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As scoutmaster of a new troop that will start in March, I was wondering how to have a boy led troop with boys that are just coming up from a cub pack? I want to give the boys as much responsiblity as possible, but also need to make sure they have the right skills to go along with it.



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Yah, Catmechanic, welcome to da forums! And a Scout Salute to yeh for takin' on the hard work of starting a new troop.


I think you need to approach this with a long-term view. Five years from now, what do you want to see? How big a troop, what kind of structure, what kind of youth leadership?


Now take 1/5 of that, eh? That's all the farther to aim in your first year.


When yeh first start something as a brand-new novice, do yeh expect to be thrust into a leadership position? Probably not. You do expect to learn what your job is, to be taught skills you will use every day, to have fun, to contribute to the group, to work hard and master some things, and get some recognition for it. I think in your first year, if kids master some skills, develop a few beginnings of "tradition", and most importantly develop a friendly, supportive, "go for it" culture, you're doin' great.


Year two, you'll be getting some more new fellows in. Now, if you've done your job in year one, those old guys will be knowledgeable and "cool". You'll have made 'em natural leaders and teachers. That means a lot of hard work in year one... learning, practicing, facing challenges, having fun, being trusted with cooking and some navigating and keepin' track of their buddy and thinkin' about safety. But it's really neat when kids who have learned that stuff now have younger ones watching 'em.


Year three, another new bunch of young guys for the 2nd year guys to help, while your experienced 3rd year scouts are startin' to come up with ideas of their own and to step forward into more responsible leadership positions. Fumblin' and bumblin' a bit. Great ideas, but not great planning or follow-through just yet. But you're movin' toward a real PLC, just with a bit more adult background support.


Year four, another bunch of new guys. Now the experienced guys have some 3rd year veterans to help take some of the load. Some of the leadership and planning becomes real. They start bringin' real plans of their own in, plus experiences from OA and NYLT and maybe a council Philmont trip. Some kids find strengths in themselves and take responsibility for different things.


By year five, you've got a real PLC and a regular, full-out, patrol-method, youth-run program. Now you're lookin' to keep getting better, to add high adventure and more service and such. You're lookin' at your first set of Eagle Scouts comin' down the pike.


Lots of work and lots of fun ahead for yeh, mate! There'll be times you want to quit. Write your resignation letter, stick in the drawer for at least a month or two. You'll find you just keep goin'. There's always a new challenge, and a new bunch of kids.


Look at these forums, and the Scouts-L archives, and other on-line places where real, honest-to-goodness successful scouters share their insights. Steal any idea that makes sense, let the others stew in the back of your mind... you'll find some that only start to click down the road. Make friends in your district, and find a couple of successful troops to buddy up with for when you need help. Take training, but more importantly learn everything yeh can.


Welcome to a great adventure!




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Salutes for taking on the long, hard, challenging but ultimatly rewarding path of starting a new unit.


I can tell you from experience, I have helped start two Troops (with my dad who is the SM - I am an adult too) and from district level help provided long term several months help to start up packs...


The second Troop is the one I am still with and is like 6 years old now - yet it is no where near what we are after. However it does finally have youth leaders running it, routine PLC meetings, and the program is slowly turning around again. Now only if we could actually get the youth leaders motivated some really neat things would happen and progress would go at light speed ...


Just be ready for a long hard haul - lots of complaints and lots of rewards... but no matter what dont give up.


Hope my wacky 2 cents is helpful...


Scott Robertson


Helping leaders one resource at a time....

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Do not start out as a small troop. If you do, you will stay a small troop.

On day one, open the doors on a large troop that has lots of openings for new scouts. Announce it the new scouts at the first meeting. Then make it true... Plan trips a large troop would plan, do things that large troops would like to do, soon you will find that you don't have as many opening as you did in the beginning.


Give the boys control. The first year, you will have to ask a lot of leading questions - "do you want to go to a camp where we can fish or one that has a great day hike?", "Should we open with the scout law and oath or should we use the pledge?" but even when you have to spoon feed the leaders, let them be the ones to say it - SPL "Would Jeff lead us in the Scout oath". Soon, they will do it on their own. If you do it for them, they will never do it.



Start traditions now! Don't miss your chance.


ashes from the first fire. A log book signed by every scout ever in the troop. Yearly charters all stacked in one frame. That Elvis/Chuck B./ Beatles song you blast on your way back from every camp out/cabin trip/summer camp/klondike. Shaving the SM's head every time the troop has a new Eagle.... What ever, nows the time to start!


