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meyerc13

Questions to ask a prospective Troop

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For several years now, our District has been holding a 'Meet the Boy Scout Troops' night, inviting Troops to setup a table to pitch their Troop, and inviting Webelos and their leaders to come and visit the Troops' tables.  The goal is to increase our crossover rate from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts.

 

As my son and I visited Troops, I tended to focus my questions on the practical (day, time place, etc.) , while his questions were generally more to do with the Program and culture of the Troop.

 

We have that same event coming up this fall, and I'd like to get the Troops to supply some answers up front that could go into a hand-out for the Webelos and other prospective new Boy Scouts.

 

So I'm curious, if you were 'shopping' for a Troop, what questions would you ask?

 

I'll get started with a few:

  • Who is your Chartered Organization?
    • If the CO is a religious institution, do most of the Troop members practice that religion?
  • What day of the week do you meet?
    • When does the meeting start and end?
  • Where do you meet?
  • What is the contact info for the CC, SM, and Webelos coordinator?
  • What Troop events are open to Webelos?
  • How many boys are currently members of the Troop?  How many of those boys are regularly attending meetings?
  • Did your unit participate in Journey to Excellence last year?  If so, what level did you achieve?
  • What fundraising does the unit do?  Are there opportunities for the boys to offset some of the costs of summer camp and other activities?

 

OK, I think that covers the high level demographics... now what questions can I ask to figure out whether the Troop is really using the Patrol method, whether they really are boy led, what the culture of the Troop is like, and whether the program will be a match for a given boy's interests (i.e. hiking, biking, canoeing, camping, etc.).  What would you ask if you were a boy (or parent) looking for a Troop?

 

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I don't think the questions are all that important. The answers are designed to woo one in. I would be more interested in who is sitting behind the tables. SM? SPL? PL's? I would put the adult tables at the far end of the line.

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What do you want each scout to take with them from the program when they leave the troop?

How often does the PLC meet?

Who attends the PLC meeting?

How are youth leaders selected? How often?

How are patrols created and maintained?

Describe the New Scout Program?

How many scouts of each age?

 

These are usually good discussion starters for learning about the program.

 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad

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Below David's,

 

Question #2 What is your position in the troop?

 

If it's an SPL or PL giving the answers, be impressed.

 

Question #3 What was the favorite thing your boys did last year?

 

Question #4 What do you look forward to doing this coming year?

 

Ditch the JTE questions. Either they will have a ribbon on their flag or they wont.

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We had an interesting talk last year from one of the Exec Board members who talked about pretty solid research they had about parents and how they view decisions about where and whether to sign their sons up for scouting.  

 

It matters a lot to parents who it is that's heading up the program and how comfortable they, the parents, will be in putting their son into those folks' hands.

 

For that reason we're putting together a handout that includes the bios of both the CC and SM, maybe one or two ASMs, and as I'm writing this I think we should also include the SPL.

 

Keep in mind that it doesn't matter whether WE think this information is important, it matters that THE PARENTS, who are the ultimate decision makers here, think that this information is important.

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Big, huge question. Is the troop boy led or adult led. Take a look at WHO is telling whom to do what at the meetings. If there are a lot of adults telling the boyscout what to do at the meetings, RUN! Do not look back. Trust me you do not want adult led unless you want a glorified cub scout troop in boyscouts.

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Great stuff so far... some of the posts jogged my memory of what I looked for with my son's search for a Troop:

 

  • First, I definitely noted if the table was staffed by only Adults, or adults plus boys.  One reason I'd like to eliminate some of the basic demographics is so that they Troops don't spend their whole hour answering the same 4-5 questions.. I'd rather they talk about their program, and by taking some of these questions and putting the answers on paper the boys will have more time to visit tables and see for themselves how the Troops are represented.
  • One Troop, when I asked them about meetings told me how they boys meet twice a month, and the adults meet twice a month.  Let's just say I avoided that Troop.
  • Eagledad mentioned the new Scout program, another question I asked was whether they used a new Scout patrol, or whether new Scouts were incorporated into existing patrols.

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There was a thread here about a year ago, where as a WEBELOS ADL I was considering some sort of list for coaching the scouts on things they might be looking for or asking during troop visits.  I ended up compiling quite  a nice list based on input from you folks, as well as a lot of research and thinking....

In the end though, i dismissed it all since it's really so much more about the prospective scout being welcomed and being interested.  they don't care about that stuff.

If a potential recruit has no friends that he's tagging along with to a troop

and if he has no history or allegiance to a given CO / meeting place.... (as in say a scout moving to a new city)

then it's going to boil down to where he feels the most welcome.

 

I'll agree with T2Eagle about the adult leader bios, aimed to the parents

 

But the rest of it is having good scouts manning the table that are friendly and welcoming to a potential recruit and through word of mouth can put forward the image of fun

 

Big, huge question. Is the troop boy led or adult led. Take a look at WHO is telling whom to do what at the meetings. If there are a lot of adults telling the boyscout what to do at the meetings, RUN! Do not look back. Trust me you do not want adult led unless you want a glorified cub scout troop in boyscouts.

This was a big focus that I had, really hoping that I could help steer my son to see this and find a troop that he would get the most out of....

but truthfully I'd bet most folks are in the same boat as us.... there really aren't any true fully boy led and really well run troops to pick from (based on geography alone), so you can't really get so hung up on that.

