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Is BSA Sustainable?

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14 hours ago, ParkMan said:

@EagledadI'm sure that's correct.

So, why do we have boring pack programs?  I always felt my pack's program was kinda dull.  But, as much as I tried to search, I couldn't find a recipe book of "do this and it will be fun."

I wasn't focusing so much on applications of the program in this discussion. Someone else started a thread on fun pack meetings, so I won't go there.

My main disappointment with the Cub program is the weight of responsibility National has pushed on the adults for five years. Experts say the average volunteer for any volunteer organization will give about two years of their service before loosing interest. This of course doesn't include the rare volunteer with the passion to give a lot more, which is most of us on the forum.

Anyway, the Cub program is FIVE YEARS LONG. See the problem? Most volunteers are burned out after two years, so their motivation and enthusiasm has dropped. They are ready to stand back and watch for a while. The best solution for keeping the program fun is to replace the burned out volunteer with a fresh volunteer. But there aren't enough parent resources to recruit fresh volunteers. Parents willing to be volunteers likely already did it. The result in about 50% (or more) cases is a boring program for the boys. And what the boys experience now is what they expect for the future. Which is why the crossover rate of Webelos joining Troops is around 50%.

SO! What does National do! Add another year (lions) to the program of course. Another hole in the hull.

Ah, but there is a fix to this hole. Tap into a new resource (girls), that fixes the problem.:huh:

Barry

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There is a lot of shade being thrown at Tigers and Lions; however, I’ve seen these at net positives for my pack.  

1 - My den leaders when first starting are green and are essentially learning (along with the parents) on the job.  Yes there is training and materials they use but for the most part they are absorbing everything that Cub Scouts offers.  So, by the time they are Wolf den leaders they are strong den leaders with two years of experience.  Any bad den leaders can be rooted out.  If my den leaders only started out with the Wolf den they I don’t see them hitting their stride until Webelos.

2 - It isn’t the same program for 5 or 6 years.  Each year the scouts get more options.  You can’t even have den overnights for the first 3 years.  Parents stop attending den meetings at Wolves.  As long as you ramp up the experience each year you can make it fresh.  Experienced den leaders (see #1) helps with this.

3 - Kids in our Pack recruit their friends year after year.  Every one of my dens have been growing at each age.  My smallest den is not the one that started with a ton of Tigers... it is the one that started with the fewest Tigers.  More young scouts who have fun talk about scouting and that builds excitement.  

One could argue Boy Scouts is too long (7 years).  Perhaps that is why we see so may 14+ year olds drop out.  I see that as the bigger attrition issue vs the Lions or Tigers.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

One could argue Boy Scouts is too long (7 years).  Perhaps that is why we see so may 14+ year olds drop out.  I see that as the bigger attrition issue vs the Lions or Tigers.

 

Too long for whom?

If the scouts are running the troop, adult burnout doesn't have much effect on the program. If the scouts are wanting to leave by age 14, then they aren't running the troop.

Barry

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41 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

I wasn't focusing so much on applications of the program in this discussion. Someone else started a thread on fun pack meetings, so I won't go there.

My main disappointment with the Cub program is the weight of responsibility National has pushed on the adults for five years. Experts say the average volunteer for any volunteer organization will give about two years of their service before loosing interest. This of course doesn't include the rare volunteer with the passion to give a lot more, which is most of us on the forum.

Anyway, the Cub program is FIVE YEARS LONG. See the problem? Most volunteers are burned out after two years, so their motivation and enthusiasm has dropped. They are ready to stand back and watch for a while. The best solution for keeping the program fun is to replace the burned out volunteer with a fresh volunteer. But there aren't enough parent resources to recruit fresh volunteers. Parents willing to be volunteers likely already did it. The result in about 50% (or more) cases is a boring program for the boys. And what the boys experience now is what they expect for the future. Which is why the crossover rate of Webelos joining Troops is around 50%.

SO! What does National do! Add another year (lions) to the program of course. Another hole in the hull.

Ah, but there is a fix to this hole. Tap into a new resource (girls), that fixes the problem.:huh:

Barry

Both valid points.
- length of Cub Scouts - yes - 5-6 years is too long for Cub Scouts.
- adult burnout - yes, true as well.

If I look at what I feel as a volunteer, it's essentially a push to work harder and find more volunteers to help.  I feel like the demands of the program itself require me to work harder and harder.

What is national to do about those things?  While I suppose that national could drop lions & tigers, that doesn't seem likely.  It strikes me that national only has three things they can do:
1) change the program - perhaps shorten it and make it less ambitious.  Or maybe split Cub Scouts into two three year sections.
2) provide better training and materials on how to implement the program - make it easier for me as an adult to volunteer.
3) pressure councils to develop better support teams to give unit leaders more program help.

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30 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Too long for whom?

If the scouts are running the troop, adult burnout doesn't have much effect on the program. If the scouts are wanting to leave by age 14, then they aren't running the troop.

