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  • Strengthening Patrols

    One of the things that I've noticed about my troop's patrols, are that they're not very strong and only really function as a patrol for a short period of time(patrol competitions, fall in, etc.). To give you better insight, the patrols don't act as patrols and the scouts usually wander away from their patrols and talk. How do you deal with this? So far, my ideas are below:

    1. Leadership-Get good PLs and an SPL that knows the patrol method and keeps their patrol as a patrol(in the past PLs have been too weak in leadership and don't really care what patrol members do and can't control them).

    2. Separation-Have patrols meet in separate places during patrol breakouts at meetings and have them camp a reasonable distance apart(maybe a border line to separate camp sites. Also, one patrol upstairs and the other downstairs at meetings)? One problem with patrol breakouts is that the boys get bored and wander off to talk with friends. Maybe having the patrol leaders come up with a monthly agenda of what they're going to do during patrol breakouts could help. They would present this to the PLC every month. Finally, maybe having the whole "permission to enter campsite" rule could help to.

    3. Activities-Make patrols have at least 5-6 activities per year(hikes, camp-outs, community service, etc.).

    So, what do you think there and is there anything else that anyone could suggest? Finally, could good patrols lead to better activities and better scout leadership?

  • #2
    I'm having similar issues.

    My approach is to work along the lines of #3. (Can't do much about #1 and #2.) Although "making" them do anything is useless. "Encouraging" is.

    I think PL's need to be able to "talk smack": Brag about their success in their patrol in a formal setting (e.g., during roll-call).


    • #3
      1. That can vary because boys elect their leaders. They will not always elect the BEST or most competent leader, though. This idea can see some problems.

      2. Good idea. Also, it would help to enforce Kudu's Rule of 300.

      3. Dunno if "making" them do anything will solve much, but it's worth a shot. So far, #2 is the first step, but definitely not the cure.


      • #4
        How one structures the activities makes a major impact on patrol identity.

        Here's what I was doing in my last troop.

        PL was highest ranking officer in the troop.

        At opening flags, patrols were called together and came to the ceremony having been inspected by the PL to their place in the flag ceremony.

        Once the flags were done, the patrols all went to their respective area of the meeting room and did their own thing. NSP was generally doing advancement/orientation, older boys had their own activities. Troop officers were on hand for any PL requests made, i.e. Instructor to teach knots to Patrol A for half-hour, then go to Patrol B for lashings for a half-hour.

        The patrols gathered together and came to closing flags.

        Just before major events, the troop QM may call together the patrol QM's to work out what equipment they are going to be needing.

        For COH's, the SPL would MC the proceedings and would give an intro, Chap Aide, a prayer, then introduce the first PL who would come up and present the awards to his patrol members. This progressed through the patrols, and at the end, the SPL would gather his "PLC" and present the awards the PL's had earned. The only exception to this was the troop officers if they were not part of a patrol, i.e. SPL, ASPL, TG, etc., they were presented their awards by one of the PL's. It seemed appropriate considering these were the boys supporting the work of the PL's.

        If there is a need or problem arises, the APL's take over the activity and at the request of the PL's, the SPL convenes the PLC to deal with just that issue and then disperses back into their patrols.

        Each patrol is autonomous. They decide all their arrangements, coordinate them with the troop officers, i.e. QM, Chaplain's Aide, etc., decide their program, meals, etc. No one tells them how to run their patrol. The patrol Scribe is responsible for seeing that all necessary communications that are sent to those who need to know, who's paid up on dues, who's going to camporee, what MB's their boys signed up for for camp, collected money for camp, report back any member's advancements, etc.

        What had happened, and what I got in trouble for, was that in some form or another every boy in the troop was expected to participate in some kind of leadership. Patrol scribes were learning how to be troop scribe, patrol QM's would move up to troop QM, etc. same for all other patrol positions. Instructors, TG, and other troop leaders were always available upon request to assist any problems in a patrol's operation. They were held accountable and interacted with the adult leadership, i.e. collected up patrol dues, kept record and passed on to Committee Treasurer. Same for Summer Camp monies. And the catch? Slackers who didn't want to be involved in any leadership or responsibilities were immediately identified. Thus with this system set in place, 1) boys were doing too much leadership and 2) the SM wasn't doing anything. Yep, it was a totally boy-run, patrol-method program and it was working great. So they dumped the SM and went back to a troop-method, adult-led program so that the adults could justify their efforts to the parents.



        • #5
          A lot of it depends on exactly what facilities you have available and what your Scouts look like in terms of demographics and participation, but I've been trying to think over the same issue in our troop.

