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John D

Crazy Band Director & Crazy Swim Coach

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The topic of conflicts with other activities is not new but recently attendance at our campouts has dwindled, largely due to the band and swim programs at school, both popular with our guys and run by fanatics. Both are DEMANDING kids come in for practices on weekends or they will be KICKED OUT, humiliated, shamed, expelled etc. The campsites are only about 90 minutes drive from town but it's too much hassle for parents to come get Johnny at camp, take him to band and return him to camp. So they miss the campout, they don't advance and now the parents are griping. The demands of the band and swim programs have escalated recently from 3 to 4 afternoons a week plus weekends, is there no limit? And always the sword of Damocles hangs over their heads, no shows get the boot, no excuses. Some scouts have told me they simply won't go camping with the Troop, they can get enough outdoor advancement done in a weeks summer camp without the conflicts. If this continues we will become a Troop that doesn't camp, guys come to meetings and summer camp, that's it. Is this the future? I've heard a lot of Troops have thrown in the towell on conflicting activities, hardly camp at all, and encourage Johnny to do summer camp. What a lame result. Recently we have added new features to our campouts, shooting, archery, canoes, rockets but the problem is not the content of the outing.

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The boys (and/or their parents) will eventually burn out from the fanatical extracurriculars - stay the course...keep offering a great outdoor program, advancement opportunities, exciting and productive meetings...and they will return. Be the rock in the hurricane. Run your program for those who come, not for those that don't. You can't do anything about the methods employed by other organizations. To mirror them with strict scouting attendance policies would only result in the boys making a final choice, which they should not have to do. Keep recruiting to sustain growth and achieve higher turnout on trips, if the low number of participants is percieved as a problem. Keep in mind - scouting is only one aspect of each boy's life...make it a place of consistency and solace that will be attractive if/when the other activities crash and burn.

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Stay the course. Often, these kids will "top out" with their abilities in sports (maybe not as much with band) or they'll burn out. Either way, Scouting can be there as a constant for them.

 

It's interesting, way back when, I was in band and scouting. I remember there being conflicts. I missed a few campouts due to marching competitions, or at least missed part of the campout if I could make it back and forth. But I remember it being all planned out. We knew at the beginning of the school year what our marching band schedule was and the troop campout schedule. We made our arrangements accordingly.

 

Present day - my son is in middle school band. Twice this semester his band director has asked them to do something with less than one or two week's notice. One time, he told them they all had to attend a high school band concert on a Sunday afternoon, or they would receive a drop in letter grade. We had a church activity, and my son told him he couldn't attend. A few weeks ago, the band director told my son that he needed to come to a district band tryout that Saturday (this was on Tuesday). And, that the trip was all day. We had a campout and my son told him he couldn't change plans at the last minute. He tried to pressure my son into going, but he told him it was simply too late, and that the troop was depending on him to do some things. I was proud that my son stood firm to his commitments, but I know other boys would have easily caved under the pressure.

 

I have no problems with boys who have to miss due to planned activities that we can work around. A High School band activity scheduled at the last minute took our SPL out for one weekend. It's these unplanned activities that drive me crazy.

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Good suggestions, we'll hang in there. We are seeing some positive signs, like boys who bailed coming back to scouts after tiring of 7 days a week swim practice. Another thing we're trying is camping close to town, we have a spot only 15 minutes drive, hoping the lads can "commute" to the campout. It's not the Norman Rockwell campout but it might help. What about the "I only camp at summer camp" crowd? Anybody notice this trend?

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Can't say I've noticed that trend. If anything, I've seen the opposite. Boys who want to do all the "fun" camping and not do summer camp. We're a young troop, so I haven't ran into any of this personally, but have witnessed it in other troops.

 

Here are some random thoughts that come to mind:

- How do these boys get signed off on POR? All of the latter ranks require it. Are they still attending troop meetings? There is no way a boy can blow off the rest of the year and perform his job effectively. Unless, of course, he is the librarian and attending troop meetings regularly. I would think POR opportunities would be limited for these guys.

 

- Do you allow the boys to earn all MBs at Summer Camp? Okay, this is going to rub some the wrong way, but I'm going to say it anyway. We don't let the boys take certain MBs at Summer Camp. There's just some that I do not believe they are qualified to teach effectively.

 

- How "fun" are your other outings? Here's an idea. Schedule one or two awesomely fun activities (white water rafting, backpacking trip, etc.). Make pre-reqs that the boys must attend shake-down activities if they are to attend. For example, to go on the 20 mile backpacking trip, you have to attend the 5 mile and 10 mile shakedowns, which happen to fall on other campouts.

 

- Finally, I always bring this up when it comes to advancement issues. Are the boys living by the Scout Oath & Law in their everyday lives. Are these boys being Loyal, Helpful and Friendly? As an SM, you have the flexibility to determine this. But be careful to communicate this in advance, and explain your expectations to them.

 

 

I hope these help. Best of luck.

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Thank you for your input Eagle. Our camping is not always "fun" simply because we are in the Arabian desert, no fresh water, no showers, no picnic tables, dust storms, brutal heat etc. It looks like the pictures from Iraq, not the hollers of Kentucky. Even a cactus needs watering here.

