push their activity on me. OA does and over time I have reacted by giving them the cold shoulder. I'm not looking for sizzle but if you offer something we aren't interested in don't be surprised when we say no, no matter how much the OA rep wants to push it.
What do you have to lose? Seriously, what do you have to lose by letting an election team come in once a year for 30 minutes to hold an election for the scouts in the unit to vote to honor their peers? It's no skin off an SM's back. Once elected as a candidate, it is up to the individual to determine if he wants to complete his Ordeal or not. If he does, hopefully there are other members in the troop who would assist him in accomplishing that goal. If not, he can come alone.
The question isn't what do I have to lose, but why should wI bother. It is OA reps contacting us with the same program we are not interested in, there are other offerings council has we are not interested in, with all we do and all opportunities out there, we can't consider them all. OA is viewed as a pushy group interested in their own thing and needs us to support them but they offer little to no reason to get involved, so why should we bother ?
It's a long list of opportunities that the OA can provide a boy to enhance his scouting career. I've listed those opportunities before and won't extend this post by listing them again. For a boy interested, he can take those opportunities all the way to the regional and national level. Why would an SM want to deny any boy in their troop of any opportunity. It's kind of like discouraging a boy from doing merit badges.
Merit badges are an integeral part of the advancement program, OA is an optional side program so I don't see it as apples to apples. I see your point about additional opportunities but where does that stop.....there is Civil Air Patrol and 4H and Junior Achievent and other opportunities for youth to grow too. With the time I have I was trying to run a good scout troop and good program, didn't have time for more offshoot programs especially ones that add no percieved value. We did push NYLT...saw great beenfit, the boys commited to a week and got a lot out of it. OA is meetings all year and conclave parties and other things the boys are not interested so we don't waste time considering it. HAving a strong boy led troop offers leadership opportunities, no need for regional or national opportunities. If OA is about service to the unit first, we are already getting that and a better boy led situation than when I took over.
We had one boy this decade do OA, he made Eagle about 2004 under the scoutmaster previous to me, wasn't driven to get palms, he couldn't get many before age out so he tried OA. Very motivated and positve young man, started OA at 17. A few years ago I made an attempt to try OA in our unit one ASM who was big into OA as a youth "had no time" to be involved today as unity adult advisor. We went to the young man I referenced who was about 20 when we approached him about rejoining and being OA adult advisor. He told me he could squeeze out the time but from his experience wouldn't waste time on OA. After several useless meetings, minimal participation, Conclave parties and one lame work session he dropped participation. Furtehrmore not one scout in our unit was interested in OA.
Again I mean no offense but you are not telling me something I have not heard many times before so I continue to not be even close to sold.
I noted a logisitcal issue, we are very distant from the Denver area, we learned quickly and gave up on any activities teh boys wanted in the D3enver Metro just because no parents wanted to drive scouts back down to the city after commuting to and from there all week long. It gets even worse when they have to drive up on a weeknight and turn arounf to take theri scout to a lodge meeting, hang around and drive home again to go to bed and have nothing to do with family that night. I know it isn't going to happen and the ussual default calls to the SM to try and get a ride is the regular default. Conclave parties and such are 2 and a half hours away...out monthly troop campouts are more popular and within an hour of home. If we lived in the Denver metro we might have given OA a better shot but the losgitic mess I jsut described is about the final nail in the coffin for us.
Maybe we may have made some plan to work out but OA provided no program that inspired us to do so and the boys aren't interested...so we focused on our program.
Hope this reponse provides more honest reasons than the cold should you get from some.
John, I'm with you, I really get aggrivated at many folks today that are all about themselves and never volunteer. Our troop does a lot of community service in addition to about 3 Eagle projects a year so we are not hurting for service opportunities and that message is not lost on our bous. We have it in our program so don't need it from OA.
Frankly, I think those who want to promote OA should read Hicountry's lengthy post carefully.
Personally, I don't find it objectionable for OA leaders to pitch Scoutmasters each year on an election--- that's being pro active. But the SM is entitled to say no, thanks.