          Meeting in separate places is definitely good. This holds for campouts and for troop meetings. Having the patrols have their own identity as much as possible is good - make sure they have all their own equipment. Have patrol flags and have them out often, just as a way to help everyone, including the adult leaders, think of the boys in terms of patrols. Find ways to mark everything by patrol - color code things, mark all tents and tent pieces, all cleaning equipment, etc. If each patrol can have their own storage area, even better.

          Emphasize patrol duty rosters. Do as many things as possible by patrols...sign up for trips, do head counts, etc.

          I think there is a little bit of a balance here. Most of the Scouts have friends in other patrols too, and they don't want to be permanently separated from them.


          • #6
            Wander off to talk with their friends? Why aren't they in the same patrol as their friends?


            • #7
              Patrol strength comes from the members of the group relying on each other for a successful group outcome. That requires each member to be challenged so that each ones growth and accomplishment work together for a team success.

              Look at your program in those terms. Think how you can add even a little tiny little challenge in each activity that forces the members to act as a group. I used to make up little excuses to ask the SPL for patrols to vote on this or that just to force them to act as a team. Something like voting to leave for camp at 6:00 or 6:30. The subject wasn't that important to me or the troop, but it was one little team building action. So get in the habit looking for opportunities that force the patrols to be, well a patrol.

              I learned that the more intense the activity or the higher the goal, the faster patrols bond. Quite by accident I found that laser tag is a fast team building activity. The quick intense laser tag sessions required the members to quickly volunteer into positions where they would work best as a team, and then quickly strategizing a plan for success. This is where the true leaders popped out. I know we can't do laser tag now, but you get the point.

              The troop program offers lots of opportunities to force scouts to grow if you just use them. I think "Time" is one of the troop programs best motivators of challenging patrols to grow. A schedule of 7:30 am reveille, 8:30 troop assembly, 8:40 troop or patrol activities forces patrols to work as a team to complete breakfast and be at assembly on time. And how about breaking camp? Surely they can do better. Once you see the patrols reaching those goals, give the SPL some excuse to tighten up the schedule just a bit. Keep the scouts challenged, if just a little. Our Troop of 80 can start breaking camp and be loading cars in 45 minutes. Can any of your troops do better than that? That requires patrols working together.

              I saw the outcome of this with a patrol at Philmont. The patrol wanted to do certain activities on the trail like fishing and they knew if they didnt get up and go early enough, they wouldnt have time for the activities. So they, not the adults, planned the night before a how work as a team and get on the trial an hour before sunrise. Since when does a teenage boy want to get up that early? It was fun to watch. But when you see scouts planning a strategy to work as a team for success, you have a strong group.

              Your plan is a good start, but dont be afraid to challenge the scouts. They wont mind the struggle if the work is fun and goals are worth it. Think of ways to force them as a patrol. Lots of little things can add up to get you that one big thing.

              I love this scouting stuff.



              • #8

                You make a valid point. If patrols are assigned by adults for whatever reason adults feel they need to do that, then the boys will wander off to be with their buddies.

                If the PL and the patrol members say who's in their patrol, the wandering off becomes meaningless. They are already together, no need to wander.

                This is why the PL directs the functions of his patrol, not the "outsiders" whether they be adults, troop leaders or PLC.

                Anytime outside factors dictate/mandate to a patrol what they can or can't do, there can be a problem, and if the boys meld together well, then just one scout won't skip out, the whole patrol will go en mass. I see that a lot of such mandates floating through the forum from time to time and along with it the problems of discipline that go with it. If the troop decides that they are all to wear a troop neckerchief and the boys in a certain patrol want a neckerchief of their own, who's to say they can't. Make a rule to keep them from doing it?, or have the boys in that patrol carry two neckers, one for troop activities and inspections, another for patrol activities. Always worked for me, and it was an excellent tool for me to take attendance, know where the boys are supposed to be and recognize them from a distance at times if necessary. My boys always wore full uniform at summer camp, and with the different patrol neckers, I knew where all my boys were at a glance. 2 uniforms, 2 same colored neckers... buddy system working, no problem. Say "Hi" and keep on walking.

                A strong support of the PL will insure strong patrol identities and very few "rules" and by-laws. Boys stayed together for as long as they wanted and had a PL that was selected from any scout in the troop. If a strong leader from another patrol was elected to be their PL, he was invited to be their PL. If he didn't want the position, he could turn it down and stay with his buddies. I even had a case where the PL was elected out of another patrol and his best buddy was asked to be the APL, just so they wouldn't be "wandering off" and would stay and tend to PL business. There were no terms or term limits. Once PL they stayed that way until either they decided to move on, or the patrol members decided (at any time) to replace him. Usually the bond of esprit de corps was strong enough that the patrol members generally selected from within when necessary.

