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Adding New Patrol - What Would You Do

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The SM HB and other materials don't offer a lot of advice for when a Troop grows and has to expand the number of patrols. For this scenario, I do not want to include the possibility of a New Scout Patrol - the Webelos crossing into the Troop will visit with the different Patrols for a month, and then decide which one they want to join, probably turning in a slip with 1st and 2nd preference. At that point, the SM and PLC will work together to get the patrols evened out number-wise.



Current Troop has 11 Scouts, with 6 7th graders and 5 6th graders. There will be 14 Webelos crossing into the Troop. You are the SM and you need 3 Patrols of 8 and an SPL. Currently, you have 2 Patrols and no SPL:

Patrol A has 3 7th graders and 2 6th graders.

Patrol B has 3 7th graders and 3 6th graders.


As SM, how would you handle the process to end up with 3 Patrols? I'm not so much interested in the Webelos part of the process as I am with dealing with the existing Patrols and Scouts. Since you aren't creating a NSP, obviously some of the structure of the 2 existing Patrols is going to have to change. These 2 Patrols have been together for the last year. The Troop philosophy is to keep Patrols intact, and we never form ad hoc Patrols for campouts. How would you handle this situation?

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My suggestion would be:


1. Vote for SPL. That leaves 24 Scouts.


2. SPL picks ASPL. That leaves 23 Scouts.


3. SM has SPL tell Scouts that there needs to be three patrols, each with no less than 7 Scouts. Tell them that the first patrol forms in that corner, the second in that corner, and the third in that corner. Tell them to "Go form the patrols, now". Nobody leaves until the three patrols are formed. Let the Scouts create them. Adults stand back. SPL can offer "advice" on resolving counts. The odds are that you'll find yourself with a new-Scout patrol by default. If so, live with it and have the ASPL help them during the first few campouts - unless you also have Troop Guides (doesn't sound like you do).


4. Patrols vote for PL.


5. PLs select APLs.


6. Gather names of those interested in each of the other positions of responsibility (PORs -- Quartermaster, Scribe, Librarian, ...).


7. Scoutmaster and SPL come to agreement on who will fill the open PORs.


Have training for the youth leadership ASAP.


Plan to have lots of training associated with the first campout - where you teach newer Scouts how to plan menues, how to buy food, how to pack food, how to create duty rosters (might be in youth leader training), how to handle food, how to start stoves, how to cook, how to clean, how to wash dishes, and how to put gear/food away.


I'm fully bought into the idea that patrols are the primary component of the troop. Everything is done by patrols, though often the patrols get together.


I'm a BIG fan of not using adhoc patrols - even two boys can camp/cook as a patrol.


I also like having patrols camp/eat a substantial distance from each other - yet in shouting range - for those inter-patrol chants/joking. Adult patrol - same thing. SPL & ASPL are invited eating guests with the patrols and/or w/ adult patrol. The troop meets for flag ceremonies, events/activities, and camp fire. SPL & ASPL roam from patrol to patrol keeping distant - so as not to mess up PL leadership, but to make sure things are going OK. SM(s) work with the SPL, SPL works with the PLs, PLs work with the Scouts in their patrol. It works.

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Hi Brent


Well, here is how we did it and it worked fine. We told the existing patrols that we were starting a NSP and they would be merged into the existing patrols after summer camp or about 6 months. Since we got so many new scouts, we needed a new patrol. This is a great opportunity for a scout of any age to start a new patrol. The only request we put on them is that they build a balanced patrol, meaning spread the ages. That wont be a huge problem for you since your guys are about the same age.


Our Troop grew from 12 to 90 in about six years, so we use that method several times and I don't recall any real problems. It doesnt disrupt the existing patrols much and it gives a scout looking for change an opportunity.


But let me say my concern here is that want to do this as soon as the new scouts join. I written before that patrol dynamics can be disrupted significantly when more than two new scouts are added to a patrol. The reason is because the new scouts are so undisciplined and have so little experience in a troop program, they require a lot of attention. If you go with your plan, you will be creating three brand new patrols instead of just the one NSP that will need a lot of attention. That makes it very hard to be boy run. By keeping them in a new Scout patrol for a few months getting them up to speed, you reduce the risk of a few months of frustration for the majority of the scouts.


