Triangle Thingies

Yes… Triangle Thingies.. that’s what they are called.  What do they do?  Well, if you are like me and want to have an enjoyable time when you get into camp you find ways to stream line your set up and take down.  No knots, no instructions, no fuss.. no muss.  If you look at my set up you will find that it is easy up and easy down.  The Triangle Thingie is a simple add on to the hammock that allows for quick set up and take down and the ability to have your underquilt hung in the same place every time without any adjustments.  This ensures a great nights sleep and getting it ready to hang super fast.
The Triangle Thingies are from a company in Idaho, a cottage industry owned an operated by outdoors folks that love to get out in the woods and hang and fish.  You can check out their site here.  The Triangle Thingies weigh in a 1 1/4 oz a pair and come in four colors.
Here is a quick video on how I installed the Triangle Thingies on my Warbonnet XLC hammock.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, Hammock, Just fun, reviews, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lead to Performance

Forming-storming-norming-performing-300x159Show me a team that is not performing at a high level and I will show you a lack of vision.
The mark of a high performance team is a team that is heading in the same direction with the same purpose and goals oriented toward seeing a vision become real.  In the stages of team development we know that all team go through the four stages of Forming, Storming, Norming, and then Performing.  Some move through the stages and achieve that high performance level quickly while others seem to bog down on one stage or another.  Again, we can see the mark of a high performance team if they can move from Storming to Performing quickly and without the destruction of the team.
So, what are some of those obstacles that cause a team to fail or bog down?
Drama.  This is perhaps the single biggest obstacle in achieving goals.  People that are stuck in their own agenda.  People that do not have the team set as the priority and are not willing to put others before themselves.  Drama creates sub teams or groups within the team that begin to form camps.  This behavior is destructive.
Agenda.  When a team member is hung up or comes to the team with an agenda other than that which supports the vision of the team, the team will suffer.  We see this in Scouting when we have parents transition into our units with the goal of making their son and Eagle Scout.  While I understand the desire for every parent to see their son achieve this Award, it is not important in the grand scheme of things.  When that parent or group of parents crea
te this environment they put their desire over the goals of the team.
Lack of Knowledge.  This obstacle is the easiest to overcome but it takes willing participants.  We get a lack of knowledge or understanding when we do not know that goal and how to get there.  A lack of or failure to get trained.  A lack of or failure to embrace the goals of the team.  And a lack of “want to” to learn.  We all have busy lives and sometimes Scouts takes a back seat to other things.  Training tends to become less important to people that are busy and feel that the team and its goals are less important than themselves.
So what?
Every unit, no matter what that unit is, should be heading to being a high performance team.  If it is not, then why be a team at all.  Achieving goals and building the team up is a great way to build up the individuals on the team.  A Troop committee or a Patrol should be goal oriented and willing to put the team first
in order to accomplish those goals.  When we have Drama, Agendas, and a Lack of Knowledge the team gets stuck in the Storming phase or finds itself falling back into Storming over and over and eventually can not seem to pull itself out of it.  The ability for the team to move on is important without that ability the team is destined to fail.
The solution.  Be a leader and know what to look for in the stages of team development.  Be a leader and create an environment that does not allow for drama and keep agenda’s in check.  Be a leader and ensure that all the members of the team understand the vision and the goals and have an active role in achieving a part of the direction leading toward the goal.  In short keep the arrows all heading in the right direction.  Leaders provide Purpose, Direction, and Motivation to move their team toward being a high performance team.  A healthy team has good leadership that creates a positive environment that is completely goal oriented.  Creating this environment keeps the team focused and heading in the right direction.  That direction is high performance.  Once the team gets a taste of it, they never want to go back.
The bottom line.. Lead the team to high performance.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Social Media and me

