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mmallin

Explosive membership growth

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Hello forum,

 

I would love to get additional thoughts and perspectives on a very good problem we are facing. Our troop currently has 35 scouts. A few years of very solid troop programming have led to a low drop out rate and strong local cub scout programs coupled with good troop pack relations have given us a large incoming class. Somewhere between 25 to 30 new scouts will likley join our troop next spring.

 

This brings an array of challenges for us. We are trying to anticipate the impact this will have across the board on our troop. Some of the things the adult and youth leadership have considered are:

-increased equipment needs (tents, patrol boxes etc) to field 2 or possibly 3 new patrols

-a need to identify and train troop guides

-a need to identify and train new Assistant Scoutmasters so we can give one ASM advisor to each troop guide and new scout patrol

- program planning for more trail to first class type training to assist with advancement

 

Can any of you suggest another facet of troop operations we need to start thinking about and planning for?

 

Many thanks!

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Focus on the Older Boys you have who haven't had Scouts to lead. Ensure they know what to do and that they can do it.

Then get out of the way.

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I understand your concern. We have slowly moved from a troop of about 25 boys to now over 50. Some things we have found a challenge -

 

Logistics - Just moving people from one place to another. More drivers needed, more supervision. Transporting troop gear and personal gear can be a problem. You really have to rely on the Patrol Method.

 

Activities that were perfect for a group of 25 are now almost impossible for a group of 50. Be it scoutcraft activities or a game of basketball or softball.

 

Attention span and distractions during activities increase multi-fold.

 

You have to be more organized. Who is driving with who, which adults are eating with which patrol, etc.

 

It can be a problem, but what a great problem to have!!

 

Dale

 

 

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Yah, congrats on running a good program and being recognized for it!

 

There's really quite a spectacular change in character between a troop of 35 and one of 65. Your current troop size is close to BP's old ideal size, while once yeh get above 50 or so yeh have to make a lot of structural changes in order to continue to be successful. Lots of troops can't or don't want to do that, so they end up losing kids and droppin' back down to 45 - 50.

 

So first thing is a gut-check, eh? Do yeh really want to go there? It will change the kind of relationships that yeh have in your troop. The SM will no longer be able to know each boy well. Da SPL will need to become more a manager of PLs. Yeh have to make a major investment in training youth leaders to be independent or consign yourself to an adult led/adult run model, especially for da NSP/webelos 3 program. It'll be particularly hard to keep patrol method alive, since you'll be increasingly limited to group campsites where the patrols have to camp on top of each other.

 

Often when a troop nears 50 it's a good time for da district to consider starting up a new troop with some of the character of the old one, eh? Maybe yeh can be the big brother troop to a new member of the scouting family in your district.

 

If yeh do decide you want to grow like that, then tell us a bit about your current program. Are yeh a trailer/plop camping troop or more of a backpacking/lighweight troop? How strong is your use of Patrol Method currently? Do yeh do the rapid advancement thing? Any high adventure? In particular, what you value the most in your current program that yeh want to be sure to maintain?

 

That'll help us give yeh some ideas.

 

B(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Meeting space. Make sure your CO is aware that things might be a little noisy when you meet.

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Parent education. What you probably could do in small groups at the back of the room, on the phone, or at the campfire will need to be more formal.

 

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Beavah,

 

to answer your questions. We have an active program and camp each month. I would catergorize our camping program as 75% front country and 25% back country. We have had great Philmont participation in the past but our high adventure program is currently beign re-tooled ( applying for Seabase slot in program year 2012, and Philmont crew slots in 2013). We have conducted Troop Leader Traiining religiously every 6 months ( when leadership positions change over) for the past 2 years to get new youth leaders up to speed on troop operations and expectations. We dont push for rapid advancement and my suspician is that most of our scouts reach First Class at some point around the 2 year mark. The PLC is active, meets each month and we try to enforce the Patrol Method at every opportunity.

 

All in all things are going very well. We are "following the recipe" on how to run a troop and trying to build an exciting program for the boys and adults alike.

