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SPL - Necessity, luxury or something else?

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  • #16

    In the rest of the world, Scouting was based on Baden-Powell's Patrol System:

    1) The maxim number of Patrols in a Troop = Six (6), of 6-8 Scouts each.

    2) Even with six Patrols, a Senior Patrol Leader is optional.

    See Rules #237-242:

    3) The "purpose" of a Patrol is to go out on patrol: To cover physical distance (without "adult association").

    4) When camping as a Troop, Patrols camp 300 feet apart, in a circle, with the Scouters' campsite at the hub.

    All of this can be done in the context of monthly campouts along the lines of modern Wood Badge.

    The rub is that physical distance involves managed risk.

    Therefore you might want your Troop's very best natural leaders in the Patrol Leader positions, managing the risk of physical distance out there in the LITERAL "Trust 'em, Let 'em Lead" absence of adult association.

    Yours at 300 feet,



    • #17
      Ideally, the Scoutmaster interacts with one and only one Scout - the SPL.

      Yes, the SM may perform Scoutmaster conferences for all boys, act as a merit badge counselor, etc. but the SM should not be the trainer for all the youth leadership.

      Kudu & others, for a troop with more than one patrol, how do you suggest the the SM interact with the Scouts with no SPL?


      • #18
        By talking to them? Perhaps in the spirit of an older brother? I think I heard that somewhere.

        I probably will never be the SM of a troop larger than 20-25 boys, because I don't want to become an unreachable CEO of a youth group.

        My question would be, why in the world would only interacting with one boy in the entire troop be ideal? I fully fall in line with the thought that Scouts should be teaching Scouts. But if I happen to be on a camping trip one day and a young scout and I happen to be standing in the same place staring at the Big Dipper, there's a good chance I'm going to show him the North Star.


        • #19
          Oak Tree, it would all depend on whether one is using the troop method or the patrol method of running a troop. If you are using the troop method, then the SPL is in charge of everything and the PL's are nothing more than ASPL's doing what the SPL directs them to do. However if one is using the patrol method, then the SPL, if necessary assists the PL's do their job in the patrols. After all he is senior not because he ranks higher but because he has the most experience to be able to assist them.

          When in doubt, stop and think, if the SPL runs the troop, then one is using the troop method with a bunch of assistants to help with the shear number of scouts.

          On a campout that has to be horrendous having all those patrols 300' apart and the SPL trying to run the show.

          Can't have it both ways. Either the patrol method is used and the PL runs his own little show or he does what he is told by the SPL who is usually just parroting back what the SM told him to do. Of course under these circumstances only the SM is the only real leader. Everyone else follows.

          Under BP's model the PL's would have 6-8 boys for him to lead and the SPL would have 6 PL's to lead. Otherwise with the troop method the SPL theoretically would have 36-48 boys to lead. Shoot, even a highly trained adult school teacher can't handle that many at one time, how would one think a 16 year old boy could do it.

          Stosh(This message has been edited by jblake47)


          • #20
            The SPL, if employed properly, isn't running anyone's patrol!

            During meetings and troop activities in the outdoors, the SPL gets the bugler up, walks the rounds to the patrol leaders to make sure things are on track, runs the flag ceremonies, games, sets up training schedules, in a word, everything...and reports back to the SM, who is very much present but saying very little aside from a SM moment or such.

            Show me a troop with more than one patrol that has no SPL, and I'll show you a SM who is playing SPL....


            • #21
              Desert - why does anyone need to "play" SPL? It strikes me that all of those things you mention could as easily be handles by a group of PLs who among them decide how best to come together as a troop, which patrol should handle which tasks, etc.


              • #22
                Shortridge, good which I'd say the SPL is guy the keeps the train on the tracks. In troops that I see with no SPL, the SM is the go-to guy, checking on things, fielding questions from this PL, then the QM, setting up schedules, etc. Generally making him/herself indispensable.

                I'm a bit biased based on my experience as an SPL years ago. My SM was very much in charge, but held me responsible for everything--planning, organizing, executing troop meetings to campouts to day hikes. It was a full time job. I made plenty of mistakes, and the SM let me know exactly what I did wrong and how to improve. Privately. For a year plus, it was probably one of the toughest yet most rewarding leadership labs I've been thru, before or since.

                I think Eagledad said it best, now that I reflect back--the SM was training me, the SPL, to be to be a SM. Eagledad, well said.

                If the SPL isn't going to be a protege of the SM, then sure, it's a waste of time for everyone involved. But if the SPL is treated like an adult, with the proper expectations, it can be the best youth job in the troop, aside from PL.

                But if the SM can't resist being the go-to guy/gal, well, sure, spare some Life/Star scout the trouble of being the SPL, and find something else for them to do. Odds are it won't be as good as being an SPL.


                • #23
                  Irsap....I am not going to blindly follow what many on here say....

                  Like you if a young man asked me about the big dipper, I am not going to say ask your SPL.