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We formed a new troop in October with 8 active scouts and we have what I consider a boy run troop. From the start we have been committed to implementing the full the program. We have monthly PLC meetings, annual planning, monthly campouts, summer camps and courts of honors.


Money for troop equipment has been a steep climb. We have held fundraisers and still seem short on cash. Registration fees, flags, patrol boxes and badges all add up. Trailers and troop tents are pipe dreams at the moment.


The five year plan as Beavah laid out is sound advice. The first year or so it will be adults giving the skill lessons at troop meetings.




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at Tuesday All


Hi Catmechanic. Could you tell us where the name comes from?


And welcome to the good life of Scoutmastering. Get ready, hold on, because the ride is about to start. May I suggest a little reading to find the frame of mind of a boy run Scoutmaster. Start with Aids To Scoutmastership from Baden Powel, which you can find by doing a google search. Also read anything else from Baden Powel as well. Also give Report of the Commission on Principles of Scoutmastership In Relation To Boy Development a read as well. (http://ecommunity.uml.edu/scouting26/program/sm_principles.html)


It was written in the 1930s by Dr. William H. Kilpatrick and is one of the best guides to Scoutmastering Ive ever found. Those sources are a couple hours of reading, so I suggest just doing in small bites a few minutes each day until you learn were to go for answers. But they are great guides to the mind set of a boy run Scoutmaster. I will say I have never met a good boy run Scoutmaster who didn't read Baden Powell.


A lot of what you are going to read and hear from other leaders is wisdom and experience and it may sound foreign. But eventually you will likely experience it for yourself down the road because I have found that even though we are all different in many ways, the nature of adults and boys is pretty consistent. Its almost scary in fact.


Here are a few facts you need to learn right up front:


The adults will have to learn more faster then the scouts to keep the program maturing in a positive direction, and to stay out of the scouts way. Watch and learn so that you can change when something is not working.


Boys between the ages of 10 and 13 hate leadership. They are pre-puberty and their nature would rather run around playing tag with their friends instead of being taken out of the group by being their friends leader. Oh they will lead for a little while because it appears fun at first and the adult leaders say they have too, but they wont like it.


Scouts 14 and older love leadership. They have the bodies and minds of adults, mixed up adults maybe, but still adults. These guys are dreamers and their nature feels a desire to serve and make life better. They also have a wanting to find their place in the world and serving gives them a way to find how their dreams can make the world better. If you have nourished the idea that this is their world to do that, you will be amazed at what the scouts can do. No other program offers young men and opportunity to test their dreams. Imagine that, if you can. You will also find this is where your wisdom will be pulled the most. And you will find working with the older scouts truly exciting and rewarding.


Remember that the Troop is the real world scaled down to a boys size. This is your chance to give boys experiences that they will have again when they are adults. The only difference is that the Troop is a safe place. That means the scouts should feel safe that they can mistakes without feeling that the adults will come down on them. Mistakes is where we learn the most, so the adults should look forward to mistakes and struggles knowing that they are having a learning moment.


Humans learn 80 to 90 percent of their behavior by watching others, not by listening. Every time you stop the boys from moving to tell them something, they are only getting 10 to 20 percent of what comes out of your mouth. They need to learn by watching others in action and by doing.


80 to 90 percent of what the boys use in their leadership and skills at ages 14 and older was learned between the ages of 10 to 13. That is no coincidence. Humans absorb most of what they learn before puberty. After that they have to actively learn. So, the more your scouts can watch leadership in action at a young age, the better they will lead when they reach the older age scouts. You are at a big disadvantage because you dont have older scouts for the young scout to learn from, but at least you will know this for your future new scouts.


Try to understand that boy growth is only limited by the adults, not the scouts. Most of the limitations adults put on the boys come from adult fears. Some of it will come from adult arrogance but adults need to learn how to train scouts around the adult fears. Never say a scout can never. Instead learn to say how can we get to that point. If you are afraid to let the scouts go on a five mile hike without adults, then figure out a way to do that by training the scouts and picky different locations. But don't let fear hold your scouts back.


Humility you will find is the best adults have the offer our future leaders. When you dont know, tell the scouts you dont know. When you are wrong, tell the scouts you are wrong. That sounds easy; you will find it to be otherwise and requires a lot of courage.


Remember what the scouts will translate into action what the adults think. If adults think boys are silly and cant lead, that is what you will see the boys do. If the adults think older scouts hate to work with younger scouts, that is what the boys will believe. None of it is true. Dont allow the adult negative attitudes to encroach on the program. Adults have to know that boys can respect others and treat each other fair.