I came to realize that as long as the scoutmasters are doing no harm, even though scout son will not be getting all that could theoretically be had from scouting, he'll at least be getting some good from it.  & I'm constantly having to remind myself of that....

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I hate to say it, but talking to a troop doesn't cut it. You gotta VISIT a troop, at a meeting and go CAMPING with a troop.  I know of adults who will say they are youth led, when in fact they do all of the work.

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For several years now, our District has been holding a 'Meet the Boy Scout Troops' night, inviting Troops to setup a table to pitch their Troop, and inviting Webelos and their leaders to come and visit the Troops' tables.  The goal is to increase our crossover rate from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts.

 

 

I like the idea of a "Meet the Boy Scout Troops" night--I don't think our District does that.  Where is do they meet?  Are there any special activities?  I'd like to propose that idea to our DE.

 

Getting a flavor of the troop might be best represented by the kinds of activities a troop does.  Our troop tends to do a medium (maybe high?) amount of outdoor activities--3-5 backpacks per year, a kayak overnight, 2 rock climbing trips, 1 rocket launch plus camporee, scout camp, etc.  Our Venture Crew takes older Scouts plus Venture Crew members on high adventure trips.  Two nearby troops to us do very few backpacks--just one a year for one and none for the other.  But our troop and the other two troops I mentioned are about 20-30 Scouts each. 

 

And you might want to find out the # of Scouts in a troop.  There are pros and cons for big troops versus smaller ones.  A nearby troop of 100+ Scouts often runs 2 trips per month but it is run by an iron-fisted Committee Chair of 30 years so there's very little flexibility in program.  Boy-led that troop is not, but parents like it because they can drop off kids and don't have to participate much and they're promised that their Scouts can get Eagle in 5 years.   So, that might help your son decide which one he joins if he can get an idea of typical activities and number of kids. 

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The task of marketing a troop is challenging because the information given really depends on the audience.

 

Parents don't really know what to look other than they want someone they can trust to leave their kids with for a week. Scouts want adventure, but what is that really. I asked all our Webelos one year a few moments they were about to crossover to their troop why they picked this troop over three others, they said this troop had the best game at the troop meeting. I am not a fan of leaving the decision up to the boys because they simply don't know either. Picking a troop should be a family decision or even a team decision with the Den Leader included with the family.

 

As a result of my pack and troop experiences, our district developed opportunities for Webelos Den leaders to learn about troops, troop programs, differences patrol styles and patrol methods. We created some informal gatherings where Den Leaders and troop leaders could meet and talk. Most folks don't realize that 70% of Webelos leaders don't know single troop leader by name. It really is hard for them to visit troops because they don't know who to call, what to look for and what to say. The troops way a head are the ones with Den Chiefs. But even those den leaders still needs some coaching on the troop program. 

 

The first best step we learned from a district point of view is just a simple coffee and cookies meeting with Webelos Den leaders and Troop Leaders. Of course scouts are welcome, but really the goal is simply help the den leader get comfortable to just call  for setting up a visit. One face to face meeting makes all the difference in the world.

 

Barry

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Many good suggestions here. 

 

My only original contribution here would be to ask how well rounded the troop's scouts are. We have several troops whose expectations of their older scouts are so heavy that eventually the scout is faced with a choice between scouting and his extracurricular activities at school. This is particularly true of senior leadership positions. How many of their SPLs and ASPLs are involved in extracurricular activities at school? Especially the kind of activities your son may be involved in.

 

I would like to re-emphasize CA Scout Mom's suggestion on the size of the troop. This factor makes a huge difference to some scouts and it very definitely makes a difference in how the troop is run. It also affects program in subtle ways. For example, our troop is quite large, and that enables us to have a great deal of resources in terms of material and manpower. On the other hand, it means that we have a bit more chaos (boy led), it's much harder to get and keep things rolling, and the scouts have to be a bit more aggressive in seeking out PORs. These are all part of a "troop culture" that help determine whether any given scout (and his parents) are happy in our troop.

 

I would also like to re-emphasize the camping aspect. It is my experience that for most scouts camping is the best part of the scouting program. How many times a year do they go camping? Where do they camp? What camping activities do they engage in? 

 

Finally, I would spend some effort on their high adventure program. How often do they participate in high adventure? Where do they go? What kinds of high adventure activities do they participate in? Do the go places other than Philmont? Places other than Scout camps?

 

The outdoor program is as important as when, where, and how often they meet.

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You might also ask about their fundraising programs. Some make a ton of money off say Christmas tree sales and others dont do any at all.

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I think the Meet the Troop night is a bad substitute for visiting the Troop.  My sense is the best information would be contained in some open-ended paragraph response type questions.

 

1.  How does your Troop implement a boy-led Scouting program?

 

2.  What did your Troop do last year in its outdoor program?

 

There are a lot of questions you can ask the SPL / PLs or even SMs that will tell you the nature of the Troop, but none of those would be able to be answered in writing:

 

1.  Who runs the PLC meetings?  How many adults are there vs. scouts?

2.  Who plans the outdoor program?

3.  Who is in charge of packing the gear for campouts?

4.  Who takes care of the trailer or gear shed?

5.  Who makes announcements at meetings?

6.  Who plans the menus on campouts?

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