I think you would be better off electing the SPL and recruiting two Troop Guides to work with the new scouts for the next few months. Then merge the new scouts into the patrols in about six months before the next elections. That way the two existing patrols don't feel like they are starting all over as new patrols. They feel like they still have control over the situation.


What ever you do, it is a good problem getting that many new scouts. Good Job.




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I'll tell you what the boys are actively in the process of doing...


The SPL came to me and said, since we were nearly doubling!!!From two short Patrols. A great problem to have but a little bit of a problem.


That He would, until the next election, double hat as the SPL and "NEW" PL

The ASPL would shoulder some additional responsibility as he continues to train up(and gather experience for his run at the next election as SPL.


Going to three full, plus one or two each, Patrols. That the two existing patrols would not dissolve but allow some existing Scouts to move into the new patrol attempting to achieve some degree of parity among the existing Scouts in each Patrol - and take in immediately about 1/3 of the new Scouts each to attempt some degree of parity among the new Scouts in each Patrol.


As was said this actually creates three new Patrols but, they all have some previous experienced members in how a patrol works and what the expectations are. As it worked out each Patrol will have a former SPL in them. And allows some Scouts who started out in a Patrol and who aren't willing to move to stay in the Patrol they were originally "drafted" into. Patrol competitions will be fierce from the git-go because they are +/- balanced and the PL's all have incentive not just to teach advancement but to actually teach the skills so they don't lose competitions.

That when the next elections came around they all would have been camping a couple of times and have seen the dynamics in their patrol and have an idea of what they were actually voting on.


Before now we have operated at a steady state with two patrols and as older Scouts left we were at equilibrium with the numbers we took in as Scouts. I would rather do a NSP and then have a draft into the Patrols as we were doing. Or open up a New long-term Patrol,allowing any from existing Patrols to flow into the new Patrol IF they wanted out of their current Patrol, but as is we will wind up opening another patrol as soon as/if 2-3 more Scouts show up.


I'm interested in seeing if this works.



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What is the purpose of your patrols and how does integrating the new scouts into them further that purpose? What are you wanting to accomplish? Are these new scouts coming from the same pack? How many different dens are they from?

Basically you have three options:


Have two NSPS with a TG in each and combine the remaining 8 scouts. You have ruled this one out.

Have one NSP with a TG and integrate the remaining new scouts into the existing patrols. This might work if most of your new scouts are coming from a single den or pack with a few other scouts from other units.

Break up the existing patrols and form three new ones with the new scouts spread out between the patrols.

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I've helped guide the process of standing up new patrols several times over the years.


As kenk recommended, I'd start with selection of SPL and ASPL. At that point, you have 9 experienced scouts still in patrols. Hold off on PL elections unless they've just been elected/selected for SPL/ASPL.


Then it's time to have a chat with your PLC about your path forward.

Since your 2 patrols (at least prior to crossover) will be pretty light with only 4-5 members, I don't think I'd use NSP and would plan to start new guys into existing patrols at crossover.

Talk to the guys about options to stand up new patrol. My preference would be to transfer existing members into new patrol so you have 3 experienced guys in each with the significant challenge of getting ready to break in the new guys ASAP. I don't have my SM Handbook with me, but I know it has (or had in recent version) some words about making sure each new patrol has some obvious leadership material. (The patrol will still elect their leader, but SM has responsibility to make sure the patrol is set up to succeed.)

After patrols of existing members are established, I'd have PL elections immediately -- before crossover. At this point, the new guys will know the structure of the group they're joining and they'll have some time to become acclimated to Boy Scouts before participating in their first election later.


Your transition over the next few months will be critical. The new leaders and young patrols will need more coaching and monitoring.


Consider talking to your existing older guys about inviting other buddies to join your troop, too. I'll bet they know guys who are in the process of dropping out of another troop and would flourish in your environment. Or maybe they have a friend who has never been in scouts, but is interested in joining the fun he's hearing about from your scout. Put out the word through parents, too. We were in a slump a few years ago due to poor recruiting and were about your size, although we had a full spread of ages. As we recruited new crossovers, we also transferred in (and recruited) a number of older guys to fill out the ranks.


Good luck!

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Yah, I think you identify who among your 7th graders is a good natural leader who is becomin' independent enough to be ready to start his own patrol. Then you let him recruit some old guys to form the core of Patrol 3.


