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  • SPL duties vs PL duties

    So, one of my PLs came to me yesterday and said “I don’t see what the PL does – all I do it fill out duty rosters and meal plans for campouts.” I had a hard time answering him because in fact, based on recent history he was right.

    See, we have always had young, inexperienced SPLs that never got much done (and I don’t want to make this a discussion of the benefits or drawbacks of an SPL – I have suggested removing the position before and the boys always say they want to keep it so I’m not opening that can of worms again). But this term, a new, older boy (16 yo -- 2 years older than any of our other scouts) transferred into the troop. He immediately got elected to SPL and I was so excited to see him take charge of PLCs and meetings that I stepped back a bit and gave him free reign. However, it’s now clear that his old troop was a Troop-based org. At summer camp, he asked to just run “as a troop” because it worked that way for his old Troop. I thought he meant summer camp, but I think he means everything. I was fine with doing it for camp, but now every campout it’s him summoning the Troop, “front-and-center” style, giving out instructions, and then supervising the troop as they carry it out. He’s getting worn out by the end of the weekend and having to get the ASPL to jump in and take over (which he is more than happy to do).

    My feeling has always been that the SPL would meet with the PLs, give *them* instructions, and then they’d carry the instructions to their patrols. I got a lot of pushback from him (and my ASMs) on that as being “too inefficient”. I’m SM, so ofc I can just tell them to do it this way, but I wanted to make sure I understood the position correctly and see if other people agree.

    What confuses me is that looking here:

    http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php..._Patrol_Leader

    And here:

    http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Patrol_leader

    It looks like the SPL really *does* run all the events, which doesn’t see very patrol-system to me. What am I missing?

  • #2
    If you give a mouse a cookie ....

    Truth is, your SPL has a servant heart. So he wants to swoop in ... thus your PLs' frustration. That's easy enough to do at camp where everyone is usually in relatively close quarters. It's time to up the ante, and you can do it in two words (before anyone whose username begins with a K and ends with a u beats me to it):

    Physical distance.

    Your next campsite has to be someplace where each patrol is 100 yards away from the others and yourself and your assistant leader(s). Have the SPL and ASPL camp nearby you. Let all those efficiency experts walk a quarter-mile to each patrol each time they want to micro-manage a situation.

    Comment


    • #3
      You have a PL that's asking for more responsibility. You have a SPL that's burning out at every campout. And your ASMs want efficiency. I vote for the PL because the idea is to develop some leadership.

      Leadership is about making decisions and living with the resulting glory or pain. If all the PL is doing is filling out paperwork then he's not leading. What decisions belong to the PL and what belong to the SPL, and what belong to the SM? If the SM tells the SPL what all the decisions are and he just passes that onto the PLs, then who is leading? If the SM skips the SPL and tells the PLs directly, does that change anything for the PLs? That's not to say the SM can't decide on anything, but everyone should know who decides what. The tendency of kids is to back off as soon as an authority figure walks in, so those boundaries are a way to let the kids know they still own the authority.

      The PLs can decide when to get up and when to cook and what to cook. As a group they can decide when flags will be. So what's left for the SPL to decide? Well, mainly whether he needs to help a PL that's frustrated, or un organized, or not doing his job for whatever reason. The SPL's job is to develop the PLs and facilitate their meetings.

      In other words, your PL is going in the right direction, the SPL needs to learn he's not superman and shouldn't be, and you may need a long discussion with the adults.

      Comment


      • #4
        we have dropped SPL. We have just 2 patrols at present time and didn't really feel the need. The PL take turns swapping months as acting SPL - running the meetings and doing the check in on campouts. Working great for us. We did do a troop election for summer camp SPL as it does work best to have one there just one person assigning daily chores, attending SPL meetings, etc...

        Comment


        • #5
          +10 for qwazse's very practical suggestion.

          I had a couple of "super" SPLs back in the day. Sometimes, very able people find it hard to share authority. (Not that Scouters ever have that problem vis-a-vis leaders [that is Scouts who lead].) So, some other possiblities:

          Sit dowrn with the SPL . Have a talk [to be sure with someone else in sight. 0___0]. Tell him there is no troop method in Scouting. Give him a brief summary of the Patrol Method. (Not easy as there has been no description published by BSA in decades.)

          Tell him he is in charge of troop events, not the patrols as patrols.

          Tell him you will evaluate his performance, in pertinent part, on how he works THROUGH the PLs to get the troop activities to run and how well he develops PLs as good leaders. "What did the PLs accomplish on this campout?" "I measure your success in how well the PLs are leading." "How is the X Patrol developing as a team?"

          Tell him the plan for activities is to reflect what the patrol members want, as communicated by the PLs. He is the chairperson of the PLC but has one (1) vote and so needs the PLs get stronger. He needs to insure that the wishes of the patrol members are being brought to the PLC process.

          All this not because he is less but because other leaders (that is Scouts who lead) need to be developed so the troop can go on as an institution.

          Use your influence to reduce the relative number of troop activities and increase the number of patrol activities. The Scouts whould be spending the majority of their time in the partol context in any case. Make it clear to the SPL that he has no role in patrol activities except to monitor for safety, to ask the Pl how things went, and make appropriate suggestions -- not orders, suggestions -- to the PL one-on-one after the activity.