                Adults who mandating from the "top down" generally have the most discipline problems and weak PL structures. Why have a PL if the SPL and/or SM is going to undermine him all the time?



                • #9
                  Since I am still not authorized to create a new topic I will post it here

                  Well shuffled up the patrols from 4 non functional to three functional. Boys are doing decent coming together.

                  Patrol Contests..

                  I have made ribbons for Patrol competitions.....The guys seem to really like them.....

                  So we have the Troop Knot Masters, Big monkey fist, Scratch and Dent ribbon (First aid), Not Lost in the woods ribbon(map reading, Wayfinding), Red in the Red ribbon, (Orienteering) Patrol Vs Food Ribbon, Pyros are US riboon, and looking for a few more ideas.

                  The awards are kept on the patrols flag staff and if they lose the patrol the patrol leaders pass it from one patrol to the other. The competition can be pretty intense sometime....

                  So how often do you hold competitions, Right now it is a challenge system.....The patrols bone up on what they want to challenge the other patrol at during their patrol meetings......then issue the challenge.


                  • #10

                    This is my first reply in a while, so I don't know if it will make it.

                    So, I wouldn't let these challenges happen more than once a month. I'm guessing your meetings are an hour and a half. With prepping for the next trip, advancement, introducing new skills, and games (fun), I'd keep these challenges as special activities for the patrols to look forward to. I like the ribbons idea. Cheap but very visual. I've always liked your positive attitude towards your Scouting responsibilities.



                    • #11
                      THX and you are right about more than one challenge a month....Might be all we accomplish in the meetings.......I don't know of any other troop that does this.......I want them to got to flags at summer camp with a little bit of pride and maybe a bit of a swagger knowing they got the scouting game as well or better than the next troop.

                      I am here for my scouts... They are mine.....


                      • #12
                        Basement, I see you took my advice to find a similar thread and bump it up and turn it into your own since we can't make new posts.

                        We have a brand new SM as of last week. He is just out of cubbies so enthusiasm is really HIGH, and he's been an ASM in the troop for a while, so he does have some experience. He's looking for things to change and improve.

                        Unfortunately our troop functions as a unit, everythig is run more like troop method than patrol method. Patrols exist only as a way to take attendance, line up for flags, and they make a menu for a troop campout, but they'll end up as an ad hoc patrol on the outing.

                        My sons (13 ad 17 year olds) haven't figured out how to create such a big change-- my 17 year old especially spent a year as SPL beating his head against the wall with old SM who was very troop method oriented. New SM gives them hope for patrol methods.

                        Basement your challenge ribbons do sound like something he might like and the scouts might buy into. Of course, they might not.


                        • Sentinel947
                          Sentinel947 commented
                          Editing a comment
                          That sounds all too much like my Scout troop.... It's hard thing to change. It gets ingrained as "that's how we've always done things."

                      • #13
                        @BD: We did something very similar. We have a monthly cook off on Saturday dinner where the winner gets a leather patch and 5pts for his patrol. They get an award called the "Golden Whisk" which is passed from patrol to patrol each month based on the cooking winner. We do special ribbons for events like orienteering, pioneering, nature, etc. At the end of every 6 months the patrol with the most points gets pizza (Dutch oven, of course) with the Scouters. We have seen a real esprit de corps form after a while. We now have patrols racing to take down/set up camp the fastest (points lost if not done correctly or dangerously), as well as guys actually CLEANING gear better to get points for any surprise inspection that might happen.

                        The PLC has embraced this concept and has begun awarding and tracking the points. So far all has worked very well.


                        • Basementdweller
                          Basementdweller commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Not sure how to judge or reward for fast setup or tear down of a campsite.......I can see bonus points for very clean patrol gear and such..... I like the golden whisk idea....I will pick one up on the way home tonight and get some gold epoxy paint....... the concept troop is still in its infancy, minimal ground rules.....

                          I could see summer camp...having an Ice cream social for the best Patrol camp site

                      • #14
                        we've done cooking contests and awarded the golden spoon. which is a dollar store wooden spoon painted gold. easier than trying to paint a wisk maybe?


                        • #15
                          BD you have some excellent ideas there. I think I will have to borrow them. Only thing I can think to add may be a "best dressed" patrol. It could be uniforming, or simply best dressed (shirts tucked in, pants pulled up, general neatness). The "ribbon" could be a necktie.