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meyerc13

Questions to ask a prospective Troop

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After being in a troop for 6 months, I would say that EVERY troop will say they are boy led.  

 

Hints to point to one that isn't: 

  • We have a dedicated advancement plan for the first year boys to make sure they get to first class in the first year.
  • They really want you to reach out to them prior to visiting a meeting with them so they are prepared.
  • They require at least some amount of first year parents to be ASMs 
  • They have a lot of specific campouts that are only for the first years rather than integrate all campouts with the entire troop.
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After being in a troop for 6 months, I would say that EVERY troop will say they are boy led.  

Exactly! Even on this forum we experts have different opinions on boy run, patrol method, NSPs, mixed age, same age, leader styles, elections, and on and on. As Hegdgehog said, open end question are best because the answers will describe the program.

 

But even then the listener has to know something about the program. Our PLC meets every week without any adults. Many PLCs meet once a month with adults. Either method is acceptable depending on expectations and how the meeting led.

 

Even more important is why troops use the methods and styles they use. Can the adults explain them any other way than "it's the way scouting has always done it."

 

And quite frankly many families like the kind of programs some of us detest. I found leaving my biases out of the mix very challenging when our district was developing the program for helping Webelos families find the right troop.

 

The internet can also be an excellent source for guidance depending on the sites; I used to refer Webelos leaders to this forum for learning more about troop programs, but not anymore. The "my way or the highway" tone here drives unexperienced newcomers away. It's better to find opportunities to educate them in district activities.

 

Barry

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And quite frankly many families like the kind of programs some of us detest. I found leaving my biases out of the mix very challenging when our district was developing the program for helping Webelos families find the right troop.

 

 

Yah, this is the point that many folks affiliated with a single troop seem to miss, eh?  There's no such thing as One Universal Scouting Program.  There are lots of different local scoutin' programs that together make up a brotherhood.

 

Mostly that's based on the abilities and predilections of the lead adults, eh?  It's also based on what the boys and their families need or want. Lots of times, different units don't even agree on da outcomes for lads that they want to see, let alone da style and methods to get there.  Tight CO affiliations often come with a sense of purpose and outcomes; looser ones not as much.

 

Yeh want to find a good fit.  I like da questions about outcomes because it can tell yeh a couple things.  

 

Are the parents and troop leaders on the same page in terms of what they are tryin' to do?  That's a big one in terms of avoidin' adult conflict and supportin' the boys long term.  Look at the older boys, eh?  Are there many? Do yeh want your son to be like them?

 

Are the troop leaders even thinkin' about outcomes for kids, or are they mired in the details of "how" they do things rather than "why" they do things?   Troops where it's all about "how" tend to be adult-run and a bit inflexible.  Troops where the "why" is "to get them to Eagle" or "because that's Patrol Method" fall into that category, too. 

 

Next for parents is "Is there anything in the 'how' they do things that is goin' to drive me nuts?"  This can be a bad meeting night for da family calendar, or being "too disorganized", or not being advancement-focused enough, or bein' too religious/not religious enough.  Yeh need to ask and then see and feel these things because when yeh join a troop you commit to the bad with the good, eh? Yeh don't enter a long-term relationship expecting that you're goin' to change the other partner to be more like what you want.  

 

For the boys I don't reckon there's any question they can ask at one of these events that will help 'em.  Boys have to go do things with other boys to get a sense.  Best is probably "Did I like the boys I met?  Could I be friends with them?"

 

Beavah

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All transitioning parents of Webelos,

 

I was able to have a discussion last night into the very topic with a group of parents that are in this situation to begin the process of looking at troops with and for their sons.

I, as a Scoutmaster, was able to answer some very pointed, and specific questions about this transition. Some or if not all that are being listed in some of the replies to this subject,  I would lay credence into those questions listed in the replies.

 

But what I would like to discuss, is to me, two very important subjects, advancements and how it is controlled, and how the committee organizes the logistical support of the program.

First, I feel very strongly about the scouts organizing a list of events, or even the schedule, as outlined in the Scoutmaster Training Manual. This is key into seeing how in-depth the "Boy-Led" philosophy is supported. If the committee is controlling the schedule, then I would be wary of that troop. The schedule, should be made 1 year in advance, but as I have experienced, the school schedules are not released 1 year out, and that is probably the biggest thing to align with. Considering you might have more than one school to deal with, Our troop had 3 high schools to align to.

 

The advancements aspect; I would find out who is controlling the advancement records, does the Scoutmaster have control over this? Or, is their a transparent process that is managed by a committee member(advancements) that works at the direction of the Scoutmaster. Very important!!

Who signs off on the advancements??? Boys or Adults?

To the ones that are not accustomed to these areas be advised these are red flags to be aware of, and I am just bringing some subjects to light, that fall in the background unnoticed.

 

Visits to troop meetings!

In the end, you should come away from a troop visit, feeling comfortable about the information with a sense of gain. Most importantly, don't think any question is stupid or not relevant.