Hey all…
Needless to say it’s been a real busy time here and I have let my posting slide.. know that you have heard that before and I make no apology.  After all, you understand what is important and not so much.
So what’s new?
Well, I was asked a few months ago to be on a small committee for the Council.  This committee is the Social Media committee and is charged with telling our story.. hey that is right up my ally.  I think that Scouting’s story is an important part of our movement.  I also think that more and more our story and the way it’s told is an important part in many aspects of Scouting.  Social Media being an important part of our world today plays a much great role in Scouting.  The Millennial generation of parents that are bringing their Cub Scout age boys to our program.  It is the way in which they communicate and share information.  The research, learn, and make choices based on what they see, read, and hear through Social media outlets.  Google, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are all means to reaching our target audience.
I got into this discussion at the National Order of the Arrow Conference this year when the youth clearly sent a message about technology and how they use it in Scouting.  Those young men have tech savvy parents too and time is more precious to them than money.  Instant information that is clear, available, and easy to use is what they want.  They don’t want an extra meeting to be told what they can gather from a quick read or search on the net.
So our Council has made a decision to take the message and put it out there where the audience is.  Smart if you ask me.  Telling our story using the right media (multi media outlets) so we can stretch our reach and impact a greater audience.
Myself and Adam Cox from the Scouter Adam Blog are now telling our story.  Sharing news and great stories from within Scouting and in particular the Cascade Pacific Council.  We are now the Hosts of the Compass Points Podcast and the Council is sharing our posts from our blogs in the Council feed.
So what does that mean?  Well it should mean that the blog will be more active.  And I think it will.
So far as this blog.  More video, more gear talk, and more stories about our Scouting life.  Keeping in mind that we want to share our story to promote Scouting here and around Scouting.
Will there be gaps.. yeah, I’m afraid there will be.  I am just me and I need to get my camping in and oh yeah.. family, troop, etc.  So bare with me.. I’ve asked that before and you always hang in there.. and I appreciate it.
Well, here is episode 1 of the Compass Points Podcast.  Yep I will be posting them here.  Just because it will be CPC centric doesn’t mean that the information, stories, and whatnot won’t apply everywhere.
We will be shooting to get 2 podcasts out a month.

So what’s your Scouting story.. share it here.. if you want, we could use it on the podcast too.  We all have a story to tell about our incredible Scouting experience.  Please share.
By the way.. if you are not already doing it.. you can follow me on Twitter @smjerry  gonna try to use that more too.
You can check out the story of our Council on Twitter @cpcbsa
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Warbonnet XLC

DSCN1876Here is a short video I shot today of a first look at my new Warbonnet Outdoors XLC.
The XLC hammock is an improvement of the Blackbird hammock.  XL standing for “Extra Large” is 1 foot longer than the Blackbird giving the hammock a more comfortable and flatter lay for larger hangers.  Since I am 5’11” I notice a big difference in the comfort right off the bat.
The “C” stands for convertible.  The bug netting can be totally removed to create a Traveler Hammock or a winter cover can replace the bug netting for winter camping.  I personally opted not to get the winter cover as I have winter camped in the Blackbird for many years without one and do just fine.. that and it saved me $65.
I chose to use Whoppie slings instead of webbing and buckles, this takes down the weight a bit and gives me some options when it comes to tree distance.
Anyway, check out this side by side comparison of the Blackbird and the XLC.  You will find that basically they are the same hammock, the XLC edging out the Blackbird in comfort and lay for taller hangers.

Let me know what you think.  Are you doing the hammock camping yet?  If not.. why?
Off for a wonderful nights sleep in the hammock tonight in the backyard hammock lab.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Why Zero Tolerance is a bad leadership policy

3strikes_w_sig_cmykSomewhere around 1972 a new term hit the world of behavior science and changing the way we punish undesirable behavior.  The consequence of that change in thought removed the ability for leaders, judges, and people in authority to make decisions.
Zero Tolerance removes discretion.  For this reason it is a terrible leadership policy.  Leaders need to have the ability to make decisions and evaluate the behavior and the effect that it had on the group.  Leaders need to be fair and just.  Zero Tolerance does not allow for that.  Zero Tolerance establishes a set punishment for a set offense.  It does not take into account the level or severity of the offense and what the result of the offense was.
As a leader we need to know that everything is not equal and some things are more severe than others.  We talk about having a Zero Tolerance policy when it comes to bullying.  On the surface that seems great.  But given Zero Tolerance there is no need to investigate the offense.  One person claims that another was a bully and the case is closed.  What happened?  How did it happen?  Was someone having a bad day?  What was said?  It doesn’t matter as long as one person feels they were bullied.
We talk about zero tolerance when it comes to knife safety.  This eliminates the learning opportunity and creates fear of using the tool.
We recently had a case here in our town where a middle school student wore a t shirt to school that had a picture of an M4 carbine covered in a helmet.  Commonly referred to as a soldiers cross.  We see them in memorials to fallen soldiers and were common place on battle fields over the ages.  The teacher was obligated because a “zero tolerance” policy about guns to report the young man and he was suspended.
The authority figure here was not allowed to use discretion.  The authority here was not allowed to use common sense and make a decision based on the policy.  A picture of the rifle, while it can never do harm is still a rifle and therefore falls under the policy of zero tolerance.
In my opinion this is horrible leadership.  It does not accomplish a behavior change, it does not pass the common sense test and does not allow for leaders to make a judgement call.
Who gets hurt?  What is the crime?  What is the outcome?  None of these questions are allowed in a zero tolerance environment.
So when we use zero tolerance in our Troops we do not teach leadership and we do not let leaders go through the decision making process.  We don’t use the death penalty for every crime, so we should be more fair when looking at behavior change and policy in our Troop.
For this reason and others, our Troop does not have a policy book or set of by laws.  We use the Scout Oath and Law.  The Oath and Law are not subject to “Zero Tolerance”.. they are values that shape the way a young man thinks and acts.  They are values that allow for the Scout to answer the question.. DID I?  Did I act in accordance with the Oath and Law.  It allows for a graduated scale when looking to change behavior. We don’t have to be either/or we can have a discussion and be good teachers and mentors.
Zero Tolerance is bad leadership policy and does not work in Scouting.  Don’t fall into that PC trap.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Living or Dying