 

I dont't see that we have an option (we aren't goign to turn away Webelos 2 scouts) and are going to continue to grow.

 

I think I would have lots of reservtions on splitting the troop and I'm almost certain most of our 25 registered adults would also not be fond of that course of action.

 

This is clearly a " too big" size for a troop but I don't know what that is yet. We typically get 15-20 youth on an "average" monthly campout. If that were to turn into 30-35 on an average monthly campout maybe we need to start doing 2 events a month ( don't tell my wife that:) )

 

Our patrols don't do patrol events ( campouts / hikes) but they do operate indpendantly during troop campouts. However due to other conlicts outside the program we are constanly forming provisional patrols for campouts.

 

My major concerns is that because we are experiencing growing pains that we overlook something critical and end up giving some scout a bad experience, they never bond with their patrol and they drop out.

 

 

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- Start working now with the Webelos Den Leaders and the pack leadership to make sure the transition is smooth - that what the WDLs are telling them they're going to do once in Boy Scouts matches with your troop and patrol programs. Ditto for parent relationships. Make sure parents understand the difference and the roles they can play. Don't leave the latter up to the WDLs - the SM and SPL should meet with them personally, and let the SPL take the lead.

 

- Do you want the WDLs to come over with their boys, taking on new roles as ASMs or TC members? If so, I'd advise against putting the WDLs as the ASM mentors to the NSPs. Put experienced ASMs into those roles and train your former WDLs gradually in the ways of the Force.

 

- With the PLC, develop a two/three-year program plan - not a specific month-by-month calendar, but rather a general outline of where they want the troop to be and things they want to do. A plan for the new Scouts is essential, but so is one by and for the older Scouts, so they're not forgotten and just shunted into roles of helping the youngers. They need adventure, too.

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Yah, that helps a bit, eh? Since your current participation rate is about 50%, I don't see why that would change goin' forward, so I think you're lookin' at 30-35 comin' out per outing.

 

So that means more gear investment, or doin' two outings per month and let patrols sign up for one or da other or both. Also means that yeh have to think more carefully about your backcountry campouts, because 35 kids plus 15 adults is way, way, way too many for a single backcountry group. The more yeh really emphasize patrol independence the easier it's goin' to be for you in this case, but that brings yeh back to gettin' more patrol gear.

 

Next I think yeh really want to look at stuff like traditional Patrol Leader Training and some non-traditional in-troop training of the new adults, to keep with that patrol method emphasis. You'll also need to make a big investment in TG training, and I'd be sure to have at least two solid TG's for each NSP.

 

And yeh really, really want to get away from da "provisional patrol" nonsense. When you're a larger troop, the boys really need a solid, permanent patrol within the troop to be their "home". They'll get lost without it. With a 50% participation rate, yeh need a patrol size of 10-12 to be sure the patrol will be intact on every outing, and yeh need to treat the APL as a PL in terms of training and participation, so the APL can "be" the PL on any given outing or meeting.

 

Do yeh have your NSP's move into traditional patrols after a few months to a year, or are yeh running same-age patrols all the way through your program? If you're doin' same-age patrols all the way through, the transition from being a NSP with an older boy serving as TG to being a "regular" patrol with an elected same-age PL can be a rough one. Lots of big troops structured that way do a good job with NSP's and decent job with high school Venture patrols but sorta struggle with the group in between. If you're doin' the same-age patrol bit, your PLC is also goin' to suddenly be much younger/less capable/less mature, so you'll have to be prepared for that.

 

OTOH, if you transition boys into "regular" mixed-age patrols from NSP's after only a few months, that might solve both your "provisional patrol" problem and da older example/leadership problem. Young fellows get attached to their TG's, so be sure yeh have a TG from each of your "regular" patrols if yeh go that way.

 

Plan in advance for da communication bit. With 60 boys, it's goin' to be a lot harder. You'll really need to work with your PLs on good communication.

 

Start looking for remote group campsites or private land. 60 scouts plus 20 adults is a huge impact on traditional campsites. No matter how "good" your boys are, the presence of that many youth is sure to annoy fellow front-country campers.

