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  • Forming Patrols - whose input matters most?

    I mentioned in another post that my current single-patrol troop was begging to split into two patrols (this was the boys wanting to split). I told them that once we hit 12 total, they could split. Well, that time has come.

    So, I wrestled with the best way to do it. I have a few "misfits", so I didn't want to just put them in a room and have them group with their friends for fear of having 10 guys in one corner and two lost sheep leftover feeling like the last kid picked for kickball. I finally found a method online that let the boys have most of the input and me balance the numbers. I let each boy write down 3 friends to be with. Then, I collected the sheets and paired boys that picked each other. Once that was done, I added boys where only one had picked one already in the patrol. Then, I added any boys that I knew were already antagonistic towards each other to opposite patrols.

    What I ended up with was not what I expected, but it was a product of the boys' input. What I'm worried about is that during this process, one of my ASMs (whose boy is in the Troop) shot me an email saying, "I think we need A, B, C, & D together in one patrol, and then the other patrol is X, Y, and Z -- I don't care where the other ones are. I feel that it would be in the best long-term interest of the troop."

    A, B, C, and D are my "serious" scouts (one is my son and another is his son), while X, Y, and Z are the popular, but more "active" boys (read: disruptive). Of course, it didn't come out that way at all when I finished -- some of the "serious" scouts wanted to be with what they saw as the "fun" boys, and vice versa. I showed the results to the TCC and she felt like it was a good mix between the patrols. But the real rub is that my ASM's son chose to be with the "non-serious" scouts, and he is now asking me to "fudge" the patrol makeup to put his son with the serious group.

    I see big problems with this -- his son is going to be with a bunch of boys that a) he doesn't want to be with and b) don't want to be with him. At best, he will be unhappy and/or disruptive, and at worst, it could drive him away from scouting. And it feels a little in conflict with the 1st Law of Scouting. The flip side is that I end up with a PO'ed parent/ASM. My TC will back me on this, but I don't want to drive away a dedicated leader.


  • #2
    I guess it all boils down to whether or not your troop is boy-led. If one is going to dictate such things, then don't expect the boys to lead. They will just wait until some adult squares it away and that's how the troop will be run. On the other hand, if the boys are running the show, let them. If it turns out to be a fiasco, no problem, let the boys figure out how to make it work. It's part of leadership development to solve problems. The really scary part of it is if the "fun" boys are more successful than the "serious" boys.


    • #3
      I think you ASM needs to do some deep breathing exercizes. The make-up of your patrols will change every year as boys move in and out of the troop. What the patrol looks like today is not what it's going to look like next year or even 6 months from now. Not only will boys come and go, but the boys who stick around will change as they grow older.

      Remember, you're still only 12 boys strong. That means that on any given outing you are only going to have enough boys for 1 patrol anyway. They are a Troop and need to act as such.


      • #4
        One of the worst mistakes our troop ever did was over engineering patrol structure and/or assigning patrol structure.

        To restructure patrols, the best way I've seen it done is to coach the SPL on a procedure. The procedure being to figure how many patrols can exist. 2, 3, 4, etc. Then have the SPL point out locations in the room for patrol 1, 2, 3, etc. Tell the scouts each patrol can have no less than four scouts and no more than XX scouts. Then, let the scouts choose.

        For newly arriving scouts, let the scout choose his patrol.

        KEY POINT - Stop the adults thinking it is their job to assign or plan the patrol membership. Scouts won't OWN their patrols if they are bounced around or if they don't buy-into their patrol. You want the lessons the scouts learn being about teaming and working with others. You do not want the lessons learned to be about adults stepping in to tell them what's going to happen. If things are badly balanced or other challenges, then that's a lesson the scouts learn. Fine. It's not the end of the world.

        I think the key point is that scouting is for the scouts. Let them have as much control as possible over their experience.


        • Basementdweller
          Basementdweller commented
          Editing a comment
          Fred....Tried that and ended up with one patrol. then we ended up with a hero and zeros patrol system......Well that didn't work either.

          Initially you need to assign the patrols.....

          Assign for balance......Friendships be darned.

      • #5
        ASM = ASSIST the SM, not second-guess everything. But obviously this guy is in helicopter mode and telling him that won't help you.

        Rather, say "Any boy who feels this isn't working out for him can ask for a SM conference and we can see what we can do to make it work better. The next round of reassignments, if any, will be up to the SPL."

        Fact is, your boys are so young (mostly) that nobody has any idea how they will pan out in the long term. By 8th grade, the "serious" boy may switch to "fun" and vice-versa.


