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Cyclone

Deciding which troop to join

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There are three or four local troops in my area. I'm trying to decide which to encourage my son to join. Which would you suggest?

--Troop A meets a couple of Sunday nights each month. It's small with maybe 6 scouts. Last year they went camping maybe 3 or 4 times and from what I can tell there is little or no Patrol method used and minimal scout leadership.  When I asked if the troop was going to scout camp this summer, I was told that there was no reason to go to camp because the boys will earn 3 merit badges at a Merit Badge University for less than half the price in a single weekend vs. a full week at camp.

--Troop B doesn't meet very often, if at all but, they do go camping every month and go to summer camp.  I'm not sure how large the troop is or how the troop is lead.  

--Troop C meets about once a month or so. They camp about 7 or 8 times a month and have about 10-14 scouts.  They go to summer camp every other year.

--Troop D meets weekly, camps often, is fairly scout lead, goes to scout camp every year, and has about 20 scouts at almost every meeting.  The only reason this troop isn't the easy pick is it meets about 30 miles from where we live and on meeting nights I'd drive 30 miles home from work, pick up my son, and then drive 30 miles back to the meeting place. That would be a pain but, I haven't dismissed the idea yet.

Which would you pick?

Thanks.

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I’ll be the first to say it.

You got some junky options.

Just a FYI before I start voicing my opinion, a small troop does not mean they do less. My troop has 11-12 scouts (all active!) and I’m the SPL. We meet weekly, go camping at least 6-8 times a year not including summer camp. 

Anywho...

Troop A- I feel like it will not be along for much longer, especially if many of their 6 scouts are close to Eagle or high up there. I bet you they will lose more members quick. I would cross that off the list completely.

Troop B- Ehhh... they should be meeting weekly or atleast sometime... I have a feeling it’s adult led because we all know no youth scouts will meet up in person to discuss plans, PLC, etc. BUT.. the only pro is that they go camping which might be where they shine. I would consider them an option.

Troop C - Seems ok. I mean they should be meeting weekly & doing a whole bunch of other activities (fundraisers, etc). But they do Camp, which is a good thing. Also a side note, just because they go to summer camp every other year, it does not mean your scout can not go alone. Many camps have a “lone scout” program. I would say this Troop is ok. It’s way better than Troop B because Troop C atleast meets once a month. 

Troop D- 30 miles away? Cross it out. Enough said. Even though this would be the most ideal troop, it’s not worth the commute in my opinion. What about weekend activities? What if they are meeting at a different place for a certain activity and it’s even farther away for you? 

I would personally pick Troop C if I had to pick.

Don’t forget also that it’s not all camping or meeting... what about fundraiser and volunteering?

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1 hour ago, Cyclone said:

Which would you pick?

Not enough information to choose.

I started a unit from scratch, so I wouldn't be intimidated by a unit that still needs to grow and develop its program. My major concern would be the Chartered Organization. I would choose the unit whose CO supports the unit and has the goals/ideals/beliefs that most closely matches the needs of my kid.

 

Edited by David CO

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Important data point: when you visited each troop, in which one(s) did the SPL come and introduce himself to you the parent?

Second important point: which troop are your son's friends interested in going to?

Third inportant point: when you went camping with each troop, which one had boys who smiled the most, sang the loudest, and were the most cheerful and friendly?

These rise to the top.

I agree with @ItsBrian, distance matters. Well, commute time matters. In some parts, roads are straight, limits are high, folks think little of such drives. Post modern nomadism actually encourages life in metal rolling projectiles. I find health in bucking that trend. Making friends with such a troop, however - even if you don't join it, may provide a provisional summer camp opportunity with familiar scouts. 

 

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3 hours ago, Cyclone said:

They camp about 7 or 8 times a month and have about 10-14 scouts

They camp a lot! I'd go with them. Man, talk about taking outdoors to the extreme.

Oh wait, maybe you mean 7 or 8 times a year? Never mind.

But welcome to the forum. Just to reiterate:

A:  Too small. There's a minimum number of scouts to keep a critical mass going and that's too few

B: Don't know. The fact they don't meet could be really good or really bad. It might be that they have a lot of scouts and the patrols are meeting weekly. This could be a diamond in the rough. I'd check into them more.

C: Camping 7 or 8 times a year is not bad. 10-14 scouts is at the low end but possible.

D: Mmmm, no. I've had scouts drive a long way to get to my troop and they eventually drop out. Think about getting your son to the parking lot the day they go camping. That's a lot of driving.

