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  • Troop Malaise

    Last night at committee we had a long discussion about a rather disconcerting trend in our troop of 60. We are presently configured in 7 patrols with an ad hoc leadership corps patrol. Troop meetings have been running quite well with the patrol leaders planning a topic for each meeting, more often than not scout skill related, followed by a game of sorts. The only time an adult speaks or has any control is at the very beginning with upcoming announcements and very briefly at the end for reminders. The meetings are well attended with well over 45 scouts at every meeting.

    We have a functioning PLC that meets monthly and all PL's are required to plan and have monthly patrol meetings away from the regular troop meetings. Over the past 4 years these scouts have gotten much better at planning and informing their patrol members of where and when these meetings are. Strangely, attendance has gone from poor to abysmal in the last year. For the most part the patrol leaders are stymied as to how to get the other scouts to attend. We have informed the scouts and parents that patrol meetings are just as, if not more, important as troop meetings.

    The same can be said for our monthly campouts. Including summer camp and High adventure the troop camps 9-10 months out of 12. We set the calender in August and post it on our website and send copies to every family. Out of the 60 scouts we very seldom exceed 25-30 scouts on a campout. And yes, when it comes down too it we recombine patrols on campouts and I see no good reason to change that policy. We will not leave 1-2 or 3 scouts to flounder all weekend.

    Summer camp is well attended and has been for as long as I can remember with upwards of 90% of the scouts attending. However, response to the high adventure trips, which is selected by the PLC every year has been disappointing with only 4 of 22 eligible scouts signing up for a week in the boundary waters. This happened a couple of years ago too.

    So we formed a smaller subcommittee of parents, MCs. and ASM's to look into this, study it, and hopefully make some recommendations to help the program along. We're thinking of surveying the parents and the scouts for input, anyone here ever do that? Anyone here ever have a situation like this? We sure would like some constructive suggestions and insight.......

    Ken

  • #2
    While I was a Scout, I was in a troop of a similiar size. I'm sorry to say I think getting about half your Boys to attend a trip is systemic. There are SO many competing activities for Boys time, you simply aren't going to get a majority of them to attend functions. I don't think there is anything wrong with your troop or it's program. I think this is the new normal.

    Yours in Scouting,

    Comment


    • #3
      Spiney,

      1) Lack of attendance at patrol meetings
      Thought to consider: Are patrol meetings really important for a reason that the scouts believe, or are they important because adult leaders say they are important? Analyze why or why not the scouts view the patrol meetings as important. What is the impact to a scout or patrol if scouts miss patrol meetings? Doesn't sound like the campout is impacted, because patrol members simply hook up with another patrol. Likely you will need to figure out a linkage between attendance at patrol meetings and things that the scouts (and perhaps parents) care about. And then let the consequences happen, even if that means letting scouts flounder for a bit. Afterwards is a good time to have a conference with the scouts about how to do better. [similar to the scene in SM/ASM specific video after scouts didn't show up to an event that the PLC had planned].

      2) Lack of signups for high adventure
      I've seen this. Boys tend to be very risk adverse and unsure of themselves when considering something like a high adventure. They don't want to fail, and will choose not to participate rather than risk failure. It is particularily true if the basic T-2-1 scout skills are weak. Two things are needed here: a) up the game on the basic skills. evaluate whether scouts are getting signed off and then infrequently using the skills. b) Adults and older scouts should talk to scouts individually, talking about what the trip involves, how fun it is, and that they have confidence that the scout will do well on the trip. Note: don't have this conversation with those scouts that truely are not ready due to lack of outdoor skills, social skills, maturity,...(This message has been edited by venividi)

      Comment


      • #4
        Sounds like our Troop lately!

        Boys want to (a) have fun, (b) have time with their friends, and (c) not have their time wasted. So a boy led program is great but if the boys are not capable of delivering a quality meeting than some adult leadership may need to assist in demonstrations or (the dreaded Troop Meeting)merit badge presentations. The last was practically demanded by the boys.

        Comment


        • #5
          Sounds pretty normal if you ask me.