A question about each of your points. Can a 1st class scout advance to Star without going camping? What if he is a PL? I have never denied a rank to a scout simply because he has not come on outings, maybe we should. Maybe require older scouts to come to 2 campouts a year to earn their POR.

What is your list of non summer camp MBs? Never heard of this, not sure how we could enforce it since out guys attend camp all over the US. I agree many summer camp MBs are worthless junk but it is the way things are done nowadays. It's a form of rank inflation.

Good idea on the "fun" outing and the preparation or training events. Do you really turn away the boys who fail to turn up at the prep events? Brave guy. We are going to Kenya next year and are planning some fitness events , mile run etc to make sure boys are fit enough to climb Mt Kenya. The moms of the fat guys are gonna yell at me, oh well.....

Third point, is a non participating scout helpful and friendly? Is a PL who hasn't been camping with us in a year helpful? Not very. What would you do in this case?

John D

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Sorry JohnD, I forgot about your "geographic challenges". And, for the record, I'm from the suburban area of Kentucky, not the hollers. But we do go camping over there every once in a while. :)

 

Regarding the comment "I have never denied a rank to a scout simply because he has not come on outings, maybe we should." I agree, maybe you should. Your situation is far different from ours, so it may not be appropriate. But, if a PL is refusing to go on outings, I don't think he is adequately leading the patrol.... both in the literal sense and in the "leading by example" sense. Regarding your last question, "What would you do in this case?" I would have a scoutmaster's conference with the young lad. At that time, I would explain to him his responsibilities to lead, and that it is neccesary for him to fulfill his POR requirement. If he doesn't want to do that, you're sure there is someone else in the patrol that would like to be PL and really lead. (And, yes, I have had that conversation with Patrol Leaders.)

 

The summer camp MB issue is something you can't do anything about, given your situation. We attend our local council camp. We know which MBs are traditionally taught well, and which ones are not. I also am of the opinion that some MBs, such as the Citizenships, are not well-suited for the summer camp environment. I'd much rather them take those in the context of their own community and attend local council meetings. But that's another topic.

 

"Do you really turn away the boys who fail to turn up at the prep events? Brave guy." Not really, it's all in how you plan. This may not work for you in your situation, but here goes. Let's say we're going to go on a 20 mile backpacking trip next September. Our PLC plans that event. In order to be physically, mentally and logicstically prepared, they plan some shakedown events. They schedule a 5 mile day-hike with full gear in April. They plan a campout in June where they'll hike 10 miles, again with all of their gear. When the annual plan is published, these two preparatory events are announced and everyone is told that attendance is required for any scout that wants to go on the big trip. Now, if Johnny plans to attend and then gets sick the day before the 5 mile hike, are we going to tell him "no". Of course not. But if Johnny says "I'm not going on those stupid small hikes, I'll see you in September". I'd tell him the only place he'll see us in September is when we come off the trail to greet him.

 

Brave, if you say so. After all, "A Scout is Brave". But I like to think of it as teaching kids responsibility and helping them learn how to live up to those responsibilites.

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I'm not sure how to respond concerning PL's that don't camp, except to say that I told my PL son that he has an obligation to go on every campout since he is the PL. Not that that is a problem, but I told him anyway. I don't care that he has an APL......he is the PL. He has to help set the example and he doesn't have the luxury of picking and choosing his campouts. I think one way to handle this is to make your expectations known before elections and remind them of the oath and law. Don't run for a position if you are unwilling to fulfill the responsibilities. If you plan on not wearing your uniform to set the example, perhaps you shouldn't run. If you plan on disappearing for 3 to 5 months for baseball and 3 to 5 months for football, perhaps you shouldn't run. If you plan on not doing winter camping, perhaps you shouldn't run. A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful and obedient. If you intend on being a scout's scout and leading by example, by all means run.

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Excellent comments form both of you, my thanks. I think part of it is a vicious circle of reduced expectations. The PLs no-show at camp, so they can't be relied on, so the SM does more, the PL positions become less important so the guys say "why show up, SM will do it" . It is a hard circle to escape , a trap I helped build. Our habit of promoting guys who disappear for months is also a contributor but the rules are vague, what is active etc. We will try to make the campouts as interesting as possible and also make it clear that the PORs job counts, they are needed, and when they do show giving them some responsibility and holding them accountable. A consistently no-show senior scout will advance slowly if at all.

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The "Scouting vs. Activity X" dilemma is a constant, but I assert that it need not be the SM's dilemma. It is a Scout/family dilemma.

 

I don't force Scouts to choose between Scouts or sports; as we've seen, there are enough sports coaches doing that now, creating more than enough artificial stress. What I do is make sure the lads understand that life is a series of choices, choices involve consequences and tradeoffs, and those consequences and tradeoffs are theirs to deal with, not mine to deal with. I make it clear that success in anything requires (in order) showing up, on time, with a plan, that you're prepared to execute. Or, put another way, you get out of this what you put into it. Extended pattern absences have a negative impact on active participation, which can and often does bleed over and affect POR performance, Scout Spirit, and in turn, advancement.

