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To Trust Fall or not to Trust Fall?

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Hello all:

Just would like to get a few opinions here. This weekend were going to be presenting our 6th consecutive Troop Junior Leader Training Graduation Weekend. This is an event that we created that is the culmination of a yearlong JLT course that we have developed over the years. Without getting into specifics that would require many pages of written volumes, were very proud of our course and have developed a website that, as we understand it, many Troops use as a model to design their own JLT courses as well.

I wanted to give you a little background before getting to the meat of my issue. Part of the Training weekend involved a Trust-Fall activity. It is run by C.O.P.E. Trained skilled Scouters and has become a highlight feature of the weekend that we do directly following a very good class on Youth Protection that is very age appropriate. It is a highlight but only one of many different activities that we present throughout the weekend.

This year, we have a mom who is extremely upset about the Trust Fall activity. I explained to her that no activity is forced and there are times when some boys opt out of even doing it. That is handled in a very respectful and positive way. She was basically insisting that we cancel that exercise altogether. My first impression was simply that her son certainly doesnt have to participate in it and theres no problem thereit will in no way affect the outcome of everything he has earned in the course along the way. She went on to tell me how she has lost sleep for a few nights thinking about it and was very upset.

I got to thinking about how dangerous camp, in generally can be. I guess, as soon as we step out of the car at camp we all enable the possibility of danger. I guess its possible to severely twist an ankle on uneven terrain. We allow Scouts to handle axes, knives, bow saws, lightweight stoves and matches and, wellI guess that can be dangerous. So I wondered if denying the 10 other boys involved, most of who know about the activity and are looking forward to it should be denied the experience.

I even had doubts about doing the exercise at all wondering if it is even an approved activity by the BSA. I decided to call and speak to a professional about the situation. Well, I found out that it is a sanctioned and approved activity falling under the 2002 revisions of C.O.P.E. and it goes on to talk about what a positive experience it can be and the good things that it teaches.

I called her back and the compromise is that the Scout in question and his dad will simply take an impromptu walk with his son away from the activity. Shes mad at me for going back on my word but, not being new to Scouting but new as a Scoutmaster, I felt it my responsibility to both respect her feelings AND research the thing to make sure that its alright to do. I intensely thought about the good of the one and the good of the group.

I was just wondering if anyone has had a similar experience and how it may have been handled.

In my heart, I just want to see everyone walk away happy from any experience we present and the thought of doing anything that would hurt a child is obscene to me. In addition, theres nothing we would make them do that we wouldnt do ourselves.

Is there an added sense of danger involved? Possibly but I dont take anything lightly and am solidly confident in our staff. How safe are our homes?

Like many of you, I am inspired by teaching kids good things and thats what it is in my heart.

I may have a chance to check in on this forum tomorrow but them I am off the weekend and will look forward to any follow up that may be posted.

Thank you.

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Are you referring to a backward fall into the locked arms of a group of 8-10 others? Prepare to fall, Falling!!! What a neat confidence builder. Don't ruin the experience for the group because of the rantings of a loon!!!

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So, let me get this straight. This mother was worried about the safety of a trust fall? Does she even know what she is talking about?


Now if the kid has some sort of back or neck problem, I could understand that.


Otherwise, that is just crazy.

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My guess is that mom is not a loon, she is just trying to make the best decision she can based on her perception of what the activity is. But it sounds like you have done your homework. You know this is a sanctioned activity. It has a lesson to teach in the theme of your leadership training which I hope will be shared with the participants. You have a trained certified COPE instructor leading the activity so we will presume that he will follow the correct procedures.


I say go for it, but arrange for the scout to be able to observe with his father and decide after they see it if they want to proceed.

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Remember, the program is for the scouts, not for the moms. She has a right to her opinions, and has a right to keep her son out of it. But, she does not have the right to stop you from offering a great, and recommended, activity for the rest of the boys.


From this POV, you handled it fine. You probably committed yourself to not doing it before you knew all the facts. Next time you'll know to just say "I'll research it and get back to you".


