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Adding a Senior Patrol Leader

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Six months ago, when doing our semi-annual elections, we had no Scouts interested in being the Senior Patrol Leader. Instead of coercing one of the Scouts to take the position, we opted to just run patrol programs within the troop. At our meetings, the two Patrol Leaders do the opening and closing jointly, then each patrol does their own activities for the rest of the meeting (except for maybe a joint game toward the end).


I was a little nervous at first, but it has worked out pretty well. Our patrols are much stronger units than they were before and the patrol leaders have had actual responsibilities they've needed to fulfill other than getting the patrol flag out and making a duty roster for campouts.


In addition to building stronger patrols, I didn't feel we had Scouts who were ready to be a real effective Senior Patrol Leader without getting more experience first in other positions.


My troop currently has two solid patrols and with 8-10 new Scouts crossing over soon, we will have soon have a third patrol. Our next term (starting March 1), we will plan on having no Senior Patrol Leader again. It will be interesting to see how things work out with three patrols in the mix.


My big question is how to eventually incorporate a Senior Patrol Leader back into the mix. Has anyone on the boards here ever dealt with a situation like mine? My big concern is that our troop will go back to being more "troop centric" rather than "patrol centric". Any insights would be greatly appreciated.

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While I have not experienced not using a SPL, I have experienced the scouts doing what is necessary to ease their burden of running the troop. Troops tend to get too heavy or to lean and adjustments need to be made to improve the program. Once the scouts realize that you really have given them permission to run the program the best way they can, they will adjust the leadership structure to fit. If things are going well right now, I think I would leave it alone and let them find the need for the SPL. If and when they do get one, the position will likely be more efficient and substantive for the troop than if they were pushed to get one.


Who runs the PLC meetings?




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I too would like to hear who runs the PLC. That is not meant as a critical question, but as a curious one. We too are working to build stronger patrols and working like your troop is may be an intersting solution. We are considering not having a troop outing in May, instead promoting individual patrol campouts (with adult leadership to accompany). Our patrols are still too young to camp independently, but that is one of our goals.


Like Barry says, the troop will reintroduce an SPL when they feel the need.


Historically speaking, I know that the position of SPL was not one which came from the early days of scouting, but I do not know when this concept first took root (or prehaps should I say: "first begain uprooting the patrol method").


Without hijacking this thread, can someone offer when the SPL position was introduced, by whom, and what its original purpose was?

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For a troop with strong patrols, the SPL's job is easy. For a troop with a weak patrol method, the SPL's job is more difficult.


The adults need to "let the boys fail" to some extent if the boys don't want to run their program. One method which I employed, was to form an adult patrol. It kept the helicopter parents occupied (we gave them assignments so they didn't hover over their son) and it served as a role model for what a well functioning patrol should look like (sometimes).



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In our troop, PLC meetings don't really need to occur. The patrol works with his APL (consulting with his patrol advisor) and other patrol members to plan their part of the troop meetings. The two patrol leaders in the troop are very good about working together when joint decisions need to be made. Since our two patrols are very different (one is all 15 and older, the other 13 and younger), there isn't a whole lot of rivalry and the PL's are very easy to get along with.


My main concern will come when we add another patrol and more coordination is involved. I'll see how things go this term and if it looks like we need an SPL, then we can add one at that time. However, if they continue to go as smoothly as they have, then we will be able to just stick with our current system. As I mentioned before, our patrols have gotten much stronger than they've been in years with our system the past six months.

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Our troop presently has two patrols with no SPL. There is no need for one. If something needs to be worked out between the two patrols, the two PL's work it out on their own. The patrols take turns doing the flags and for the most part split apart and do their own thing during the troop meetings. If an event requires an SPL, they decide between the two of them which one stands in as SPL for the event.


I had a patrol of 4 boys show up at the Klondike competition last weekend with one the PL, one the APL, one the SPL, and the other was a patrol member. Kinda overkill here just for the prestige of wearing a patch and getting advancement credit along the way. I'm not seeing any of them actually fulfilling their POR responsibilities under these circumstances.


I'm thinking that until one gets to about 4 patrols, there really isn't any need for an SPL.



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To answer your question, the patrols set up near each other (I try to encourage further apart so the younger guys aren't getting in the way of the older guys). As far as planning campouts go, the patrol leaders will sit down and figure out a schedule together. With transportation, the adults figure out rides for the troop in general along with other basic logistics (although the Scouts are responsible for buying, packing, and transporting their own food).


As with Jblake, we've realized with two patrols, a senior patrol leader is either not necessary or ends up being the PL for one huge patrol. If we were going to stay at two patrols, I wouldn't even think of adding an SPL. However, we'll see how it goes with three.


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I have a question, and I mean this sincerly and openly:


How awkward would it be - after starting the 3rd patrol - to take a 4th older scout, who's ben in it a while, and make him the SPL?


But Not so much as bing senor, but as being a co-ordinator?



I guess you could almost call it a Senor Patrol Co=ordinator instead of leader.


THis scout would not so much be in charge, but would be an organizer of the 3 patrols,


Is this dumb, impractical ,or possibly just doesn't make sense?


I am asking as a parent who's entire scouting experience is only with CUB scouting and not BOY scouting whatsoever!

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Looking at it general leadership perspective.


