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Why do troops fall apart or decline?

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More often than not, you'll find the adults to be the root cause of any troop failure.


Jealousy, power struggles, financial buffoonery, poor attitude toward kids and scouting in general, laziness, no/poor training, private agendas, focus on scouter politics instead of the welfare of the troop, no camping and/or excessive tail gate camping, no/little participation in district and council events/camps/camporees, and the list goes on.


While the troop should be boy led, the adult scouters set the tone, the example, and the vision. Even in the background, their values are transmitted to the scouts, for good or ill.



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My son and I had a moment to review his scouting career and how I felt/acted about different situations that had come up between adults. It boiled down to this:


1. Listen politely to the folks with great ideas, suggestions, or concerns about the way things should be done.

2. Give utmost respect to the folks who do the work.

3. Do your work to complement the work of the folks in #2.

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I can tell you why we left the troop that is in our town...


no discipline - boys allowed to cuss... no punishment for stealing.


no parental/leader help - the boys would come up with ideas, but then not enough adults would be available and when we did it was always me and the same other family. so too often things got cancelled


the SM did nothing to help with any of this... his favorite line was "boy led" but being boy led doesn't mean that if the boys want to cuss that they should and that if they want to steal from another person that they should.

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I have been in troops where there is no follow through on the events. This to me is worse then not doing anything. It is breaking promises made to the boys. That's being a great role model.


(NOT that I am condoning troops that do not do outings either, this is just worse IMO)

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I'll share my experience as a Scout and what I have recently learned.


The troop I was part of had a strong history, 70+ years, and when I joined we had 50 or more boys who were extremely active. I remember my first year of summer camp taking two charter buses down to camp. We gained boys and lost them as they grew out or grew into scouting. Many of the boys received their Eagle Scout and stopped coming but were then replaced by new Scouts coming from the local Pack. We had a great SM and great ASMs.

It started going down hill about two years into my scouting experience. We lost the SM, which I was recently informed was pushed out by the Committee. The Cubmaster for the local pack started sending boys to other troops because of his son lying about why he hadn't been advancing. The next few SMs were also pushed out, then we were down to about seven members after about five years. There were no cubs crossing over since the pack had lost many cubs and was just recently revived, and there was no recruiting.


Now who's fault was it? A bit of everyones, the scouts for not recruiting, the SM for not getting on the committee and COR for what they were doing, and a Commissioner that had no clue what was going on with the troop because he was too involved in another troop he was trying to start.


The troop was officially disbanded this year, after I believe 78 years or so, but luckily a new troop has been put in its place (also with very few scouts) and there are some Webs that are/did cross(ing) over.


Know what is going on behind the scenes if you are a SM!

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Many new Troops fail because they came to be (Started.) for reasons that were a little daffy from the get go.

Some of the daffiness is:

A new unit was needed in order for the District to make Quality and the Troop was thrown together without following any real plan.

Some adults who were unhappy decided that doing their own thing was the way to go. A lot of times these people only see what is in the interest of their own sons and can't see beyond that.

Much as I hate to admit it, while serving as District Commissioner and Chairman there have been a couple of Troops that I really hoped would fall and fail.

A few years back I watched as what used to be one of the best Troops in the Council fell apart. Despite the best efforts of everyone in the District.

This was the Troop from which our DE's son had earned his Eagle Scout in and in many ways was a big part in why she chose to work for the BSA.

As far a program went? This Troop had everything down to an art.

The Troop leaders had nearly all attended WB. So training was not the reason.

The reason was that the Scoutmaster, even though he had ASM's was a one man show.

The church that was the CO was very proud of the work done by the Troop and the Pack, but over the years really hadn't played any part in what the Scouting units did. Happy to allow them to meet in the church hall, store the gear in a part of the church and mow the grass in the church cemetery.

The SM also served as CM. Both the Pack and the Troop were served by one committee, hand picked by the SM.

Everything and everybody seemed to think that this SM walked on the water.

As far as working with the youth and with parents the guy was really good.

The Troop had no time for the District, didn't bother with District events, thought selling pop-corn and FOS was just evil and even after the DE who had a son in the Troop came to work for the Council, viewed her as some kind of spy who would given half a chance interfere with what they were doing.

I'm not sure why but one day the SM got it into his head that he'd had enough. He told everyone that he was going to quit in two years.

The District thought that a member of the Troop would step up to the plate. But everyone seemed to see this guy leaving as their opportunity to jump ship.

The Committee said that they were only there to support this guy and when he was gone they were going with him.

The SM seemed to think that it was the job of the District to find his replacement.

Two years past and this guy was as good as his word, he left along with the active ASM's.

The pack fell apart very soon after.

The Troop lost most of the younger Scouts the first year. It was being led by an older ex-scout who was still in college.

A few older Scouts who were close to Eagle hung around.

The CO really didn't know what had been going on and seemed more concerned about who was going to mow the grass in the cemetery.

I met with the church council, everyone wanted the Troop to continue. But nothing was working out to help. The church was merging with another church, so the church leadership was kinda up in the air. The active members in the church were mostly old people. The church council passed the responsibility of the Scouting units on to a church council member who was a nice guy. But he had political ambitions. He working as a teacher, serving on the Town Council and was running for mayor. This new Scouting role was something that even though when I met with him and he would say what I wanted to hear, he just really didn't have time for and his heart wasn't in it. (He'd never been a Scout.)