Barry

Not necessarily true.   If scouts have to deal with 11 year olds when they are 16-17 then they could burn out as well.  Just because 14 yo scouts start dropping doesn’t mean they aren’t running the Troop.  Perhaps that is why the UK breaks this group up, but not sure that is the answer either.

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1 minute ago, Eagle1993 said:

Not necessarily true.   If scouts have to deal with 11 year olds when they are 16-17 then they could burn out as well.  Just because 14 yo scouts start dropping doesn’t mean they aren’t running the Troop.  Perhaps that is why the UK breaks this group up, but not sure that is the answer either.

Hmm, I'm not smart enough to make up theories, I'm only speaking from experience. I can justify my suggestions with real experience antidotes. May I suggest you do the same before considering programs from other countries.

Barry

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10 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

Not necessarily true.   If scouts have to deal with 11 year olds when they are 16-17 then they could burn out as well.  Just because 14 yo scouts start dropping doesn’t mean they aren’t running the Troop.  Perhaps that is why the UK breaks this group up, but not sure that is the answer either.

 

3 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Hmm, I'm not smart enough to make up theories, I'm only speaking from experience. I can justify my suggestions with real experience antidotes. May I suggest you do the same before considering programs from other countries.

Barry

From my notes talking with scouts from multiple WOSM organizations: older scouts don't leave because they have to deal with 11 y/o's and younger. It's quite the opposite.

They stay because the younger scouts need someone to run the program, and adults are not stepping up there to get in their way.

Note that for some scout associations, there are nowhere near enough adults. (I bet in some countries that's even worse given the refugee crises around the globe.) The scoutmaster is one for hundreds of youth from the ages we call cubs through venturing. So, giving older youth responsibility over a den of cubs is essential. A teen boy and girl team up to lead the youngest grade for several consecutive years, and they are mentored by their SM in the process. In the summer half of older part of the troop is the advance team setting up summer camp, half is the clean-up team taking it down, and they have a week overlap where they run the cub's resident program. Think about it. Need a scoutmaster conference? You'd better be tending some young ones some way. To replicate that here in the USA would require breaking a bunch of cultural norms!

Like I said before, I've only been able to talk to rotary exchanges, college students, and professionals who were scouts in their respective countries ... I'm not sure what it's like for the scout with less ambitious career goals. Anyone who wants to me to explore this subject in detail is welcome to underwrite an expedition for me to visit units in other countries. :D

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2 minutes ago, qwazse said:

 

From my notes talking with scouts from multiple WOSM organizations: older scouts don't leave because they have to deal with 11 y/o's and younger. It's quite the opposite.

They stay because the younger scouts need someone to run the program, and adults are not stepping up there to get in their way.

Note that for some scout associations, there are nowhere near enough adults. (I bet in some countries that's even worse given the refugee crises around the globe.) The scoutmaster is one for hundreds of youth from the ages we call cubs through venturing. So, giving older youth responsibility over a den of cubs is essential. A teen boy and girl team up to lead the youngest grade for several consecutive years, and they are mentored by their SM in the process. In the summer half of older part of the troop is the advance team setting up summer camp, half is the clean-up team taking it down, and they have a week overlap where they run the cub's resident program. Think about it. Need a scoutmaster conference? You'd better be tending some young ones some way. To replicate that here in the USA would require breaking a bunch of cultural norms!

Like I said before, I've only been able to talk to rotary exchanges, college students, and professionals who were scouts in their respective countries ... I'm not sure what it's like for the scout with less ambitious career goals. Anyone who wants to me to explore this subject in detail is welcome to underwrite an expedition for me to visit units in other countries. :D

This actually sounds pretty cool.  I would love to see more older scouts get involved with the Cub Scout program.  I’m not sure if it would work but it sounds like a great idea.  We see this with soccer camps and teams here where high school students help coach youngsters and are the primary  resources at camps.

That said, I do think you can burn out as SPL and PL.  I was ASPL at 14 and SPL and Eagle at 15 in a “Boy led” Troop.  At 16    with three varsity sports, NHS, etc. I had no desire to also teach 11 year olds to tie their shoes.  I wanted HA outings and mentor the new SPL.  Most of my friends quit by then (girls and lost interest in scouting).  I stayed on board until I aged out.    Few in my Boy led troop did.  That program is long as well, even in boy led Troops.

 

 

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11 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

That said, I do think you can burn out as SPL and PL.  I was ASPL at 14 and SPL and Eagle at 15 in a “Boy led” Troop.  At 16    with three varsity sports, NHS, etc. I had no desire to also teach 11 year olds to tie their shoes.  I wanted HA outings and mentor the new SPL.  Most of my friends quit by then (girls and lost interest in scouting).  I stayed on board until I aged out.    Few in my Boy led troop did.  That program is long as well, even in boy led Troops.

The troop program is long enough that normal males go through several mental and physical changes during that duration. As a scout gets older, he gets wiser and more mature. His interest change as well as his dreams and goals. And scouts of the troop age enjoy the experience the most when they are challenged, both physically and mentally.

