Adults on troop outings

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


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3 Replies to “Adults on troop outings”

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. When I was Scoutmaster, the most common issue I had with parents attending camp was them getting in the way of the youth leaders. I quickly attempted to restrict camping to trained ASMs, unless transportation or safety required more adults than I could get ASMs to sign up.

  2. While I agree that adults need to stand aside and let the scouts plan and run events, I don’t agree that that means you have to restrict adult participation.
    Why not create an adult patrol. Ours is called the “Goats” . We plan our own menus, cook and sleep and stay away from the program for the most part.
    If the real concern is that the adults who are not being allowed to go will take over then just make it so that they can’t. They are in their own patrol, with their own program and responsibilities.
    I believe this creates a group of adults who learn how capable the scouts are and begin to “get it”
    It also creates a group of experienced adults who become friends and in the process learn how a patrol works. Maybe even modeling it for the scouts. Besides why should any adult who actually wants to volunteer be told they can’t. Aren’t we always searching for new people to help? What happens when the leadership needs to change and because for years the “select few” drove away anyone else who might have otherwise stepped up?
    If the problem of interfering adults is so bad that the only way to control it is to not allow them to participate at all, then the problem is bigger than you think. And needs to be addressed elsewhere.

    1. Connie, thanks for the comment. Your troop happens to “get it” and understands the roles of the patrols, the adult leadership and the limits on “other” adult participation. Your patrols truly operate independently using the patrol method, there’s good Scout spirit, and it’s a tradition. Most troops aren’t as well led (from a Scoutmastership standpoint) as yours. Having adults go along on troop campouts can be a good idea with the benefits you mention – if – you observe the limitations you point out: adults camp separately, at 300 feet or more, and absolutely stay out of the Scouts’ business. I like to think of there being a one-way mirror between the adults and the patrols, with the Scoutmaster leading the adults and being the gatekeeper “protecting” the Scouts from the adults. The caution on excess adults pertains mainly to adults dealing with the Scouts directly, and that should be kept to the minimum necessary so the Scouts can have the freedom to run their own affairs.

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