If you don't have a program that appeals to Scoutmasters and youth, you should be re examining your program with care. If you can't find ways to improve it for whatever reason, you are going to be dead in the water.
There are several threads that are open invitations for OA advocates to promote some new ideas ---- but I've seen none. That's fine, but don't expect much improvement in your turnout and membership if the product lacks appeal.
Please don't take this the wrong way, because it isn't intended to offend. It's a real and honest question. When you say "we", is that the overburdened SM "we" or the whole troop including the boys "we"? In a true boy led troop and OA chapter, it should be the Vice Chief of Elections contacting the SPL to set up an election, but the "no" usually comes from the adults. All "we" in my chapter ever ask those adults who say "we" aren't interested is to let us come explain what the OA is, hold an election and let the chips fall where they may. Once elected, it is their choice to follow thru with completing their Ordeal or not. Once they have completed Ordeal, it is their choice to get involved or not. But if never given the opportunity because "we" aren't interested, how do they know what they might have missed out on.
I ask this question because of something that happened in the last week or so which I believe I may have already related in one of these threads. The troop that falsly claims we blackballed had a young man volunteering his time at our district cub winter day. One of my associate advisers went up and talked to him and thanked him for volunteering. As they visited, my associate asked him if he was a member of the OA and the boy said "no, but I'd really like to be, but our leaders tell us the OA won't come do an election for us." Just a week or so before that, his SM had responded to our request with a no. In this case, the boy was interested, but his leaders won't allow it.
Your story concerning the one youth who did do the OA thing and didn't find value reminds me of my troop and our council camp. Ten years or so ago, they went and thought the camp had a lousy program. In ten years, they had never returned even though the council kept giving them the same sales pitch year after year. Finally after 10 years, they relented and went.......and found out it had become a pretty good camp in their absence. Now, we are a very boy run troop, but part of our troop culture was a belief that our council camp sucked.
The point is, sometimes we have to look beyond out personal notions and allow others to find out something for themselves. Sometimes while it isn't something that we particularly care for, there is value in urging others to give it a try and decide for themselves. I'm that way with backpacking. For a variety of reasons, it just isnt my cup of tea and I won't do it, but I'll encourage every boy in the troop to give it a try.
I have a feeling that nothing I say is going to change your mind and we'll just have to agree to disagree. But it never hurts for me to give the pitch one more time! (This message has been edited by sr540beaver)
Seattle, who designs the program in your troop that attracts the boys? Is it the adults or the boys? What if you didn't have boys to design the program? Would you as an adult know what would really attract them and make them want to join and participate? The same goes for OA. I don't disagree with you that you need to come up with program that makes it attractive, but its hard to do if no one willing to do it. And it's hard to have people willing to do it when their troops won't support it or promote it. You can't come to something you don't know about.
I am sorry if I have missed something here, but I wanted to offer my perspective and so read the previous posts quickly.
The original question - I have no problem with the SM not being part of the OA. Adults should be part of the OA for two reasons: 1. They were inducted as a Youth - This reminds arrowman that this is something you are, not something you do as a youth. 2. They have something to offer the Order. Many SM's do not fall into this category because they simply do not have time. I would hope though that at least one adult in each troop is an Arrowman because then they understand the program.
As for the more recent discussion. I am often extremely turned off by a troop telling me "We don't do OA." Honestly, it is really not your choice. OA is part of the national program. Can you get away with turning the election team down year after year? Yes. Are you doing a disservice to your scouts? ABSOLUTELY!!!
The Order is only what is made of it by the Arrowmen in it. Every lodge and chapter I have been a part of is extremely boy run. That means that your troop will get out of the OA what it puts into it. The order stresses services to the Arrowman's unit. If you have no Arrowmen in your unit, you are not getting the full benefit of the OA.
Scoutmasters who do not allow OA election teams to come to thier unit are denying their scouts an opportunity.
For any Commissioners out there, make sure you are asking your Troops... So when is your OA election? They should be providing this opportunity. Make sure they aren't blocking it for the wrong reasons.
Give the OA their chance to make the pitch to the Scouts. They haven't heard it unless you are passing on a biased version to them.