        • #6
          I think 12 is too small for real patrol method using two patrols.......two patrols of 6 boys....So think monthly campouts....Your going to end up with two patrols of 4 boys each.

          I think your selection method was good.

          Sounds like your ASM is looking out for his scout and not the entire Troop.


          • #7
            If everyone is going to merge patrols because of activity attrition, then one might as well forget about the patrol method.

            I set patrols at 6-8 boys. They pick and chose who they want. If their buddies don't show up for activities, they need to work that out, that's what small group dynamics require. If one can miss and no one cares because they are going to merge patrols anyway, what's the big deal about skipping. But if my buddies need me there, peer-pressure comes to play.

            If one is going to use patrol method, then use it. If one is going to go with the troop method, then use it. Mixing and matching, blending and stirring things up, just doesn't pan out in the long run. Either you're going to end up with frustrated patrols or a poorly run troop.

            I had two boys that wanted to have their own patrol. I advised against it, but being boy-led, I let them. They were unable to recruit any new boys for their patrol, and the day before summer camp one of them broke his leg. The other boy had a pretty miserable time at summer camp doing his own cooking, cleaning and camp chores by himself. By the end of the summer he joined up (his decision) with another patrol. He had to request, on his own, joining another patrol and that patrol didn't have their 8 boys, took him in. His buddy had to request to join another patrol that was also short one member.

            No one ever asked to try that "experiment" again. The two boys learned a valuable lesson and the others in the troop took notice and learned as well.

            If one runs a truly patrol-method program, a lot of the "problems" that arise are taken care of by the boys themselves and tend to run quite smoothly once everyone figures out that the SM is going to stick to his guns about the patrol-method and not mess around with the patrol groupings.

            Last edited by jblake47; 06-12-2013, 07:42 AM.


            • fred johnson
              fred johnson commented
              Editing a comment
              Well said. That's my experience too. I must admit though, we had a patrol of four for years that ran great and the scouts helped the younger scouts. Sometimes only two of them appeared. For them, it worked.

          • #8
            I learned over the years that 50 percent of the SMs time is working with and teaching the adults how your program desgin works. Parents by nature are protective of their kids, so you have to get used to them standing up when they see their son at a disadvantage. Good SMs listen to consider the parents question so as to learn where they (the SM) might need to consider improving either the message or that part of the program. It's not always a matter of right or wrong, it's whether you can improve. When a mom approached me that her son wasn't earning his Eagle fast enough, I improved my message of how our program works to visiting families and families of new scouts so they would understand my approach to advancement. I also learned how the many activities and processes like elections and picking patrols fit in the bigger picture so that I could explain how the little parts of my program worked together to reach the vision for their son. In this case with your ASM, if you feel that the method you tried worked with the scouts and will improve the troop for the future, then practice a simple explination that you think will help your ASM understand. Listen to his points and counter with yours. Tell him that you will humble yourself before him if it fails. Or, accept what he is saying as a good input and try something different. Either way,what you learn from this experience will help you do it better the next time a parent calls.


            • #9
              The title of this thread should really be: Who Chooses Patrols, Dad or Scout?"

              So Johnny want's to be in the patrol with the "fun guys" (are they from Mt. Pilot?) And who wouldn't? Dad aspires for Johnny to be -- or at least to be known as -- a "serious Scout" and wants him in the Serious Scout patrol. Well 'at rite thar's yur pob'um!

              Seems to me you've done a reasonable job of accommodating things. In eight years I don't think we have used the same method of organizing patrols twice and we've never, ever, not once made everyone happy. Bad news is that it's your ASM that's unhappy. In a two patrol troop patrols do tend to be a bit binary -- heros and zeros and BD says. If you can't stand Patrol Leader A, patrol B is your only option. As the troop grows, it's actually easier to find a patrol you're can deal with. If you hate Patrol A, but can choose B, C, D, E or F.....

              You need to find a PC way of breaking the news to the ASM you're going with the roster as announced. Buy him a cold beverage and explain to him that what's best for the troop long term is for the boys to start making their own decisions. Give him a reason to agree with you with some good, sound Scouting principles and reasons why this is okay. Point out that it's not forever. That in the Loser Pat..... I mean the Fun Kid Patrol his son will have a better chance for his genetically superior leadership abilities to rise to the top.

              And besides, I'll lay even odds he's actually okay with the patrols but he is getting heat at home from mama.


              • #10
                So is the hero and zero patrol model ok or acceptable?????

                I think it is a recipe for losing boys.......


                • #11
                  Absolutely not. I was using that as an example, but wasn't clear it's a bad example.

