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dluders

Should SM Cancel Campout When Only 3 of 25 Scouts Decide to Go?

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I'm the Scoutmaster of a 25-Scout troop, and only 3 of the 25 Scouts are going on today's overnight campout. School just "let out" yesterday, and apparently folks have other plans. Even my own 14-year-old Life Scout son can't go, since he's 2500 miles away on a big trip. Should I have cancelled this campout (due to a lack of participation), or should a troop hold its campouts no matter what? Right now, we're planning on going anyway with 3 Scouts and 3 Scouters (including myself). That's a pretty poor turnout, don't you think? The Scouts THEMSELVES voted for this campout location and date, yet they made other plans....

 

Last month, I cancelled our canoeing campout when there were only 5 Scouts and other Scouters going. I felt bad about it, but my son couldn't go then either.

 

Is the Scoutmaster really expected to go on EVERY campout, no matter whether his own son can go and no matter how low the attendance? What would YOU do?

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I think it's a fine ideal to try to run every single campout. If you can do it, those boys come back and say what fun they had, and your participation goes up.

 

But there's the real world, eh? I think yeh gotta honestly look at the wear and tear on your adults. If the adults want to go anyway, great. But if there's resentment or they feel like their time is bein' taken advantage of, you have to respect that. And it's a tossup sometimes what's the better lesson for the boys, eh? It ain't particularly courteous to tie up an adult's time and then blow him off for "other plans." That's a conversation you need to have with your PLC when you "debrief."

 

Lots of times kids doin' planning don't fully appreciate or understand "family plans" and pressures. That's why a committee review of the calendar is a good thing ;).

 

Is the Scoutmaster really expected to go on EVERY campout, no matter whether his own son can go and no matter how low the attendance? What would YOU do?

 

No reason da SM has to go on every campout. That to me would sound like a unit that really needed to be recruitin' some more qualified and active ASMs.

 

But as SM, I do think your commitment is to da program, not (just) to your son. You should live up to that commitment, and always do what you can in ways that are best for the program, even if they aren't what's best for your own boy. Otherwise you're a find dad, but you're not really a Scoutmaster. ;) That doesn't mean you shouldn't look at your own time/availability - it doesn't do the program any good if you burn out, eh? Just that your son's participation or needs shouldn't be the primary factor in your decision.

 

Beavah

 

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In general I don't think there is a problem with an SM missing the occasional camp out, but I also don't think the SM's attendance (or lack thereof) should be tied to the SM's son's attendance. You are the SM for the whole troop, not just for your son. Consequently, the better question to ask is, is there really something preventing you from attending? If there is, under most circumstances I would expect the SM to talk to the ASMs and arrange an appropriate back up so that the camp out can still happen.

 

Now, when should you cancel trips? This is trickier. I think if you start canceling trips several months in a row, you risk losing those boys who ARE actively involved and who would have gone. That seems like a way to kill a troop and to drive eager young scouts away.

 

On the other hand, it needs to be made clear to your youth leadership that they bear some responsibility here. Why did they set up two camp outs in a row that hardly anyone could attend? I'd be more sympathetic to poor planning on their part, if the reasons for non-attendance could have been predicted but they just didn't foresee it. After all, that's a lesson waiting to be learned and something that you can (should) incorporate into your planning session for next year. In other words, this is a typical youth mistake which they probably won't make again if you point it out. (SM asks the PLC: "As you plan next year's calendar, remember what happened in May and June this year. What can you do to avoid having that happen again?")

 

I'd be much less sympathetic if they backed out at the last minute because they "didn't feel like going" or suddenly had a "better" offer come their way. This is a lesson waiting to be learned too, but I think the tone would be different ("You made a commitment and broke it. Other people were counting on you and you let them down."). And in this case, if it has become a pattern, I could see making it clear that you aren't able to commit your finite resources (incl. gas $!) to camp outs where only 2 or 3 scouts attend due to last minute cancellations.

 

Of course, this also assumes that you are running a program that is exciting and appropriate for your scouts. If it has become dull, boring, routine, not challenging, etc., then maybe there needs to be a look at the content of the program. This is also something your youth leadership should be able to discuss (with help from you), since you said they planned it. Are they stuck in a rut with regard to camp outs? Maybe this is a good wake up call for them too.

 

 

 

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Our troop has about 20 boys in it and we reserve the right to cancel any trip or activity that has less than four boys signed up. The scouts are aware of the "minimum" and I think it helps them encouraging their fellow scouts to participate.

 

I don't think it's realistic to expect the scoutmaster to make every trip. Always a good idea to have several adults capable of delivering the program. Also good preparation in the event you transition leadership at some point down the road.

 

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The above advice is spot on. I would have a conversation with the PLC and explain to them the meaning of "commitment". "Trustworthy" and "courteous" are also appropriate. Ask the PLC to decide on a "rule" that would be considerate of everyone involved. For instance, take a final firm headcount 2 weeks before the activity and make a "go/no go" decision. All fees are due by then and anyone cancelling after that time forfeits the fees. If they don't have anything invested in it, they won't value it.

 

Things come up, and are not always within their control (parents change plans, etc), but 3 out of 25 is a deal breaker. Things come up for adults, too. While I would expect the SM and ASMs to attend most functions, we have families and jobs, too.

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If you had cancelled the canoe trip and this one also, that would have left 1 outing in the quarter or an average of 4 per year if numbers hold.

 

I a cancellation has to be made, have the SPL announce it. In boy led, a boy announcing it will put peer pressure on others to attend.