Or, yeh just present the problem to the boys and let them figure it out. That works just as well as long as yeh have da right troop culture. Pretty much yeh want each patrol to have a good leader, a good organizer, and an enthusiastic/good humor lad from the current pool.


I wouldn't worry at all about an SPL yet. Let that go until the boys decide there's a need or it just happens naturally. Three PL's ain't hard to coordinate.


Last thing yeh might consider with 24 is just keepin' it at two patrols until the boys themselves want to split, and then let that play out. In most units, a patrol of 12 gives yeh campout numbers of 6-8, though I remember you folks have higher expectations so that might make your campout numbers too large. But the boys might notice that quick and take action on their own.


Any way yeh slice it, a good problem to have. Scout Salute to you and your boys!




If you go with your plan, you will be creating three brand new patrols instead of just the one NSP that will need a lot of attention. That makes it very hard to be boy run. By keeping them in a new Scout patrol for a few months getting them up to speed, you reduce the risk of a few months of frustration for the majority of the scouts.


Yah, had to edit to add that this is one area where I don't quite see eye to eye with Eagledad :). I agree with him that absorbin' new members is a challenge for the boys, but I think that frustration and challenge is a good thing, eh? Far from not bein' youth leadership, that is youth leadership and leads to a lot of growth.


When yeh pull the new guys out to be babysat by a couple of older TG's, you reduce the opportunities for all those other 6th and 7th graders to be "one of the guys who's cool and who knows what to do" to the younger boys. Plus in BrentAllen's case, if yeh saddle a 7th grader or two with 12 5th graders all together in a NSP, they're gonna get creamed. Yeh have to divide and conquer that new bunch! Better if the new lads are in a patrol where the ratio of new to old is 1:1 rather than 6:1, and there's some teamwork already in place.


Just a different perspective is all. A few units I know have done it that way with good results.(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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I worked on this issue for many years as an SM. I came up with 2 rules.


1. All New scouts go in new scout patrols. That's why BSA invented the Troop Guide. New scouts in established patrols leave the troop more often because they are not part of the established group, as younger kids they get ribbed more and end up washing the dishes more, and if they had a good webelos patrol, what is the point of breaking them up? I had several webelos patrols go all the way through the troop to Eagle. Obviouly, many patrols are recombined or shuffled later, but a good newbie patrol with a good troop guide and summer camp in the first year (required in our troop) is a recipe for strong scouts who want to stay around.


2. When patrols get smaller due to attrition or scouts in patrols are looking for a change, the SPL holds a resuffle meeting. The meeting has two rules. The BOYS figure it out without any adult participation, and when its done EVERYONE has to be happy. Sometimes its quick, sometimes it takes a couple of meetings. But I've never had it fail.


My experience with roundtable discussions and training events is that our council runs about 2/3 new scout patrols and about 1/3 leaders assign patrols.



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Thanks for the responses. I was hoping some of the more experienced Scouters would jump in, and you didn't disappoint me. My guess is there are probably a couple of good ways to handle this situation, and many bad ways. My goal is to avoid those bad ways.


jet asked some very good questions, so to answer them - these boys are all coming from the same Pack, from two different dens. Most, if not all, go to the same school, and have done so for years, so they all know each other pretty well. My goal for the patrols is for them to develop team work, learn from the experienced Scouts, and have the PL learn how to lead.


I also discussed the topic with one of my very experienced SM friends (82 years old, 34 + years as SM). He is also on our committee, mainly helping with BORs, so he knows the boys and their personalities. He has more information to work with than I could type in a post for you to read.

Anyway, his suggestion was to go ahead and elect a SPL, even though we didn't absolutely need one at this time. It would help even up the numbers, and we might as well start working that part of the puzzle into the program. Most of us are pretty sure we know who will be the first SPL.

Next, he said go ahead and form the third patrol with the existing Scouts we have. He said he would approach it like this, calling the Scouts together. This would be his dialogue:

"Scouts, it is a good thing we have these Webelos joining us, and the Troop is growing. But we have a problem, we need a third patrol. You boys have all been together with your patrols for some time now, and the last thing we want to do is make any of you leave your friends. This is the hardest job in all of Scouting - how to get a new patrol started. We don't want to just make it one of brand new Scouts, they need some leadership. So I'm going to ask - would anyone be willing to step up and help start this new patrol?"



