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Patrol Method- Patrol Longevity and Reorganization.

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Beavah, Fred, and I have been having a back and forth in a different thread.


My question is, how long do patrols in YOUR troop last (not the ideal, Norman Rockwellized version).


My troop has 5 patrols. about 45-50 active members.


In my troop, most of the patrols stay constant, but probably one or two patrols a year folds. Part of it is that Scouts leave the troop or have an athletic season. Integrating the new Scouts (We use a NSP) also adds to a bit of shuffling.


Our PLC has decided that patrols are allowed to add or drop members every Troop election.


My opinion based on my experience is that if a patrol or two goes under due to lack of activity, lack of group cohesion it's no big deal.


So to reiterate my talking points here:


This is not a thread about NSP, or mixed/same aged patrols in your troop.

This is a thread about Patrol cohesiveness. Does Patrols in your troop stay together for a long time, or are the members moving around a bit more? Do you feel like this is a good thing for your troop or not? What does your troop do with an inactive or disfunctional patrol? Who does it? The SPL and PLC or the Scoutmasters?


I'd like to add I'm not the Scoutmaster, I'm not on the committee, I'm Unit College Scouter Reserve. So my opinion counts for about a spoonful of hot spit. So yea, I don't expect my troop to be leaving this model. Whether or not I think it should.


Please be respectful and courteous!




(edited to fix grammar, spelling, and a typo!)(This message has been edited by Sentinel947)

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when the troop was age based patrols we would lose 1 patrol each year... and we will lose our 1 patrol that is still age based in about a year.


with our other 2 patrols they will never die - the boys do enjoy the patrol they are in. We have started awarding patrol compitions with ribbons just like the troop flag - so they are getting even more into their compititions and showing off their winnings!

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We're lucky if they last a year. Our patrols seem to constantly reform and rename themselves. Our numbers have been at 18 for some time. No four boys seem to be in the same set of activities, they come from markedly different neighborhoods, they avoid competitions.


The boys strongly prefer to operate as a troop. I've really never seen anything like it.

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Age based patrols. Lose one patrol every year. Recruitment has been such we have been able to add one new patrol each year. Net is the same number of patrols. Boys who join the troop other than as rising Webelos are placed in the patrol of their age. Membership about 40-50 with 5-6 patrols. The oldest patrols tend to dwindle down and participation drops off as most members reach Life. The two oldest patrols usually merge permanently around year 5-6 due to numbers. Patrols commonly rename themselves about every other year.


Son's patrol is made up of 16/17 yr olds. Half are Eagles, other half are Life scouts. Half went to Northern Tier 2 years ago, all went to Philmont last summer, and most are headed to Bahammas for scuba trip this summer. Five started as Wolf cubs and are still together. 6th cub scout earned Eagle a year ago and left the program. Still have 8 in the patrol. This patrol has an unsually high participation level. May be in part to six of the dads are either ASMs or Committee members.

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We use the NSP method as well. This year, especially more than others the ill effects of it have shown more, in that there are not enough mentors to go around. With 13 in the patrol, I really should insist on a split, but they don't want to. Some are seeing now that 13 is too large a patrol. Otherwise, in normal years of 7-10 boys, the NSP has been good for us.


This is a thread about Patrol cohesiveness. Does Patrols in your troop stay together for a long time, or are the members moving around a bit more?


Our four patrols have been pretty cohesive. The oldest is our legacy patrol, from the troop we split from. The remains of a crashed patrol has helped to boost their numbers to viable. Of the middle two patrols, one changes its name every chance, the other does not. They are the weakest in event attendance. We do not combine patrols anymore. Used to do that, now, they backpack / lightweight camp if they don't have a full patrol.


Do you feel like this is a good thing for your troop or not?


Either way, I don't see that this matters at all. The boys that camp, camp. The boys that won't, don't. I'm all about suggesting they do a fruit basket turnover at the next election. That might be a good thing. Get the campers together.


What does your troop do with an inactive or disfunctional patrol?


Not much. It's their patrol and troop. I've told them, many times, to expect results based on what they put into it. Some are so lazy, if breathing weren't an autonomous body function they'd die. Others are fired up and working the program. Some (few) scouts have moved from one patrol or another where there were severe personality clashes.



Who does it? The SPL and PLC or the Scoutmasters?


They do. As SM, I ask questions and try to get them to think of possibilities.


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Does Patrols in your troop stay together for a long time, or are the members moving around a bit more? ... Long time, six to eight years.


Do you feel like this is a good thing for your troop or not? ... Very good.


What does your troop do with an inactive or disfunctional patrol? ... We would reflect on the troop program, offerings and scout retention. Patrol organization is a scout matter.


