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Just wonderin'

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...  Scouts is one of the only things I can think of where you can achieve the pinnacle of the program doing just the bare minimum. Even attendance in Scouting is not required, so in effect one could meet the "alternate test" in the GTA for showing activity, complete the bare minimum and still make Eagle. Can't do that in any other program I am aware of.

The problem is that we've been given the wrong vision, and if we're not careful, we hand that down to our scouts.

Getting a pin on your shirt from Mamma is not the pinnacle of scouting ... not by a long shot. Nor is that trip to Jambo or an H/A Base. BSA and NESA may say otherwise, but all other awards ceremonies and big-ticket scouting activities are side-shows to:

 

the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with your mates.

 

We need to be very intentional about talking up that kind of behavior. We had one SM who, when asked to speak at an ECoH, would make it a point to recall something about what the candidate did on one of those many campouts that set him apart from the rest. I learned to follow suit. Usually, those defining moments were when the scout was still on the trail to first class, and one way or another the boy pulled the rest of his patrol/troop together. The gist of each story boiled down to, "Having seen him do ___, of course we'd expect he'd rank up, and we'd be here today."

 

I'll edit to add: At my kid's sports banquets, the coaches would not talk up stats or letters. They would talk about what distinguished the character of the athlete. Sometimes it was on the field, sometimes off. Kids' hearts hang on those words ... more than the varsity letter.

Edited by qwazse

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The problem is that we've been given the wrong vision, and if we're not careful, we hand that down to our scouts.

 

 

the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with your mates.

 

I don't disagree...entirely. ;)

 

The mission and vision are clearly defined by BSA. The aims and methods are how those goals are achieved. The problem is units, district, council all push the rank advancement theme. Even national has structured rank advancement to make getting Eagle (and every rank) easier. That's the carrot to keep the kids in the program (at least, that's what it appears BSA wants), not spending time outdoors or with one's mates.

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I have worked with many really great scouts in my scouting career, but one scout sticks out above the rest. Sadly this scout taught me a lot about my role as a scoutmaster in a hard lesson of him quitting out of frustration. He knew scouts skills better than any other scout and was one of those leaders that everyone (even adults) loved to follow. He was very creative in finding solutions to problems and was a great motivator for working toward goals. He loved to camp, fish, hike, backpack and whatever else the outdoors had to offer. He was a scout's scout. He is the model of the saluting Scout on some of the Boy Scout Handbooks covers.  

 

What he didn't enjoy (actually detested) was working toward rank advancement. If it were left up to him, he would have never advanced past Tenderfoot. But he was such a natural scout that all the adults wanted him to make Eagle because his natural persona IS the Eagle. He made it clear that any work toward advancement was just to appease the adults. Nobody else, just us adults. After he earned Star, he told us no more and to leave him alone to enjoy his scouting experience. But the all knowing adults didn't leave him alone. We kept throwing hints here and there because we would be committing a crime for such a scout to not be Eagle. Then one day he quit showing up. When I called him, he said that he might try again under the condition that he was not working anymore advancement. And he did come to a couple meetings, but scouting wasn't in his heart anymore. THE ADULTS beat it out of him.  

 

That experience brought me down to my knees and I had to reevaluate what the program was really about for each boy and my role in that program. I changed a lot almost overnight. 

 

Advancement is just but one of the Eight Methods. Add to that that each scout requires different levels of method experiences to grow to his personal best, and we find that one size cannot possibly fit all when it comes to scout growth, satisfaction, and success for each individual scout. So when the Scoutmaster defines the ideal vision for the scout program, some boys are going to be left out or driven out. The better route to helping each scout grow toward his best potential is to help them envision their own ideal scout self. Then give them a program that at the very least doesn't get in their way, and  better yet supports their endeavor.  