                  I wasn't really trying to go down this path, but in a small, young troop, the SM -- at minimum -- needs to have "advice and consent" participation in the patrol assignment process specifically to prevent hero/zero patrols or those with 10 guys in one patrol and the two "losers" in another. When you have more patrols and more mature Scouts, those sorts of problems will average themselves out somewhat automatically. My point was that I think it appropriate for a SM to have move of a hand with the former troop but with the latter the SM can more comfortably stay out of the way.

                  We need to give our Scouts the opportunity to succeed Allowing a "zero" patrol to stand is setting up that patrol for uncontrolled failure. Of course the other side of the coin was Stosh's example of a two man patrol which he gave enough rope to hang itself. I know Stosh is a smart enough SM that he wouldn't have allowed the two-man patrol if he wasn't reasonably comfortable that their ultimate failure would become a learning experience not a disaster.
                  Last edited by Twocubdad; 06-13-2013, 12:14 PM.


                  • #12
                    Your response Twocub is exactly the reason I don't like same age patrols in a boy run troop. Growth is a lot slower without experienced role models.



                    • #13
                      with my unit, We adults try not to have imput into their patrols. We tried in the past to create mixed ages patrols by administrative fiat, and it failed. So we've returned to just allowing them to make their own patrols, and we've seen an increase in their attendance and participation. My unit is about 50 Scouts.

                      I don't think their is a right or wrong method to creating patrols as long as the boys agree with it and have fun. Mixed age, same age patrols both have their merits and disadvantages and a troop needs to do what works best with their youth, their ages and maturity levels, and the adult leaders ability to watch over things and coach the SPL and Patrol Leaders.


                      • #14
                        I wrassled with this issue recently. Wound up soliciting input from other adults, former SPLs and the current SPL.
                        (52 in the troop - 36 active)
                        Then i did it like this:

                        Went with 3 patrols, so that we could adhere to patrols on outings. (Wanted to do 4, but then we'd wind up with ad-hoc patrols to keep one or two boys from being solo)
                        Each grade got split in half.
                        Then we put the halves into patrols so that there was a grade separating the age groups of the patrols. (Trying avoid only one year separation to reduce bullying, increase respect/mentoring)

                        Alpha has 5th, 7th, and a few 9th graders (Fifth graders were a small class this year.)
                        Bravo has 6th, 8th, and a few older boys.
                        Charlie has 6th, 8th, and a few older boys,

                        The older boys are learning to be responsible for the young ones. You don't have to bark at them more than once about setting a good example. They like it.


                        • qwazse
                          qwazse commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Sounds like a good plan. Especially since your patrols are letters and not numbers. (My rant to my troop: "Dens have numbers, patrols don't.")

                          Was bullying an issue before? Or was it a hypothetical? (Or something in between. Sometimes you can look at a cluster of boys and think "Oh, this is not gonna turn out good." Happened to me on the bus ride home last night.)

                        • JoeBob
                          JoeBob commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Bullying between adjacent grades was an issue watching them come up in Cub Scouts. They'd build forts and attack each other, sneak attacks, etc. I thought that was a fine use of testosterone until one of the smaller boys threw a cup of pee on one of the biggest meanest older boys. The retribution was justified, and therefore hard to stop. After a couple of months of serious talking, we got it settled down. But I did observe that the boys don't respect the kids one grade up; they're too close. The boys one grade up have no desire to mentor the boys one grade down. (Especially since they getting no respect) They just want to pound them into submission.

                          Single age patrols will be the boys' choice; they get to hang with all their usual friends.
                          But then you get no knowledge bank, no mentoring, and a bunch of newbies freezing and eating raw food while the older guys caramelize green beans and scallops around their fire. And a fractured troop. Maybe layered would be a better word.
                          Patrol competitions? Not with age based patrols; the big kids always win and the younger patrols lose interest.

                          Full disclosure: I've only been using this method since March, when I got drafted as SM. I feared I'd lose older boys when I busted up their club. Nope. They like the responsibility, and a chance to show off what they know.

                          Really full disclosure: the pee thrower was my son.
                          (But Dad, pee-pee is sterile. Should I have thrown dirty lake water on him?)

                      • #15
                        Sentine, I believe there is a right and wrong difference between mix-age and same-age patrols, but there are appropriate times for both methods. Most of the time the best method depends on the leadership style of the adults. Sometimes the best method depends on the limitations of the troop. However all things being equal, my experience is the mixed age patrols perform better with scout growth, expecially at the younger ages. Thank goodness for choices because most units are not equal. Barry