Who does it? The SPL and PLC or the Scoutmasters? ... None of those. Scouts organize their own patrols and choose their patrol leaders.




Age based patrols. New scout patrol. Scouts are free to change patrols at any time after discussing with SPL / scoutmaster. Scouts that join when older (not a Webelos cross over) can choose the patrol they join.


Generally though, our patrols last about six to eight years and then die off. Most scouts never change patrols. Remaining scouts are welcome to stay in their patrol whether it's a one or two person patrol, join another patrol or serve in a leadership role, if applicable.


It's funny to watch older patrols in the last two years as scouts age out. They fairly quickly go from six to eight scouts to four to three to two to one. Scouts seem to take pride in it.

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Gave a call to a fellow from a strong patrol-method troop in da area. Younger fellow, mid-30s, troop of about 50. Here are his responses:


Do Patrols in your troop stay together for a long time, or are the members moving around a bit more?


Two patrols have been around for at least twenty years, probably longer. You'd have to ask John (former SM). The other patrols like 10-12 years, except the Mountain Rangers, which was created when we grew 2 years ago. Boys are mostly in their patrol from da moment they join until da moment they leave. There was a period where numbers dropped, and a patrol was decommissioned, and then later restarted.


Do you feel like this is a good thing for your troop or not?


We tried briefly to do the NSP / same age thing. The boys didn't like it. The older boys liked to be leaders, and they felt the little kids on the PLC were disruptive, and didn't need POR for rank anyways. It made patrol outings almost impossible for the younger boys unless it was adult run. Older boys' participation tended to drift away, because they weren't needed and didn't feel responsible. So they'd hang out, or just show up for high adventure. Patrol competitions became a complete joke, so patrol spirit fell off. You didn't see as many kids being proud of their patrol, and patrol yells became an adult-run exercise rather than something the boys did on their own.


What does your troop do with an inactive or disfunctional patrol? Who does it? The SPL and PLC or the Scoutmasters?


What's an inactive or dysfunctional patrol? A couple of patrols are sort of weird, but they're OK.


Dysfunctional patrols happen when the patrol leader isn't ready to lead, or doesn't have enough support. That happens most frequently in younger same-age patrols, because boys don't like peers "bossing" them. If you have older scout patrol leaders who they look up to, and other skilled scouts in the patrol, dysfunctional mostly doesn't happen. If it does, it means the SM isn't doing his job of training and mentoring the SPL and PLs. Occasionally PLs struggle a bit with new scouts in their patrol. They work that out with help from the SPL/ASPL, but the adults offer support and advice too. Particularly for stuff like ADHD or other behavioral issues.


When the troop got smaller, the PLC decided to voluntarily merge the two smallest patrols, after a couple of campouts where they felt the patrols were too small to work well. When the troop got bigger, more experienced boys stepped up to be PL/APL of a startup patrol, and worked with the PLC to recruit other boys from other patrols. That's rare. We mostly stay the same number of patrols every year (5).


A few times we've had individual boys switch between patrols. Call it one a year. Biggest reason is leadership. Sometimes one patrol has several strong leaders and another is struggling a bit. That happens like when we got a big recruiting group and had a startup patrol. Or the time we had a group of sort of hyper young guys in the Seals. Usually the SPL/ASPL fill in, but occasionally it's helpful to have another strong hand move over. PLC works that out. Second reason is parents. Sometimes boys come in saying they wanted to be with their best friend from 5th grade, and by 6th grade they hate each other [side talk about one boy last year]. Then parents get involved and it's easier just to move one of the boys. That's adults and youth leaders together. We prefer to make them stay together and work it out, same as you would with a family, but sometimes it's not worth the grief.


Respectfully submitted,




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Yah, gave a call to another fellow. Long time SM. Bigger unit (about 70). A lot of active program.


Does Patrols in your troop stay together for a long time, or are the members moving around a bit more?


Why would they move around? Of course they stay together. They're a patrol. [some discussion about why a Beaver would ever want to go be with the Bobwhites ;)] If they want to move around all the time, you're not doing Patrol Method.


Do you feel like this is a good thing for your troop or not?


You know how I feel. The BSA keeps trying to change scouting into school. They want boys in grade levels, like dens. Switch them up every year like school classes. Don't get along with someone, just switch. No need to work it out and grow from it. Keeps the parents happy, they can keep being den moms and dads. By the time boys are in high school, they can't wait to be out of scouts. You know. We see that all the time from [another local troop] with their inactive, deathbed Eagles.


The whole point of Boy Scouts is to let boys grow naturally instead of putting them into a box. They need to follow, then participate, then lead. They have to grow into responsibility and adulthood, but in a safe, smaller environment. Many of them don't have that in family anymore, so it's more important than ever to have it in scouts. When they get out of school and into the real world, it's going to be a mixed-age, mixed-experience team, isn't it?


