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Adult leaders who were never Scouts......

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When reading a current thread in the Patrol Method as well as others, a common problem recognized by some people in these forums are adult leaders who were never Scouts. Being one of those myself, I would like to counter that theory with one of my own.


Before I present my case, there are two points I will concede. I wish I had been a Scout. As a Dad I am very happy for my son when I see him enjoying his Scouting days, and know I would have loved them as well. And had I been a Scout it would definitely help me as a leader. Point two, when we walk in the door we are, for the most part, clueless. And we are leaders at the same time. Not a good combination, but that's where the smarter ones of my non-Scout (NS) types are asking the experienced leaders questions and trying to learn.


That said, I can't help but wonder if NS leaders are a problem, why are we in such demand? In terms of membership, all I hear is numbers are down. So what that means is there are less Scouts than there were decades ago, but the adults who were Scouts at that time are now nowhere to be found. This first made itself known to me on a Scout Sunday service a few years ago. I had a vast 3 1/2 years of lifetime experience of Scouting under my belt when the pastor started asking anyone in the congregation who was a Boy Scout to please stand. Then he asked those who achieved Eagle to remain standing. All I can remember thinking at that time is how I have been to about 30 Roundtables, staffed 4 district camping events, attended 6 or 7 district or council camporees, and served two years as District Popcorn Chairman. Why have I never met any of you? Even if being a direct leader of youth is not your thing, could you not at least help with a district position so us filling the unit positions would not feel pressured to also fill out the vacancies?


This ties in with another approach that is taken towards the NS leader. This person, who has never been involved with Scouting at all but shows up at RT because they are fresh faced and want to be the best darn Den Leader, ASM, or whatever because they were told that's what good leaders do. They will never say no because the spirit of volunteerism has taken them, and when the person with all the bling (We get medals in Scouting? Cool!) speaks to them about how the district needs them, the NS leader of course gives a resounding "YES!". And before you know it, you have over-volunteered and next comes the burn-out. Should we all be grown-ups and not agree to things for which we have no capacity to do well, of course. I am a big personal responsibility guy. But those in the know shouldn't look at a brand new tan shirt and think "Fresh Meat!".


Lastly, for the defense, I would contend that us NS leaders, for the most part, only want to be the best we can be and are looking for guidance. Based on that, we attend training. I attended WB21C after I was 6 months in because I was told it was the best training out there, and the youth deserve the best (to which we can all agree). So we show up bright-eyed, ready to learn from.....wait for it.....experienced Scout leaders using curriculum developed by.....here it comes again.....experienced Scout leaders!


You Honor, the defense rests! :)

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I was never a Scout as a youth except for a few weeks as a Cub Scout.


I think you've done very well. A non Scout leader who gets trained should do well, except that they MIGHT not have much background in outdoor skills like backpacking, orienteering, canoeing and such, and it takes a good deal of practical experience to be competent in those skills.


You can learn that on the job as a volunteer though if you work at it.



Thank you for your service! You sound like you are doing a terrific job!~

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Former youth members are also often the worst when it comes to training.


They feel that because they have been a Scout as a youth (even for the briefest time, although Eagles can be the worst of the bunch) they know everything there is to know.


They do not see that knowledge of the program from the youth side, although a great resource, does not give them the knowledge that an adult leader must have.

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The advantage the ones with previous experience may, stress MAY, have is that they have a background on Patrol Method, Youth Led, outdoor skills, etc. But they need to learn their role: advising and mentoring.


I'll give you a great example: myself. IT took me about a year and a half to stop butting in and doing the SPL's and LC's jobs. My problme was that I was use to being in those roles, and had not gotten out of that mode. They need to be trained and mentored.


In regards to new leaders, SP sums it up.


But I would add this: Cub Scout Leaders have a very hard time adjusting from CS mode to BS mode. this is based not only on my experiences, but also conversations with CS leaders who "freak out" when I talk about such concepts as patrol method, youth led, patrols camping away form each other and the adults, letting youth do the teaching, etc.