So, between B and C I'd visit. Ask if you can go camping with them and see what the response is. If they take you, put your son in a patrol, and feed you well. Done deal. As I said, B could be really good or really bad. C might be really good and would welcome your help. Or they could just do it their own way.

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3 hours ago, Cyclone said:

Troop C meets about once a month or so. They camp about 7 or 8 times a month and have about 10-14 scouts.

I doubt that Troop C camps 7-8 times a month.  :)   I think you meant they camp 7-8 times a year.

I thing qwasze makes some good points.  In which troop is your son going to have the best experience?

Having said that, I would ask my son to think very long and hard before joining a troop that does not go to summer camp every year.  That would be a dealbreaker for me.

I have known some people who traveled considerable distances to troop meetings, passing a number of troops closer to their home, for various reasons.  As quasze says, it kind of depends.  I would look it at in terms of average driving minutes (at that time of day) rather than miles.  Thirty miles in northern New Jersey is not the same as 30 miles in Montana... to say nothing of 30 miles on opposite sides of Los Angeles.  :)   And in my area, there is considerably more traffic in driving to a meeting that starts at 7:00 than one that starts at 7:30 - as I learned when my troop experimented with starting meetings at 7:00 rather than 7:30.  In a troop that draws from a considerable area with very few in walking distance, that's a factor too.  (The experiment lasted about 4 months as I recall.) 

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Thanks for the feedback.  Just so you know I live in a very rural area. 28 of the 30 miles is a 60-65 mph speed limit and only one stop light. I drive this route every day for work and it is really a pretty quick trip. During harvest and planting season you might have to slow down for some farm equipment on the road but, that is as bad as the traffic gets. We have to drive 12 miles to get anywhere.

The decision is ultimately up to my son. But, I want to guide him to a troop that will give him a great scouting experience like I had when I was a kid.

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Judging - I've always had a hard time judging from the outside.  As often as I've been right, I've been wrong.  I think this is especially true for scouts.  What parents think is a good troop is often not what is good for the scout. 

Boy Led - It's subjective.  What one person calls boy led is something another person would view as adult driven.  What is perceived as boy led can often be a shell around an adult program.  The key point is life lessons can be learned in many environments and often just by being an active troop that is camping and doing things.  Don't invest too heavily in deciding what is and is not boy led.  Focus more on is the troop doing things and building fellowship.  

Weekly meetings - I would not use having weekly meetings or lack of weekly meetings as good or bad.  Focus more on the larger dynamic.  At some point, meetings are needed to coordinate.  But why meet if you have no purpose or nothing to do?  Perhaps it is something the troop can grow more into as the troop grows in maturity, etc.  

Camping and summer camp - This is a huge factor my sons and our scouts.  This is why they are in scouts.  It's also often the purpose they learn skills, organize and call themselves scouts.  It's why we have patrols.  It's why we have many of the required merit badges.  First Aid.  Camping.  Communication.  Env Sci.  Emergency Prep.  Swimming/hiking/cycling.  Cooking.  

Personally

  • I'd avoid a troop that does not camp.  That strikes out troop A.  
  • I'd avoid a troop that is far away.  That strikes out troop D.  Scouts often need to run home for things and families are often tight for time racing between activities.  There is a HUGE value to somewhere that is near by or within a reasonable drive.  Heck, wouldn't you like your son to be able to bike to the troop meeting location?  
  • Beyond that, maybe you can bring something to the troop such as helping them to have meaningful meetings every week or two.  Maybe you can help inspire more camping.  Troops are often only as good as the parents.  If you want a better troop, invest in the troop.  
  • I'd look to see where your son fits in.  Friendships.  Laughing.  Inspired.  This is really the biggest factor.  Scouts will only stay in the troop if they enjoy it.
Edited by fred johnson
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9 hours ago, Cyclone said:

Thanks for the feedback.  Just so you know I live in a very rural area. 28 of the 30 miles is a 60-65 mph speed limit and only one stop light. I drive this route every day for work and it is really a pretty quick trip. During harvest and planting season you might have to slow down for some farm equipment on the road but, that is as bad as the traffic gets. We have to drive 12 miles to get anywhere.

The decision is ultimately up to my son. But, I want to guide him to a troop that will give him a great scouting experience like I had when I was a kid.

If you’re considering D, do not make a final decision until you actually drive there, go camping with them, and your son is involved in an actual meeting. 