Ultimately, your son should feel comfortable, engaged, and having fun. I would even ask if there is an open door policy, which there should be. Plan an unannounced visit during a troop meeting. I would.

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All good responses so far.

 

I would suggest one additional question - how many crossovers did you have in the past 2 years and how many are still active with the troop.  The transition from cub scout to boy scout can be a challenging one and a strong troop is defined, in part, by how well they address that transition and retain the interest of their youngest scouts.

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All good responses so far.

 

I would suggest one additional question - how many crossovers did you have in the past 2 years and how many are still active with the troop.  The transition from cub scout to boy scout can be a challenging one and a strong troop is defined, in part, by how well they address that transition and retain the interest of their youngest scouts.

 

That is a good one. My son crossed over in May, went to camp in June and is faltering now because there is nobody else his age and no crossovers in the pipeline. I feel like we did what we were supposed to do (visited several Troops, attended a camp-out with the one he liked best, etc.) but still got it wrong. I love boy-led in theory but it is chaotic and a lot gets over-looked. My son has made very little progress towards Scout and I think that contributed to him losing interest. From my side of things -- I have 4 boys. We can't afford to invest $800/yr (the amount each scout will spend out of pocket per year as per last week's annual fundraising meeting) on an interest that the boy doesn't absolutely love. But I really wanted him to love it. I wanted Scouts to work out and I am disappointed the Troop did not do more to pull him in. 

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@@Zaphod, I'm sorry to hear about your son, but hopefully he is finding other things that motivate him.

 

"Boy-led" is significant in as much as patrols are guided toward independence. It seems that a lot of the "chaos" means little if it is not mitigated by boys spending real time in small groups whose vested interest is having each member well advanced.

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What do y'all do about controlling the growth of your troop?  Ours is at 85 and seems to grow and grow by 20 each year?  At some point it seems that the troop will get too big to run well.

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What do y'all do about controlling the growth of your troop?  Ours is at 85 and seems to grow and grow by 20 each year?  At some point it seems that the troop will get too big to run well.

Change Scoutmasters.

 

We had the same problem and first we considered splitting, but I did a lot of research on troops splitting and typically the troop with a new SM doesn't do well while the other just keeps growing. 80 Percent of split units eventually merge back together. We tried raising the dues, but we found families were willing to pay for our program. Eventually our program stopped at 110 and dropped to about 50 over the next five years after we changed Scoutmasters. The new Scoutmaster was still a boy run Scoutmaster, but he didn't have as good of understanding of older scouts. As the older scouts dropped, so does the younger program. It balanced out at about 50.

 

So to answer your question; other than changing the scoutmaster, we never find a way of slowing growth. And yes big troops are very challenging for a patrol method program. We never found our limit, but I'm sure we were close.

 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad

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I found that the simplest way to limit troop size is to limit the number of crossovers you accept each year. For many years, our troop limited crossovers from only our affiliated pack as a means to control growth. We would take older scout transfers on a limited basis after assessing the interest and fit. I fielded many calls from webelos leaders desiring to visit and had to explain our 'policy'. It kept us in a nice range of 50 - 75 scouts for a good long time. When crossover years were small, we took in more transfers to manage the numbers. There is nothing wrong with limiting the number of scouts accepted into the troop.

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What do y'all do about controlling the growth of your troop?  Ours is at 85 and seems to grow and grow by 20 each year?  At some point it seems that the troop will get too big to run well.

 

We don't have the quota problem. Just too few Scouts to choose from.

 

I have friends in other parts of the country that have the luxury of imposing limits on crossovers. Some manage it well. Others have had a backlash against them in later years following imposing a limit. Word got out that they have a policy which limits crossovers, so people began to stay away. They had to fight hard to recruit folks for nearly 5 years.

 

This unit combated this issue by doing their recruiting well in advance. They reached out to units when they were Bears and Web 1s. These kids knew the troop and the troop knew them. They knew by the Web 2 year which kids were coming over and which weren't. Their recruiting became easier and less of a hassle. It did require greater outreach and maintenance of their "feeder" program, but in the end it was worth it. They didn't have to fight the other units for the "left over" scouts.

 

The other units still have not figured out why this troop "doesn't have to recruit". ;) 

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Ok, I went and dug up the old document I had worked up, thinking I would help coach our WEBELOS with things to look for and things to ask.  This was written more as a draft or notes to me, not as something to be issued.

I came up with it after input form several folks here, as well as from other sources.

 

As I mentioned earlier in this thread, i never finished the document and never really used it

 

Maybe it'll spark something for what you are trying to accomplish.

 

Troop Shopping Questions:

 

My thought is to

sit and observe the meeting, and then set aside time towards the end to have an open and unstructured dialog with their Scouts..... or at least 2 or three of them.

a scout that's new with the troop, and an older scout that has been with the troop for a while, and maybe one in between

  • what do you think of the troop?

  • New scout - have you advanced?

  • what's the most fun part of the troop?

  • What is the worst thing about the troop?

  • what was your favorite campout so far?

  • who leads your troop?

