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9muckraker7

Preparing a troop for competition

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My troop is currently making the transition into a boy-lead unit. Every year there is a camporee for which our troop spends at least 3 months preparing (touching up on scout skills such as first aid, firebuilding, preparing a complete day-pack, knots and lashings, etc.). Over the years, we've been quite successful in the camporee itself, and this success seems to make all the preparing worth it. Lately, however, many of our scouts have been complaining that our 3 grueling months of preparing for such an event tears our troop apart. During these three months the scoutmaster and assistant scoutmasters get caught up in winning 1st place at the camporee and forget about delivering a quality troop program.

 

Being in such the transitional state as it is, the troop program is now in the process of being formulated by the SPL and PLC. Now, the youth leadership has resolved to continue our success with this camporee, but the biggest complaint the scout had was that the training and whatnot for the camporee had been boring and repetitive(it TORE THE TROOP APART!!). Every single week, they'd tie knots and be instructed on first aid and told what to include in their day packs (their day packs would be inspected at the camporee).

 

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make such preparation less boring and more hands on and more realistic than the "classroom atmosphere" that the training has become?

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Try making your preparation more "true to life"? Instead of practicing the skills, practice the "camporee"? . . . Pre-camporee campouts?

 

What will the actual camporee competitive scenarios consist of? Can you better simulate them? Can you bring in previous years' judges to help make the practice sessions more realistic?

 

It's an educational truth that practicing a whole sustains learning better than practicing pieces of the whole. The learning curve starts out slower, so be patient. The bonus is that the kowledge and skills are better retained for next year's camporee.

 

When you're searching for realism in your practice, don't forget to include the distractions and potential complications that impact the competitions and competitors. "What?" . . . inclement weather, one the team members is a no-show due to sickness, omnipresent judges and observers, port-a-potties, cheering crowds of adoring parents and fans, trash-talking opponents, stressed out SMs, a team leader with a broken heart, or a failed math test, . . .

 

BTW, you're teaching and learning is better done in occasionally repeated short focused training that spirals - returning again and again to skills that are mastered and expanded throughout the year - rather than cramming for the camporee final exam for the last three months.

 

Be sure everyone is a master of atleast two skill/knowledge areas so there's a backup if you lose one of your guys in action!!

 

HAVE FUN!!!

 

jd

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Since your troop program has been taken over by the PLC, let them decide what to do. If they prepare the program, they will buy into it. How they prepare will determine how they place in the competition. If they work the skills and such into the weekly troop meetings, and prepare themselfs well, they should do well. If they don't do well, but still did their best in preparing and in the competition, then they were successful.

Dancin

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Three months preparing for a camporee? I'd revolt too.

 

First, the PLC should make the decision. However, being in a similar state in our young troop, I know that the PLC is tentative to stray away from what they've seen. They may think that they HAVE to practice three months for every camporee.

 

Second, why is there such a big deal being made about the camporee? They are just for fun. The competition makes the learning more fun. But, winning or not winning does not directly reflect on the quality of the unit. There are far too many other variables - age, experience, luck, etc.

 

We are participating in a Camporee in early October. The theme is Pioneering, which is not one of our troop's strong points. They're getting better, but it takes time. We're only using the September troop & patrol meetings to prepare for it. They'll go out, have fun, and hopefully improve their skills along the way. They probably won't win much, but that's okay.

 

On a similar note, last year we did the same thing for Klondike. Our guys finished next to last, but had a great time. They did finish first in one of the activities, and boy were they proud of that ribbon! But they had fun with or without it.

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This camporee is of high prestige; it's an invitational camporee with much history and tradition in our area. Some scout skills which aren't quite elaborated upon in the scout handbook are utilized at this event (things dealing with height and distance measurement and nature and such), and our troop always needs touching up on most of those topics.

 

Probably the most effective way to prepare for this would be to practice the camporee scenerios on weekend troop camping trips. I'm all for that, and the PLC agrees, but we would still need to do something constructive at the meetings.

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Back home we had the District Camp Craft Competition.The trophy was a felling Axe, with a chromed head. The Shaft was carved with the winning patrols animal. It was a real beauty. The competition was a real tough one.

As a Scout winning this was all so important.At least I was led to think that it was.

Sure we had Patrol Leaders and a PLC,but something was missing? We really were not leading, we were carrying out the wishes of the Scoutmaster. Sure winning this as we did was nothing short of super and we had a hard time getting through doorways because our heads were so swelled.