r1933A Scout Troop is a family.. and it’s either living or dying.  It’s either growing or shrinking, viable or withering on the vine.  There are many reasons for this, but the point of the matter is that if we are not watching for it we will let units fail.  It isn’t always easy to pinpoint one thing or another, but the more you focus the clearer the issues become and the faster a unit can recover when it finds itself dying.
I find that a close examination of the how the unit is using the methods is a great start.  Oh and by the way, this is important for units that are living and living well too.  You may just find that you are slipping in an area that down the road can lead to a cancer that can not be cured in the unit.
Is the unit using all eight of the methods or just picking and choosing which ones are important to them?  I liken that practice to picking and choosing which of the values in the Scout Law are less important and need not apply.
A strong program relies on the methods to achieve the goals of Scouting.  Too many units favor advancement over other methods.  I have seen those units race their Scouts to Eagle and then die.. they lost the older Scouts and leadership.  The families disengage once their son “Eagles Out” [a term that does not have any place in Scouting].  There is no longer a dog in the hunt for the family and the Scout feels as though he has reached the end.  NO NO… he has just begun.  Now it’s time to give back and be a leader.  But with the emphasis on advancement, the Scout and his family see no other needs that the unit can provide.
Some Troops believe that the Patrol Method is all you need.  While I agree that the Patrol method is everything to the Patrol and health of the Troop, it is certainly not all you need.  Where do you practice the Patrol method?  At Troop meetings?  Sure, some, but its the Outdoor program that makes the Patrol method come alive.. so no the Patrol method is not all you need.  How do you put into practice the Ideals of Scouts, you know those ideals and values found in the Scout Oath and Law?  You need a well planned and executed Service program in the life of the Troop.  Service opportunities that engage the Scout and teach him to be a selfless servant to others.  This is a wonderful leadership trait as well.  Being a servant leader will certainly get the young man farther and reinforce the ideals of Scouting.
I once heard a quote, and I want to say it came from Baden Powell, “Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.”  The uniform is an important part of Scouting.  I have talked about this before so I won’t beat that horse to death, but the uniform is an essential part of Scouting.  It builds the team.  It helps with discipline.  It is a great equalizer.  The uniform connects us in the World Brotherhood of Scouting and is the most visible part of the Scout in public.  It should be worn completely and correctly.  Many adult leaders make a choice to allow jeans and other parts of the uniform to be exchanged.  They claim that it is a money issue.  It isn’t.  A Scout is thrifty.  He can always go mow a lawn, rake some leaves, or even sell popcorn to buy a new uniform or pants for it.  Taking the easy way out on the uniform reflects the attitude of the leader to not use the methods of Scouting completely.  “Attitude reflects leadership” so says my favorite quote from the movie Remember the Titans.  This attitude of pick and choose can do more harm than good in the long run and it has been my observation that it can ultimately lead to a unit dying.
And no.. it’s not about the uniform.  It’s about the methods.  Those tried and true methods that lead our youth to a better understanding of who they are and what they will become.  It teaches Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  And that my friends is why do Scouting.  We believe this works and that is proven daily, weekly, monthly in units all across our country.  It is proven in the Eagle Scouts that go on to do great things in their lives and in the Scouts that go into the world and become Dads that raise wonderful people.  Scouting works, but we need to keep it alive.  Using the eight methods will keep it from dying.
The methods need to be visible in your annual plan, in your interactions with the Scout, and in your attitude.  That will reflect great leadership.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, fitness, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, planning, Scout Law, Scouting, Service, Values, Wood Badge | 2 Comments

Hanging Your Pack

Here is a video I shot a while ago about taking care of your gear out in the woods.
This is the method I use for keeping my pack and gear high and dry and clean.

Have A Great Scouting Day!