The average age of Scouts leaving the troop indicates where the activities stop challenging the scouts. I used to teach leaders that bored scouts are a red flag that the program has reached its maximum potential for scout growth and they needed to change. I have said many times the measure of a troop program is the older scout program, not the younger scout program. Webelos leaders visiting future troops should watch and learn about the older scout program. If scouts are Eagling and leaving at age 14, I would move on.

You pointed out that you didn't enjoy teaching skills. I assuming you meant standing in front a group basically lecturing the lesson. Most boys don't enjoy that style of teaching either. A lot of folks are surprised to find out that the program is designed for scouts to learn by actions and observations through activities. Not sitting thru classes. A class may be required now and then, but the rule should be for the scouts to learn from participating in patrol and troop activities.

As long as the program keeps the body and mind busy, the scouts will stay because scouting makes them feel good about themselves.

Barry

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16 hours ago, MattR said:

I'd think national could come up with 200 really fun ideas. Or a wiki. Or something to help these poor den leaders.

I am a brand new Den Leader but between my various online trainings and my Webelos Leader Guide, I feel like I have a lot of resources to develop enough ideas for a year-round program. I can only assume that there is also a guide for Pack Meetings that is similar. My guide has a walkthrough for every den meeting so I don't have to create something original.

http://pack350.homestead.com/Webelos_Leader_Guide.pdf

(Not my pack but they have the Guide up as a pdf!)

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6 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

@Eagledad

I agree with the summary above. 

Yes, and I understand that generalities often make a lot of sense and sound good. But they don't tell the whole story. What also needs to be added is that creating and maintaining a troop program that challenges all scouts at all ages is a lot of work. Adults have to be on their toes making sure they learn more than the scouts so that they don't find themselves getting in the scouts way. I made a lot more bad decisions than good on my road to learning how to be a good scout leader. Humility is a requirement for adults building a quality program. It's a lot of work, but the results make it worth the effort.

Barry

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42 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Yes, and I understand that generalities often make a lot of sense and sound good. But they don't tell the whole story. What also needs to be added is that creating and maintaining a troop program that challenges all scouts at all ages is a lot of work. Adults have to be on their toes making sure they learn more than the scouts so that they don't find themselves getting in the scouts way. I made a lot more bad decisions than good on my road to learning how to be a good scout leader. Humility is a requirement for adults building a quality program. It's a lot of work, but the results make it worth the effort.

Barry

I don't doubt it can work. 

My question is a bit different - is the average troop running a quality program that can continue to engage older scouts?  Or, put differently - is the program of the BSA to hard for the majority of packs and troops to implement.

We have examples where the program can and does work well.  Those packs and troops grow.  Yet, we hear about declining numbers nationwide.  Where is the disconnect? 

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1 minute ago, ParkMan said:

I don't doubt it can work. 

My question is a bit different - is the average troop running a quality program that can continue to engage older scouts?  Or, put differently - is the program of the BSA to hard for the majority of packs and troops to implement.

We have examples where the program can and does work well.  Those packs and troops grow.  Yet, we hear about declining numbers nationwide.  Where is the disconnect? 

Some of us here think it is in the training. I also believe adults who haven't seen it work as a youth struggle to trust the program will work to the level we say it can. Adults just don't believe a 16 year old can manage a troop, so they only give them a short leash to try.

I find that adults who never had the scouting experience tend to vision a troop of advancement, while adults who had a youth experience tend to have a vision of camping. Even though both adults may have the same goal of building character, the two differences describe the philosophical approaches toward their program design. A new scoutmaster once called me to ask what else their six month old troop of scouts could do on camp outs besides advancement classes. I suggested a couple hours of free time. His immediate response was, "you mean let the scouts do whatever they want?". 

I think that highlights the challenge for Scoutmasters who never experienced scouting as a youth. What is fun, and what is safe?

We adults are insecure and require feedback to know if we are going in the right direction. Scouts don't care if the activities are building character, they just want to have fun. For me, feed back was how much independence scouts were willing to take responsibility for in planning and running a FUN program. I knew what was fun from my youth experiences. New scouters who know basically nothing about a troop program go to what is easy to measure, rank and awards. They aren't being negligent, actually they are trying to be responsible in building character building program. They just can't see how setting up a tent in the dark builds character. It really doesn't even make sense. But advancement is easy, and  quickly measurable. Add that the BSA isn't helping with guidelines and quotes to suggest first class in the first year is considered a successful program. 

Training could help a lot. Mentoring would go along ways as well. 

Barry

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38 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

....

I find that adults who never had the scouting experience tend to vision a troop of advancement, ....

Training could help a lot. Mentoring would go along ways as well. 

 

@Eagledad, your experience mirrors mine.

Why is it that the adults who were never Scouts resist training and mentoring, and scream the loudest about changes away from a "sign off-focused" program. And if mom or dad was a pack's CC or CM and now are CC or whatever with the troop, the SM is bound to get headaches.

I remember feeling sorry for some Scouts when we got back to the parking lot after a campout, and mom or dad were waiting to pick up their son said "Hi son. Did you have fun? Did you get lots of sign offs?" 

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