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rjscout

large troop vs smaller troop

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I have seen some posts in the past about larger troops vs smaller troops. I wanted to get a new perspective from the current active members on the scouter forum.

 

We had some of our Webelos attend a camporee with a local troop last month. The troop has about 20 members and looks to be a great troop with good leaders. Being the first troop that most of these boys have visited (prep troop meeting and camporee), most of the Webelos want to join that Troop. This month, we visited with a larger troop (60-70 scouts) at a campout. Of the five Webelos who participated from our Pack, two had attended the Camporee last month. The large troop also appears to be a great troop with good leaders. it is actually the troop that I assumed that my son would when he crosses over. My son is actually up in the air right now on which troop is best for him to join. I don't know how many of our 12+ Webelos will cross, but I suspect that most that do will follow to the troop that my son and his buddy choose.

 

I would be VERY HAPPY with my son choosing either troop. What questions should I ask my son to consider when choosing a troop. The decision is his, as I like the leadership of each troop and I would gladly step up to assist in either troop.

 

What are the pros and cons of a large & small troop that we should be looking at?

 

I am actually glad that my son is not sure which troop to join. The decision process is another way for him to grow.

 

Thanks in advance!

 

 

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I don't know if the large vs small would be the issue (especially if all 12 webeloes don't split to different troops, the small troop would grow with 12 new scouts.)

 

Look for how the older boys work with the younger scouts. Is this normal or special for the visit. I know my son was so excited about how the older boys in one troop worked with him during the visit, he was not happy when he joined and was put into a younger boy patrol, and the older boys no longer paid attention to them.

 

What events they have done in the past year.. Does one troops outings interest your son more then others. The first troop we joined was verying into hiking and my son is more aquatic & camping then hiking.. Their meeting place and how they plan their weekly meetings, does the place facilitate an active weekly program, and does the troop have it.. One place we went to met at a college, but it was in one of the classrooms and all the desks & chairs did not give them good moving room, they had a visitor giving a information on a merit badge to create interest in it, but I could see the room allowing them to do little else.

 

Does either have a feeder Pack that they are expecting to cross-over to their troop. If your 12+ and someone elses 12+ join at the same time, can the troop train and work with that large a group, or will some get lost in the woodwork.

 

I guess since you think both troops are good, you already have looked for and have been satisfied with the "boy-lead" aspect of each of the programs..

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Our district put togther some Questions to Ask at Troop Visits regardless of the size

 

 

1. How often has your Troop achieved Quality Unit status in the last 5 years?

2. How are new Scouts handled? Are they mixed in with existing patrols or put into a new patrol?

3. How many registered leaders are there? What is their attendance history at regular meetings and on outings?

4. What is the boy:leader ratio at meetings and on outings?

5. Do you have an active outdoor program? How many days/year are spent camping? Where? What are the plans for summer camp?

6. What is your philosophy on uniforms?

7. How are new Scouts going to learn what to do as Boy Scouts (camping skills, patrol activities, advancement, etc.)? Will they have an experienced adult leader working with them?

8. What is a typical Troop meeting like? Do you work on merit badges? Do you play a lot of games?

9. What is your philosophy regarding advancement (at what pace are the ranks earned)?

10. What kind of program do you have for the older Scouts? Are there any High Adventure activities?

11. What kind of fundraising do you have?

12. What are the financial obligations for each Scout?

a) at signup

b) per campout

c) summer camp

d) dues

e) other

13. Do you pay for or subsidize training for the boys (Junior Leader Training, Den Chief training, etc.)?

14. Does your Troop have a limitation on size?

15. Do you have written policies?

16. Is your Troop "boy-run" or "adult-run?"

17. Are Troop meetings and activities planned:

- by the boys?

- for a full year?

- at a patrol leaders meeting?

18. What kind of equipment do you have? Is it in good shape? Do you have enough if (quantity) Webelos were to join your Troop?

19. Are your Scouts able to balance Boy Scouts with other activities such as sports, band, church, etc.?

20. How active is your Troop at District and Council events?

21. How many current leaders are trained in:

- Youth Protection?

- Scoutmaster Fundamentals?

- Woodbadge?

22. What are the expectations/requirements of new adults/parents to this Troop - as assistant leaders, committee members, special event chairpersons, event workers, merit badge counselors?

23. Does the Troop pay for any/all adult leader registration and training?

24. How many leaders routinely attend Round Table?

25. How do you feel about a Scout (and parent) visiting a meeting unannounced?

 

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Not a bad list of questions, but I do have concerns.

