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tjhammer

BSA Membership dropping for first time since Vietnam

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While I may agree personally with OGE's sentiment about scouts vs sports in terms of lasting value, the fact remains that sports still probably has more appeal to boys at the age that they are thinking about joining scouts. Granted that by the time they hit high school, most of them will have dropped out or been cut out of sports, nevertheless there is still a lot of appeal at the critical time that scouting must compete with. Next to sex, sports enjoys the highest saturation in the general media in terms of entertainment broadcast time, news coverage, and advertising themes. How many scouters get multi million product endorsement deals?

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Even at young ages, coaches and some parents expect children to devote all spare time to their "sport". My son's baseball coach thinks that the 11-12 year old team needs to practice every night of the week right now. Every night! For 2 hours!

HELLO! He has homework, Scout meeting, 4-H project due THIS week. Not to mention eating dinner, bathing, playing and sleeping!

 

Except for summer camp, I've never heard of a scout having to devote EVERY evening to working on Scout skills. Yes, he must live up to the Scout Oath and Law at all times, but that doesn't monopolize his time and I believe will take him much further in life.

 

Excuse me -- just had to vent for a moment.

GO SCOUTING!

 

 

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Sctmom, I agree with you about youth sports. It is a wonderful thing in theory and if kept in the right balance with the rest of life. In reality it is often way overemphasized. Practices EVERY weekday, as you say, and don't dare miss one; kids being on multiple teams with 2 or even 3 games on weekends; traveling to games all over the state and sometimes elsewhere; this is not uncommon. And this is at the age level you are talking about, 4th-8th grade. And it only gets worse for boys on a high school team.

 

In a couple of cases I have heard about, it almost seems as if the coach (and this is at the pre-high school level) is intentionally trying to prevent the boys from being involved in any significant activity other than his team.

 

I had to stifle a laugh recently when my Cubmaster told me that his son was concentrating too much on baseball and that he wanted to send him to Cub Scout day camp so that he doesn't spend the whole summer just playing baseball in various leagues and camps. Here is a man who has encouraged his son to play baseball (and other sports in other seasons) non-stop, seems to have him on 2 teams at a time and in every tournament that comes up, including one team that traveled to Florida, sends him to summer baseball camp -- all of which is great. But don't then wonder why the kid is neglecting things other than baseball.

 

Oh, and the boy is NINE YEARS OLD. He's a Bear Cub Scout. And he has been this active in baseball for at least the last 2 years. At least he is still in the pack (and he'd better stay, because I don't want to be Cubmaster.)

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When I signed my son up for baseball, I specified that he cannot practice on Tuesday nights (troop meeting night). The coach asked why not Tuesday's? I told him because of scouting. His reply was "well, when my son was in Cub Scouting, this time of year they don't do a lot because they know kids are playing ball, so it shouldn't be a problem."

I tried to explain, but it fell on deaf ears, this isn't Cub Scouting and this IS my son's preference. My son reminded me to make sure he got on a team that didn't practice on Tuesday nights. Even in Cubs, my son didn't want to miss meetings.

 

I think there are some good lessons to be learned in organized sports about teamwork, perserverance, leadership, etc. Yet there must be a balance.

 

My parents didn't encourage us to be involved in anything. If we wanted to be on a team or take lessons they would do what they could, but only the absolute minimum. All 3 of us now regret that. My neices and nephews are grown, and my brother and sister came to the realization a little too late of the benefits from being in an organized group (sports or scouting or church). We all 3 talk about how our parents attitudes made us drop out of things. That no one ever questioned why we quit different activities. My parents would tell you they were trying not to be overbearing, we saw indifference. We were children, we need our parents to tell us to stick it out a little longer or for them to get involved and make sure it was a good experience.

 

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I have found a great deal of overemphasis of sports as of late. My younger son, a 7th grader, plays fall soccer, winter basketball, and now spring track. With each sport, we balance sports and scouting. Many of his teammates seem to do nothing but sports, several in a season. I guess they and their parents believe that a well-rounded son is one who can balance several sports at once. I believe that sports are great for kids, but they simply do not provide all of the experiences and skills that people need. While sports generally do require teamwork, a noble goal, they do not often develop leadership. Everyone talks of the athlete who is a leader, but few are and the sport does not develop it. Sports generally require the child athlete to follow adult instruction to the letter. Don't listen to the coach, you are off the team, or at least sitting on the bench. As we all know, scouting involves each scout learning to be a leader, with the adults staying out of the way as much as possible. A mix of sports and scouting allows the development of a much more well-rounded young man (or young woman if we are talking Girl Scouts or Venturing).

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Bob Russell said;

 

While sports generally do require teamwork, a noble goal, they do not often develop leadership.

 

and, Don't listen to the coach, you are off the team, or at least sitting on the bench.

 

The second is an unfortunate truism to the extent that many adults who get involved with coaching youth sports today forget that their primary purpose should not be "winning". Winning is, indeed, important, and kids won't feel good about themselves and their efforts as individuals or as a team if winning doesn't happen. But it shouldn't be the primary focus.

 

As to the first statement, piggy-backing on what I said about the first, leadership once was, and could be again, a frequent consequence of team sports were the coachs more aware of, and more committed to teaching team effort as a goal, rather than winning. This is certainly not a slam at every coach in youth sports, but it is, indeed, a slam at many.

 

Scouting and sports share much in common, and team effort and leadership are among those things shared, and could be even more. But, the playing field we share with sports is not level, and hasn't been from some time. Perhaps it never will be, but we can keep trying to level it as best we can in our own small ways.