          My troop of 52 has 35+ eligible to attend Philmont (sign ups next week), and we just barely scraped a crew together. Your results seem right in line. Scouts are soft and don't know what fun backpacking and hiking is. We're moving toward 3-4 backpacking trips per year, and this seems to be having good results.

          When we had 28 scouts, we had well over 70% attendance. Now, at 52, we have the same number, but lower percentage, attending monthly camp outs. Too many competing activities. And, truth be told, they are used as an excuse to not attend scouts some times.

          Your PL's can't mandate meeting attendance. If there isn't a real NEED for the meeting, they won't attend. Most camping trip planning happens at troop meetings anyway.

          Comment


          • #6
            Sounds like you are doing OK to me, too.

            For patrol meetings, why would boys attend? What would they get out of it that they don't get out of regular troop meetings? If the patrol meetings had a real purpose that affected the boys, they might come, but honestly I think I'd just let patrol meetings be optional.

            For camping trips, the attendance that you are describing sounds about typical to me, too. Is it really malaise? Or are boys just choosing to go on the trips that most interest them? Is there some reason that they should go on more trips? I've thought about how to do better at this in our troop, too - but it depends on what you want to emphasize and how hard you want to push. When we were a small troop, the percentage attendance was higher. As a larger group, boys seem to feel less cohesive and are more likely to pick and choose. For now I've decided I'll live with that. I'd be curious to know what others do to encourage higher participation.

            Comment


            • #7
              Hiya Spiney Norman. Good questions. My first response is "Yah, what everybody else said!"

              I'll add to da other great comments in just a couple of ways.

              I think one thing yeh have to seriously consider is whether boys truly identify with their patrol. Yeh are content with patrol "recombining" on campouts, and I understand the rationale. Yeh should be aware that almost all of us Patrol Method advocates would say it's a Very Bad Idea, though, and for this reason: it suggests that patrols aren't meaningful to the boys. In most strong patrol method groups, the boys themselves would resist "recombining". They themselves would rather be a Patrol of 2. "We don't need no steenking BobWhites!" They identify with their patrol. If they aren't really identifyin' with their patrol, then a patrol meeting is just an administrative exercise. Who wants to voluntarily come to an administrative exercise?

              So I'd suggest yeh think about patrol trips and patrol events, not patrol meetings. Then if there's a meetin' thing to do, they can do it right after da patrol minigolf outing. Think about patrol competitions and patrol independence rather than "recombining". Then there's a reason to come out for da team on the outing, along with social pressure from da other folks to be there. Yeh feel needed.

              In the end, yeh see, patrol meetings are just one of da trappings of Patrol Method. But yeh can't get to real Patrol Method by "requiring" da kids to go through da trappings. It's like Patrol Yells. If yeh just require each patrol to have a yell, it ain't genuine. When yeh have patrols that really identify as patrols and do things as patrols and compete as patrols, then they'll naturally come up with Patrol Mottos and Yells and Songs without being "required" to do so. And they'd never want to "recombine" with those silly BobWhites, eh? It's Beavahs forever!! One Beavah can take on 8 Foxes without breakin' a sweat! That's real patrol identity.

              As for high adventure, read and re-read what VeniVidi wrote. I think he's spot on. That's especially true if da high adventure trip is a one-up, like goin' to Boundary Waters if a lad has never done any canoe camping in the troop. The boys don't have any mental map for da activity, and most modern teens are a conservative lot. They only engage cautiously in da things that they aren't certain they're good at, and often then only with some personal encouragement.

              We adults think in terms of "destination" trips like Boundary Waters, but the lads don't. To build a real high adventure program, your troop should be doin' moderate technical trips of different sorts, where they build up some knowledge and skill and enthusiasm. Then boys can be encouraged to "take it to the next level" once they've had some experience and success. That's not a destination that gets picked that has an activity, eh? That's an activity that gets picked and then yeh go find a destination. That's how it works from a genuine youth-run perspective, eh? Da desire for high adventure comes out of them. It is subtly but significantly different than being "selected" by them from a list of one-up destination options because that's what's expected of da PLC.