          Better this problem than the zombie SPL who wants the title, but not the job, solely for a resume item.

          __________________________________________________ __________________________________________

          The patrol is the team. The troop is the league.

          Comment


          • #6
            During meetings, you may want to use a minute to discuss the work of famous patrols. From BP's to seal team 6. You can also go over federal regulations for most back-country hikes, the typical contingent size for Philmont and Seabase.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks, all. These are really good suggestions, especially the ones from Tahawk. I've had to use the "ASM as Coach, not player" metaphor to keep them from swooping down and saving the day during campouts and I like your "The patrol is the team. The troop is the league."

              My biggest challenge is the 100 yards. So many of the "Pioneer Campgrounds" at the State Parks are way too small to accomplish this. We're going to try to camp more at Scout Camps this year, which generally have more room so hopefully we can spread out more.

              Comment


              • #8
                My experience is that the only time we have really serious problems on campouts is when we're forced by circumstances to be "too close" to each other, or all in one large campsite. Separation works.

                However, it can take some real foresight, research and planning in some areas to get the separation between Patrols you need. State campgrounds can work if they are generally large enough and one campsite can house a Patrol under whatever rules they have. You just have to reserve individual sites that are far enough apart. This does create a bit of a security problem, in that you never know who will be camping next to the Patrols.

                I have run into problems getting separation at Scout camps, frankly. In some instances - even if the camp is not full that weekend - the Council has simply flat-out refused to book us into 5 separated campsites.

                This can become an increasing problem if your Troop starts to get larger. Finding good, separated campsites for 3 Patrols (including Adults) is a lot easier task than for 5 or 6 Patrols.

                But the bottom line is it will pay off in numerous ways.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by dfscott View Post
                  ... My biggest challenge is the 100 yards. So many of the "Pioneer Campgrounds" at the State Parks are way too small to accomplish this. ...
                  Never said it would be easy. Even with our troop, which is now basically one patrol and adults. We are very challenged in this regard. Sometimes we trade off yards for # of thickets/streams/boulders or vertical separation. But some suggestions for resources that many folks neglect to ask:

                  Farmers.
                  Community parks.
                  Schools (you know, those places with multiple fields and a stream on one boundary).
                  Fair grounds.
                  Conservancies.
                  Wilderness areas (as opposed to pioneer campgrounds).

                  Have your scouts ask their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins if anyone has a big field or woods they'd let a group of boys who want to practice minimum impact camping stay on.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by dfscott View Post
                    My biggest challenge is the 100 yards. So many of the "Pioneer Campgrounds" at the State Parks are way too small to accomplish this. We're going to try to camp more at Scout Camps this year, which generally have more room so hopefully we can spread out more.
                    100 yards is a state of mind as much as it is a distance. Scouts outside while the adults are inside out of site is 100 yards. Scouts going on a 5 miles hike without adults is 100 yards. Scouts can only learn true independence when they get true independence. Don't worry about the distance, the state of mind is the hard part for adults. Our scouts see the adults during flag than they are off on their own unless program requires an adult. Get the PL Handbook and SPL handbook for you and the PLC and let scouts run the program from those books instead of adult direction. Once they get a handle on it, they will mature quickly. Barry

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Eagledad View Post
                      ... Don't worry about the distance, the state of mind is the hard part for adults. ...
                      Barry, I think the Webelos III "state of mind" has infected df's older scouts. (This really isn't that unusual, older boys try to arrange circumstances to suit their leadership style and habits.) If the SPL and ASPL don't see a purpose in patrol method, they will not adopt them.

                      There are two responses, "Do it because I said so." or "Let's see how you manage when our patrols are really patrolling."
                      The "I said so" usually works with ASMs because, well, they're supposed to be assisting the SM. But, for the SPL to learn delegation and mentoring, and the boys to understand "Hey, we'd better get used to us 8 working independently." A couple of experiences with real separation will likely spare the SM a lot of wasted words.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        To extend the sports analogy, ask your SPL what he would think of this headline:

                        Little League Coach pitches Eastlake Nationals to Area 10-12 championship.

                        "I had to take the ball. None of the kids could find the plate. I couldn't stand to see them lose, so I did what I had to do."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          G
                          Originally posted by dfscott View Post
                          So, one of my PLs came to me yesterday and said “I don’t see what the PL does – all I do it fill out duty rosters and meal plans for campouts.”
                          Why don't you have the PLs sit down with the SPL and ASPL and figure out a solution? Before the meeting, tell the SPL he is doing a good job but you are concerned about him burning out and concerned about the PLs developing leadership skills. Ask him to think about ways he can get the PLs to do what he is doing and to get him to do more of what you are doing as SM (assuming you function more like a coach). The solutions the boys come up with may surprise you.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The relationship between the Pl's and SPL and authority is a bit different for me. In my troop the highest level of authority is held by the Pl. They are responsible for their patrol. The SPL is his first level of assistance, not authority. The SPL is the PL to the PL'S. He helps the Pl's be successful with their patrols. He has no say-so over anything within the patrols. Stosh

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              In terms of the ASM's and efficiency, Scouting is not an exercise in efficiency. It's an exercise in showing boys how to lead and become self-sufficient. If efficiency is what is wanted, then why have the boys lead at all? I can guarantee that a campout run by the ASMs would be much more efficient, than any run by the boys.

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