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Could you please give me the advantages/disadvantages between a small vs. a large troop? By small I mean 5-7 and large over 25. I am considereing moving from a large to a small troop, but I am worried about the leadership positions and how the troop will function.


Derick Davis

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My first observation when visiting any troop would not so much be the numbers than what I see happening.


I have seen well run large and small and poorly run large and small. A lot of it has to do with the training of the adults and even more importantly the training of the scouts.


Generally speaking, what I would be looking for would be how well organized is the structure of the troop. Patrol method? or hodge-podge mix and match for convenience. This usually occurs more in the small troops that find it difficult to come up with numbers for an event. The larger troops with no patrol structure can be strongly adult led and that would concern me as well. Lots of boys with lots of POR patches, but no one actually functions in those roles.


If I walked into the troop meeting as a visitor with my son, I would be interested in how fast my son left my side. :) If he was shy, did the boys come get him and get him involved in their meeting? or did he hang out with the adults looking for information?


Who was running the show? Boys or adults? Who was doing all the talking? :)


I would hold in the back of my mind what I would expect for my son and check those things off as I saw them demonstrated or at least has the potential for. If you want a son with strong leadership skills, he needs to be in a troop that does not have strong adult directive because those two issues are mutually exclusive.


After the first contact, find out if your son made any new friends at the meeting. If the only new friend is the SM, then I'd have a red flag going up.


No troop is going to be ideal no matter what it's size. A good troop is one based on a certain environment for leadership and learning. That could be one patrol or 5 patrols. Being a good PL of a troop of 8 boys (1 patrol) is just as good as being an effective SPL of a large troop of 5 patrols. Both positions are out there with very little safety net and the boys are going to learn great leadership skills.


Go for quality, not quantity. :)



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I've seen some pretty good sized Eagle-mill troops that wouldn't want to be involved in either.


I don't think the size is the issue, I'm still sticking on the quality of how the scouters deals with the boys. Scouter-Leaders vs. Scouter-Teachers is my yard stick.



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- 25 is not a large troop. It's an average troop.

- 5 to 7 is a "starter" troop. It's a troop with one patrol and no SPL. It should have a goal of getting to the ideal of 32 scouts. Avoid the troop if it doesn't have that goal and a plan and a candidate pool of future scouts.

- 50+, 60+, 70+, 80+ is a large troop.


The trouble with a troop of 5 to 7 scouts is...

- If a few quit, you don't have enough scouts

- If a few scouts don't go on a camp out, you can end up canceling events.

- Every parent needs to help. Not enough families to just have a few families help.

- Not enough scouts to spread responsibility.

- Not enough scouts to have more than one patrol.

- Not enough scouts to have a real PLC.


If it is a starter troop with a goal of getting to 32 scouts, great! Go for it. It can be fulfilling to start a new troop. If it is a troop that's struggling for membership, be wary.


Use your judgement.


If you think the troop will grow, then you decide if that situation is better than the other one.


BUT if you think it will stay at 5 to 7 scouts and have membership struggles, I would not personally join. It's just won't offer a rich scouting experience.

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The general rule is a troop grows to the size the SM can manage. The bigger a troop gets the more challenging to manage a boy run style program. 50 is about the number where the SM has to make decisions to maintain boy run or tilt more to adult managed. It's rare to find boy run troops larger than 50, but they are around and usually are very good programs.


As others have said, quality is a function of the adults, so it's hard to give general guidelines. However, t larger troops have more access to resources like adults with a range of skills. On the other side, smaller troops are easier for boys to plan and manage and can do a lot of activities on a shorter schedule.


How long has the small troop been small? Good programs usually grow.


One thing I always like to compare is the older scouts. The quality of the older scout program reflects the whole program. The more the younger scouts are involved with the older scouts the more mature the program as a whole.



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The general rule is a troop grows to the size the SM can manage.


Yah, I second everything Eagledad said, eh?


Troops grow to the size that is "natural" for the adult leader(s). So I think yeh look more for stability than yeh look for size. Has the troop been stable at whatever size it is? That's the sign of a mature and relatively smoothly functioning troop. Has it been growin'? That's a sign of an energetic troop, but one that will eventually experience growin' pains, or might shrink with a change of leadership. Has it been shrinking? That's a sign of leadership burning out or a change of leadership that can't support da program that has been in place.


Average troop size nation-wide accordin' to JTE materials is 14 boys or so.