              Beavah

              Comment


              • #8
                I think finding out from the boys themselves why they do not attend specific activities will help you.

                As for the high adventure - were the boys ready for the Boundary Waters? Are all of the boys comfortable with their canoeing, and wilderness camping skills?

                Did you do any prep outings? There are lots of places a lot closer than the Boundary Waters to get your feet wet (so to speak). Try something close to home first. Have your Scouts take a look at the Kickapoo river in Wisconsin. It is great for beginners, and experienced alike. You can do a day on the river and go back to your campsite at Wildcat Mountain State Park (or other local campgrounds). Or you can do multiple days on the river and camp at sites along the river.



                Comment


                • #9
                  "Boys tend to be very risk adverse and unsure of themselves when considering something like a high adventure."

                  The parents that aren't buried hip-deep in Scouting are even more risk adverse.

                  Plus those high-cost, high-adventure trips can be budget busters.

                  Convincing the boys is 1/10th of the battle.

                  Just over $0.02 with inflation factored in.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The PLC which has a turnover every 6 months or so, should not be the ones picking the high adventure program. Because these trips can require commitments more than a year in advance it should be selected by the scouts who are eligible. Asking a young PL to vote on a trip they will never attend doesn't make a lot of sense. The same goes for a senior SPL who will not be around when the trip takes place.

                    The troop I was involved in had the committee decide, unfortunately that didn't work because most of the committee had no desire to attend. They even tried 2 trips at the same time, that just resulted in two small groups.

                    When the troop started having the kids the correct age get excited about high adventure in general, the result was better crew sizes.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      A lot of good comments especially on the patrol method approach.

                      I'll add my 2-cents worth here.

                      Patrol identity is #1 priority. Let the boys select groups of 6-8 (1 BWCA/Philmont crew). People know this is a good number for an effective group size. Let the boys select their own patrol leadership. How they do this is not important as long as they do. Then "outlaw" troop meetings for a while. When the boys come to the meeting they are to function as a patrol (mini-troop) during this time, planning their activities/outings, etc. Everyone gets separated into their patrols immediately after the troop-wide flag ceremony. They gather at the end for closing flags as a troop. Otherwise everything is done as a patrol. Not enough patrol members to be effective? No problem, let them go after their missing pards as to why they aren't there. Mixing patrols totally undermines this opportunity for a patrol attendance push.

                      PLC is the gathering of PL's to let the SPL what their patrol is planning on doing. If a Camporee is coming up in 2 weeks, the SPL gets a tally of which patrols will be attending. End of discussion. This is also the time to resolve any inter-patrol issues. This is not the time to "dictate from the top" and tell patrols what they have to do. Instead, it's a listening post to hear concerns and assist in resolving problems. SPL to PL: "Your patrol doesn't have an annual calendar. What can we do, if anything, to help you with that?" SPL: "ASM Mr. Smith is thinking about doing a leadership training opportunity, any of you or your people interested in something like that? Let me know what your people think." SPL: "The local conservation group is looking for volunteers to help with project X next Saturday, check with your patrol to see if they would like to help and let me know", etc.

                      If boys don't want to be seen as failures or they are intimidated by high adventure, the SPL is to encourage the patrols to consider mini-high adventures for their patrols. PL#1: "Our boys are thinking about hiking to the camporee instead of riding in the car and using the trailer." SPL: "Anything we can do to help?" PL#2: "Hey, that sounds like something my boys would be interested in, too", etc.

                      Let the boys pick the activities on a patrol basis. Take a 6 month hiatus on troop dictated activities and allow the PL's the opportunity to develop their patrols and come up with things THEY would like to do, irregardless of troop traditions. The NSP PL wants the boys to go to the local council camp, while the Venture PL wants his boys to go to a different camp because they've been to the local camp a bazzillion times. As supporting adult leadership, make it happen.