 

4. What is the boy:leader ratio at meetings and on outings?

 

I would really like to know the number of PLs and Jr. Leaders to scouts than adults.

 

7. How are new Scouts going to learn what to do as Boy Scouts (camping skills, patrol activities, advancement, etc.)? Will they have an experienced adult leader working with them?

 

Again the 'experienced adult leader" is a concern for me as I think it should be the job of the PL if in a mixed age patrol, or TG if in a NSP. The scout's older peers should be doing the teaching, not adults.

 

 

8. What is a typical Troop meeting like? Do you work on merit badges? Do you play a lot of games?

 

I don't think MBs have a place in the troop meeting plan UNLESS it is part of an upcoming activitity, i.e. going over backpacking skills for a backpackign trip, going over canoeing skills for a canoeing trip, etc. And games are historicaly part of Scouting, all the way back to BP.

 

16. Is your Troop "boy-run" or "adult-run?"

 

To my knowledge no troop will say they are adult run even if they are, except possibly a new troop that is working on it. The largest troop in my district is adult run, but they will swear they are not. But if you talk to the parents, they will say that they pick the troop b/c "it is more organized, the adults do more here, and I don't beleive in the 'boy-led' program as they (the scouts) need structure." (yes an actual quote from a parent I talked to).

 

21. How many current leaders are trained in:

- Youth Protection?

- Scoutmaster Fundamentals?

- Woodbadge?

 

Need to update the training a little ;)

 

22. What are the expectations/requirements of new adults/parents to this Troop - as assistant leaders, committee members, special event chairpersons, event workers, merit badge counselors?

 

I would change the wording to say what are the expectations of the PLC with new scouts. Then move on to the parents

 

Also MBCs are district folks.

 

 

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Similar to what others are saying in that size really doesn't matter. There are some great troops out there the size of a single patrol, others have 8-10 patrols.

 

The one thing I might add is that often rising Cub Scouts families don't recognize the committee's role a Boy Scout unit. Unlike in cubs where the committee is more or less a few parents who plan the calendar, in Boy scouts they are more involved. The committee meets regularly, has all sorts of chairs and parental divisions of responsibility. It conducts Board of Reviews for each rank advancement and over sees program quality.

 

A big strong committee at big troop may have a parent for every youth leadership position. Great that might be what you are looking for. In a small troop with smaller committee the program likely falls more on the SM's and the boys to execute. That may be waht you are looking for.

 

Ask a few questions about the committee's role in running a troop. Who controls the checkbook who controls the calendar.

 

 

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It's nice that in your situation with both programs well run and staffed with good leaders a decision is a moot point. I would have your son make the sole decision based on what he wants because either way, he's making a good decision. He's the one that will benefit by taking complete ownership in the process and unless he asks for help, just let him fly with it. Of course if down the road a bit he feels he's made a poor choice, he can always switch. Again he can't go wrong. :)

 

A little coaching such as asking if he wants the bigger or smaller, where are his buddies going, etc. might help him focus, but there are advantages and disadvantages of both the bigger/smaller troops, but when it comes down to it, only your son knows for sure what he might like.

 

Stosh

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rj,

 

My opinions to your original question follow. (You can search on similar discussions in the past.)

 

Small Troop

PROS

- More individual attention, boys don't get lost in the shuffle as easily and have a greater sense of belonging

- Complexity of running the troop at all levels is within ability of many experienced scouts

- Level of chaos is lower (few boys = fewer problems and less noise. Many things get exponential with size.)

- Easier to mobilize the troop for activities (number of vehicles/required adults/campsites/etc.)

- Attrition: In my District I have data for 5 years to show the smaller troops lose less than half the percentage as compared to the big troops. The larger the troop, the greater percentage of scouts who decide after 1-3 years to drop out of scouting.

- In my experience working with troops of both sizes, the smaller troops have a higher attendance at meetings and all activities.

 

Small Troop

CONS

- Fewer opportunities for different activities. With small troop, they will likely only be going to one summer camp and if you can't make that one, you're out of luck. Most big troops I know will do more than one.

- Might be more dependent on few dedicated leaders to provide vision and guidance. Transitions can be a challenge.

- With fewer resources, finding volunteers for merit badge counselors, etc. can be a challenge

 

Large Troop

PROS

- Lots of guys potentially lots of friends.

- Can provide lots of different opportunities.

- With fewer resources, finding volunteers for merit badge counselors, etc. can be a challenge

 

Large Troop

CONS

- Chaos and confusion goes up with numbers.

- Its easier for a young scout to get lost in the crowd and slip through the cracks.

- Complexities of size can exceed youth abilities to lead, requiring much more adult work.