Set expectations of boys to act like men. Boys want to be adults so they enjoy adults who treat them that way. And when they don't act that way, the other scouts will hold them accountible.


If something is not working, change it. Dont repeat failures over and over. Find a better way to reach the goal. The scout will learn from this as well.


May I suggest you go and buy several copies of the SPL Handbook and PL Handbook. Give them to your SPL and PL and the other adults. They are a quick read, so have everyone read them and then build your troop from those books. They are easy for the scouts to understand and when they see that the adults are following the books as well, they will learn to trust the adults quicker because they can see they arent following you the all-mighty adult, but instead the program guidelines. Always keep the books with you so that you and the scouts can refer to them anytime there is a misunderstanding.


If something doesnt seem to be working by the book, then work with the scouts to change so that everyone is on board. But do it together. This is very difficult with younger scouts because they dont care all that much. Again this leadership stuff isnt fun and they would rather you just tell them what to do because that is what they are used to adults doing. But dont do it. Make sure they are part of the process because two years down the road you will reap lots of rewards from the confidence gained that this is their troop and not the adults. When they reach that 14 year old age, your scouts will take over and push the program so fast the adults will not be able to keep up. And, you will have an easier time with the other adults as well because the PL and SPL book is a simple easy guideline even they can follow. Adults dont like to read either, so the SM has to do most of it


OK, Beavaher is right that you need to think about the troop you want five years from now. I like to tell new troop leaders to try and get in the habits of a five year old troop, not a new one. That way you and the boys arent constantly changing your program habits as everyone changes and matures. It will still happen, but dont assume eleven year olds cant run a PLC meeting so you decide to wait until they are 14 to run it. What happens is they may have the maturity to run a meeting at 14, but not the knowledge or experience, so they flounder when all the other 14 year olds in other troops can run a meeting in their sleep. Grow with the program with their maturity and experience. You should see a difference every six months in everything you do the first two years. If you dont, then something needs to change.


Now the Handbooks suggest electing a new SPL every six months. For a brand new troop I found that it works better to give the scouts a quick example of how a troop works. There are two ways to do this. Either ask another scoutmaster if you can have your meetings with them for a couple months, or I like the idea of the SM playing the part of the SPL for a couple of months. I know a lot of adults dont like that idea, but most of the time it is the adults who are lost while learning and letting the SM be the SPL for a couple months gives helps the adults and scouts learn an amazing amount of how a boy run program can work. Then have your first election. No more then two months because you need the scouts to be leading with some confidence by summer camp.


No matter what you do, I suggest that the first three SPL elections three months apart. You want that scout to do the task of an SPL to the best his maturity will allow, but that is a lot of work for an eleven year old and he will be exhausted by the end of three months. So dont make the position a punishment. Make it a reward for being elected in that position. After the first year, then I would go to the Six months election cycle. By that time you will have older more mature scouts who can handle the job better. But, remember they are still just 12 years old. You have to push them hard enough to grow from the experience, but when they dont want to come to scouts anymore, that is too far. Dont be afraid to find that line. Push the program so you can learn the limits of each scout.


Next, when you get your next new batch of scouts in spring of 2009, your first year of scouts need to train them and get them up to speed as fast as possible. After summer camp, those scouts need to become part of the troop leaders. That is because your other scouts are likely starting to burn out and need some break. What Im saying is after summer camp of 2009, all your scouts need to be considered your core starter group. I know it doesnt seem right, but trust me that these guys need to share the leadership load for the next cuple of year or they will start to hate scouting. Building a new boy run troop is stressful and the more scouts that share the burden the better. It will be the new scouts from 2010 who will be considered the younger scouts. Those are the guys you need to understand that will learn by watching the older scouts. That is the group where the adults really need to step way back in your boy run troop and trust that the older scout will build the personality of your troop.


By the way, you will get a taste of how the scouts think of their experience by how the treat the new scouts. Watch them and learn where the adults need to change.


Now for the adults. The sooner the adults relinquish their dominance over the boys, the faster your scouts will start to grow. Start with this habit. Adults should try to get out of the habit of raising their signs first to gain control. Instead the adult in the room goes to the lead scout in the room and ask him to get control. Once the scout raises his sign, then you the adult can raise your sign setting and example that everyone follow the lead scout. But by asking the scout to take control, you are showing that you are not the leader, the scouts are. You are their source of wisdom and resources, but not their leader.