This unstable patrol thing only happens when the focus of a troop is on advancement instead of what really matters. If all a troop cares about is advancement and writing reports for individual merit badges, then having a real patrol is probably pointless. Same with real youth leadership. So they just do it on paper so boys can meet those requirements. Doesn't teach kids a think worth teaching.


What does your troop do with an inactive or disfunctional patrol? Who does it? The SPL and PLC or the Scoutmasters?


We've never had an inactive patrol. The only time you have an inactive patrol is when you aren't really doing patrol method. You're just using patrols as an administrative thing to assign kids to. If a patrol is struggling a bit, that's why you have an SPL or other Leadership Corps boys to help coach the Patrol Leader. That's also why you do real patrol leader training, not some fluffy 3-hour thing going over job descriptions. Who goes over job descriptions with a 13 year old?


[some more discussion about da troop TLT materials, NYLT, and more and more bookwork for merit badges. Yah, this fellow is a bit of a rascal. ;) But he's truly loved by his troop and kids, and runs a fine program.]




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I think Fred's post is rather interesting as well.


Of course it is.


Da beauty of Scouting is that there are lots of ways to do things. In fact, da BSA is changin' all the time which is why many of its documents aren't internally consistent. Da real thing is like what I said in da other thread. There are folks and organizations with different goals out there for kids. And folks with different skill sets in working with kids. And folks with different populations of kids.


The majority of troops in da U.S. are only big enough to have one (mixed-age) patrol with no NSP. 14 boys is da average troop size, and that's skewed by bigger troops. So NSP and same-age just doesn't work at all for half da troops in da country, and when they try to force it they just end up failin'. It's also pretty awkward when they grow from 1 to 2 patrols and shift to age-based, or let kids pick and become cool kids and nerds or whatnot. None of that gets covered in da books.


It's hard to just read about stuff and understand how it works. There are lots of fine adult leaders who run active, reasonably successful programs, but don't really grok patrol method or youth leadership. Kids have fun, they learn something. Parents can be involved. Patrols are administrative, and youth leadership carries out the tasks assigned by adult leadership, eh? They don't camp or hike without adults, they don't actually control how things are done. They advance by ticking boxes. Works fine, depending on your goals.


As an older fellow who has seen a lot of different scout programs, my personal preference is for strong use of all da methods, but especially patrol method, youth leadership, and outdoor program. That's because I have certain goals in mind for boys in Scouting, and yeh have to set up a unit to help boys reach goals.


So that's what yeh see a lot on these forums, eh? Folks who have different goals for kids, and so do things differently. Folks who have different personal skill sets, and so do things differently in order to best use their own skills. Folks who are dealin' with different populations of kids, and so do things differently. That's a strength of da BSA to my mind, not a weakness.


Da thing that gets tricky is that sometimes folks are also doin' things just because they haven't seen or thought of alternatives, eh? They think they're doin' fine because there's nothing to compare to, or they're strugglin' to make somethin' work because they're missing pieces. There are a lot of units out there in da poor to mediocre range that think they are "following the program" with da best of 'em, but they really aren't.


That's where da thoughts from other folks on forums like this can help, eh? Yeh might think that patrols droppin' rapidly in size in high school is normal and somethin' to be proud of, but then yeh hear that there are other units out there whose high schoolers don't drift away, and maybe yeh think about doin' somethin' different.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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I've taken a couple bites at answering this, but the answer for our troop isn't as straight-forward as it would seem. The troop has undergone a lot of change in the eight years I've been SM and one of the biggest has been moving from a rookie SM to one with eight years experience. :)


Short answer is we reorganize patrols about every two years. The longer version of that is that how patrols are populated has evolved considerably over the years.


When my older son crossed over 10 years ago, there wasn't much method to the troop of any description. Only two campout between crossover in Feb. and the following January when I and another dad finished OLS. PLC never met. SPL was basically there to lead opening and closing ceremonies. Troop programs were either British Bulldog, dodgeball or sitting through a adult-organized MB class. My son was essentially in a NSP, but the alleged troop guide stayed with the patrol two, maybe three weeks. The older boys may have been assigned to patrols, but functionally there were none.


Eighteen months later we got a new SM -- moi. Having recently completed all the by-the-book training, we stuck with the NSP (which we still use for the first 8 months) and kept the same-age patrols together thereafter. It only took another year or so to realize that system didn't work for us. My older son's patrol was down to two guys from the original six (one only joined on paper, two moved out of town with their families, and a fourth quit in disgust after a terrible experience of trying to lead a patrol of peers through a competitive camporee.) We were also having a lot of problems with the second-year patrol as well who were essentially leaderless. (Not unlike the patrol of second year guys I have now.)