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Two factors related to this that I perceive are that the most common ages for leaders that are also parents is between 30 and 50 or so. As kids, they were in the downside of the failed experiments of the 70's, plus the backlash against anything remotely smelling of military connection. So, many did not receive the best scouting programs, or suffered from the stigma, so to speak, if they were scouts. Many opted simply to not be involved, or their parents chose to not allow them to do so.


Of course, today, there appears to be a shadow of the "parenting overload" showing up. Many of the youngest potential leaders not only were not scouts, but were over protected to the point of developing a fear of failure and the outdoors. And those that were scouts, often did not learn the depth of skills that were more common pre 1965 or so.


That being said, every leader's potential is only reached should it be important to her or him, and they care enough to learn so they can teach.



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SP, thank you very much.


And just to let you know....


"A non Scout leader who gets trained should do well, except that they MIGHT not have much background in outdoor skills like backpacking, orienteering, canoeing and such, and it takes a good deal of practical experience to be competent in those skills."


Good call. This is where my largest feeling of inadequacy lies. We held our new troop's first annual planning conference on Saturday, and the boys flat out said "Canoeing, we definitely want to go canoeing!" I love the idea, but I'm glad they agreed to move it to May instead of the original February when they started. I have work to do on my skills in that field.



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I dropped out after Webelos. My son was a baseball player and scouts wasn't even on the radar for us until he came home from school and begged to go to an informational meeting that night at school. He joined as a Webelos 1 and Eagled last December and aged out this past February. So I wasn't a scout as a youth, but I've been a very involved adult. I was a Cub Committee Chair and WDL, ASM, staffed 4 WB courses, staffed IOLS, ASM for 2 Jamborees, Campmaster, OA Chapter Adviser and will be Course Director for one of our NYLT courses in 2012. My question is why all of the guys who were scouts as kids aren't coming back to give back now? I don't really consider it a problem that former scouts aren't stepping up in great numbers. Any volunteer can easily learn the program and obtian the needed skills. Like others have wrote, some of the worst folks for getting training are former scouts. A good friend of mine was our district training chair and he is now the council training chair for Boy Scouting and he is an Eagle Scout. He has always maintained that the hardest folks to get into training are the Eagle Scouts like him. They believe that because they were scouts as boys 30 years ago, they know everything an adult leader needs to know today. Ain't the case.

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SR540Beaver: "My question is why all of the guys who were scouts as kids aren't coming back to give back now?"


IMHO, that's a million dollar question without a single simple answer. I'd hope that the excuse of a busy life is the main reason for most, but I doubt it's that simple. Too many parents are stepping up in their kid's lives.


The related question I have is "Why do former scouts not register their kids for scouts?


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I'm and Eagle Scout, and I had extensive youth leadership experience, including running our councils youth leadership training course for three years. I always anticipated getting involved in Scouting later in life, but realized all the normal things in life get in the way. In college, I managed to register as a Scoutmaster of a handicapped troop, working with men and women in my fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega) to help these folks out. Even doing all we could do was very limited with this troop. When I was 34, I had time, and hooked up with a crew going canoeing in Maine since they needed adult leadership. Until a few years ago, that was the limit of my contribution to Scouting.


My first kid, now 18, was a daughter. When I married my wife, she had a young daughter, now 17. I was raising girls, and as important as family was to me, regardless of all my Scouting experience, my time was spent for them. Then came my son, just 9yo and in 4th grade. I went back into Scouting with him. I know that if he hadn't come along, I probably would have found my way back to Scouting anyway once done with the heavy duty parenting with my daughters. Of course, I am now almost 50yo, so you see a big gap would have been there regardless. I've served as den leader, and am on my 2nd year as Cubmaster. I've been going through every bit of training that has been available, even though I have found little use in it. If for no other reason that it sets a good example for those that really need it.