Also, remember that by the age 15, a scout should pretty much be able to run the troop with almost no help from and adult. So, consider your 11 year old the same only where he falls in maturity and experience, the adults can fill in enohgh to keep the program moving. Not lead, only help. As the socut gains confidence, then the adults need to step back and let the scout take on more. This teaches the adults to not do for a scout what he cant do for himself.


Always let them go first. For example, your first SPL for your first PLC meeting will likely not lead at all. But what you do is coach him before the by working with him to write a meeting agenda guided by the SPL Handbook. Then coach him what they want to talk about at each agenda item. As the scout starts the meeting let him go until he just cant go any farther. Then ask him for permission to add to what he was trying to do or say. Then sit down at the next agenda item and make the scout lead.


The scout has to learn that you are not going to jump in every time he stumbles. So as he gets more experienced, you need to help him less and less and instead start giving your guidance after the meeting. By the end of his stint as a leader, the scout should not get any help from and adult. In my troop, the SPL didnt even see me in the room his last two months as the leader. I might be outside the room or out of site. But I gradually handed the responsibility over to him as he gained confidence. Not experience, but confidence.


If and when scouts are lost, teach him to look at his SPL Handbook. If the answer isnt in the book, then feel out the situation. But I like to force scouts to learn the skill of mprovise. That teaches a scout not to panic but instead come up with ideas on the spot to move on. And it stops scouts from just stopping and looking over at the adult to take over. I always cringe when Im at some OA event and some poor scout who is leading a meeting stumbles, panics and looks over to the adult OA adviser. Learn to NOT take over. REMEMBER, the other scouts learn by watching.


OK, Im sorry this is way too much to read all at once. I love this scouting stuff and you will too. It will be a lot of work at first, but the rewards are wonderful and will last all your life. Keep us up on the progress and keep asking questions. One day it will be you giving the answers.


I love this scouting stuff.




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Thanks for all of the advise so far. My username comes from my job. I am a heavy equipment mechanic and I generally only work on Caterpillars.

I want the boys to have fun and learn all that they can but I do not want the troop to be run by the adults. I know in the first year the adults will be doing most of the teaching but should the boys decide what we are going to do to learn those skills?


Right now I have six boys crossing over and the possibility of another boy transfering from another troop. I do not want to keep the troop a small troop but I think it will be easier working with a small number of boys for the first couple of years


Again thanks for the advise.



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One plan to consider Catmechanic would be ...


Year 1

Have the scouts function as a New Scout Patrol with you acting as the Troop Guide rotate the 6 scouts through the Patrol Leader Position so that you can focus on one scout at a time with your leadership coaching. Use the First Class Emphasis program planning approach, where you have a 12 month program that would expose the scouts to the advacnement elements for Tenderfoot to First Class by the end of their first year. While you are doing the leadership coaching have your assistant look for opportunities to catch scouts doing things right and approve the appropriate advancement requirement.


Work with your committee chair to have the committee take care of recruiting for each year's New Scout Patrol. Then with two patrols you can elect an SPL from your First Class Scouts as well as a patrol leader for your regular patrol.


Year 2

The Assistant Scoutmaster can now lead the New Scouts through you First Class Emphasis plan, while you work with the regular Patrol.


Year 3

By year three you could have two Regular Patrols and another New Scout Patrol, and enough depth for the SPL to select an assistant to help him, and a Troop Guide to help the ASM with the New Scouts. All the while you focus on leadership development.


Year 4

By year four you could have 4 patrols; 1 Venture Patrol, 2 Regular Patrols, and a New Scout Patrol, each with their own unique program. The New Scouts learning the basc skills, the two Regular Patrols putting those skills to use on various moderate adventures to increase their proficiencey and begin learning advanced skills, and the Venture Patrol, putting the advanced skills into practice on higher level adventures.


By this time you will want 3 to 4 Asssitants, each responsible for overseeing a program level, leaving you available for coaching and mentoring the junior leaders.


Have a great time with the new troop.



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I have been asked by some friends to be a Committee Member in a troop they are resurrecting at the request of the Chartered Organization.


So basically, we're in the same boat as you - none of the Scouts currently registered with the troop will be active. All of the 15 or so Scouts we are gaining through crossovers will be 5th graders.