 

I was never a fan of using the Eagle as bait for raising membership. I find it almost detestable now. I made a promise to every parent who visited our troop. I told them that if your son just came to one meeting, he would grow in character because everything we do in our program is driven to that purpose. The challenge for me was justifying every activity and action to have purpose. And the program changed as I found some policies and proceedures to either not add character, or actually drive character away. That is why I stay with this forum. I learned a lot in developing our program. I want to pass those lessons on, whether or not you decide they fit your program.

 

Barry

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I was never a fan of using the Eagle as bait for raising membership. I find it almost detestable now. 

 

This. 

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Correct. And showing up to football practice every day is meeting the minumum, but that does not guarantee a starting role or even the right to play.

 

The point being that Scouts is one of the only things I can think of where you can achieve the pinnacle of the program doing just the bare minimum. Even attendance in Scouting is not required, so in effect one could meet the "alternate test" in the GTA for showing activity, complete the bare minimum and still make Eagle. Can't do that in any other program I am aware of.

Maybe the offensive lineman doesn't get the recognition he deserves, but win the championship game will show everyone on the team teamwork is the only reason they won.

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s Little League participation on the wane? And, if so, should we care? Those were two major questions raised by Wall Street Journal piece from last week documenting the apparent decline of casual sporting leagues in a nation of kids who have either been bewitched by video games or encouraged to specialize in one sport year-round—or both, if the sport in which they specialize is competitive Minecraft. Whether you find the WSJ report convincing and conclusive—and there are good reasons to be skeptical of it—it should raise in your mind an overwhelmingly important point: Little League and other youth sports leagues are terrible, and we should not be sad to see them go. 

 

 

Citing a study conducted by the National Sporting Goods Association, the Journal reported that while 8.8 million children between the ages of 7 and 17 played baseball in 2000, only 5.3 million children in that age group did the same in 2013. It’s worth noting, though, that the study seems to document declining youth participation in almost all sports, not just baseball. Basketball participation in the same age group and over the same time period dropped from 13.8 million to 10.3 million; soccer participation dropped from 9.2 million to 6.9 million. The only sport highlighted by the Journal with increased participation from 2000 to 2013 is tackle football, proving once again that Americans do not read the newspaper.

Edited by TAHAWK

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soccer participation dropped from 9.2 million to 6.9 million. The only sport highlighted by the Journal with increased participation from 2000 to 2013 is tackle football, proving once again that Americans do not read the newspaper.

 

 

Tackle football went up? That's contrary to everything I have seen...and I live in Texas. Football has been on the decline in both schools and youth rec teams for the past 10 years. This analysis seems to paint a different picture.

  

I think soccer has not fallen off as much as they claim. According to other data I have seen, soccer has only lost 1m from 2006-2017. I find it hard to believe they lost 1m between 2000 and 2006.

 

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"Lies, damned lies, and statistics."

 

Our Bonsai Club dropped from 200+ to 37.

The American Bowling Congress says their official leagues are down 50% over some period.

Our local PTA is asking former parents to join.

The local Herb Club shut down for lack of members.

The Township can't staff its committees, and they get free dinner when they meet.  :eek:

 

Not youth, but our Council has been hamstrung for decades by shortages of adults at every level.

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I remember when band was a fall thing.

 

I remember when band was about music. :)

 

This brings up an important point. Most extracurricular activities are based on a competitive model. Scouting is not competitive. It's challenging and it's about community. It takes time to develop. There are no seasons. There is no major event that everything is culminating towards - after which point everything starts over. Scouts doesn't start over. We don't want patrols reformed every year. It takes time to create that identity or that bond that brings scouts together, where they want to be together. It's not like a sport where x number of players are needed, each is given a job by the coach and he does it.

 

Scouts can't get jammed into this model. Using the sports terminology, If the coach is picking players then there's a huge problem. We want the scouts to come up with their own schedule, have a never ending season, develop their own game plan, design their own plays, solve their own problems, and define what the rules of their game is. And every player needs to do this. This takes time and finesse.