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Giving Up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis post is not going to sit well with some folks, but be that as it may, it is a message that I feel is an important part of the Character, Citizenship, and Overall fitness of the Scouts that we are trying to develop.
As with most ideas or thoughts that bounce through my mind, I find that themes reoccur or present themselves to me.  And so as I go through my daily life I look for those things that can both make me a better person and pass on to our young men.
First, I have been observing a “homeless guy” over the past few months.  Now please understand I am not being insensitive to the plight of the homeless here.  I am absolutely not passing judgement and understand that there many folks out there with needs.  I am also not expressing an opinion or solution about mental health issues that plague our country.. so.. with the caveats out of the way…
I finally had the opportunity to talk with this young man.  I bought him a Frosty from Wendy’s and asked if I could ask him some questions.  He agreed.  I asked him why he was homeless.  A simple question and he gave me a simple answer.  He said he gave up.  He gave up on school, he gave up on his family, he gave up on trying.  I didn’t ask why, but I really wanted to know.  It would have been too obvious to ask if he liked the results, so I left it alone.  I did however ask how long he planned on staying on his current course.  He answered by saying that it wasn’t that bad.. people in general are generous.  He had no plan or expectation of life getting better.
I asked him if I could ask two more questions.. he agreed.  Number one, are drugs involved? And number two, are you going to try to get help?  To the first question he answered yes.  That is why he is in Portland.  Easy to get and cheap.  To the second, he said he would like to get help.  He added that he had dreams and goals, but giving up was easier.  I thanked him and went on my way.
Second, as you know I am a football fan, especially when it comes to watching my youngest sons football team play.  He plays for the College of the Redwoods and is a real good Quarterback.  The team though has much to be improved.  They are up and down and all over the place searching for consistency.   The only thing that is consistent about the team is their willingness to give up.  They seem to play for themselves and give up on their team mates.  Because it is a Junior College, the players are looking at moving to higher Division Schools to continue playing football and advance their education.  They are playing selfish to gain better stats without an understanding that if the team does well, they will get their stats.  Giving up on plays and letting team mates down when the going gets tough.
So why do I care?  I do not think it is acceptable to ever give up.  As a young soldier it was always expected that we never give up.  Giving up left people’s life in the balance.  When people give up they don’t just give up on themselves, but there is always an effect to other people.  When parents give up, the kids suffer.  When employees give up, the work group suffers, when members of a Patrol give up, the whole Patrol is effected in a negative way.  They end up moving in the wrong direction in the stages of team development or stay in a storming mode too long.
Giving up is a choice.  It is a condition that while there are certainly circumstances that lend themselves to someone wanting to give up, there is never a reason to follow through.
Jerry, you are too insensitive..  no, I am a tired of seeing the effects of people who just give up.  People get hurt when you give up.  It’s not fair when people give up.  As we talk about leadership with our Scouts we always start with the concept of being a servant leader or leading selflessly.  If you can’t do that, you can’t lead.  We also remind them that if they can not lead themselves they can not lead others.  Having said that, giving up is in my opinion on of the most selfish things one can do.
So why do people give up?  I don’t know.  I don’t like it and I don’t allow it in my Troop.  Scouts in my Troop are not allowed to say “I can’t”.  If you believe that you can’t.. you are right.  But that is not an option in life and the more we allow young men to give up, it becomes easier and easier to do.  Scouts can do amazing things, but they need to have the self-confidence to push themselves.  We need to give them permission to do so.  When we accept the Scout saying “I can’t”.. we tell them it’s ok to pass or give up.  Simply put.. it’s not ok.
So, no I don’t have the answer, but you can rest assured that I am fighting it by using my influence as a Scoutmaster to teach, coach, and mentor our Scouts to never, ever give up.  I do not give up, so I expect them to take that attitude and grow into great men.
Can you imagine in our founding fathers gave up?  Imagine if they decided it was not in their best interest or it was too hard.  What if they did not test the resolve of their fellow countrymen to join the fight.  We need not go to those extremes, but the principle is the same.  Never give up on yourself or those around you.
Just something to think about.. I know I do.
A note on this post.  It has taken me two weeks to put this together.  It is a subject that has really been weighing on my heart and mind.  I have talked to the Scouts of my Troop about this.. an ongoing discussion we have held over the past couple years.  I finally wrapped it up tonight because once again, I talked with the homeless kid today.  Still giving up.  I don’t judge and make him out to be a bad guy.  I see potential that is wasted.  I see a young man who never was taught that giving up has long-term and far-reaching effects.  He is living it.  It saddens me.
Teach our Scouts the right way to become men.
The picture I used in this post is of me and a young man in my Troop.  At the time, he was in his first year as a Boy Scout.  What you don’t see in the picture are the big tears and the knocking knees this youngster had.  What you also don’t see is him at the bottom of the rappel with a huge smile on his face knowing that he conquered fear and accomplished his goal of earning the climbing merit badge.  You don’t see me 5 minutes after the picture was taken going over the edge with him and coaching him to stay with it and never give up.  I am proud of that Scout and many others like him that make a choice not to quit.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Values | 2 Comments