                      There are troops run by adults out there that have 6-8 boys in them. So, why not have a mini-council within your troop with each patrol being a mini-troop run by a boy leader under the mentoring support of more experienced boys (SPL/ASPL) and the adults? Just like each troop in the council has a distinct identity that boys identify with, that same dynamic can happen within a troop with it's patrols.

                      You have a great opportunity in a troop of 60+ to do exactly that!

                      Stosh

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        We appoint our patrol leaders. This happens after they have been through our Troop's TLT course and they have served as an assistant patrol leader or den chief. Their tenure usually runs any where from 9 mos to a year or even two years sometimes.
                        The adults do decide who goes in what patrol, perhaps it's time to change that. It sure could prove messy.

                        I do get the sense from some excellent posts here that while we may think we are using patrol method we really aren't, not in it's fullest sense anyway. Perhaps we adults are just organizing the boys into manageable units for serving meals etc and calling it the patrol method.

                        And as for the fun thing, yeah I see that that. If meetings or campouts aren't FUN and there isn't a buzz about them why would anyone want to attend.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think with Patrols ultimately Boys want to hang out with their buddies, and all the other Patrol ideas come after that.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            All good stuff here. On the high adventure, it's OK for adults to push exciting adventures, large or small. Sometimes adults need to push fun stuff into the program.

                            But a lot of units hesitate because they lack experienced adults. The suggestion of starting small like doing a five mile backpacking weekend trip is a good way to start because it doesnt require a lot of gear or planning, but it points out what needs to be learned. That is how we started and we are now one of most active high adventure programs in the district. It took some pushing by the adults at first to get some momentum, but once we got the first big trek out of the way, the scouts couldnt get enough.

                            Also, you can check around with other troops and organizations to find experts who will come in and train your troop. We went to a local military base to find experts for our rappelling campout and they were very excited to spend a month training us at the troop meetings and then helping at the campout. One of our adults became so involved with rappelling after that campout that he ended up the Council rappelling trainer a few years later. We found a canoeing expert in another troop who prepared us for Northern Tier. Our troop took lessons from a local Scuba shop that help the troop plan a trip to Mexico. Another adult had access to a condo so we started taking scouts snow skiing every year. Its really just taking the first small step and getting scouts excited about adventure opportunities. Once a scout comes up with some crazy idea, its just a matter of the adults saying yes and helping the scout research how to make it work.

                            Barry

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              perhaps it's time to change that. It sure could prove messy.

                              Have you seen the average boy's room when they are most happy with it? Neat does not come to mind.

                              Anyway, start looking at the glass half full:

                              You have about 45 scouts who run troop meetings nicely! Find a way to recognize the scouts for their efforts. It could be as simple as at the end of the year have the boys circle up and each say what the favorite meeting was and why. Or if one patrol did a bang-up job presenting a meeting topic, maybe you can award them a ribbon or ornament for their work.

                              You have a PLC that compares notes! I envy you. Praise the patrols for their hard work.

                              You got 4 patrols of boys going on outings! The ad-hoc for campout thing: fix it. I like the idea of each patrol planning their own. But, given how you've formed patrols, that might not boost attendance. The core of my crew is small -- effectively a patrol. But they are diverse and have a really hard time scheduling a meeting when more than a couple of them would be available. Have a heart-to-heart with your poorest performing patrols and ask if they think the could regroup in a way that works better. (E.g., if all the soccer addicts form one patrol maybe their open weekends would be synchronized.)

                              You have 90% attendance at summer camp! Yippeee!

                              You have 4 boys who want to go to the boundary waters! Support them. Find at least one adult who would like to go. Ask around other troops/crews in your council if they have a handful of youth who'd like to join you in forming a contingent. Ask the PLC to schedule one or two activities to help those boys shake down before their trip. Schedule a troop meeting for those boys to debrief after the trip. Within a month, circulate a sign-up sheet for your next big-ticket trip.

                              Keep talking smack to the rest of us who are wishing we had your problems!

                              Surveys? Well that's fine, but I don't think that will get you much further along the boy-led track.

                              Comment

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