If you did something like that you'd be essentially asking that Scout to take on the responsibility of being SPL, but without the authority of being SPL.


I think that it could actually make it harder for him. How does he resolve issues when a decision is required? Is he empowered to make the decision, does he need the approval of someone else? If he can't make the decision, do the others respect him in the role?


I guessing the issue you're trying to avoid is putting someone chronologically "junior" in a leadership position over someone "senior". Personally, I think this is a great leadership skill for someone to learn with in a supportive Scouting environment.


If your more "senior" Scouts don't like having #4 in charge, I think there's a lesson in there for them too. When opportunities open up for the more senior position - take the challenge. If you choose to not take them on, then you need to be prepared for someone else to do it.

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I'm thinking Chippewa29 has identified one of the biggest problems with the SPL and small troops. I am fully aware of BSA literature so I'm not going to address that, but what I will point out is how SPL is defined makes a difference in how he may or may not function well in the troop.


BSA literature states that the SPL runs the troop. Okay, fine. I don't know of many pre-18 year olds that can run a troop of 30-40 boys and probably just as many over 18.


SPL's tend to be political positions and are often elected to be head honchos of the group. This makes it easy for the PL's to consistently defer their leadership when it's convenient and to find themselves by-passed on occasions as well.


Here's the rub. Scout A is a member of a patrol. Who does he answer to? His PL or the SPL? Both by definition are running the program for that boy. He has two leaders and often times that can be confusing.


In my opinion there is a clear distinction between the two roles. The PL runs the patrol, the SPL coordinates the PL's. Surely the most senior and experienced PL should be coordinating the programs as defined by the PL's. If a PL has a problem who does he go to? His SPL for advice and assistance of course. I kind of like to suggest to the SPL he is the "troop guide" for patrol leaders.


This way the PL retains his authority and responsibility to run his patrol and can do so without any interference from the "higher ups", i.e. SPL, ASPL, etc. If the SPL is going to run the troop, why bother with PL's? Just have sub-groupings within the troop and the SPL directs each sub-group individually. I'm thinking this isn't what BSA had in mind, but is often the method adopted by what is called a "troop-method" program.


So one has a single patrol. Need an SPL? I don't think so. The PL is de facto the "SPL".


So now one has two patrols. Need an SPL? Probably not unless the two PL's are mortal enemies and they need a referee.


So now one has three patrols. Need an SPL? Could be if two patrols are ganging up on the other or the three patrols have weak or inexperienced PL's. It's a judgment call by the SM at this point.


So now one has four patrols. Need an SPL? Now one could make a case for one boy that keeps his eye on four other budding leaders that will probably find themselves in need of a little assistance now and then and coordinating inter-patrol activities might need to be facilitated. It's getting a bit cumbersome to have more than a couple/three PL's sitting down chatting out problems and the SPL allows for some leadership for the QM, Scribe, etc. who will begin to find the burden of coordinating 4 patrols to begin being a challenge.


So, who's the "SPL" in my 2 patrol troop right now? The TG! :)


He's responsible for the NSP, but he's also to keep an eye on the older boys as they interact with the younger boys. He develops leadership for the NSP and assists with working with the PL of the older boys. Why TG? The boy is 16 years-old, Eagle rank and he was offered any position in the troop he wanted from JASM to patrol member. HE chose TG because he felt from that position he would be best able to help the others with their leadership development. He's not a member of either patrol, but is an "assistant" to both. He turned down SPL because he felt there was more hands-on with providing assistance to the PL's with the role of TG.



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There's a reason why schools strive to keep classroom membership as low as possible. Trained, professional teachers have increasing problems trying to teach as the number of students increases. I have heard that 20-24 students per classroom was about right. Remember these are trained, experienced professionals that are taking on this responsibility.


With that being said, I find it difficult to believe under any circumstances that any 15 year-old can deal with large groups successfully.


Nope, I like the 6-8 patrol members recommended by BP for each PL be retained and that the PL be responsible for them. This would then imply that the SPL could comfortably handle the responsibility for 6-8 PL's (PLC) and that the SPL not have to try and deal with 64 people, i.e. "run the troop".


Getting back to Chippewa29's original problem: No scouts were interested in being SPL. Instead they just had the 2 PL's do their job and if necessary, discuss any concerns they may have between themselves. The point being: They were doing just fine if left to their own resources and being SPL was not necessary. Why then as adults insist there be one? Chippewa29 was "nervous" about how well this would work, but to his surprise it worked well. Yes, the patrol method does work well, especially when the adults don't get in there and try and mess with it.


I wouldn't take the SPL position, nor encourage any Scout to do so, in any troop that didn't have the role clearly defined and within a scope that a boy of 14-18 years of age could handle.


I have often wondered whether the SPL POR is more of a prestigious patch wearing thingy than an actual functioning responsibility in the smaller troops. 5 boys in a minimum sized troop? 1 SPL, 1 PL, 1 APL, 1 Scribe and 1 Quartermaster. Yeah, right, that's going to work out well. But everyone gets their POR signed off, no problem.


It may be non-PC to say so, but there does come a time when too many chiefs and not enough Indians does take it's toll on a program.


Maybe what Chippewa29 is pointing out is: if left to their own resources, and without constant adult intervention, boy-led, patrol-method would naturally evolve on it's own.



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