So with this information, I'll answer your question pointing out that this is a youth organization - meaning that it really has to be parents of those youth that makes up the foundation that keeps everything going. My father served as a leader, supporting my Boy Scout troop, and he had never been a Scout. I'm pretty sure he was registered as a leader, though I don't remember him going through any training in particular or going into any particular effort to get up in front of the group to say anything, but he SERVED Scouting. So much so that he was selected into the Order of the Arrow and was even selected as a Vigil Honor member, something he was proud of.


So it does not have to be the former Scout, or the Eagle Scout, to make an impact on the units they serve. Cub Scouts probably requires the very most from adults, a program I was not involved with as a kid, and it requires crazy participation as an adult. If it were not for online resources, forums like this, and a complete willingness to embarass myself completely for the boys, it would be a challenge. You have to get up to speed FAST. I think an adult going into a Boy Scout Troop has it far easier - just stand back and stay out of the way. I imagine I'll be in Scouts now until I just can't do it any more. I'm sure there will be decisions about level of commitment once my boy passes through. Part of me hopes I'll have a chance to be a Scoutmaster, but there often aren't choices about that. Ultimately, most of the leaders in Scouting are just trying to be the best parents they can, and once they are done with their kids, they realize that a kid can't have too many loving, caring adults to look after them - so they hang around.


That's my thought on the topic.

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Im one of those who has made the point of leaders not having scouting experience. I could spend all day giving examples but my opinion is based from observing many units over several years.


While some may have suggested it, I have never said that a non-experienced adult couldnt be good leaders. What I said is that I have observed that a unit of scouters with little or no youth experiences are typically about three years behind in developing the same quality program of a unit of adults who did have a youth experience. And I think you guys already pointed out part of the reason;


"A non Scout leader who gets trained should do well, except that they MIGHT not have much background in outdoor skills like backpacking, orienteering, canoeing and such, and it takes a good deal of practical experience to be competent in those skills."


It only makes sense that adults with vivid memories of camping and scout craft have an advantage over those who dont. They have experience that helps set priorities of scout crafts in the arena of camping. An example is the new Wood Badge trained SM who, was never a scout, that called me after his 6th campout with a new troop of 11 years. He asked me what else could they do on campouts besides advancement skills because his scouts were bored to death. Three years later he was a completely different Scoutmaster running a completely different troop.


As for the question of why more youth experienced scouters dont step up, the answer is mathematically very simple, WOMEN. Almost 50% of the BSA adult leaders today are women and its reasonable that their added number of non youth experienced adults in the program dilute the number of adults with a youth experience.


Im not sure why you feel the need to defend yourself Irsap, I praise you for your volunteerism and passion for scouting. But when we get into discussions of why scouting today isnt the same as it was 25 years ago, well its not hard to point out major differences like adult demographics. The difference is significant enough that National overhauled the whole training program to introduced a completely new training curriculums in 2000, much of which was a result of the demographic change of inexperienced leaders. Its not good or bad, just different and something to note.





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I will start out by saying that I believe completely that any particular woman can do anything as well as or better than any particular man if she sets her mind to it. I have no interest in discriminating against women in any way.


That being said, I spent a great deal of my adult life learning (actually studying) things about being a man, growing into a man, what it takes to be emotionally mature, connected, men in relationships and life. I've looked cross-culturally how people have grown their men (actually finding how a lot about the industrial age drastically cut the numbers of emotionally mature men in our society). I've been actively part of men's groups for most of the last twenty years.


I've been particularly interested in the boys-to-men transition, studying goals and outcomes. I've been able to compare and contrast the best of what I've learned with my Scouting experience as a youth. I actually recall adult leaders that stood out to me back then and actually have a foundation about why I was drawn to them.


So, considering what the Boy Scouts is all about and why we put our sons into the Scouting program, I can say I believe completely that women have no place in the line leadership, SM, ASM, etc., actively working with the boys, camping, etc., no matter how capable they are, particularly in the Boy Scouting part of the program, from age 11 to age 18. Certainly, Cub Scouts is no problem, and the transition into a coed Venturing program is no problem, in my opinion. If BSA is so dead set against discriminating against women, how come they still feel it is completely okay to discriminate for other reasons? Just saying...