Within five years all that was left was a Venture Crew, which lasted about four years and then folded.

Most of the successful units seem to have a a few (sometimes just one!) adults who work well together and are able to have fun together working as a team.

Sometimes when the leader of this group calls it a day everyone will follow.

While having a Committee and a youth leadership team that is close works great, when this closeness is too close, when the leader quits everything falls apart.

I have seen some Troops that are started when a few Den Leaders come together and start a "Friends Of ...." Do a wonderful job. But these seem to fall apart as their sons age out or quit Scouts.

The thing that units that were once successful and then decline have in common is changes in leadership.

Some Troops get a little overly comfortable with the Scouts they have and either don't bother with new new Scouts, happy to just serve the group that is there.

Some go the other way and forget all about the older guys, only focusing on the younger Lads and seem shocked when after the first year half of these new younger Scouts quit and then after year three none of these once younger Scouts are left.


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Mr. Boyce -


trust me there is a difference in going out and just yelling one cuss word, or even accidentally letting one slip... this was getting to be every-other-word type cussing. And there was the boy who didn't cuss until his dad left and the just kept yelling the F word repeatedly. I told my son that if you don't have the balls to cuss in front of your parent then you have no right cussing.


I have learned to watch myself... I use to work with women that were just released from prison and got used to cuss words and cussed a bit myself... but when I'm around kids (scouting or coaching) I do my best not to - though I'm still not sure if one slipped out when I went down and sprained my ankle at a soccer practice LOL

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I am assuming that she refers to common 4 letter words, or Carlin's 7 words.


One trick I picked up when I was in the UK was to curse in other languages, specifically Finnish, Croation, and Russian. Only time I ever had a problem was that one prof who spoke Croatian in college... but that's a different story ;) .

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Scouters swearing and setting a poor/bad example won't help a troop prosper, especially after the parents get wind of it and their boys start repeating what was heard. Scouters swearing AND yelling doesn't help either, I've witnessed it on several occasions. It makes me want to walk away because it only becomes worse if I speak up and try to end it.

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Joking aside, I do not condone foul language, and vividly remember the dressing down that I received from my SM, the only time I ever remember him getting directly involved in a situation rather than the SPL.


I also agree with E-mtns about it being a problem retaining folks, eps. once parents hear about it.


But I also know that when you have adults somewhat removed, it can rear its ugly head, especially if an accident is involved.Seen it happen as a youth, and corrected scouts about it as an adult.



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"The Troop leaders had nearly all attended WB. So training was not the reason..."


That's a very discouraging and surprising observation. A Troop with WB trained adults and they let the troop fail. What's the point in having WB trained adults if they are not going to have any impact on the program or keeping a Troop from failing. If the Scoutmaster was WB trained, then he should have known better and should have been placed in check by the other so-called WB trained adults. I expect more from a WB trained adult leadership.


In my Troop, none of our adult leaders are WB trained including the SM, but we run the Troop using the patrol method, it's boy run, we're thriving and having a great time. We run the Troop according to BSA guidelines and the Scoutmaster's Handbook. We've taken basic leader training and supplementary training (Univerity of Scouting), but none of us has had an opportunity or time to attend WB.

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I am not the great experienced scout leader that some of you may be, but I do have a short amount of time in as an adult leader.


A few things I have seen that can cause a decline are this:


1) Parents! Mom and dad can not bear to see littlle Jimmy have even 3 seconds of idle time on his hands. Best to fill his day up from breakfast to bed time with activities lest he have some great mental issues in his adult years.


Well, even at 8, 10, 15 ...kids can decide they are just doing too much , tearing themselves in different directions and just need some time to catch their breath.


I tell my wife all the time that there is noting wrong with our son just being bored sometimes. It's a happening, not an infliction.


2) Our culture and the times as they have changed. Used to be , way, way back when.. I had an ATARI 2600. Oh man! It was the coolest thing ever! i played Pac Man, Tank, Frogger and other games...when it was raining or way to cold or if I was home sick from school, or all my friends were busy etc..

Know what I mean? Video games ( if we can even call them that back then!) were something you did when you had absolutely nothing else to do! They were always the last choice after football, baseball, swimming, playing "war' in the woods with your friends and just hanging out. I used to cut grass in trhe summer and lay sod to make money during sumer vacation and maybe go to an arcade ( remember those?) and hang out with friends.


Scouting , which wasn't available in my area at the time would have been great! 100 boys wanting to do something fun? Shoot! That's not even debatable on wether it would have been great!


Now days though... everybody wants to go home, get on their computers and "socialize, make videos, "talk" to friends and then work their virtual reality farms, take care of their virtual reality pets and live in their virtual reality worlds. If they aren't hanging out at dance clubs, raves or whatever else is hot these days.


So scouting has alot of competition it didn't used to have!

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Wood Badge trained leaders? There is a possible difference between paid for(read free ride?) or out of pocket(read self paid?) WB training by adults. Either way though working your ticket should make the difference because you have to pay(work) your own way back to Gilwell.

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