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Phrogger

Is retention a problem?

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I am finally allowing my son to quit Scouts. We tried everything but in the end, it just isn't a good fit for him. He finished with a rank of Scout after just one year in the Troop.

 

There are a couple reasons it didn't work out. He enjoyed the Cub Scouts but the Boy Scouts is a really different animal. I offer the following observations as a post-mortem, with follow up questions at the bottom.

 

1. He crossed over early (Webelos in 1 year) This wasn't my choice but the den leader's. He wasn't ready for the skills needed in Boy Scouts. I think BSA should actively discourage this except with a waiver in special cases.

 

2. Most of his friends quit, as of this writing there is only 1 out of 6 members of his den that are still in the Troop. From adults that were in Scouts, I have been told most boys stay in because their friends did.

 

3. The Troop is actively focused on the older boys. Most activities planned include things like 50-mile hikes and 100-mile canoe trips. Usually there is a shorter event for the younger boys thrown in as a courtesy. I would have liked to see one adult assigned to help make the new Scouts feel more welcome and included. The Cooking Badge was offered as a group activity and my son was told he was too young. Just the older boys wanting to get their Eagle stuff done.

 

4. There isn't enough supervision. The leaders take "boy-led" too far, and the older boys don't act as mentors many times but as antagonists and task masters. They don't know how to organize a meeting because the adults haven't shown them. Older boys are cursing and "roasting" younger kids because the adults are doing their own thing and not paying attention. Is there any problem with assigning an adult to each patrol to make sure they stay on track and are obeying the Scout Law?

 

5. Meetings are BORING. Most of the time they're just sitting around tying knots or talking about the next campout. Cub Scout meetings were much more dynamic and included games and songs and actual advancement activities. Again, adults should have more input here.

 

6. Time commitment. Meetings 7-8:30 pm on a school night EVERY Monday, and at least two weekends a month, one for a campout and another for volunteer or Eagle Project work.

 

7. Camping. My son just didn't like camping. Yes, I get that it's the entire point of Boy Scouts. I don't want to take that away from anyone. But, I would have liked to see something like STEM activities, day trips, or just fun things like a trip to the trampoline park.  In the end, his dislike of being outdoors in general ended his Scouting career.

 

So, I'm not looking for solutions or analysis on my own child but curious about the greater trend. I still think the program has many strengths, but I'm interested if retention is a problem at the troop level. About what age are they leaving? What reasons are those boys giving for leaving? And what is the secret of troops that don't have a problem retaining scouts?

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@@Phrogger, kudos to you for helping your son give it the "college try."

Sometimes we have retention problems, other times we can't keep the little buggers away!

And by little buggers different classes of crossovers flag at different age and to different degrees. Obviously, if I thought there was a pattern, I'd be pitching it to national by now.

 

Sometimes tweaking along the points you made helps, other times it doesn't.

 

But, the other thing we've observed: Lot's of boys come back after a couple of year's hiatus. The one thing that is hard for such older boys; however, is shifts in leadership. Some can flex with it, other's feel the troop shifting under their feet and don't fit in anymore. I don't think I could tell in advance who would be which type of returning scout.

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Did you look at other units?  

 

There may be other units in your area that are a better fit. 

I concur about this, we have a boy in the our unit that was wanting to quit, but then visited us based on his dad knowing me.  He was immediately sold and when he went on our next campout,, you would never know he hadn't been art of the troop for a long time.  So I have seen it work well.  He may just not like camping the way they do it.

 

I am not saying that would work for your son, but it might be worth a shot.  

 

I hear your points and have seen all of them before in my previous troop.  I use that knowledge in my head to help decisions that our troop makes when I talk to our SPL and ASMs

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I also concur. Given your list of points, that troop has troubles. How about looking for another troop, without your son, while he takes a break. Find one that doesn't have the problems you've seen. When the next group of webelos bridge over it would be a good time to show your son new troops.