 

I don't begrudge a Scout if he takes a sports season off from Scouting, has to throttle back so he can get tutoring to bring his grades up, or has decided that some other extracurricular is more important than Scouting right now. That's his choice and his decision. What I can't and won't do is let the participation/advancement clocks continue to run for him the same as they do for the lad who is showing up and getting it done with the Troop. Last time I checked, there's no "correspondence course" option to complete advancement requirements -- the only option for alternatives is for disabled Scouts, and that's not what we're talking about here.

 

If one of the Green Bars can't/won't stay sufficiently active because he's decided some other activity is more important, I won't fill the vacuum myself. I'll suggest he step down from his position and either elevate an assistant, conduct a new election, or appoint someone else as appropriate. One of the things I ask prospective POR candidates is to forecast their next 6 months and if they see conflicts, to consider less-demanding jobs.

 

One of my best Scouts and former SPLs was a high school baseball player, and a very good one...I mean college-scholarship good. He was straight up with me each spring as baseball practice was starting, that he'd be scarce until the end of the season. He came to meetings and outings when he could, helped with special projects, and most importantly, understood the tradeoff and was perfectly OK with it. After baseball was over, he was back with us 100%. I'd much rather have it that way than somebody trying to juggle multiple commitments, and mailing it in to everybody...

 

KS

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Been there, done that. As the middle school boys move up to high school I enjoy watching parents' eyes widen with the realization that when I said they had no idea what marching band was going to be like, I was correct. Did anyone mention classic soccer? And lately it has been ROTC. I was frustrated with this for a while. Then I decided to just shrug it off and have fun with the guys we did do have. No problem. Don't worry, be happy.

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Stay the course! All those who have posted this before are correct.

We have 25 registered, and most of the time we have 20 going on our monthy camp outs, but band football, etc.. do factor in.

Be the spice in the boys life. Make the trips fun an varied, the other scouts will pass on the message. Boys leading Boys does work.

 

PS: US Navel Academy is alway our bigeest draw, for both Scouts and Dads.

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All of the above is excellent advice. I think any troop is well advised to have participation expectations for scouts in POR. It is not fair to the other scouts to have an absentee patrol leader. We experience this competition for the time of the scouts frequently and people just have to make choices. Being "active" is more than just being registered and filling a slot in name only.

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Good comments, all!

We have attendance requirements in writing for the successful completion of a POR. Not rigidly held to without exception, but the expectation is clear, so SM conf is focused. Guys are told to consider outside commitments before accepting a position.

Something we try to make clear to all leaders, but especially the PLs -- they are still responsible for their patrol, even if they are unable to make a meeting or activity. They are supposed to first make sure their APL is ready and available to take over, then to notify the SPL about the substitution. PL remains responsible for making sure his patrol is taken care of at all times.

We've also had a number of scouts and parents grousing about scouts not getting PORs and how it's holding them back for rank. In almost all cases, a look at attendance records tells the story. If Johnny misses a lot of meetings and almost all campouts, he's sending a loud and clear message that he can't be depended upon. (Putting scouts on hold for a season is OK. Even better is showing up stinking and muddy after practice and being recognized for your dedication.)

We've made it very clear that the best way to get a POR in the future is to be an active participant in the troop program right now - participate constructively in meetings, attend campouts, look for opportunities to step up to unofficially fill a void, do whatever task you're given to the best of your abilities. Life is about decisions and recognizing the associated consequences. We can guarantee active members the opportunity to advance. Others are welcome to share in the adventure when their schedule permits, but must recognize they don't have the same likelihood of eventually earning Eagle.

Along these lines, we just had SPL election and tonight the incoming SPL was given a copy of attendance records for the last year with a recommendation that he consider past history as an indicator of future reliability as he selects his staff. That's going to make some parents howl, but we decided it was time to clearly demonstrate that you can't sit on the sidelines waiting for an opportunity to be handed to you. (The fallout is going to be interesting...)

 

We've also used High Adventure trips as an incentive to stay active. One of our written requirements to go on trips is that they be active in the troop program - loosely defined as taking part in troop meetings and especially campouts. The opportunities alone seem to have invigorated a number of our older scouts without really using it as a threat, but we did have one hard case last spring. Had a scout who was on the list to go to Philmont, attended all crew meetings (most just before troop meetings) and shakedowns, but then left and didn't attend any troop campouts. When he first signed up, we knew he had been inactive and we counseled him and his parents on the need to get active again in the hopes he'd get re-energized. As of about 5 months out, nothing had changed. More discussions with scout and parents - still plenty of time to come on a campout or two. Finally, during conference with scout, he told us he was only staying with the troop until Philmont, then he was dropping out. Well, Tommy, we're hoping that Philmont might change your mind about the fun and benefits of scouting, but this is only for active members of the troop and we have a waiting list of guys that would love to jump into your slot. Being registered isn't good enough - without attending at least one troop campout within a year, we just can't call you "active." We have a couple of great campouts coming up - pick one, come join the fun, and we'll get off your back. He didn't and is gone, but in his place there was one other very happy young man hiking over the Tooth of Time back into Base Camp with memories for a lifetime. Decisions have consequences.

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