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Challenging Troop's older Scouts

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I am a SM of a 16 boy troop. I have been SM a little over 2 years and had been involved in the troop for one year before that. I have gone through the SM training. I am having difficulty making the boy led troop work. Along with myself there is an ASM and 1 or 2 parents that help out occasionally. 6 scouts are Star and Life (Most have attended JLT) and the other 10 are 2nd class and lower. (A couple of lean recruiting years in between.) One problem is not a very strong tradition/history of a boy lead troop. The older scouts want to have activities and meetings that are less boring/more exciting but do not take the lead when given the opportunity. They are distracted easily. i.e.side conversation "putzing" around, etc. They are good kids and come because they want to but like to have things done. My idea is to sit down with them and in some way challenge them to make the troop better and take the initiative to lead and provide a good example to the younger scouts. (Many of these older scouts have younger brothers in the troop)


We hit the Spring and Fall camporees, have a winter camp, go to summer camp, have a fall and spring campout ourselves, and a couple of other things like hikes and canoeing. Attendance is good about 10 attend most outings. But the program planning for this and the outing planning is like pulling teeth sometimes. (Not a lot of ideas. ASM and I seem to come up with ideas.) And as far as the troop meeting planning and troop meetings go there is even less enthusiasm to come up with ideas and stick with an agenda.


Any examples on how I can challenge the older scouts to take initiative to lead and not follow?

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Welcome back to the forums.

You don't say how many patrols you have?

You need to sit down with the PLC and make an Annual Plan. The plan could include activities for the Venture Patrol.

If you follow the themes in Scouting Magazine there are activities for every age group.

The Annual Plan will show you where you are going. The monthly PLC will show you how to get there.

You might want to spend less time running the troop and more time training the Patrol Leaders. This isn't going to happen over night. Start really using your SPL. He is the number one person at troop meetings, but he isn't going to jump up and start running the meetings if no one has done so in the past. He needs you to guide him. Have blank meeting plans and go over how the plan works before you both go to the PLC, have him sell the idea to the Patrol Leaders.

Have a look over the handouts and notes that you took at the training's you attended. If you are a little unsure give your District Training team a call. There is no shame what so ever in asking.

Take a little time to work out where you want to go with the troop. Set goals for where you think you will be in 3 months, 6 months.

Do you want to be a Scoutmaster or a youth club leader?

The BSA has the materials out there, in the printed materials, videos and people. Many years ago when I attended Wood Badge the staff answered what seemed to be every question with the same answer: "Check Your Resources." It got so much that I hated to hear it.

Don't try to reinvent the wheel everything you need is out there, everyone out there wants you to do well.

Good Luck.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Getting scouts to plan activities is one of the hardest things sometimes, especially when the scouts don't want to take the initiative. It seems like you don't have much precedent in your troop for boy-led activities. My first advice is to start small and work your way up. Make sure the boys are planning their own menus before they move on to weekend programs. As far as the older scouts, the only way to get their interest is to move the program to thier level. They'll never get excited over lashings and treating head wounds. Get them to find something that would be exciting for them. (The scouts in Boy's Life always seem like they're doing things like rock climbing and sailing and caving. All we ever do is go to camp and build fires and practice knots.) A varsity patrol is a great way to do this without leaving the younger scouts behind.


Eamonn mentioned an annual plan, which is another good way to start. However, since sitting down with your PLC seems like it will only create another teeth pulling session, you may want to try a different approach. During a troop meeting (my troop often plans a Saturday session for this so we have more time) have each patrol leader sit down with his patrol and brainstorm ideas for activities, different camps to visit, and merit badges or other program ideas. You may also want to ask for ideas for service projects or fundraisers. Have the PL write everything down on a flip chart. Remember, this is brinstorming, so make sure they write down everything that's said, even the silly comments shouldn't be judged. (I've found that the silly answers are at least answers, and that they often inspire someone else to think of something.)


Then have them go through and pick out the ones that the patrol as a whole would want to do. (This is where the silly answers are eliminated.) Have the PL write these down on a seperate list. Then have the PLC come together and compare lists. Have the SPL write these down on a flip chart as well. Then let your PLC decide which activities the troop should do for that year and schedule them on a calendar. (Note: Any that aren't picked could be done as patrol activites, but that's a matter for a different thread.)


The PLC should then divide the planning and preparation for each of these up between the patrols. (Each patrol is in charge of two merit badges and a camp-out program.) The trick is to make sure that you and the SPL check in on the plannning at each PLC to make sure it's proceding.


I know it can be tough, and I hope this helps. Good Luck!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to the both of you for the help. Eamonn I looked up some of the past Scouter magazines. Those helped in putting together a list for the older scouts.


Our Troop committees haave been well attended lately but not consistent adult help at Troop meetings and outings. I think that it part of this older scout issue too. Its hard to juggle everything sometimes. At our last TC I brought the organization of troop meetings up and the older scout issue. Our CC and Org Rep brought up some things. Their experienced but do not have scouts in troop anymore. There is only one other trained parent. Looks like if we/I get organzied we should be able to make some strides to get older scouts more involved and get troop organzied for planning in August.


Captnkirk, its like you said I need to spend more time training the scouts to lead not running the meetings. The troop has to get more adults to help in the advancements, leadership development, and meetings. It looks after out last TC meeting that may be happening. Maybe needed to ask for help sooner.


Also any suggestions on getting a scout who is 17, 3 partial merit badges and project away from Eagle to return. It's my son and he was the SPL. He says he's just doesn't want to be in Scouting anymore. He doesn't have a lot of outside interests. Hate to say it but just a little lazy.



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Re. The Lad who has lost interest.

Just for a minute forget that he is your son. Then ask yourself what would you do if he was some other Lad who was doing or not doing the same thing?

Now take another minute and forget that you are the Scoutmaster and think what you would do if your son was losing or had lost interest?

Sometimes the hardest Lad to communicate with is the one that lives with us. Sometimes they feel that we are on their back and pushing too hard. Sometimes we they are right and we as parents who are also in the program set unrealistic goals for our sons. These goals are our goals and might not be what they want.

My son is 16 in July. He has been a Life Scout for over a year. All the merit badges are done, the project has been approved, the project planning is done and we do have bursts of enthusiasm that don't last long and so far have not resulted in anything. OJ, is just too busy. He has so much going on that the project keeps getting put on the back burner.

If he came up to me and informed me that he wanted to quit (Which at this time I don't see happening.) I would try and find the right time and the right place, making sure that I was in a good mood and was focused on him. Then I would ask him why? I would really listen to him. I wouldn't allow myself to bring up any of the negative stuff that I know. None of the "Your Lazy." Or the "You never do such and such". Once he was done I would ask him what can the troop do to make things better? I might remind him about some of the things that he liked doing. In OJ's case the OA, camping,and his pals in Scouting.

As a parent I would talk to the Scoutmaster even if the Scoutmaster is yourself and see what can be done to accommodate the needs of this Lad who is losing interest. If it seems that this troop can't meet his needs maybe there is another troop or maybe even a Venture Crew that might relight the fire.

Maybe there is someone else who might do a better job of talking about Scouting to your son. My best friend is heavily into Scouting and a Council vice president. He and OJ are very close. I know that OJ respects him and maybe would open up to him more then me. I also know that Mike would do all that he could to keep OJ in Scouting, even if that meant telling me some home truths that I might not want to hear. Maybe that's why he is my best friend.

I hope everything works out.

Good Luck.


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