I've had parents question things we do, such as ... "you let the boys lead?". These are usually parents who cannot fathom their sons making a decision on their own. It's usually from parents who are new, and don't understand the boy-leadership model.

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Our troop has done the trust fall at every Troop JLT for years and occassionally at troop meetings. With proper guidance and a trained instructor there should be no problems. Not that injury isn't possible, but properly guided they shouldn't. The only mishaps I have experienced while using this in Scouts and as a leadership instructor in my vocation is an occasional scratch or small bruise.


Our JLT trust fall usually starts with the smaller boys that are game and progresses through the larger boys, ending with the boys "catching" the adult leaders. Any Scout that wishes may simply watch and extend encouragement to others, but most have joined in when they see the adults safely complete the fall. In thinking about it, I can only clearly remember one Scout that did not eventualy take a fall.


One of the wonderful results of a trust fall is that the most reluctant participant is the one that gets the most self-satisfaction when it's done and the most profound experience of what trust is all about. Even though some are still nervous at a second round, they trust the team to catch, they're just still working on overcoming the fear of "letting go" - it's the freefall part that bothers them, not that they don't trust the team to catch. For the daredevils in the bunch, it's just another game.


During one of my son's COPE classes, they caught the 250+ lb. (closer to 300 lbs methinks) instructor. I just happened to be observing that particular exercise and had some concern, but the participating Scouts were all older, more physically mature Scouts. Their sense of accomplishment matched the size of the catch.


You've handled the situation well IMHO.

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Speaking as a trained COPE Director, although it was a long time ago, I would grant that you have handled the situation very well.


My suggestion (because I feel the exercise is important for the boy and that it's equally important that you convince Mom) is that you invite her to watch. Invite the son and the father to take their walk. You go on the trust fall first and allow the boys to catch you. Take the plunge with absolute faith (they can do it!) Then take Mom off to the side and explain that if they wouldn't let you hit the ground, they will not let her son.


It may be worth the gamble.



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Thank you all very much. To be honest, your responses were what I was hoping to hear. Funny how a parent can throw you off your game sometimes and actually make you doubt what you're doing is correct. Or maybe it's that important to have a good conscience and have the need to reaffirm your decisions. I love helping to conduct the training program and feel that if even one boy is so inspired to become a better leader and human being then we've done our job. The web site I was referring to by the way is www.scouter659.htmlplanet.com

My hectic schedule precludes me from doing a lot of updates but a lot of the info is there. I am hoping that, after this weekend, I'll have time to insert photos of the 'Trust-Fall' in question. Again...thank you all.

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I think you've done a fine job, and you probably went further than we would have to satisfy this mom.


We're dealing with a somewhat similiar situation right now. The mom of a new Scout doesn't want to let Johnny go to summer camp because he doesn't know how to swim, and she's petrified that he'll be permitted to swim unattended with no supervision. We've done it all - Showed her Guide to Safe Scouting, Safe Swim Defense, the BSA Lifegaurd credentials of the THREE Lifeguards we will provide, explaine dthat our first year program provides for hours of swimming instruction, yet she just is not going to be convinced that little Johnny will be safe. Of course, she is also very concerned that Boy Scouts takes up so much time during the summer, what with us continuing to meet every week, and 8 - 10 activities scheduled. "It just was much easier the way Cub Scouts did it, giving us the summers off".


Some how I think, as hard as we will try, this is one boy who may not make it until the fall Court of Honor. Seems we have about one of these a year.



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God save us from overprotective mothers. Well, make that overprotective parents. I've know many over protective fathers.


Does this mom let her kid skateboard? Has she considered how the other Scouts will treat her son after his father has dragged him away from the event? I would think that the kid would be better off getting in place and then chickening out than having his "daddy" rescue him.


As for the wacky mom and swimming, does your camp have the cordoned off areas for non-swimmers, beginners, and swimmers? You'd have to be asleep to drown in the every non-swimmer or beginner area that I've seen.



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