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There was a reason somebody said 32 was the right number. Ive been in a small troop,6-8 boys,

SM of a medium troop, 12-20, and now have grown to 45.


Logistics is easier at 20. Patrol method works better when there are more scouts.

Any patrols over 4 is too big IMHO.

Go for quality of program. If it is a good program, it will grow.

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Ok, so different side of the Atlantic and slightly different age range (10-14) but my troop is 35 strong with 5 patrols of 7, a few observations on a medium to large troop


Good things


Critical mass, there are nearly always enough scouts to make a given event viable.

Compeition - there is real competition for PL positions simply because of statistics. With a small troop you could easily have a position where there is simply no one of hire enough calibre to take it on.

Patrol competitions - always fun and you need multiple patrols!


Bad Things


When things go wrong they go really wrong. It's an awful lot harder to pull things back together with 30 scouts than it is with 6.

It can sometimes be hard to know all the scouts on a personal level

Admin is hard graft particularly when you don't have supportive parents

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Some things that my sons liked about our troop when it was small:

- you knew everyone

- you could all do stuff together at troop meetings

- it was easy to make decisions

- everyone felt like they had a part in the decisions

- no one got overlooked


We never really had a problem with getting critical mass, because if something got put on the calendar, it was because enough people wanted to do it. We didn't do patrol competitions, but that's not a big thing with our bigger troop, either.


Really, now that I think about it, I'm wistful for those days. I think a smaller troop has a lot of advantages.


However, as Eagledad says, good programs tend to grow. So if a troop has remained small for awhile, you'd want to know why. My experience is that this tends to be because Scouts grow frustrated with some aspect of the program - too disorganized, or one adult is too over-controlling, or they just aren't getting want they want for some reason.


A large, well-run troop can be great if you're a parent who wants to drop off your son. But really, most of our adults and Scouts seem to like the idea of a small troop, even though we are now big.

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Beavah wrote: "Average troop size nation-wide accordin' to JTE materials is 14 boys or so. "


Yeah, I just don't believe that number. In retail sales, you compare store sales on existing stores and excluding stores that are new or closing down. I think that should also be applied to troop size. Exclude troops that are essentially dead or dying. Exclude troops that are less than three years old. It would be easy to exclude new troops. It would only be possible to exclude dead or dying troops by waiting a few years and then looking backward.




Part of being a healthy troop is recruiting and teaching new scouts. With a troop of five to seven scouts, your only getting one or two scouts per year. IMHO, that's just not sustainable. With a troop of 14, your getting two or three scouts per year. More sustainable, but difficult.


Small troops are fun when your growing them. But small troops that are not interested in growing are probably not really focused on being a traditional Boy Scout troop. Too susceptible to being just like a Cub Scout den. Too susceptible to dying out as scouts age out.



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I believe the 14 number for average size of troop.

I know a few biggies, over 100 scouts, I know a handful of 30-50

and the majority are about size 5 or 7 mostly the smaller LDS troops in most of Arizona. Mesa has some LDS troops that are bigger than that, but because they are small basically neighborhood troops based on their church membership, most are small.


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25 boys seems a tiny troop to me. My son's troop has about 60 to 70 active boys at any given meeting. Probably more than that are floaters. I think the official count is close to 100. My kid chose it after visiting several troops of all sizes.


Things I, as a parent, like about a large troop:


1. The adult work is much more spread out. You have a much larger pool of parents and you don't burn out as easily. They have several ASMs and several committee members so the CC and SM are not overwhelmed.


2. They still split into patrols. Each patrol is about 6-8 boys. They keep the 1st years somewhat isolated in their own patrols. They of course participate in the troop meetings and can attend any campout the patrol organizes (except HA of course, designed for older boys), but they have at least one campout a month designed just for them (think 5-mile hike campout, intro to backpacking campout). They also have two ASMs dedicated to the 1st years. And the 1st patrols all have one troop guide (older boy). This, I think, makes it easier for a 1st timer to roll into scouting and not be intimidated by a whole sea of experienced scouts. It also promotes the whole 1st class by 1st year culture. Some people don't like that, I kinda do.


3. They have SO many things going on! They camp at least once a month, most of the times is twice. They have tons of service opportunities. They have tons of merit badge opportunities (yeah I know, don't start with me - I like MB classes and so does my busy son).


Things I don't like:


1. Is still sometimes hard for a kid not to get lost in the crowd. We are talking about a lot of kids.


2. During the 1st year, they don't interact all that much with the older scouts.

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