 

 

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10 hours ago, fred johnson said:

I'd look to see where your son fits in.  Friendships.  Laughing.  Inspired.  This is really the biggest factor.  Scouts will only stay in the troop if they enjoy it.

personally, i think this is the key point.  What you think, or what we think is of really very little importance.  I recon the one with the commute might be the one point where you need to make sure he understands the burden, that you might not be able to get him to many of the meetings, etc....but those are just variables for him to consider.  If he has friends there, and likes everything else about it, HE might be willing to bum rides with other scouts, etc...

When my son was considering troops, I put a lot of effort and thought into how or if I should encourage or steer.  There are even old threads here about it... but in the end NONE of that mattered.  He was ONLY interested in going where his friends were, which happened to be the same CO as his pack and our church, so it was a familiar location and familiar people.  If there was an otherwise  theoretically perfect troop across the street from our house, it would not have mattered.

Personally, I think it's ok to guide him with pros and cons, but remember it is HIS journey, not yours.

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Cyclone - How do you plan to support the Troop. Some of the issues like the number of campouts, meetings or summer camp may just need more volunteers to help pull the trailer, organize summer camp (payments, forms, drivers) or additional ASMs. A couple of new supportive parents can go a long way to improve a program. As a parent you should ask some questions regarding size of committee and what their current needs are. 

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I've told the story of talking to our Webelos just minutes before our Pack crossover ceremony. We have 21 troops in our district, I asked them why this one. They said it had the best game at the troop meeting. None of those scouts were in that troop a year later.

There is no easy answer because of a million variables make up a troop program. And no two troops are a like.

I developed the reputation as the Boy Run guru in our district. Our troop was the extreme end of a boy run program. And we grew faster than any troop in the area.

I was arrogant in believing that every troop should be like ours. But when I started giving my time at the District and council level, I met and worked wonderful scouts who came from programs that were at the opposite end of the boy run spectrum and in between. I grew into a better person as these scouts taught me new ideas in building citizens of character and leaders of integrity. I felt small from the weight of my arrogance. I was embarrassed for being so brash. Humility truly is the great teacher.

All of that to say that picking the right troop should be a team effort with the Webelos leader, parents and scouts. For most scouts, the whole family is joining the program. Because of my experience, I'm pretty good at predicting the benefits of different troop programs. But I learned in my humility that scouts from even the most adult run program come away better than when they joined. If they are having fun, they will likely stay. If they can stay a few years, they will grow.

My general advice to families looking for a troop is talk to the SPL and older scouts. Ask them to brag about their troop. You will be surprised at their candid opinions. Ask for a story or two about their most memorable experiences. Ask the SPL to give you a tour. Ask the SM the simple question of what the goal is for your son. Follow the  answer with a "how" if it is appropriate. You will likely learn what you need to know from that kind of visit.

Barry 

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21 hours ago, Cyclone said:

There are three or four local troops in my area. I'm trying to decide which to encourage my son to join. Which would you suggest?

--Troop A meets a couple of Sunday nights each month. It's small with maybe 6 scouts. Last year they went camping maybe 3 or 4 times and from what I can tell there is little or no Patrol method used and minimal scout leadership.  When I asked if the troop was going to scout camp this summer, I was told that there was no reason to go to camp because the boys will earn 3 merit badges at a Merit Badge University for less than half the price in a single weekend vs. a full week at camp.

--Troop B doesn't meet very often, if at all but, they do go camping every month and go to summer camp.  I'm not sure how large the troop is or how the troop is lead.  

--Troop C meets about once a month or so. They camp about 7 or 8 times a month and have about 10-14 scouts.  They go to summer camp every other year.

--Troop D meets weekly, camps often, is fairly scout lead, goes to scout camp every year, and has about 20 scouts at almost every meeting.  The only reason this troop isn't the easy pick is it meets about 30 miles from where we live and on meeting nights I'd drive 30 miles home from work, pick up my son, and then drive 30 miles back to the meeting place. That would be a pain but, I haven't dismissed the idea yet.

Which would you pick?

Thanks.

IMHO, best choice is Troop D.  Troop B would be a good alternative. I would actually have my son visit all of the troops before making a choice.  

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Has he visited all four? If so, did any click for him more than the others. If the distance for D isn't a deal breaker for you, it seems to be the best choice. 30 miles isn't the same everywhere. I live in New England and it might take me a lot longer to go thirty miles than someone in, say, the Midwest. The lack of weekly meetings is just a red flag to me. I'd flat out ask why they don't meet weekly.

Great topic, by the way. My son just crossed over. We had a den of 12 and five troops to pick from in town. If was a tough choice for them.

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