 

If a unit struggles with scout participation (at any age), the program likely needs some changes.

I certainly agree with this but there are external pressures making this harder ....

 

One of the things I think we're missing in our analysis is the sheer size of the marketplace we're now competing in.

 

There is a certain minimum participation level required for a patrol to be cohesive. If that level is not met then friendships fall apart, there's even less reason to participate, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Mandatory participation from a wide range of extracurricular activities is making this much harder on patrols.

 

This is why I set participation requirements that were against the GTA. I want scouts to do other things outside of scouting so I made them fairly lax. But at the same time I want scouts to decide that if they want to be involved then they need to commit some time to this. I don't care what a scout's goals are. Motivation may come from rank, high adventure, working with youth, service. It doesn't matter. But the program doesn't really work if there's not a minimum participation.

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I remember when band was about music. :)

 

This brings up an important point. Most extracurricular activities are based on a competitive model. Scouting is not competitive. It's challenging and it's about community. It takes time to develop. There are no seasons. There is no major event that everything is culminating towards - after which point everything starts over. Scouts doesn't start over. We don't want patrols reformed every year. It takes time to create that identity or that bond that brings scouts together, where they want to be together. It's not like a sport where x number of players are needed, each is given a job by the coach and he does it.

 

I scouted with a very successful troop  for twenty-five years up to 2007.  Never fewer that 40 Scouts and as many as 75.  It was competitive as respects other troops.  There were seasons,  Every year there was a major event that program culminated towards - the Klondike Derby, after which everything started over.  Every second year there was also the troop's own independent Day 1 - Day 10 Summer Camp, usually at another council's camp that no longer had summer program after Cub Week was over.

 

The patrols changed only when natural life-cycle made them so small the Scouts saw the need to consolidate and decided how that would be done..

 

 

 

As for your other observations, where's the thumb's up emoticon?

Edited by TAHAWK

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Instead of looking at Scouting at the national or regional level, if I look at my own unit I see a fairly stable entity. We celebrate our 25th this year and we've come a long way. Below are some of the stats that are our averaged over the last 7-10 years.

  • We sustain a unit of 70-80 Scouts.
  • Over 90% of our Scouts attend 9 or more camp outs a year.
  • Over 50% attend summer camp. If you include summertime high adventure that number goes to nearly 80%.
  • Of the eligible Scouts, 75% of our Scouts attend a high adventure base each summer.
  • Our attrition rate is around 3-4%; boys who give up on Scouts for various reasons.
  • We accept about 3-5 boys a year as transfers; this offsets our attrition.
  • We produce between 4-9 Eagles a year. Our retention rate after Eagle is nearly 95%.
  • Our on-going recruiting target is 14 new Scouts each year, which offsets age-outs and attrition. We usually exceed this number by taking in 15-18 new Scouts.

I only bring this up because these stats contradict the decline BSA has reported for the same period. Now, we live in a major metro area where Scouting is very active, so getting these numbers is not too difficult. However, competition among units to maintain their status quo is rough. Within a 100 sq miles (not as big an area as you would think) there are over 60 Cub Scout packs; all within at most a 20 minute drive of my unit. There are about 45 Boy Scout units in that same area. Most are decent sized (30-50 Scouts) and some are huge (over 100).

 

My point? A good program CAN keep the numbers up AND retain the boys. It's just a matter of long term planning.

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Illustrating, I suggest, the the biggest problem is poor program at the unit level due to a lack of enough adequately competent adults.  And the official tool to create competency is the crippled training program at the National level (where some think the Patrol method is one aspect of the boy-led troop method) and the even less functional training program in a number of councils, like mine.

 

Seven districts

Three have no training chair - overall or for any division of the program

Three have done SM/ASM/IOLS in the last five years.  One other has done Baloo every year bit never OWL.