                  It simply does not make sense to have a manager managing only two subordinates... I would rather have him happy and engaged in a patrol rather than on the side watching......

                  We are a young troop our eldest member just turned 14 and if our only first class scout. We have only two small patrols....

                  SPL does not make sense for our group.


                  • #24
                    desertrat77, just a quick question. Do you think you would have learned just as much as SPL if your SM would have constantly been at your side asking what he could do to help make you a better SPL instead of directing you every step of the way? Sure, you learned to follow his directions, but only after he was out of the picture were you able to apply what you learned. I'm suggesting it may have been more helpful had he assisted you in being a better leader as you lead rather than directing you to eventually lead at some future date.

                    The boys that progressed in leadership did so far faster being helped rather than directed whenever I have had the opportunity to support them in that process.

                    The boys that have shown the greatest leadership are the ones that have directly expressed to me they appreciated all the suggestions I gave them as they learned rather than being told what to do. They felt they had ownership in their leadership and when they hit a roadblock, came to me for "suggestions" on what they might try to get around them rather than me pointing out the roadblock and telling them what they had to do to get around it. Teaching leadership requires the mentor to not direct, but offer options for the budding leader to consider within their own style of leadership as they develop it on the fly.

                    My boys knew that their PL was really running the show and for them to ask me what was going on was a total waste of time. The best I could do was ask the PL for them and they often found it quicker to do it themselves.



                    • #25
                      Stosh, excellent question. I think I could have written my previous better. My SM didn't direct me but simply said "you're in charge.". So I led the patrol leaders through annual planning, getting ready for campouts, running the meetings from start to finish etc. If it went right he didn't say much. If I screwed up I heard about it. As the months went by things clicked and I found my stride. He never said or did anything that I couldn't do myself, to borrow a phrase. As in your example, He was always there, the kids knew him, but if they asked him where an axe was or where the next court of honor etc he'd always smile and say "did you ask your PL?". If a PL asked him a question he'd send them to me. Lots work but wow what a learning experience.(This message has been edited by Desertrat77)


                      • #26
                        acco40 writes:

                        "Ideally, the Scoutmaster interacts with one and only one Scout - the SPL."

                        Acco, I agree with lrsap: In Baden-Powell's Scouting the Scoutmaster interacts as an older brother to every Scout.

                        In fact he originally set the limit of Scouts per Troop at 32 because, he said, 16 was as many "younger brothers" as he could get to know at one time, but since most Scoutmasters were twice as capable, he multiplied by two.

                        As for training, in Green Bar Bill's Patrol Method, the Scoutmaster acts as the Patrol Leader of the "Green Bar Training Patrol." The SPL is his APL, BUT the purpose of Hillcourt's "Intensive Training in the Green Bar Patrol," is to teach each Patrol Leader how to physically lead his Patrol into the backwoods without adult association.

                        desertrat77 writes:

                        "the SPL gets the bugler up"

                        Sounds like "chain of command" stuff. Why does a bugler need a supervisor to wake him up?

                        In the BSA "Real" Patrol Method, the Patrol Leaders appoint the SPL: Reverse chain of command!

                        No reason why they can't rotate the point man among themselves with the Program Patrol, as Basementdweller does.

                        More common in my experience is for the Patrol Leaders to appoint the Troop's obvious Natural Leader to be the most "senior" of them: Chairing meetings and coordinating campouts on a regular basis, but with a Patrol of his own.

                        Show me a troop that wastes talent on a full-time SPL position, and I'll show you an SPL who is playing chain of command with a lot less than 300 foot chains.

                        Yours at 300 feet,



                        • #27
                          Kudu, you're cracking me up!

                          Let's discuss the bugler. Who keeps him in the loop on the plan for what time he bugles, and what calls? And, heaven forbid he doesn't wake up on time, who gets him moving?

                          Some say SM or another adult. I say the SPL.

                          I don't think having an SPL and camping at 300 ft is mutually exclusive. I'm all for the 300 feet principle. But when it's time to interact as a troop, I think the SPL is the one getting things moving.


                          • #28
                            desertrat77 writes:

                            "I say the SPL."

                            I say the "senior" Patrol Leader.

                            desertrat77 writes:

                            "And, heaven forbid he doesn't wake up on time, who gets him moving?"

                            Traditionally the Scoutmaster wakes everybody up with his kudu horn.

                            So I say:

                            "Show me a Troop with more than one Patrol that has no SPL, and I'll show you a SM who is playing the bugler...."

                            Yours at 300 feet,



                            • #29
                              Just because Baden Powell says something does not make it so. BP also said that after a hike the SM should vigourouly massage the Scouts. Do you advocate that Kudu?

                              He also said that SMs should make sure the Scouts are having the right number of "movements."

                              I guess it is all Baden Powell Scouting.


                              • #30
                                >>Show me a troop that wastes talent on a full-time SPL position, and I'll show you an SPL who is playing chain of command with a lot less than 300 foot chains.