 

In short, don't cancel them, go and have a great time. if one had to be, SPL announces the decision - the decision the PLC made.

 

 

 

 

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Great advice from da Lisa'bob, too, eh? And without the accent ;)

 

One more trick for your bag, dluders.

 

If you run the outing, make sure da kids get some advancement done, or present 'em with a special award at the next COH. A little bit of "Hey, I want one of those" or "Hey, how come my kid didn't get..." also adds a bit of incentive to participate.

 

Beavah

 

 

 

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Never cancel an outing unless you don't have adult coverage, or in the case of a High Adventure, you can't meet the minimum number. Even if only one scout attends, hold the campout. Once you start canceling events, it becomes the easy out when things don't go smooth.

Last summer, our planned mountain climb had a similar scenario, lots of scouts sign up (they were real stoked about it at the planning meeting) but in the two weeks before, all but my son canceled. So the SM, myself, our CC and my son climbed the 14er. Of course we took our troop flag and had our picture taken on the top. Posted it on the bulletin board back at the church. Great trip.

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Just to sneak in here quickly. From my experience Father's Day weekend turnouts usually run lower. Same for Mother's Day, etc.

I agree with Gern. Nothing good comes from canceling an outing.

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I've only canceled one outing, and that was this spring. It was a backpacking trip, and I didn't feel that I had the adult coverage needed for the trip. Several backed out in the weeks leading up to it and it forced my hand.

 

Two months later, we were almost in the same boat again. This was a bike trek. Very few boys were going and adult coverage was minimal. We ended up changing it to a day trip instead of a campout, and were able to pull it off. I was glad that we were able to do it.

 

I agree in principle to the idea that "Nothing good comes from canceling an outing." However, sometimes it reminds the other adults in the troop that they need to dedicate a little bit of their time as well in order to make the troop program a success.

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Some patrol outings may have only 2-3 boys and don't need adults to go along.

 

If you have only 3-4 boys that want to go and can back it up with 2 leaders, go for it. I would think the absolute minimum would be 2 boys and 2 leaders. That's covers the buddy boat and hiking minimums as well as GTSS.

 

The "smallest" trip I ever made was 3 boys and 2 adults to the Boundary Waters, we had a blast. Small numbers don't mean less fun, and at times can make for better focused events.

 

As far as word of mouth advertising is concerned I had a non-Scout youth group "boycot" one of my events (Church group) and a parent called up during the week before I was going to leave and asked if their son could still go. The boy and I went, had a great time, and the following year we had to rent a 66 passenger school bus to get everyone to the event.

 

Our troop used to be 12 - 14 active scouts and that meant that maybe 5-8 would go on an event. I always enjoyed the smaller groups and now that we've grown, we have 25-30 active scouts and it's a lot more work/supervision/education involved and although I still totally enjoy it, it is a lot more "work".

 

Count your blessings, find another adult, and go and have a great outing with the few boys that showed.

 

Stosh

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IMHO, an outing should only be cancelled for safety concerns. For the last several years, our boys have voted to go to Trappers Rendezvous in Kansas. In 2005, the high during the day was around 10 degrees. No problem. In 2006, the temps were in the 50's. Great fun was had by all. In 2007, there was 1 to 2 inches of ice on the interstate between Oklahoma City and Kansas. We cancelled. It was the prudent thing to do. We've come home early once because of ice and sleet accumulation on the tents and beginning on the roads. Other than that, we go regardless of the number of participants.

 

We do have a process in our troop for POR's. Regardless of whether it is an elected or assigned POR, there is an "application" process. There is a form each boy interested in a POR fills out. He can list up to 3 POR's he is interested in and explain why. There is a statement that the boy signs at the bottom making a committment to set the example by wearing a complete uniform, doing his duty, attending meetings and outings, etc. He knows up from what is expected of him in his POR and agrees to it. There is also a line for the parent to sign saying that they will fully support their son in his POR. If a boy wants to be the SPL or a PL.....or any position for that matter, there is an expectation that he will be there to do his job. He should not expect to be elected as SPL and then miss 3 or 4 of the campouts in a 6 month period because he is playing sports. If he has a committment to the sports team, then he needs to run for SPL during the off season when he can devote himself to the job.

 

I say all of that to say this. One of the things you have to teach is that if they make an annual plan and decide when and where they are going, they have an obligation to support the plan when the outing rolls around. There is nothing wrong with adult assistance with looking at the calendar when planning is done. Heck, we have the council calendar, a list of holidays, various school's calendars and college football team schedules in hand to help determine the optimum dates for higher attendance outings. That is what planning is all about. First determine WHEN you can go and then decide what you want to do and where you can go to do it. Publish the list of outing dates and events so families can plan around them.

 

As to should an SM go on every outing. No. Just like the boys, there will be times when something comes up that simply can't be rescheduled or avoided. That said, he is the top dog of programming and he should be at the vast majority of the outings. That is part of the job duties. Lead by example. If you don't show, the boys get the idea that it isn't important for them to either and you end up with 3 of 25 going.

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I concur with those that are saying the SM should only cancel an activity for safety, youth protection, or failure to comply wiht GSS guidelines. Only the SPL and PLC should cancel an activity if they think they won't have a quorum for fun.

 

As far as attending outings is concerned, the SM should attend as many as his time permits with the minimum being the number he needs to ensure the unit is providing a quality program. If the SM has a son in the unit, it'll be good for the boy to be able to attned a couple outings a year without dad (even if dad is the SM) and the SM to attend a a couple outings a year without his son.(This message has been edited by MarkS)

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