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Competitions can bring out some good improvement however for every winner there is a looser. The main point of the Patrol system IMHO is that Patrols act separately and differently. If doing different things there is no real way to compete and there would not be uniformity in Patrol ability. A strong Patrol competition may well indicate that adults are running a very tight ship and PL's are not independent enough.
Sure there are essential basic skills straight from the advancement requirements and these are worth some competition. We all do that and rightly so,
I would rate excellent Patrol system being when the Patrols are not actually present together very often with each Patrol off doing it's own thing. Have not often enough reached that ideal but it remains more my focus than a strong competition. Have often had Patrols at very different standards with little good to come from what would be a lop sided competition.
Having pontificated I readily admit to competition not more than half of each quarter (5 weeks out of 10). Always try to have a set of optional activites that contribute to Patrol points. Like extra credit.
Our scouts love patrol competitions. We just had one at our Indoor Camp last weekend Did First Aid, fire starting, semaphore, two man sawing, a knot tying team building exercise, and a "Pillsbury" cake bake off contest.
My boys never chose up sides when it came to any troop competitions, they always competed as a patrol.
NSP boys with their TG would go to their first camporee competitions and instead of thinking that they were competing, the TG would work with the patrol to learn HOW to compete. What were the judges looking for?, what was the activity?, what needs to be done to come ready for the next competition?, etc.
Did they ever win at any of the competitions the first year? Not to my knowledge, but by the time fall camporee came around, they were ready and did win a few.
The best I have ever seen was at summer camp the first time my boys went to a new camp. All week long the boys did activities that earned them "gold" coins. At the end of the camp, they had a camp-wide "war" of competitions where the boys bought "weapons" hired "mercenaries" (other boys who were knocked out of the competition), and did "battle" for a whole afternoon. Being the only out-of-council patrol, they were left on the outside looking in. However, in the last hour of competition my boys who were spending the whole afternoon looking on, were watching the other boys compete, taking notes on who was good at what and when the camp thought the "war" was over, they realized they had one more patrol to beat. Piece of cake, they had proven themselves the best against all the other patrols! However, my boys were sitting on a huge pile of gold, bought up all the best mercenaries, weapons, and took camp-wide honors.
It was rather embarrassing for the council to have to award the best of the best to the only non-council patrol in camp that week. By the way, the oldest boy in that patrol was 13.
I spent my entire time as ASM with Advancements. I made sure my boys not only knew what to do, but also how to think. Major advantage in any competition. My boys were consistently being "charged" with cheating. However, they had only learned to play the game correctly.
Every time a fire and string competition came along, if the judge did not say the fire had to be on the ground, they build a wooden platform to within a couple of inches of the string and lit it. Double string was a bit harder but if they build a good fire, it was no problem. Most of the boys had "tinder kits" in ziplock bags they broke open and lit with magnesium for their fires, burned faster and hotter than matches. Always got extra credit for that, too.
If the judge did not prescribe certain items for first aid, the boys adopted quicker and more efficient means. They might provide splints and bandages and then check the bandage knots to make sure they were all square knots. If they said the boys didn't need to use the bandages they would used duct tape which was faster and more efficient and bypassed the judgmental eye for square knots.
The boys were always in full-uniform, had their patrol flag, and did their yell before they started any competition. The PL was in complete charge and knew which of his boys was best at what and assigned duties accordingly. They always had a plan laid out before they started, based on information learned from the last competition. Broken leg, Scout 1 held the leg, scout 2 put on splits, scout 3 duct taped one end, scout 4 the other end, scout 5 & 6 prepared the stretcher, they always had 6' walking sticks and used their coats. By the time the splint was on, the stretcher was ready and they were done. There was no need for discussion, no confusion on who did what, and always looked polished and professional. If it was a broken arm, no stretcher needed and scout 5 & 6 had the sling ready instead of the stretcher. SLAM - Stop, Look, Assess, Manage - in that order. The first thing you apply in any competition is your brain.
There are only positive reasons to include Pioneering as an integral part of the Scouting program, and when presented properly, there are only positive outcomes. That said, let's remember the idiom, you've got to learn to walk before you can run. Here's how John ThurmanÂ puts it,Â "There is only one activity in my experience where it…