A reader wrote to me a few weeks back asking for advice on how to select adults to go along on troop campouts, particularly those featuring above-the-norm, interesting activities. This reader felt that certain adults were given first crack repeatedly, that most of the adults were being bypassed when it came to offering the chance to participate, and he asked if some sort of a lottery or rotation system should be put in place.
I responded by saying that first and foremost, Scouting is for the Scouts. It’s not something that the adults plan and do because they like it or find it interesting, and include the youth in the process. Adults are there to make it possible for the Scouts to do Scout stuff. If they have some incidental fun along the way, that’s part of the paycheck. They might even get a chance to ride the zip line themselves.
On a normal campout, there’s no need for a surplus of adults. The Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmasters are there to support the Scouts, and they should be the ones who go along. Beyond the two adults required, and maybe two more to provide backup in emergency situations, there needs to be a compelling reason for additional adults to go along other than there being an interesting activity they’d like to participate in. If other adults want to go, they should be registered with the BSA, preferably Trained beyond YPT, and stay out of the Scouts’ business unless the Scoutmaster otherwise allows them to. On a high-adventure-type event, you may actually need more support, including those who drive Scouts there and back, but it’s preferred that they should be registered (and Trained) too.
Troop activities should be designed so that all Scouts can take part. They should ideally be something that supports the patrol method, and is something that the Scouts make happen for themselves rather than being planned by the adults. It’s not desirable to have an activity that has a capacity limit so that some youth have to be excluded, and it’s certainly not a good idea to exclude Scouts so that adults can participate.
If you do have an occasional event where there’s an opportunity for adults to participate as well, without detracting from the patrol experience or taking away a chance for youth members to participate, you may need to set up some sort of system to allocate adult participation opportunities when there aren’t enough to go around. You could agree on a lottery system, or a rotation, or choose by seniority. You could even turn it over to the Scouts and, for instance, have each patrol choose one adult to accompany them. But it is unfair if the adults assisting with planning put their friends’ names on the roster first.
So consider why you think you need to have more adults than are necessary go along. Remember that it’s not a father-and-son camping or outing club – Scouting is for the Scouts!
Photo: U. S. Army