We are still getting pretty good turn-out, so I would be hesitant to stick with 2. Some of the older boys have figured out that with a new third patrol, a new identity will be needed, ie Patrol name, and they may want to be a part of that.



Since we cook by patrol at summer camp, I'm pretty interested in getting the three patrols up and running by mid-May, at the latest. They are going to need that much time to prepare for the task of preparing, planning and buying meals for the week. If we had older boys who were TGs, I think NSPs would more likely be considered. With only 6 7th graders, I feel we really need them in the patrols and not serving as TGs. The really good news is 4 of the 7th graders are going to NYLT the first week of summer.


Thanks for your insight. I'll try to post a few updates as we move through the process.



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Well, you are certainly full of surprises, Brent Allen!


Not only do you serve one of the one-in-a-thousand Troops that uses the Patrol Method at summer camp, but apparently you have had success with the Patrol Method WITHOUT an SPL?


As you know, Baden-Powell considered the SPL position strictly optional because good Patrol Leaders don't really need one.


So maybe your biggest challenge is going to be Patrol leadership? If your best Patrol Leader moves to SPL, then you will need TWO (2) more good leaders if you indeed do add a Patrol.


But wait! There's MORE!


If you follow the advice of those who seem to assume that for some reason you now need an ASPL, and if your second best Patrol Leader becomes the SPL's assistant (as often happens after an election when to prove he is a "good sport" the SPL picks his opponent to be his ASPL) then suddenly you will need THREE (3) new Patrol Leaders, correct?


So in your Troop of 11 Scouts, do you really have five good Patrol Leaders, Scouts you would trust to lead a Hike or Overnight without adult supervision?


If not, then you are likely to soon encounter what Stosh calls the "Boy-led Troop Method" where the program is indeed boy-led by the SPL, but the Patrols can not actually function independently of each other.


Over the years I have found that the high energy level of a two-Patrol Troop is better maintained if you ignore the 8 Scouts per Patrol rule and pile all the new Scouts into the two existing Patrols. In your case this would be 12 or 13 Scouts per Patrol at weekly meetings, but maybe less on campouts.


Usually you can estimate how many Webelos will drop out by counting the number not going to summer camp. If you loose two of them and then average about 3-4 absences per monthly camping trip after your Troop doubles, this brings the number down to around 9 per Patrol in the woods.


A good Patrol Leader can manage 9 Scouts MUCH better than a second-rate Patrol Leader can handle 6.


To divide 14 new Scouts into two existing Patrols, have a game night with your two Patrols forming the two teams. All of the new Scouts find a buddy first, and then each pair of buddies picks a side just for a ten minute game. Then let the buddies switch sides. Then for the third game let them pick the team they liked best.


Unless one of the Patrol Leaders is a rock star (like a high school football hero that they already know by reputation), then usually the most important thing to a new Scout is that he gets to stay together with his best friends.


Let the Patrols stay fluid for a few weeks with the understanding that they will have to make a decision at a certain point. I recommend to the PLC that it wait until the meeting AFTER their first campout, because that is when the new Scouts realize that the Patrols do not camp close together and it makes a difference which Patrol they are in! I usually conduct the Scout "Rank" SM Conferences at their first campout to see how all of this is going for each individual.


Then if you can recruit 14 Scouts in the fall, or pick up 14 Webelos a year from now, go directly from two Patrols to four Patrols. This gives your original 11 Scouts an extra year to mature before being called into service.


In a small Troop an SPL (let alone an ASPL!) is a waste of leadership talent. Baden-Powell NEVER used ASPLs, of course, and Hillcourt only added them when very large "mega-Troops" became a problem toward the end of his service. The idea that appointed leaders need to be supervised by the ASPL (rather than the SPL who appointed them) came much later.


The only thing we ever used the ASPL position for was when a Patrol realized it had made a mistake in an election. The SPL would "promote" a bad Patrol Leader to ASPL if the Patrol agreed with the SPL on which Scout would make a better PL. This gives a well-meaning but incompetent PL a way to save face, and a harmless place to put him :)



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I agree with MileHigh that it's also possible to do NSP's well. One of da things that is true is that bunches of buddies who come in together from the same school tend to stay around longer. Scoutin' is socially reinforcing - they talk about school in scouts and scouts in school.


