To play, or not to play?

ccsoccer_200Ready or not, summer is coming to a close, fall is rapidly approaching, and with it the start of school. We’re gearing up for our Join Scouting nights and Boy Talks and enticing young people (and their parents) to join our packs with our fun programs and cool activities.

There are also those who have had a year or two experience with Scouting and are on the fence, deciding whether they’d like to continue on with more of the same or branch off into other activities. It’s always a shame to lose a Scout and his family if  they have the impression that they’ll see the year ahead as “been there, done that” with the kinds of things they’ve done already rather than as a progression into activities that build on what they’ve done and involve new things they can do as they grow.

One reason for this reluctance is the preponderance of youth sports teams, whose seasons are really anything but a continuum or progression. Teams form, they practice, they play a schedule of games during a season, then they disband. Next season, the process repeats. They may be able to play at a higher level, or refine their skills, but they’re basically still playing soccer or basketball. The biggest changes they encounter might be the need for new cleats or travel to gyms in different cities.

But Scouting isn’t like that. As long as the program is presented properly, each grade level in Cub Scouting is different. We don’t repeat the same twelve achievements each year. The activities our boys do are age-based and progressive. As they grow, the program changes to fit their needs and abilities, with greater emphasis on self-reliance.

We need to make sure that families understand that during our recruiting drive and fall program kickoff. Den leaders are especially key in this – they need to get ahead of the curve and know how the next year differs from the last. It’s not the same sport as last year – the same drills, practices, gear and games – but grows with the boy, revealing new experiences.

New Webelos den leaders, get to know what’s different [PDF] about being a Webelos leader, and be sure to take the online training for your new position! Training as a Wolf/Bear leader does not satisfy the Webelos training requirement!

A frequent dilemma we hear from parents around this time is whether their son should participate in Scouting because of his sports schedule. Here are some ways to help answer the question:

  • Make sure they are aware that we are here all year, not just for the season, and they should make room for Scouting too.
  • Many of the things that boys do in Cub Scouting can be done outside of “Scout time” and don’t necessarily have to be done during den meetings. Look through the requirements for your rank this year and figure out what can be done at home, and make accommodations for those who can’t be around because of practices or games.
  • For that matter, is your own son in the same sports program as the other boys in your den? That’s a perfect reason to schedule your den activities around the sports league, to make it possible for all to do both!

Parents’ often-distorted visions of their child’s potential future sports greatness and competitiveness with his peers sometimes leads them to go to extremes with their level of training and participation too, but that’s a topic I’ve discussed before, and there’s much more that can be said about the phenomenon.

When presented properly, and with a bit of advance planning, you can incorporate both Scouting and other activities, and change “To play or not to play” into “Let’s play the game of Scouting too!”

Image: Steven Depolo / Creative Commons 2.0

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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