Most troops seem to operate under a more or less faithful version of Baden-Powell’s patrol method, where the boys are in charge of their troop, plan and conduct the meetings and activities, and enjoy their success along with a good measure of fun.
There are many, however, where the patrol method is merely given lip service. The senior patrol leader may be elected, but has no real authority. Patrols may be organized by the adults rather than the boys. The Scoutmaster or committee may plan the annual calendar and decide on the activities, or even run the troop meetings. In essence, it’s a big-boy Webelos den. I was reminded of this by a letter to a recent Ask Andy column (read the last letter).
Troops that recognize that their methods are not in keeping with the way Scouting is supposed to be are one step closer to becoming a fully youth-led troop, but if we just keep doing things the way we’ve always done them, this will never happen. Clarke Green gives us a great tool for assessing where we are on the ladder of youth leadership. Using it, you can see how far you have to climb as a troop.
If your troop has undergone a recent transformation into a truly youth-led troop in the spirit of Baden-Powell and “Green Bar” Bill, congratulations! Your Scouts will be better for the experience and the leadership they are assuming. It’s the only way Scouting can work its magic. Otherwise, we have an adult-led activity club. Don’t worry, however, if you’re not always at the top – in fact, you are likely to dip back into more adult involvement from time to time, particularly when new youth leaders are elected.
It’s extremely important as well to not lose sight of the goal and not dwell on the way things were. Leadership Freak Dan Rockwell recently reminded us on Twitter: “Should have ties to the past. Next time maintains momentum.” Maintaining forward progress is the surest way to reach your destination, so make sure everything you do is intended to bring you closer. Even if you slip back from time to time, your forward momentum will take over and help get you back where you should be.
One step you can take as a troop is to not only insist that all your registered adults are trained, but to recommend Boy Scout Fast Start training for all your parents. Think of it as an orientation to Boy Scouting, which many parents don’t realize is very different from Cub Scouts from an adult perspective. Fast Start training is available from the e-learning tab at the MyScouting portal and can be taken by anyone, whether registered or not. (While they’re at it, suggest they take Youth Protection Training as well.)
It should go without saying that your Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters need to take Scoutmaster Position-Specific training as well as Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills. These courses aren’t online – PST is a day-long classroom course, and IOLS are weekend outdoor courses. Your council training calendar should have the next training dates for your area, or ask your unit commissioner. Your Scoutmaster and assistants should also own and read the Scoutmaster Handbook. Often, they’ll find their “vision” of Scouting doesn’t agree with the way it should be, and the handbook and training can go a long way to correcting that.
Dysfunctional troops can often be traced back to untrained or uninitiated adults in leadership positions, and trying to run a troop correctly with untrained leaders is like trying to paddle around boulders. Get those boulders out of the river and keep your troop going!