 

Three weeks during which SM/ASM/IOLS is offered at Summer Camp - with a total of two equivalent full-time staff for one week's course (three days 9-5), one staffer for one week's course (who has never staffed before and didn't know he was shown on paper as in charge) , and one staffer for one day total of the third week's course(thought he was "helping" an existing training team that does not exist). And no arrangements for food, equipment, staff, or training sites at camp.   Prediction is about 50-60 Scouters to be trained with this level of "staff" and preparation.

 

Good training is going on here and there despite it all, but "here and there" is not a formula for reversing a bad trend.

 

So long as training is the red-header stepchild and leadership positions filled on the basis of the checks written, the rot will continue.

 

Edit: and anyone complaining but not helping is not ..... helping/ 

 

Anyone with actual power hearing this?

Edited by TAHAWK
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I scouted with a very successful troop  for twenty-five years up to 2007.  Never fewer that 40 Scouts and as many as 75.  It was competitive as respects other troops.  There were seasons,  Every year there was a major event that program culminated towards - the Klondike Derby, after which everything started over.  Every second year there was also the troop's own independent Day 1 - Day 10 Summer Camp, usually at another council's camp that no longer had summer program after Cub Week was over.

 

The patrols changed only when natural life-cycle made them so small the Scouts saw the need to consolidate and decided how that would be done..

 

I'd really like to see the type of challenge you describe for klondike and camporees as well. Get everyone excited about it. The district has tried a few times and the response is not so great. Some scouts are all in for competition but some just don't like it. Part of that is that some kids are good at some things and not good at others. I'd like to see ideas for patrol competitions that require all sorts of abilities. Does anyone know of resources for that?

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I'd really like to see the type of challenge you describe for klondike and camporees as well. Get everyone excited about it. The district has tried a few times and the response is not so great. Some scouts are all in for competition but some just don't like it. Part of that is that some kids are good at some things and not good at others. I'd like to see ideas for patrol competitions that require all sorts of abilities. Does anyone know of resources for that?

I came from a very competitive troop in the 70's. Very boy run with an average of 60 active scouts. We ran our troop as adults under the same model and are successful as well, but district level competition is much more challenging to organize today for the reason MattR stated of units not getting excited about it. The one difference between most troops today and the troops in the 70s is mixed age patrols. The older scouts drive the enthusiasm for competition. Today's patrols of younger scouts don't see or understand it's draw because the older scouts aren't there to get them excited with stories and continued training to sharpen skills.

 

In fact, I believe the introduction of crossing over Webelos basically killed Camporee and Klondike competitions because skills training went from a week to week activity to an annual activity. Before groups crossed over in the winter like 99 percent of scouts do today, scouts joined around their birthday, so training all the scout skills occurred all year long. Now since all the new scouts have the same level of skills, skills training is more class room like occurring only once or twice a year. How TAWHAWK's district managed competition in 2007 is interesting to me.

 

Barry

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I'd really like to see the type of challenge you describe for klondike and camporees as well. Get everyone excited about it. The district has tried a few times and the response is not so great. Some scouts are all in for competition but some just don't like it. Part of that is that some kids are good at some things and not good at others. I'd like to see ideas for patrol competitions that require all sorts of abilities. Does anyone know of resources for that?

You need a range of events, including some that are more cerebral than physical.  ID native fish from pictures; ditto for birds, poisonous plants; snakes; Kim's Game - any theme remotely Scouty; compass problems; native tree leaf ID; Civics quiz; nature Scavenger Hunt; quiz of Boys' Life content from the last year; height/width estimating; estimate jelly beans in the jar.; what country is this stamp/coin from?

 

We had Webelos dens finish in the top ten. (Yes, they were not supposed to participate in Scout events, but literally no one in Council, young, old, volunteer, or employee thought that made any sense.)

 

Our events were selected by the troop SPLs, who were supposed to come with ideas from their respective PLCs.

 

The events were made known to all the troops at least six months in advance to be available as program drivers.

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