 

Oh, yah, and your treasury is suddenly goin' to get a lot bigger and busier, eh? If yeh don't have good systems and controls in place, now is the time to do that. More $ means more temptation, and a lot more work for da treasurer. Think through financial controls, buy necessary software, firm up rules about fundraisin' participation and how the money is allocated and how you're goin' to handle deadbeats now.

 

Beavah

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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we have experienced the same thing for about 3 years now. we were running right around 35 scouts and then a few killer years and we are now at 70ish.

We did a lot of what the others are saying.

a few things that worked and some of these we found out through experience.

 

we now put the new scouts right into established patrols. no temp patrol. they seem to do better when the older guys are around them and it develops that patrol spirit.

 

a troop guide and instructors for each patrol.

the 3 asst spl's divide up the patrols among themselves and work with the patrol leaders and report back to the SPL.

one of the first campouts is a T-2-1. the guides and instructors run the program and work the guys through some of the basics but the troop camps via patrol.

we were blessed with having extra gear and then we have slowly been picking up extra tents etc when they are on sale. we budgeted for them every year.

with that much gear we have 3 quartermasters all of whom are very well trained.

we have a meeting with the new adults on day one after crossover. explain the rules and how they can help. we repeat this about 3 months later and a "refresher".

at some point the older guys may think they are dealing with the new guys too much. We let them do a campout on their own. first class and up only.

At some point you will find that all those new guys will get first class and want a POR. be carful as you don't want to end up with too many chiefs and no Indians.

HTH

 

 

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In the BSA program the focus should be on the patrol, not the troop. So, patrol gear, patrol outings, etc. That way, the size is somewhat, although not entirely, irrelevant.

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I am on the same path, just ahead on the trail:

 

1) With 50% participation, I let my patrols go to 15 or so. That still results in a solid 7-8 on a campout from my 5 patrols.

 

2) I don't do provisional patrols. If two patrols want to work together - that is their choice.

 

3) 3 ASPLs - one handles Patrols, one handles the staff (QM, Scribe, Historian, Librarian, etc.), one is in charge of activities and planning campouts.

 

4) Two quartermasters, plus every patrol provides a patrol QM for QM days.

 

5) We are limited in our camping facilities due to size. We have not started splitting up as a plan. On backcountry runs, we can only have 12 - 15 on a Wilderness Permit. We tend to have a hard core trek separate from a shorter trek and take it from there.

 

6) We have a big trailer now, and the joke is that to become an ASM you have to have a V8 with a hitch.

 

 

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We just went through this last winter. We made a point of sending youth leaders to NYLT, something we hadn't had a chance to do before. They also attended our council's sort of "intermediate step" training - sort of a University of Scouting for SPLs, PLs, PLC members - held outdoors.

 

We started identifying committee members and potential ASMs among the Webelos parents.

 

We formalized some processes which previously had been less rigourous (like signing up for events).

 

We already had been holding new parent orientations, but we created a parent handbook to document some things we'd only done verbally previously.

 

We scheduled a spring fundraiser for right away after the new Scouts crossed over, so they could build up funds for camp.

 

We (sigh) increased the troop dues.

 

The SM had long discussions with the PLC about the effect the change would have on the troop,and the level of work/commitment, they would have to put out to make the changes work.

 

85+% of the new boys went to summer camp. We have lost only 3 or 4 that I know of.

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Find a good adult to be the Parent Coordinator --- a registered position.

 

 

The Parent Coordinator has two primary jobs:

 

1) contact new parents right away and answer their questions about Scouting and your unit

 

2) Finding out the kinds of things new parents would like to do or are good at doing that your unit needs done, aqnd signing up those new parents to start helping right away.

 

 

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Another issue worth considering----

 

If you do your "explosive growth" thing, what will it do to other troops in the area?

 

You don't have to consider that, but perhaps you should.

 

Troop membership tends to go in cycles as leaders change. You are up today and down again in a few years.

 

But what happens if you've killed off other troops in your area?

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