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Is retention a problem?

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Your comments seem reasonable and well said.  


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.


It is very hard to sychronize when to cross boys over.  Some will quit if you wait too long.  IMHO, it should be about making it interesting and having a driving reason to continue.  IMHO, that could be done on either side.  It sounds like it was done on neither side.


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.


Yeah.  Usually there is a pattern.  If 10 join, usually 8 of 10 stay or 2 of 10 stay.  


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.


I've seen this too.  It's usually because troop leaders are parents of the boys.  And the program becomes imbalanced as their sons mature.   IMHO, there needs to be interesting, fun and learning for all ages.   


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?


IMHO, too many of us get used to the "right" way of doing things instead of constantly adjusting to the situation and the current mix of scouts.  IMHO, it sounds like there was too little adjustment for scouts that have poor habits and/or no interest to be examples to the younger scouts.


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.


Common comment.


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.


Yeah.  I don't know why troop meetings need to be every Monday other than that's how it was decades ago.  IMHO, it's nice to have a break now and and then.  


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.


Is it really dislike of outdoors?  Or is it just not the right mix for him?  This could be a reflection of the troop program did not match what he is interested in.


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?


IMHO, the secret is to get the scouts to treat it as their "club".  Their home.  Their gang ... all be it a polite well manor'ed gang.  :)  Do things that grow their skills and responsibilities, but make it grow their friendships and fun.

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  • 11 months later...

I always recomend to Webelos parents that they do a few things before joining a scout troop:

Go to 3 or 4 regular troop meetings before you join. The meeting you go to where there are many Webelos invited (Open House) does not really count. It should be fun and exciting at every meeting. Show up uninvited and see how they treat you.

If your scout does not like camping don't assume he will get used to it. Tent camping is hard to do for some boys due to fear of dark, storms or even wind. If he doesn't like camping don't join a troop that camps 13 times a year, does backpacking trips etc. 

If your scout is not physically fit or mature enough for a physucal outing don't join a troop that mostly rides 50 milers, mountain climbs, does mountain biking. Don't expect the troop to fit your needs.

If your scouts has learning disabilities or other issues be honest with the Scout Master, he will tell you if the troop can support your scout. Troops are not obligated to change to fit your scouts needs, most will try.

Read and understand everything you can about Boy Scouts, being scout led and the role of the Scout Master. I have had too many parents who get upset with me when I detail how Boy Scouts works. I have had some argue and get in my face and attempt to undermine my role as Scout Master. As Scout Master I am not the leader, my role is not the same as a den leader, I am only in charge of guiding the SPL and teaching about leadership.

Ask the troops you visit how you can help the troop if your son does join. If he does join then be as active as you can, join the committee, drive to campouts, help with back office details.

We have 8 troops in our area and each one is different hopefully every scout finds th one that fits him most. Sometimes the troop thats is picked is not the right one so feel free to look around,

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