Is the objective of Scouting to grow boys into men? Or is it just to get them their Eagle badge to enter it on their college applications? Do we want them to mature into leaders and responsible family members and leaders in their community? If that's what we really want, then Scouting would look a whole lot more like B-P or even Green Bar Bill envisioned rather than the powderpuff Scouting-lite I'm seeing in too many places nowadays. I guess I am very thankful that as we go out searching for troops, my son will have options to choose a troop he can grow into.

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When it comes to adult leaders, it really doesn't matter if they were scouts as a youth. A parlor scout who hates to camp, even if he was able to get his Eagle, would not make a good leader as an adult in an outdoor program.


On the other hand, if an outdoor oriented person were interested in being a leader, he/she can pick up the training and make a great scout leader.


My dad was never a scout as a youth, but I spent my entire childhood growing up in the woods. I was camping from 4 years old on and hunting by the time I was 12. I have no idea how young I was when I picked up my first fishing pole.


My dad was a District Commissioner for a while, but not very long. That really wasn't his thing, but I'm thinking that had we not been going camping every weekend already, he might have made a fairly good SM.


On the other hand, my brother-in-law thinks that a "campsite by the water" is a pool-side room at the Holiday Inn. I'm thinking he's not going to ever make it no matter how many boys he had in his family.



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I'm not sure why so many ex-scouts don't return as adult leaders.

My guess is that having seen the time and commitment that their leaders put in, they feel that it's just too much.

There are no hard and fast rules when we talk about groups of people. I know some guys who were never youth members who have a wonderful understanding of the program and how it works. I also know guys who were youth members and have put a lot of years in, with no idea what so ever.

Still having said that the group that seems to get to me the most are "Experts"!

Guys who think the entire program should revolve around them and their expertize.

All too often these guys are a real right pain in the you know what and seem to want to impress everyone they meet with what they know.

Top of my list are EMT's and Para-medics.

I'm a qualified American Safety & Health Institute instructor, not only trained in First aid and emergency response but also in how to instruct it. But a good many of these guys think that because they do this for a living that they are the something special.

Next on my list are ex-military types. They sometimes forget that we are dealing with young boys and not the SAS.


Over the past ten years or so in our area I've noticed that there are a lot more Dads who cross over with their son's, buy a uniform shirt hang around for a year or two but when their son loses interest they are gone.

If the truth be known they were only hanging out in order to keep an eye on their kid from the get go.


While we talk about the Scouts who don't return. I have to wonder about all the female Den Leaders?

Many do an outstanding job for 3 or 4 years and are never seen again.



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Hmmm... I'm not sure that anyone ever said that "NS Leaders" were ever a problem for the program. I suppose that having been a Scout in a decent troop as a youth might be an advantage when it comes to one or two particular areas of our program, such as the patrol method - but I don't think that not having a Scouting background is a problem in general.


Too much depends on the individual personality. A former Scout might bring with them a strong understanding and commitment to the program, including youth leadership and the patrol method. But that same person might also bring a resistance to changes that have been made in the program in the years since they were members. An "NS Leader" might bring some fresh perspective and enthusiasm to a unit, but may also bring some inexperience and concern regarding parts of the program. A paramedic or soldier may bring some unique and useful background and knowledge/skills/abilities, but may also bring a cocky attitude or unreasonable demands of the youth or of the program.


Every single one of us brings strengths and weaknesses to the table. The individual units need to decide whether the strengths outweigh the weaknesses.


A related issue is the question of why former Scouts don't get back involved in the program. Good question. I know that in my council, we're going to be starting up a program to identify Scouting alumni, and reaching out to them to try to involve them in the program. I believe this may be a National initiative as well. I'm not familiar with all the details yet, but it seems like the goal is to bring people in first at the District or Council level, and then hopefully identify a good area for them to involve themselves with the program - maybe as unit leadership, a UC, at the district or council level, or just as a resource for one-off events. Again, I don't know very much about this program, but it seems like it has potential.

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