Jump to content

What does "boy run" mean?

Recommended Posts

I know what I think it means, but apparently my son's Scoutmaster has a different definition.


I believe "boy run" means just that - the boys run things. They make the decisions, with guidance form the adult leaders, but they do the planning, etc. I believe we need to advise, but ultimately allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. It doesn't always make for the smoothest run program, but in the end it is still the boys who benefit from the experience.


This particular Scoutmaster seems to think we need to prevent the boys from making any mistakes. "Boys don't always know what is best for them" - a direct quote. I agree with this statement to an extent, however, I thought Scouting was a safe environment for boys to learn independece, leadership and other qualities. How will they learn if they are not permitted to experiment and try new ideas? I thought Scouting was supposed to be a safe place to stretch your limits and learn.


How do you interprit "boy run"?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Train Them.

Trust Them .

Let Them Lead.

The Scoutmaster is in charge of Training the Patrol Leaders to do their job, to the best of their ability. He then has to trust them to do it.He supports them by showing that he has confidence in them and with the expectation that they will do their best.

The Scoutmaster needs to adopt the answer: "Ask your Patrol Leader."The Scoutmaster needs to develop a belief that the Patrol Leader is the only one who knows what is going on so that the Scouts do turn to the Patrol Leader for vital facts and guidance. When the Scouts go to the Patrol Leader this is a sign of true leadership.

Of course it only works if the Patrol Leader has been given all the vital information to start with.

The Scoutmaster needs to know his Patrol Leaders. He needs to know the wants and needs of his Patrol Leaders. In turn the Scoutmaster needs to install in the Patrol Leader the need to know the members of his Patrol. Effective Leadership can only be managed if the Patrol knows the wants and needs of the Patrol members.

To build the confidence of the Patrol Leaders they need to put out front as much as possible and given every opportunity to lead .

They also need to be commended publicly when they show signs of taking responsibility.

Scoutmasters should refrain from criticizing the Patrol Leader in front of his Patrol. This will reverse all the good that has been done in building up the confidence of the Patrol Leader.

The Scoutmaster and other adults must allow the Patrol Leader to lead and not jump in to solve every problem or hand out discipline.

Scoutmasters must remember that they are to be training the Patrol Leader and this is ongoing, so while providing every opportunity to lead he should be available to guide the Patrol Leader and be someone that the Patrol Leader can count on for advise and to talk to about things without getting in the way.

The true Boy Run Troop, is one where the Scoutmaster is training the Patrol Leaders to lead.

In the old Boy Scout Wood Badge there was a session "Representing The Group." It started with the Patrol meeting and coming up with what they wanted to cook for the feast. When they met with the SPL he looked over the menu and if needed had the Patrol Leaders make changes. There may have been six patrols that wanted to make the mashed potatoes when only one patrol making mashed potatoes would be enough. Now we have five patrols that have to change. Each Patrol Leader knows that his Patrol wants to make the mashed potatoes, but he will more then lightly not get his way. He goes back to his Patrol and informs them that they are not making mashed potatoes and are cooking spaghetti.

This is still a Boy Led Troop, but there has been give and take on both sides. Yes there will still be the mashed potatoes, but not every patrol will be making them and better yet we have added the spaghetti.

Sometimes Leadership is not so much about what we end up doing but how we got there.


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is "Boy Led"? Interesting that you should ask. I went to lunch with EagleDad last week and this was one of our topics of idscussion. BTW, EagleDad teaches JLTC for our Council. I won't go into a lot of detail since I'm sure I couldn't do justice to Barry's explanation to me. Basically, each Troop is different, just as each family, church, business, etc. is different. No two will be alike. The easy answer is that a boy led Troop is one that is led by the boys. Duh! ;) The degree of leading by the boys is determined on many factors such as the age, talents, abilities, experience and knowledge of the boys. A new troop with ten or twelve 11 year olds can be "boy led" in as much as which parts of the program they are competent to lead. For them, it may only be that they can perform their meeting opening and plan their duty rosters and menus. For them at that point in the program, they are "leading" themselves. Adults may have to fill in the gaps in teaching skills, leadership and handling some business. As they grow in their responsibilities, they can go outside what they have done in the past and take on new responsibilities. Those new abilities now become part of their "Boy Led" program where it had not been before. With a troop that has been in existence for a number of years and has a broad age spread, the older boys teach the new boys skills and leadership by example. A cycle is produced that keeps going as long as new scouts are entering the program. The more boys you have and the broader the range of ages, the more "Boy Led" it can become as the boys take on new responsibilities. Eventually, they can run the whole program from the ground up. "Boy Led" is an ever evolving and changing thing within a Troop. They start with a small circle of what they are able to handle and continually step outside that circle and grow it larger and larger. What is boy led in one troop may look totally different from another troop because they are at a different stage of evolution.


Barry, I'm sure I butchered your explanation to me and for that I am truely sorry.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think one of the issues raised here is the thin distinction between "Learning Experience" and "Letting them Fail." It is true that we learn the most from experiences that don't always go the way we planned. Nothing runs perfectly. However, as adults or experienced scouters, we can often spot problems looming on the horizon. It's instinctive to prevent those problems or solve them quickly ourselves. So I can see the Scoutmaster's perspective in this instance. First, it's difficult to know when to step back and put trust in the boys, and then it's difficult not to take control immediately when there is a problem.