- In my experience, higher attrition rates and lower participation rates.

- Challenge to mobilize troop (gear, huge trailers, campsite issues, etc.)

 

Im pretty transparent. Having extensively served 5 units through the years varying from a start-up with 15 to a monster with 135, I have a profoundly strong preference for troops in the 25-40 scout range.

 

I would add another question to ask of the troops or your District, but nobody will answer it for you:

 

How many of the scouts who joined you 3 years ago are still registered?

 

They will say they dont know, but I know every troop keeps rosters of all members and you can bet someone has them from the last few years. District doesn't easily have the numbers by year group, but they do know how many scouts decide not to recharter every year. I don't know if it's a National thing, but in our Council we are required to submit information on dropped scouts.

There is always rationalization these dropped for sports, these dropped due to school/band/family issues/etc. but the truth is that if the boy (and family) believe they are getting value for their time and effort, scouting takes on a higher priority and they stick with it to a greater degree.

 

With the exception of the statements about attrition (which are based on actual records from my District), all of the above are opinion.

 

As always, your mileage may vary.

 

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Cut and paste error:

 

I wrote:

"Large Troop

PROS

- Lots of guys potentially lots of friends.

- Can provide lots of different opportunities.

- With fewer resources, finding volunteers for merit badge counselors, etc. can be a challenge"

 

That last one should be:

- Bigger troop has more resources, typically more MB counselors and opportunities for experts and involvement.

 

 

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It doesn't realy matter how big the troop is. The msot important aspect is, which has better use of the patrol method and is more boy-run. In a few years, the thing that will keep your son involved is his own ability to lead the troop. Trust me, because I am at the point in scouting now where it is exciting to be able to decide what activites we will get to do, and to be able to teach younger scouts all the stuff that I had fun learning over the past few years. If the boys are making the plans, then your son will be interested for years to come. If not, then he will quickly become bored of just another adult managed activity.

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Yah, I think Cubmaster Randy's list covers some of the types of information that is helpful for you to know, eh? I'm not sure very many of 'em should really influence your choice of troop, and some of 'em seem to be sorta limited in their scope.

 

Given what you've said, I think Id have only two questions:

 

For your son:

 

In which troop did your son seem to "click" the best with the older boys in the troop? How about the adults? Those relationships are usually much more important than the activity list.

 

For you:

 

In which troop were you most impressed by the character and knowledge of the older boys? And in which will yeh be happy being a follower/supporter as an adult?

 

The older boys show yeh what your son can/will become in that program, and da best programs are the ones where you feel comfortable being a supporter/follower. Yah, sure, down the road odds are you'll be recruited as a leader. ;). But for your son and your family to have a good fit, yeh have to start out being happy to be a supporter.

 

Beavah

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Great comments and advice. I feel that I could fit in either troop as a leader/volunteer (even though my wife thinks that I am done the night of crossover). I think both troops use the boy-led method well, and the older boys did interact with the younger boys and Webelos. I don't think there will be a bad decision. I guess I am just curious as to which troop that I will be able to help at my son's decision. He has wavered back and forth on which troop he prefers.

 

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts!!!

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Cubmaster Randy has a thorough check list for evaluating troops. However it leaves out the a few important considerations that most Scouts and parents have at the top of their list of reasons, so I'll add to Randy's list.

 

26. Where is the unpopular Cub going? Where ever that is, we're not going there!

27. Where does the WDL say we should go? Then that's where we should all go!

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Eagle732,

I have to disagree with your last recommendation:

"Where does the WDL say we should go? Then that's where we should all go!"

 

Just as every boy has his own personality, so does each troop.

When there is a good match between a boy and his troop, he is more likely to stay in scouts.

I know his Cub/Webelos friends seem important now, but there are many adventures and changes ahead as he moves from 5th grade through the end of high school. He is going to be making many more friends.

Some boys do great in a large troop where they like the huge events and general high level of noise/interaction. Other boys get overwhelmed in that environment and would be much happier in a smaller troop. Sensitive leaders can help steer boys to the troop where they will be most likely to prosper.

 

 

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Mike - I think Eagle was being a little tongue-in-cheek, with both suggestions, Although I have to laugh at 26. It wasn't the main reason we choose the troop we did, but we were happy that (the cub most likely to go to jail) was in the other troop. Years later we went to his ECOH, I did not find out until later he had a special day pass from prison to go to his own ECOH

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Moose - darned forums - it's hard to hear the tone of voice! #26 has a definite element of truth to it, but I would phrase it differently.

Your story is sad. Hope prison scared him straight.

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