 

Honestly, I don't know why you stayed as long as you did. My son enjoyed his troop but he also has the personality that he'll stick with something, good or bad, and not want to change. If that's the case with your son then a break will be good. There is a huge difference between troops and most scouts and a lot of parents don't understand that.

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Thanks for the suggestions to find another troop. To their credit, the leadership did listen to my concerns about 6 months ago and made some positive changes, including changing patrols around to make sure a couple of good leaders were in each one, but it wasn't enough to keep us. I'm willing to give another try with a different troop, but I still think we should take a break for now. We might even look into Venturing when he's old enough. He has enough interest in adventure activities that it might be something we can revisit at a later date. Right now I think we'd like to try some other activities and see if anything "sticks." We've got limited time for extracurriculars (like everyone) and I just want to find something that fits.

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Thanks for the suggestions to find another troop. To their credit, the leadership did listen to my concerns about 6 months ago and made some positive changes, including changing patrols around to make sure a couple of good leaders were in each one, but it wasn't enough to keep us. I'm willing to give another try with a different troop, but I still think we should take a break for now. We might even look into Venturing when he's old enough. He has enough interest in adventure activities that it might be something we can revisit at a later date. Right now I think we'd like to try some other activities and see if anything "sticks." We've got limited time for extracurriculars (like everyone) and I just want to find something that fits.

Some Boy Scout Troops are “dedicated†to high adventure, treks, backpacking, etc.

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As others have said, another unit may be a better fit.

 

Please do not take offense if I quote you and give my thoughts. Retention has been a problem with my troop, and your post has me thinking.

 

 

He enjoyed the Cub Scouts but the Boy Scouts is a really different animal. I offer the following observations as a post-mortem, with follow up questions at the bottom.

 

1. He crossed over early (Webelos in 1 year) This wasn't my choice but the den leader's. He wasn't ready for the skills needed in Boy Scouts. I think BSA should actively discourage this except with a waiver in special cases.

 

I've seen this happen and agree, you don't cross over early. Plus Webelos is suppose to be the time where Cubs, and more importantly parents, start transitioning from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. In Cubs, the adults do a lot of the work. Whereas in Boy Scouts, the Scouts do the work. Sadly I've seen some Webelos den not make the transition, and the new Scouts are not ready and quit.

 

2. Most of his friends quit, as of this writing there is only 1 out of 6 members of his den that are still in the Troop. From adults that were in Scouts, I have been told most boys stay in because their friends did.

 

True you stay in b/c of friends, but were the rest of the new Scouts inadequately prepared to become Boy Scouts as your son? If that is the case, the Webelso Program may be inadequate. I know that is one pack's problem.

 

3. The Troop is actively focused on the older boys. Most activities planned include things like 50-mile hikes and 100-mile canoe trips. Usually there is a shorter event for the younger boys thrown in as a courtesy. I would have liked to see one adult assigned to help make the new Scouts feel more welcome and included. The Cooking Badge was offered as a group activity and my son was told he was too young. Just the older boys wanting to get their Eagle stuff done.

 

PLC decides activities. If it is mostly High adventure, how many younger guys does this troop have? if they have few to none, that is a warning sign.

 

4. There isn't enough supervision. The leaders take "boy-led" too far, and the older boys don't act as mentors many times but as antagonists and task masters. They don't know how to organize a meeting because the adults haven't shown them. Older boys are cursing and "roasting" younger kids because the adults are doing their own thing and not paying attention. Is there any problem with assigning an adult to each patrol to make sure they stay on track and are obeying the Scout Law?

 

One of the challenges I have found in assigning adults to patrols is that it is too easy for the adults to turn Boy Scouting into Webelos 3. I see it in my unit at times.

 

But the Scouts do need to be held accountable. SM should be doing rounds and checking in.

 

5. Meetings are BORING. Most of the time they're just sitting around tying knots or talking about the next campout. Cub Scout meetings were much more dynamic and included games and songs and actual advancement activities. Again, adults should have more input here.