So we changed. As I've posted before, I don't think our system easily fits into either the perpetual, mixed-age method or the age/grade-based method. Every 18 or 24 months we do a "fruit salad toss-up" with the patrol roster. The last couple times that happened it was necessitated by the addition of 16 or 18 new Scouts into the troop. Last fall we reorganized due to some unexpected attrition in one patrol and another patrol falling apart due to some discipline issues.


We've used a number of methods for deciding patrol membership giving the boys more and more control each time. This last time we went all-in free market by asking who wanted to serve as PL and having those guys recruit their patrol around them. Except for the previously-described problems with the patrol of all second-year guys, that system has worked very well for us.


Thinking about this, it occurs to me our patrols stay together longer than the 18-24 months between shake-ups. Particularly when we give the boys more control over who they want in their patrols, these core groups tend to survive patrol reorganizations. Just thinking about my own son, now a matter of weeks from 18, he's been in a patrol with the same core group for the majority of his time in the troop. After reorganizations they may add a few different guys and may or may not change patrol names but generally speaking, it's the same bunch of fellas. I don't think we have the records to do a real analysis, but I'll bet that's true for a lot of the Scouts. The first few years, as their friendships and interest change, the patrols may bounce around, but eventually they settle in with the guys whose company they enjoy.


I'm cool with that. We may not fit in a particular category, but it's working for us.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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My turn :)




My question is, how long do patrols in YOUR troop last (not the ideal, Norman Rockwellized version).


2 patrols of 6-10 since it's inception in 1967. 1 patrol came about no earlier than 1972, and that was the Leadership Corps which consisted of older Scouts, First Class or higher, who had served as a PL. Don't remember if they had to serve so many terms as a PL or not. Smallest number was 3, including SPL, largest was 10. now it's the Venture Patrol/Venturing Crew (when Venturing came out, the guys in the venture crew were a little confused about the program. After turning in paperwork for an Outdoor Bronze and getting the whole spiel, the scouts and 18-20 y.o. ASMs decided to create a Venturing Crew from the venture crew/patrol and the ASMs.)


As the troop expanded and contracted, 2 other patrols have come in and out of existence. The members would just pick up the torch so to speak.


Patrols stay together for the most part. You had the opportunity to join another patrol 2 times a year, except when adding scouts and another patrol was needed, then volunteers would be asked to help start up that patrol. Other time you left your original patrol is when you moved up to the Leadership Corps. And then once in the LC, you were there until you became an old fogey.


We didn't see a lot of moving about. Patrols were established and had histories. We had a lot of pride. When patrols went inactive due to losses, the patrol would remain "active" even if no one showed up, until the next unit election. BUT the few active scouts may be working with another patrol, or have someone help them out from another patrol.


SPL and PLC handled all matters. SM was there for counseling and advice when needed.






I'd like to add I'm not the Scoutmaster, I'm not on the committee, I'm Unit College Scouter Reserve. So my opinion counts for about a spoonful of hot spit. So yea, I don't expect my troop to be leaving this model. Whether or not I think it should.




You probably have more influence on the members of your troop than any committee member or ASM. Posssibly even the SM. You came up through the troop. You've served the troop. You have been a role model as an older scout. THEY WILL LISTEN TO YOU AND CONSIDER WHAT YOU SAY! (caps for emphasis not shouting;) )



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Eagle92, Emphasis or shouting, your point has been made. What I meant was that I don't have that kind of influence. I have soft influence. The kind where when the SPL is struggling, he asks my opinion. When the Life Scout is thinking about his Eagle project he comes and asks me.


I think when I've seen my Troop in alot of these discussions. I've seen alot of Beavahs points and Fred's points be extremely valid.


In my troop due to the flux in patrol members. (Since they can and sometimes do switch patrols, and new members are brought inmass every 6 months) I can't pin us down as being either "mixed age" or "same age". I'd say when the patrol's are operating more efficently, the ages are more mixed.


I'd certainly believe that the NSP's are designed to help with advancement. Advancement is kind of an elevated point in the Troop. I don't think it's overemphasized. (I was First Class for almost 3 years) but it's certainly elevated just by the concept of the New Scout Patrol. We have 45 Eagles since 1992. So averaging a bit over 2 a year. Certainly not an "Eagle Mill" by any standards.


My troop does patrol membership by the Fruit Salad membership like twocubdad described. I'm curious what other methods are out there. Anybody care to help me out?

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I think that's what happens when we "toss the salad." There are some boys who hold together as a core, some boys who work well with anyone, some who don't, and some we just can't figure out. We just hope hey land in bowls fit for serving!

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