I lost him, though, at "new scouts in established patrols leave the troop more often because they are not part of the established group, as younger kids they get ribbed more and end up washing the dishes more." Blech. That's a troop culture problem, eh? I think puttin' boys in NSPs instead of teachin' older boys to be caring is abandoning our mission. We succeed at administering a program but not at teachin' character.


The other issue for me is always "Obviously, many patrols are recombined or shuffled later", eh? That of course means da patrol method breaks down right when it could be havin' its biggest positive effect - older youth who have become comfortable and confident in a patrol steppin' forward to lead. Instead right when they're there, the patrol is gettin' reshuffled and they've got to go stormin' and normin' again.


"Reshuffle" and "Patrol" should never be used in da same paragraph, let alone sentence. The two things aren't really compatible.


If a NSP is goin' to be a real permanent patrol rather than joining permanent patrols after the job of the NSP is done, yeh have to bring in a big group of new lads to account for attrition. Dealin' with such a big group of 5th graders takes some really special Troop Guides, or (more typically) some top-notch adult ASM-NSPs. :)




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Well Done Beveah. I must admit I cringed when I read "reshuffle". I didn't know how to respond and so I didn't respond at all.


I also know that no matter how Brent does this, the situation will require a really dedicated set of adults working together on the same vision. While the methods and styles will change, the vision shouldn't. I can say that because I have been there and done that in so many different ways. I'm not bragging because it hurts to write that we did it wrong a lot more than we did it right. There are very few new ideas out there I haven't already experienced. I haven't seen any here.


At this age of the boys and in Brent's situation, patrol dynamics is fragile and requires constant tilling. Not only until the boys gain enough experience wisdom for it to become second nature, but also until the adults learn enough to understand the nature of boys and of dynamics of patrol method.


Have courage and don't be afraid, but don't get cocky either. Only humility will keep the troop going in the direction of boy run. That is also biblical.


You did a good job on the reply.



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There are a couple of reasons why we want an SPL.


1. Right now, I'm acting as the SPL, which means I'm having more interaction with the PLs than I want. They will still defer to me when they can. The SPL would provide that buffer, but still allow me to mentor and coach.


2. We envision the SPL camping and eating with the adults, which we hope will provide even more evidence that we are willing to treat the youth leaders as peers in running the Troop, if they will step up to the challenge.


3. I know you don't care for WB, but I do, and one of the main lessons we teach/demonstrate is the duties of the SPL, and the relationship between the SPL and SM. The SM provides the vision, and the SPL, in coordination with the PLs, make it happen. The boys don't see many of the meetings between the SPL and SM, but what they do see is a Scout leading the Troop. The SPL moves the adults one additional level away from the boys, allowing the adults to stay even more in the background. I think this is very important. As an example, instead of the SM calling in the PLs to give out information, it is the SPL who calls them in and gives out the info he received from the SM beforehand. What do the boys in the Troop see? A Scout leading the PLs instead of the SM.


4. At some camps and events (Summer Camp, Camporee) SPL meetings are held where information is provided to one representative per unit, who then carries the information back the the PLs and Troop. This may not seem like a big deal, but when our Summer Camp program has concurrent SM and SPL meetings right after breakfast, and we are cooking in camp, having an SPL to attend will work better than pulling a PL from his Patrol.


I, too, don't see a need for an ASPL. His only duty would be to fill for the SPL if he were absent. Our leaders aren't absent very often, so I agree, this would be a waste.


Thanks for your input. I do value it, though I may not agree with it all the time.

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>>We envision the SPL camping and eating with the adults, which we hope will provide even more evidence that we are willing to treat the youth leaders as peers in running the Troop, if they will step up to the challenge.

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Good point. I'm thinking more just about tent location and image than I am what he's doing with his free time. This may not end up working out logistically, but we want to give it a try. If a Patrol has an odd number of a Scouts on a trip, he may just end up tenting with them. I'm hoping the SPL will have at least some meals with the adults as that is a great time to have a conversation about what's going on with the Troop, and what's coming up. That may end up being supper, and he may want to have the other meals with the Patrols so he can do the same thing with them - keep his finger on the pulse.

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