 

Part of the problem is the Boy Scouts are not doing their job. The adults are not suppose toi have input but rahter guide and mentor.

 

6. Time commitment. Meetings 7-8:30 pm on a school night EVERY Monday, and at least two weekends a month, one for a campout and another for volunteer or Eagle Project work.

 

Time is about right, but it should also be including game time. Is your troop making Eagle Projects mandatory? Grant you it's a great idea to help, but it is the Life Scout's responsibility top recruit.

 

7. Camping. My son just didn't like camping. Yes, I get that it's the entire point of Boy Scouts. I don't want to take that away from anyone. But, I would have liked to see something like STEM activities, day trips, or just fun things like a trip to the trampoline park.  In the end, his dislike of being outdoors in general ended his Scouting career.

 

You have a lot of Scouters who do not like STEM Scouts, and wish they would change the name since it is not outdoors and " OUTING is three-fourth of ScOUTING." I admit I am one of them. But maybe the new STEM Scouts program would be a better match. 

 

So, I'm not looking for solutions or analysis on my own child but curious about the greater trend. I still think the program has many strengths, but I'm interested if retention is a problem at the troop level. About what age are they leaving? What reasons are those boys giving for leaving? And what is the secret of troops that don't have a problem retaining scouts?

 

As i mentioned my troop has lost Scouts because they were not really prepared while Webelos. My troop had 4 Webelos cross over in December from 1 pack and 9 in March from a second pack.  First pack has a really good Webelos program, that transitions well IMHO  and all 4 are still in. Since March, we lost 2 definitely, haven't seen 1 in 3 months, although Mom says she is still in, and 1 is around occasionally. Of the 6 remaining, we are having issues with 3 who have helicopter parents hovering over them and allowing htem to do whatever they want irregardless of the PLs, SPL, and ASMs say.

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I am finally allowing my son to quit Scouts. We tried everything but in the end, it just isn't a good fit for him. He finished with a rank of Scout after just one year in the Troop.

 

There are a couple reasons it didn't work out. He enjoyed the Cub Scouts but the Boy Scouts is a really different animal. I offer the following observations as a post-mortem, with follow up questions at the bottom.

 

1. He crossed over early (Webelos in 1 year) This wasn't my choice but the den leader's. He wasn't ready for the skills needed in Boy Scouts. I think BSA should actively discourage this except with a waiver in special cases.

 

2. Most of his friends quit, as of this writing there is only 1 out of 6 members of his den that are still in the Troop. From adults that were in Scouts, I have been told most boys stay in because their friends did.

 

3. The Troop is actively focused on the older boys. Most activities planned include things like 50-mile hikes and 100-mile canoe trips. Usually there is a shorter event for the younger boys thrown in as a courtesy. I would have liked to see one adult assigned to help make the new Scouts feel more welcome and included. The Cooking Badge was offered as a group activity and my son was told he was too young. Just the older boys wanting to get their Eagle stuff done.

 

4. There isn't enough supervision. The leaders take "boy-led" too far, and the older boys don't act as mentors many times but as antagonists and task masters. They don't know how to organize a meeting because the adults haven't shown them. Older boys are cursing and "roasting" younger kids because the adults are doing their own thing and not paying attention. Is there any problem with assigning an adult to each patrol to make sure they stay on track and are obeying the Scout Law?

 

5. Meetings are BORING. Most of the time they're just sitting around tying knots or talking about the next campout. Cub Scout meetings were much more dynamic and included games and songs and actual advancement activities. Again, adults should have more input here.

 

6. Time commitment. Meetings 7-8:30 pm on a school night EVERY Monday, and at least two weekends a month, one for a campout and another for volunteer or Eagle Project work.