  • Give us an example of how a camp out is planned from its creation to loading the cars on Friday night

  • who does the cooking? Buys the groceries?  plans the menu?

  • which patrol are you in?

  • Who's your patrol leader?

  • How are your patrols formed?  

    • Who decides?

  • Do the patrols meet separately, outside of troop meetings, or have patrol outings?

  • How are the decisions made such as where you are going and when?

  • where do you camp or go, and how often?

  • What do the parents or leaders do at campouts?

  • Describe your Scoutmaster in one word (or less)...

 

and maybe ask the adults

things like

  • who leads your troop?

  • How long has adult leadership been in place?

  • How long do you expect to stay on?

  • Age split of the troop (%)

    • 11-13?

    • 14-16?

    • Over 16?

    • How active are each of these age groups (e.g., how often do the older scouts show up and help at meetings or campouts?)

  • What do you expect from the parents?â€. (training, committee, who camps, who drives, who leads and so on)

 

 

 

 

How big is your troop?

 

How Assistant SM’s?

how many boys?

ask Adults - Who leads your troop?

ask Boys - Who leads your troop?

How long has the leadership been in place?

Are any getting ready to move on? (aged out kids or other reasons)

How are the decisions made such as where you are going and when?

What sorts of trips do you do?

special outings

normal outings?

high adventure?

How is your youth participation rate in activities (%)?

How much interaction is there between adults and boys?

How are your patrols formed?  

Who decides?

Do your patrols get reformed periodically?

For what reasons?

Who drives it?

Who decides?

What nights and times are your meetings?

Do you have any new scout normal practices, special patrols or duties?

What leadership positions are scouts allowed to have in the first year? Second year? What are the requirements for these leadership positions? (Hint: they should have a document they can email to you)

How do you handle disciplinary issues?

Are your adult leaders trained? What training do they have?

Are your youth leaders trained? What training do they have?

Age split of the troop (%)

11-13?

14-16?

Over 16?

How active are each of these age groups (e.g., how often do the older scouts show up and help at meetings or campouts?)

Do you have rangemasters or RSO’s in the troop?

Merit badge counselors in the troop?

How are merit badges taught and what prompts it?

What if anything do you require from parents?

Edited by blw2

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I'll add these questions which we get every year...

  • Year Founded?
  • Charter Organization?
  • Troop Meetings: Time, Location, Frequency?
  • BSA Quality Unit?
  • Dues?
  • Join Fee?
  • Reimbursement For Gas For Adult Driving?
  • Summer Camp Costs, Locations?
  • High Adventure Costs, Locations?
  • Troop Size?
  • Number Of Active Scouts?
  • How Many Scouts Attend Weekly Meetings?
  • How Does Your Troop Implement A Boy-Led Scouting Program?
  • What Is The “Patrol Method†And How Does Your Troop Implement It?
  • How Many ASMs?
  • Age Breakdown Of Active Scouts?
  • How Many Eagle Scouts Overall? In The Past Few Years?
  • Avg Age Of Eagle Scout?
  • How Are The Patrols Organized?
  • Who Leads The Troop Meetings?
  • Use Troop Meeting Agendas?
  • Service Projects?
  • How Is Rank Advancement Managed?
  • How Are Family Communications Handled?
  • How Is The Troop Lead? What Role Do The Boys Play In Planning Events And Activities?
  • How Are Leadership Positions Selected?
  • Is There Leadership Training For The Scouts?
  • How Are Activities Planned?
  • How Is The Troop Leadership Managed?
  • What Camping Has The Troop Done In The Past? What Is Planned?
  • Most Popular Camp Out?
  • High Adventure Trips Past/Future?
  • Fundraising?
  • What Training Is Expected Of Parents?
  • What Training Is Expected Of Leaders?
  • What Equipment Is Provided By The Troop?
  • Uniforms Required?
  • District/Council Events?
  • How Are Conflicts Handled Between Scouting And Other Activities?
  • Women Involved In The Troop?

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We don't have the quota problem. Just too few Scouts to choose from.

 

I have friends in other parts of the country that have the luxury of imposing limits on crossovers. Some manage it well. Others have had a backlash against them in later years following imposing a limit. Word got out that they have a policy which limits crossovers, so people began to stay away. They had to fight hard to recruit folks for nearly 5 years.

 

This unit combated this issue by doing their recruiting well in advance. They reached out to units when they were Bears and Web 1s. These kids knew the troop and the troop knew them. They knew by the Web 2 year which kids were coming over and which weren't. Their recruiting became easier and less of a hassle. It did require greater outreach and maintenance of their "feeder" program, but in the end it was worth it. They didn't have to fight the other units for the "left over" scouts.

 

The other units still have not figured out why this troop "doesn't have to recruit". ;)

Yeah, we don't formally recruit (no blanket mail to the packs, or specific invitational campout).  We are just well known in the area and people show up.  We will just have to welcome them and do our best.

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I'll add these questions which we get every year...

 

 

Somehow, it seems the only question that a Webelo needs to ask a boy in the Troop is "Do you guys have a lot of fun?"

Edited by Hedgehog

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