What's important for us as leaders is to turn those "failures" into "learning experiences." The key to this is letting the boys figure out what went wrong and how it can be fixed. As adult leaders, our job should often be leading the self discovery reflections. Then learning will take place.


As a rule of thumb, I'll immediately get involved if safety is a concern. Otherwise, I'm there to ask them what they can do differently next time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Eamonn nailed it..

Train Them

Trust Them

Let Them Lead


Beaver also is correct. It is a process and different units can be in different points of the process at the same time. In fact, Scouting is designed so that the same unit is at different points of the process at the same time. A New Scout Patrol and a Venture Patrol will have different levels of boy leadership taking place.


Where boy leadership will not take place is in a unit where adults have little trust or faith in the ability of today's youth.


When an adult says "boys can't" it means "I won't let them". Take your child and run to a different troop.(This message has been edited by Bob White)

Link to post
Share on other sites

As a recent (litle over a year ago) crossover Dad from Cubs to Scouts (and a Den Leader for five years) I was really looking forward to sitting back and letting the boys "run things". As many former Cubbers know -- this cutting loose the boys is easier said than done.


It's hard not to be in there helping the guys when you've been doing it for several years -- and they are also used to having you help them.


Then I remembered one thing my Dad had told me (he was a regular Woodbadge Staffer -- and I was just a kid). The Woodbadge staff would always carry around their walking staffs -- which were often festooned with carvings, or fancy knot-work, or Scouting memorabilia -- not because they wanted to show off, or because they needed assistance with walking -- but because it gave them something to fill their hands, making it more difficult to come to the Scouts aid and show them how to do something when the boy should be doing the work himself. Also, it served as a natural pointer, so some helpful directions could be given if needed, while still staying a good distance away.

I still think it's a great idea... and I must say, today it is much easier for me to let the boys do things for themselves (but I am still having an ongoing battle with other well-meaning, but interfering parents).

Link to post
Share on other sites


Good question and one most of us struggle with constantly.

In short, it's almost always easier for us to just do it for them - in the near term. But while we're doing everything for them, they're not learning to do for themselves, so they remain dependent and we always have the responsibility to keep doing things for them.


Best way to help the scouts learn and grow is to at least include them in the process.


As far as "not knowing what is best for them," leadership (scout and adult) needs to work together to develop a common vision for where they want to go. Once the scouts help develop goals like "Develop patrol leadership to the point where patrols can function without outside help," they'll start to tie the cause-&-effect it takes to reach that goal.


Good luck! -mike

Link to post
Share on other sites

It means just what the name implies; the boys run the Troop. That is, the SPL and ASPL direct the activities of the PLs, the PLs and APLs direct the activities of their patrols, and the appointed leaders do their jobs under the supervision of the ASPL and in concert with the adult leader they're intertwined with.


I think it's important to note a couple things. First, this whole notion is best represented as a line, not a point. The "boys" who are responsible for this leadership form a team whose abilities to lead will move on a continuum from one meeting, one activity, one Troop election, to the next. As adults, we can't make the mistake of projecting the leadership skills of an older experienced SPL or PL on a younger, less experienced one. Or, assuming that because a particular meeting went well, that the next one automatically will because the same green bars will be there. A perceptive leader will know where his green bar leadership team is in their ability to plan and execute, and give them the amount of top-cover they need to succeed. Do I insist that they fly solo the night they're elected? Of course not; we conduct TJLT right after elections, and there's lots of coaching at the front end of their tenure. Do I expect that they get incrementally better as time goes on and move from dependence toward self-sufficiency? Sure, but I don't see it as equivalent to flipping a light switch, and I know that they may sometimes take a step forward and two back. Basically, I need to be more hands-on with a new PLC, less so as they get experience and confidence.


Second, boy-led doesn't mean boy-led-into-the-ground. If my unit is failing, my DE or DC is not going to ask my SPL why -- they're going to ask me. I'll intervene in anything, in a second, if it crosses a certain threshhold, from a unit consequence standpoint. What's the threshhold? It's hard to say because it's so situational, and the lads are so resilient. That said, let me just say that I'll allow what some call "controlled failure" up to the point where that failure looks repetitive or has a negative impact on the delivery or enjoyment of the program for another Scout or Scouts. For example, if a patrol leader attends training, makes the PLCs, is trying hard, and is generally getting better, everybody will be very patient with him. However, if he's mailing it in or making the same mistakes over and over, and we're losing Scouts because of his action or inaction, it's time for a change. One thing I'll never do is stand by, watch a train wreck I know is coming, and do nothing to prevent it by proclaiming the boys are in charge. To me, that's nothing more than a uniformed version of "gotcha" or "stump the dummy".