When I became SM, I wanted to win. I wanted to show that my troop was the best. I wanted to show my old SM that I was every bit as good as he ever was. I steered the PLC into wanting this as much as I did. I trained them. It was my ego that was on the line. We won twice, before I worked out that I was wrong.

Patrol Leaders Council meetings are for ideas and plans that come from the participants, my role in the troop was not to lead they to victory, my role was to support them and give them the tools that they needed to lead.

They did make the decision to enter as Patrols (I had picked winning teams and teams in training!!) They Incorporated the stuff that they thought they needed to work on into the annual plan. In the end they won if fact they came in and took first, second and third. The victory was theirs. The lesson was mine. And yes they still needed to go through doorways side ways. They never once said that they were training for this event. The event did help them come up a program that was a little bit more Scout skill oriented.

Eamonn.

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9Muckraker7,

 

You ended your post with >>>> "but we would still need to do something constructive at the meetings."

 

Are you asking for help with program ideas??

 

Are you saying you're still dedicated to using those three months of meeting time to study-up for the Camporee in addition to practice campouts - and what should you do?

 

jd

 

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If the SPL and the PLC want to win the camporee then let them. If the SPL and the PLC don't care about the camporee then let them do something else. If the adult leaders really really have it in their haerts to win this, have them form a patrol and see it the camporee will let them enter. :) Otherwise they should let it go.

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muckraker,

 

Skills drills alone will get old after a while. The idea of a competition campout is a really good one. Have some fun, win some totems for the patrol flags, leave enough time for instruction in weaker areas.

 

I know your SPL/PLC will be in charge, but it doesn't hurt to prime the pump a bit with some seed ideas.

 

John D's comment about making things more "true to life" led me down a different path. Here's a few ideas

 

First Aid

For a meeting night. Tell the guys we'll be practicing first aid at next week's meeting. (Groans...) Have them bring all the standard stuff they might need (including triangular bandages, stuff to make stretchers, etc.).

While the guys are going through the opening inside, have some cars "rearranged" in the parking lot to simulate a multi-vehicle accident. Position victims. For a real shocker (and to add realism), doctor the victims up using moulage techniques. (That's realistic, fake injuries. For starters, see http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/skills/instruction/simulations.htm). It's amazing what you can do with some corn syrup, red food coloring, pieces of turkey bone, and modeling clay. You can do burns, compound fractures, severe bleeding, cuts, etc.

When the victims are in place, barge into the meeting and tell the guys there's been a horrible accident outside and we need their help - bring everything they have. All the local ambulances have been called out to a nearby train/bus wreck, so we're on our own. It will take a lot of work, but they'll be talking about this meeting for years.

 

Knots

1. Instead of just drilling knots, have competition to join short ropes to reach stranded swimmer (simulated). Can't use the same knot twice. Nobody can tie more than one knot, etc.

2. Competition to see which patrol can tie the most different knots. Nobody can tie a second knot until everyone has tied one, etc.

 

Lashings

1. At troop meeting. Have chariot races. Take three sturdy poles about 6' long. Lash them into an A-frame with diagonal lash at the top and two square lashings at the bottom. One patrol member rides (standing up and hanging on tight) while others pull the "chariot" around a course. First patrol around the course with chariot intact (and all tied correctly) wins.

 

2. On a campout where you have access to some wood and maybe other supplies (big plastic drums are ideal), have a raft building contest. All knots and lashings have to be correct. First raft in the water and around a buoy wins. (Our guys spent hours doing this and had a blast.) After all rafts are built, you can just have raft races. Later awards can be for the raft that held up the most number of scouts, the best submarine, etc.

 

3. Campout. Pioneering craft emphasis. Build a tower, rope bridge across a creek, etc. Have patrol competition in building useful campsite gadgets.

 

Sounds like you guys have a great troop and program. Hope you can find some of these useful to keep the fun in it.

 

-mike

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Sounds fun Mike! I'll definitely suggest some of those ideas.

 

That's a very inspiring story Eamonn, and I hope our scoutmaster will eventually realize that himself (we've tried to explain that to him time and time again, but he's so set on making this troop out to be the best that he doesn't want to lose).

 

As for Bob White, WELL SAID. The troop should be for the scouts, not the adults, and if the adults are set on winning, then so be it but the troop doesn't have to cater to their likings.

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