 

7. Camping. My son just didn't like camping. Yes, I get that it's the entire point of Boy Scouts. I don't want to take that away from anyone. But, I would have liked to see something like STEM activities, day trips, or just fun things like a trip to the trampoline park.  In the end, his dislike of being outdoors in general ended his Scouting career.

 

So, I'm not looking for solutions or analysis on my own child but curious about the greater trend. I still think the program has many strengths, but I'm interested if retention is a problem at the troop level. About what age are they leaving? What reasons are those boys giving for leaving? And what is the secret of troops that don't have a problem retaining scouts?

 Retention in our Troop has been good. IN the last 3 years we have gone from about 30 to about 50 Scouts. In that time we have lost 4 Scouts due to losing interest. Two more we lost due to moving out of the area, the rest aged out, most attained Eagle Scout.

 

Most of those I have seen leave from other Troops early have either moved on to Venturing or quit Scouting after attaining Eagle, though there are always a few that find out that scouting is not for them or get caught up in other activities as they age, usually when they hit 16-17.

 

My son started in a different Troop, it wasn't a fit because there was not enough outdoor and too many non-Scouting activities/games. In his old Troop he was still a Scout after a year. After he changed Troops to one the had more of an outdoor focus he was 1st Class in a few months and now is about to get his Eagle.

 

Different Troops have different personalities, just like Scouts. I urge all Webelos/New Scouts to shop around to find a Troop that matches up with their needs.

 

That said, much of what you describe fits with what a typical Troop looks like. Weekly (3-5 per month) meetings of about 1 1/2 hours, 8-12 overnight outings per year, 4-12 service projects (not including Eagle projects), 2-6 fundraising events per year, 3-12 Patrol outings per year. 3-24 Patrol meetings per year. And that does not include High Adventure and OA. In most Troops Scouts are not expected to make EVERY meeting/event, but each has it's own threshold for what it considers active.

 

Scouts plan the program and run the meetings, if meetings are boring it is because the Scouts are not planning programs that fit their needs, but then again the program may be working for most in your case, just not for your son. Meetings may or may not focus on advancement, most I have seen focus on skills which does lead to advancement, Many troops have Patrol Advisers (ASMs), those advisers are (or should be) pretty much hands off unless the Scouts come to them (after talking to PL/ASPL/SPL) or the Scouts are not following BSA Policy, guidelines and most importantly the Oath and Law. Even then, an adviser should not be stepping in to take over, but quietly guiding the PL to make the corrections.

 

Adults have a very different role in Boy Scouts compared to Cub Scouts. Youth should be leading and adults should be guiding/advising THROUGH the youth leadership. Some find it a tough line to walk, some becoming TOO actively involved in the day to day and others being so hands off that they are not guiding the youth. IMO though, you should it should be exceedingly rare to see an adult at the front of the troop giving directions. If guidance is needed the adults should be working through the youth leaders to correct problems and improve leadership.

Edited by HelpfulTracks

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I was just talking to a scouter at his JOTA station.

How many of your troops have trained your boys to operate a ham radio?

When was the last time you brought in a game Commisioner (that's how I learned how to rig a hook line and sinker)?

Ever hold a hobby night where the scouts present their hobby to the rest of the boys?

Break down an electric or two cycle motor?

Get some retired extinguishers and practice putting out grease fires?

 

Note to self: I need to remind my SPL that I have several old motors.

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A lot of scouters on here are wise and experienced.  But I also think there are many scouters not on here that are not wise and experienced.  Your statements sound about right to me.  Programs that are run well can be great but I think it doesn't take much for a program to suffer because of lack of foresight or indifference or poor planning and sometimes just bad luck.

 

The pack that we came from did nothing to prepare the webelos for scouting but that had zero impact on our boys.  The troop they crossed over to had a gap in the scout ages with mostly older boys and the previous year cross overs.  The troop had lost several years worth of scouts.  Found out later it was because of a lack of getting the boys involved.  When our group joined the priority was getting the older boys to eagle and the younger scouts were just kind of there.  This was a lesson learned for the wife and myself but our boys didn't know what could or should be happening and therefore felt everything was normal.  Now all of those older boys are gone.  there was definitely a learning curve for new scout youth leadership because there were no veteran leaders left.  With a few years under their belts the scouts have got some experience now and can teach the new crossovers but our oldest boy is only 16 and after that everyone is 14 or younger.