The Scoutmaster and Committee Chair have no Boy Scouting experience, but have been in Cub Scouting for five years. I have been a Troop Committee member in the past. One ASM is an Eagle Scout, another was a Boy Scout. We have some other willing parents to be committe members, one of whom serves on a troop committee currently. All of us are trained for our new jobs. In addition four of the five of us have been to Wood Badge.


We have found several local troops who are willing to "loan" us older Scouts. These boys will be serving as Troop Guides to our two patrols and as a temporary (3-6 month) SPL and ASPL. Some of these scout have been staff members at our council's NYLT (National Youth Leadership Training).


We hope that this will "jump start" the troop. All of the boys will go through Troop Leadership Training, participate in the planning conference, etc., but having the experienced Scouts as helpers will hopefully put the younger boys ahead of the curve when the older boys fade out in the fall.


I do not know yet if the older boys will be going to summer camp with us. We have a July time slot selected, so perhaps by that time we will have the beginnings of a leadership group going.


I don't know if this is a viable avenue for you or not (or even if it will work for us). But it's a strategy.


Wish us luck - and best to you as well.



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I never thought of getting a "loaner scout" or two from another troop. That might be a possibility. I have a good relationship with several troops in the district and may be able to find a volunteer.


I just do not want to scare the boys off before they can really experience the program.



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  • 2 months later...

I just started a new troop in Nov 07 with 7 boys, all but one 11-13 y/o. We have been blessed because we started with an Eagle Scout (17), who was willing to give back to the young guys. We also have a very gung-ho committee of adults, who have had no previous experience with Scouting. Six months later we have 15 scouts, 8 committee members, 3 ASMs, and me. We are ready to make a second patrol. I am a little shocked at our growth and would like some guidance on how to really get my PLC working together to plan their events. Particularly, what kinds of things do I need to train them on, encourage them in to prepare the troop for summer camp?


I am really trying to get to a boy-led troop. The SPL, ASPL, PL, and APL are trying but they are leading in a vacuum since they haven't seen boy-leadership demonstrated before. How can I help them?


I remember my time as SPL, but that was over 30 years ago. This is my first time back in Scouting since 1978.




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Why would anyone need loaner leaders? What's wrong with PL's doing their job at summer camp? If one has a PL and an APL and 6 boys per patrol, there shouldn't be any need in a 2 patrol troop (15 members) to even need a SPL to do the work of the PL's.


I'm planning a summer camp of 3 NSP's and 2-3 older boys mixed into the patrols. There is no SPL and the TG may or may not make it. So far my PL's have done a fantastic job organizing their patrols into working units and I don't forsee any problems at camp that the PL's can't handle. If there's a problem, the three of them should be able to sit down and work it out amongst themselves.


To borrow an SPL to come in and interfere with this patrol process would do nothing more than announce to my PL's that I don't trust them to be able to handle it themselves. Train your leaders and then trust them. It's called mentoring, coaching, and giving them the opportunity to be the leaders you expect. They don't need safety nets, they need to be trusted.



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  • 7 months later...

This is a timely topic to come across. I live in a smallish town in KY. There is a larger well run Troop (40+ boys & as many leaders) and a smaller Troop of around 15 boys. Our Pack's, Troop (same CO) will fold this December, maily due to disintrest from the CO and the Troops lack of recruiting.


A wonderful opportunity came along from a local Church. After a couple of conversations with the Pastor, the Church voted on starting a Troop. The Pastor is an Eagle Scout and the to be COR is an Eagle and current Cubmaster of a Pack in a nearby town. They have shown tons of intrest and seem very willing to make a Troop work at their Church.


We'll start with two older boys (Star & 1st Class rank) and 8 Webelos from our Den. All of which earned AOL.


We are blessed with a handful of parents who share the same goal of teaching the boys Scouting skills as well as life skills. OH and we'll not forget to have tons of fun along the way.


We are in the planning stages of getting the leaders trained in their new positions. The excitement is high with the parents and boys. It was good reading the comments from everyone. They have been very helpful.


In Jan 09, Troop 7 will come to life. If anyone is ever in Richmond KY on a Monday evening, stop by Red House Baptist Church for a visit with us.


Thanks again




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Best wishes with the new troop! I am well into year two of the same journey. It is sometimes rocky and often tiring. There will be times you consider why you are doing it. But trust that your answers will come as you watch "your boys" grow into young men.


The Bible tells us that God will put before us "good works" to be done. I believe that working with boys as we do is what God has chosen for many of us. I often find myself praying that what I do in Scouting will be God pleasing. And sometimes, I can feel in a very real manner, that He is smiling down on us.


Keep up the good work!

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