 

I was a Scout in the 50's, and Scouting was pretty active then, at least my childhood memories say so. Then along came the 60's and Vietnam, and Scouting found itself as persona nongrata in a lot of places. Sports never seemed to have suffered that loss. I don't think it was the program. I think it was the uniform, at the time. It represented a lot of the same things as the military uniform to many, as did the appearance of close order stuff within the troops. Scouts were far from para-military, but the appearance was there. We survived that very well, and today are seeing the beginnings of the next downturn in the cycle. And it is cyclic. There's a war. There's military action. There's people from all walks of life that are unfortunately putting too many things in the same basket, perhaps. The same mentality that wrought havoc among our numbers in the 60's and 70's may be some of what we're seeing again, today. There's far more flag waiving and patriotism now than there was furing the Vietnam years. That's a plus for Scouting, as Scoutings tradition with flag and country is still the same as it ever was. But sports is a lot tougher competitor for kids time today than it was back then, too.

 

Does the BSA and it's very public stance on very public issues work against higher participation? I bet that's a no-brainer. Contraversy like the gay issue, and the on-going-never-let-it-drop-God issue (having been dormant for many years, now re-appearing publily), can't be good for promotional purposes. But I think the whole thing is cyclic, and we'll get through the tough times, if we don't change our message and kowtow to the multitude of those who would change Scouting for their own purposes. Stay the course, and follow the lead set by our predecessors. The program is good. It doesn't require change. It ain't broke, so don't try to fix it. Ignore the nay-sayers until the last. And I'd be willing to bet that the unfavorable image that Scouting may have been burdened with in some arenas in this country, is just so...in those arenas only. There are still places in this country where Scouting is held high esteem by the majority.

 

As we survived the Vietnam thing, we'll survive this one, too. It may take as much time, though.

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Comments about youth sports teaching or not teaching teamwork --- I have an example of a coach who really taught teamwork. My son played basketball these past 2 winters on community league. He is much shorter than most of the kids his age, but fast and dedicated. He would do great in practice with shooting, but just couldn't get a shot during the games. Finally a game where our boys were way ahead, the coach pulls the boys together and says "get the ball to him and let him shoot." Tells my kid to just stay open. The other kids were more than happy to do this. He still didn't get a shot in the goal, even though he put up a few. After the game, the boys said "don't worry, we are going to get you the shots, next game is for you." Final game of the season, same thing, our team is winning. The other boys gave up easy shots to give my son the ball. He finally got one in! The team goes wild, the parents go wild. I was of course proud of my son, but also soooo proud of the coaches and the other boys.

 

Whether it is sports or Scouts, kids just want to play and have fun.

 

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We should always beware of overgeneralizations. I don't think anyone would suggest that all youth sports coaches stress winning over sportsmanship, team play, leadership, etc. I have known coaches, especially at lower age levels, who stress equitable playing time for team members and are interested in everybody having a positive experience and improving their skills to the maximum extent possible, regardless of their "incoming" skill levels or aptitude. However, I have also known coaches who don't. As I said earlier, I know of some coaches, as early as the 4th-5th grade level, who seem to adopt a "boot camp" philosophy where every activity other than school and his (it's usually a him) team is seen as a negative, and where practices seem to be scheduled so as to accomplish this end. We do have some boys in my pack who manage to balance sports and Scouting, sometimes arriving late or leaving early from camping trips in order to make a game, or showing up in their sports uniform rather than their Cub Scout or Webelos uniform. We happily accommodate all of this, figuring that some participation is better than none, and the "competing" activity is worthwhile if kept in proper perspective. I would also estimate that out of the 50 or so families in our pack, about a dozen of the parents are sports coaches, including the Cubmaster.

 

Beyond anecdotal evidence, I think it is clear that there is a general trend in youth sports away from sportsmanship and toward winning as the ultimate goal. Although none of my children is currently involved in team sports, I have seen the prevailing attitude reflected in my son's Cub pack, especially at Pinewood Derby time. Winning and getting the biggest trophy far outweigh "sportsmanship," and unfortunately a number of the parents only seem to encourage this. Fortunately, most if not all of the boys in this category, and their parents, are about to graduate. This is probably due to the fact that our former Cubmaster was of the "winning is everything" school of thought, and our current Cubmaster is not, and these attitudes have been directly reflected in the attitudes of the leaders, parents and boys who joined under one regime or the other.

 

Obviously, Scouting has also been affected by the explosion in youth sports, especially at the elementary and middle-school level. When I was growing up, it was mainly baseball, there was also Pop Warner football. Basketball and soccer were high school team sports, but did not exist at the lower age levels or outside of school. Now kids as young as kindergarten are playing baseball and soccer, and as they get older there is basketball, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, and probably a few others I am missing. The intensity is also greater, where everyone is competing to be on a "traveling team" instead of one that just plays other teams from the same town. And this is before they get to high school.

 

It is, as someone said, difficult for Scouting, with its "hokey" image and uniform, to compete with all this, but hopefully there will always be a percentage of parents who recognize the benefits of Scouting and can convey this to their sons.

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I have always told my Scouts that Scouting comes after your faith, home & school. I expect the members of my Troop to miss meetings & events.

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

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On a lighter note regarding the uniforms... my son, who while a webelo hated to wear his uniform, now wears his scout uniform without complaint (because ALL the boys do and the BOYS make it a point to remind each other).

 

I sit here amazed, having realized that i didn't have to tell him to tuck in his shirt last night or to put on his neckercheif. This scouting stuff is truly amazing.

 

YIS

Quixote

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