 

I would expect a scout to prefer the friends he already had when he crossed over but I think it says something about the troop if he doesn't feel like he's made any new friends while he's been there to keep his interest in going.

 

Scouters are volunteers and I know that I can only expect so much but it is also very frustrating to see things that just won't change.  Some scouters priorities are their own motivations and not necessarily what's best for the troop or other scouters.  Boy led doesn't do much good if the boys are given any examples to work with. 

 

I've heard the complaint about boring meetings many times.  There are lots of resources out there but scouters and scouts need to look for them and know where they are and be encouraged to do things in fun ways.  Some adults prefer the stuffy board meetings with paper agendas and lack the skills or imagination for anything else.    It's unfortunate and can easily be fixed with proper motivation but if you've only ever known boring meetings that seems normal.

 

Meetings are every week but did he have to go to all of them?  Our troop understands about other commitments so many scouts can't be at all the meetings especially around sports seasons.  Of course, if the meetings were more fun and less boring it would probably be more likely that the meetings would be a priority.  Camping has been an issue for us in the past.  Our scout does not go on every campout and that's that.  Don't like it?  Tough.  We pay for the campouts and we don't feel scouting is a priority over our personal lives so we as a family decide when he goes.  I'd say he's been to about 75%.  Your son doesn't like camping?  Probably because it's the same people that are at the boring meetings.  I don't blame him.  He needs some fun camping experiences and maybe that would win him over.  But maybe not. 

 

I've always felt that scouting represents many different things and there is something there for everyone but it's not always attainable for many reasons.  As others have suggested, maybe looking at other troops would help.  I know so much now that I would have tried to steer my son to a different troop but he'd still want to be where his friends are.

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Get some retired extinguishers and practice putting out grease fires?

 

I've wanted the scouts to do this for a long time.  I think it would be fun as well as educational.  maybe make some different size fires to see results and test different size extinguishers if available.

 

For anyone interested, extinguishers expire and most of the time they just get thrown out by maintenance departments in buildings, etc..  I'm not aware of any specific disposal procedures in our area.

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I've wanted the scouts to do this for a long time.  I think it would be fun as well as educational.  maybe make some different size fires to see results and test different size extinguishers if available.

 

For anyone interested, extinguishers expire and most of the time they just get thrown out by maintenance departments in buildings, etc..  I'm not aware of any specific disposal procedures in our area.

A camporee in my Council had a class on fire safety and we were able to practice using a extinguisher. I suggest bringing it up to the event head for any upcoming events that could use another program. I have to say, I learned a lot and it was fun!

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I am finally allowing my son to quit Scouts. We tried everything but in the end, it just isn't a good fit for him. He finished with a rank of Scout after just one year in the Troop.

 

There are a couple reasons it didn't work out. He enjoyed the Cub Scouts but the Boy Scouts is a really different animal. I offer the following observations as a post-mortem, with follow up questions at the bottom.

 

1. He crossed over early (Webelos in 1 year) This wasn't my choice but the den leader's. He wasn't ready for the skills needed in Boy Scouts. I think BSA should actively discourage this except with a waiver in special cases.

 

2. Most of his friends quit, as of this writing there is only 1 out of 6 members of his den that are still in the Troop. From adults that were in Scouts, I have been told most boys stay in because their friends did.

 

3. The Troop is actively focused on the older boys. Most activities planned include things like 50-mile hikes and 100-mile canoe trips. Usually there is a shorter event for the younger boys thrown in as a courtesy. I would have liked to see one adult assigned to help make the new Scouts feel more welcome and included. The Cooking Badge was offered as a group activity and my son was told he was too young. Just the older boys wanting to get their Eagle stuff done.