Leadership Development is a method, but only one of eight. I work very hard to keep them all in balance, so that I'm not overemphasizing one at the expense of any of the other seven.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the input, everyone. Pretty much you have confirmed my conception of what a boy lead program should be. Given the attitudes regarding women in Scouting expressed by the Leaders I am dealing with, I have been very aware of my actions with the Scouts. I try very hard not to be "hovering" or overly protective - encouraging anyone who might ask me a question to "Ask you Patrol Leader" -- especially my son. I am very surprised with the current attitudes of "boys don't always know what is best for them". Well, ok, but lets try a little more of the coaching style as opposed to the directing style of leadership. We have an excellent young man as SPL and he is not being given a chance to implement HIS program. He is constantly being undermined by the adult leadership.


I am considering changing troops, but I have to consider my son's feelings on that subject. Right now, these things are not affecting him, but it is only a matter of time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent thread and even better post, KS. I may print the third paragraph of your post and give it to all our leaders tomorrow night. Your comments regarding balance is especially important. In the couple troops with which I'm familar I see a lot of "all or nothing" as it relates to the methods, especially advancement and boy leadership.


Here's another situation when it may be appropriate to step in and that is when the consequences of a failure fall disproportionally on someone other than those who caused it.


Example: Number One Son has been in the troop about six weeks and went on his first campout last weekend. Of the six troop meetings he has attended, his Troop Guide has attended maybe two. Typically, at the last minute the SM shanghis one of the older Scouts to work with the NSP for the evening. As a result, the instruction the NSP has received has lacked any planning or forthought, although I will say the substitute guides have done a decent job given the situation. Two weeks ago this was the case and the boys talked about what to bring on a campout and how to pack. They covered personal gear, but never got around to talking about patrol gear. Last week, with another last-minute instructor, they did menu planning for the weekend. The instructor who worked with them did a good job and the Scouts came up with a great menu. They went through the process of breaking the menu down into a shopping list, but didn't have time to go to the next step of figuring out what cooking gear they would need. The bottom line was that Friday night everyone was packed, sitting in the vans ready to roll before I asked the NSP Scouts if anyone had packed a patrol mess kit or stove and suggested they consult the SPL as to what they should bring. (I also knew I had enough of my own gear to cover anything they needed.)


Now if this were a patrol of second- or third-year Scouts, First Class and up, I would have kept my mouth shut and enjoyed watching as the boys learned utensil-less cooking for the weekend. But what would the new Scouts have learned had I allowed the controlled failure to continue? That their instructors were incompetent? That no one had bothered to teach them how to cook without utensils either? That I was a jerk for setting them up? That they would have to wait another month to complete their cooking requirement and reach Tenderfoot? That Scouting is no fun?


The failures in instruction and leadership occurred above the level of the NSP. Relating to what KS wrote, because of the disconnect between cause and effect, there was no learning opportunity there. The lessons these boys needed to learn was how to light a camp stove, how to scramble eggs and how handle camp sanitation. The school-of-hard-knocks, we'll-never-forget-the-mess-kit-again lesson can come another day.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I once saw a rather good description of what "boy run" vs "boy led" can mean.


Some Troops are run like a railroad. The boys get to blow the whistle and ring the bell, but all key decisions are made by the adults.


Other Troops give the boys a bit more freedom but are still like a railroad. Maybe the boys can start and stop the train and choose its speed. Maybe even they can throw the switches occasionally. But still, the tracks are laid out by the adults.


Other Troops run more like an airline. The boys can choose the airports they will visit, fly the plane under traffic control, etc.


Finally, some Troops run more like a car trip. The boys get a map and plan where they will go, choose the exact route, plan the stops, change the stops when necessary and essentially get to do everything limited only by traffic laws and the laws of physics.


There is a continuum from being a passenger on a train to being the planner and driver on a car trip. Exactly which each Troop is depends upon the capability of the boys, style of the adults, desires of the sponsors, size of the Troop, plans of parents, etc. When a skilled group of boys ages out and younger boys become the leaders, more training is needed and more adult guidance is in order.


It's a neverending cycle. That's why it's fun.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with K. We need to use all the methods of Scouting and keep things in balance.

We as leaders I would hope use different styles of leadership depending on the Patrol Leader. I have seen little Lads that take to planning and organizing things like a duck to water, while there are older Lads who need a little more help.I would hope that we never allow the Train to Wreck. And setting anyone up to fail goes against the Scout Law. Very often it's not what we do it's more in how we do it. Yes there are things that don't go to plan and we all learn from them. By all I mean the Scouts and the Leaders. If a Patrol Leader "Messes Up." Then I know that something that I have or haven't done as Scoutmaster hasn't worked. I think it comes back to knowing the wants and needs of the Lads who are the Patrol Leaders.


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Exactly which each Troop is depends upon the capability of the boys, style of the adults, desires of the sponsors, size of the Troop, plans of parents, etc."


I gotta disagree, while the development phase the scouts are in will determine how much boy leadership is in operation the other elements listed should not be a factor in a unit following the scouting program.


The style of the adults should be the Scouting leadership styles not their own, the size of the troop is irrelevant if you follow the Patrol Method. The desire of the Charter Organization should be to follow the scouting methods and program as they agreed to in the charter agreement. The plans of the parents should not alter the methods of scouting.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...