 

4. There isn't enough supervision. The leaders take "boy-led" too far, and the older boys don't act as mentors many times but as antagonists and task masters. They don't know how to organize a meeting because the adults haven't shown them. Older boys are cursing and "roasting" younger kids because the adults are doing their own thing and not paying attention. Is there any problem with assigning an adult to each patrol to make sure they stay on track and are obeying the Scout Law?

 

5. Meetings are BORING. Most of the time they're just sitting around tying knots or talking about the next campout. Cub Scout meetings were much more dynamic and included games and songs and actual advancement activities. Again, adults should have more input here.

 

6. Time commitment. Meetings 7-8:30 pm on a school night EVERY Monday, and at least two weekends a month, one for a campout and another for volunteer or Eagle Project work.

 

7. Camping. My son just didn't like camping. Yes, I get that it's the entire point of Boy Scouts. I don't want to take that away from anyone. But, I would have liked to see something like STEM activities, day trips, or just fun things like a trip to the trampoline park.  In the end, his dislike of being outdoors in general ended his Scouting career.

 

So, I'm not looking for solutions or analysis on my own child but curious about the greater trend. I still think the program has many strengths, but I'm interested if retention is a problem at the troop level. About what age are they leaving? What reasons are those boys giving for leaving? And what is the secret of troops that don't have a problem retaining scouts?

If he doesn't like camping, you made a good choice.  Camping is where scouts learn most.  If the time commitment is too much, then I guess sports or music for your son is out of the question.

 

The thing with the meetings being boring is that 1) knots are required--that's something for the younger scouts, it's not a focus for the older ones; 2) a troop is boy led, and that has it's problems, but it's the way it has to be done.  

 

The Scouts are supposed to be leading. If an ASM takes over watching the patrol like a hawk, it will take away from the little authority that the Patrol leader has. If there are discipline problems, your son should talk to the Scoutmaster about it.  If there is inadequate response, than you talk to the Scoutmaster, after your son has.  

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I was just talking to a scouter at his JOTA station.

How many of your troops have trained your boys to operate a ham radio?

When was the last time you brought in a game Commisioner (that's how I learned how to rig a hook line and sinker)?

Ever hold a hobby night where the scouts present their hobby to the rest of the boys?

Break down an electric or two cycle motor?

Get some retired extinguishers and practice putting out grease fires?

 

Note to self: I need to remind my SPL that I have several old motors.

These are activities my son would have enjoyed. I think they are consistent with Scouting.

 

I understand about not wanting adults to take over. I don't advocate for that. I do advocate for adults to do their job and guide the Scouts when things aren't working.

 

 

Meetings are every week but did he have to go to all of them?  Our troop understands about other commitments so many scouts can't be at all the meetings especially around sports seasons.  Of course, if the meetings were more fun and less boring it would probably be more likely that the meetings would be a priority.  Camping has been an issue for us in the past.  Our scout does not go on every campout and that's that.  Don't like it?  Tough.  We pay for the campouts and we don't feel scouting is a priority over our personal lives so we as a family decide when he goes.  I'd say he's been to about 75%.  Your son doesn't like camping?  Probably because it's the same people that are at the boring meetings.  I don't blame him.  He needs some fun camping experiences and maybe that would win him over.  But maybe not.

I suppose he didn't have to go to every meeting, but rarely were activities announced and sometimes (rarely) they were important, so I was worried he would miss something if he didn't go.

 

I think that part of the problem is the same thing with transitioning to middle school with this age group. Kids go really abruptly from elementary school where they have fun activities and a playground at recess, until the next day suddenly they have to be grown up and there's no playground available. Tween-agers really need more time to get their heads around the transition, if you ask me. Doesn't help when you have a kid lagging behind developmentally. A better Webelos program would have helped for sure.

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