The MR. and MRS. Question

cropped-scoutmaster.jpgThere is a nice article in Bryan on Scouting today with comments and discussion on the blog about Scouts being on a first name basis with their adult leaders.
I know it may be bad form to take this discussion from Bryan and use it here, so I apologize up front and if you will allow me to approach it as an opinion piece I will be ever grateful.
So, in my opinion… And given the comments on Bryan’s Blog I am in the minority, I am a big fan of first names.
In my Troop we use first names for everyone from the committee to the members of the new Scout patrol.  The only argument for not using first names that I can find (again referencing Bryan on Scouting) is the issue of respect.
Comments like “Mr. And Mrs. It shows respect, and also gets the boys in the habit of respecting their elders when not at scouts” kind of bother me in that it is clear that formal names are not a great indicator of respect.  I work for a company (UPS) which, from the beginning has been a “First name” company.  From the CEO to the newest part time employee, everyone is on a first name basis.  Respect comes from how people act.
I served in the Army for 21 years.  In that time the naming convention, which is the only convention allowed in the Army is Rank followed by last name.. Sergeant Smith for example.  I served with people for years and never knew their first names.  It is a method of forcing respect due to an authority.  There are many leaders in the Army that I respected because I had to, but when it comes to real respect I can honestly say I did not respect them as individuals.
So what is it that we are trying to teach our Scouts?
First, I am not an authority figure.  I am their Scoutmaster.  A teacher,coach, and mentor.  As these young men grow, I want them to respect me for my actions and what I have taught them.  I want them to know that they have access to me and that Mr. Schleining is approachable and is their friend.
Baden Powell said that a “The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older brother”.
I understand that many folks feel a strong connection to the “Way it used to be” implying that the old days were better.  Well yes and no.. the old days were different and the standard of the “old days” can’t always be applied today.  Respect is not measured by how you address someone.  When we teach the Scout about respect that is done by us being mutual in that respect.  I respect our Scouts as much as I expect to respected.  As long as their language and actions demonstrate an attitude of respect than the Scout is practicing those lessons taught.  Using the Scout Oath and Law to guide the Scout in those actions will compel him to show respect to his leaders.  The fact that they call me Jerry does not take away from that.
We do not live in a time depicted in Normal Rockwell paintings.  Too many adults feel that young people today lack respect.  No, I can’t paint all young people with that wide brush.  Sure, there are young people that lack respect, but then again, you can find examples of that in every age.  There has always been an element of young folks that did not have respect for authority, institutions, and other people.  What and how we teach in more important than what we are called.
It’s all about how we teach and coach our Scouts.
Ever since I was a Cubmaster, I have asked that the Scouts and their parents call me Jerry.  Some parents are not comfortable with this and I understand, so they may call me Scoutmaster Jerry or Mr. Schleining.. I really don’t care.  When I am called Mr. Schleining by a Scout I tend to return the greeting by calling the Scout Mr. Soinso.. They don’t feel comfortable with that either, but again I am trying to teach them that we can respect one another with first names.
Here is the bottom line and I will close with this thought.  I am here to serve them Scouts.  They do not have to earn respect from me, I have to earn their respect.  I am their Scoutmaster and as such.. their friend.  We treat one another as we would like to be treated.
I would like to thank Bryan for a good thought provoking article.  It is a great discussion and is obviously one that has differing opinions.  Thanks for letting me share mine.
What are your thoughts on this issue?  I would love to hear.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The Participation Problem

campfireWe often focus on membership when it comes to the retention and recruiting issue.  This is absolutely a  header in the discussion.  However a better indication of unit health is your participation percentages.  That is how many of your registered Scouts are participating in your activities.  This number can tell you many things about your unit.  First, it reflects your annual plan.  Do the Scouts want to be there and do the things the plan that the Patrol Leaders Council came up with (using Guided Discovery)?  Second, is that plan a plan that compels the Scouts to come and be with their patrol mates.  And third, does that plan conflict with other events.  School, Sports, Council and District events and family plans.  These three areas are the top three that I have seen and discussed with committees to find out why and what the issues are in solving the participation problem.
The Scoutmaster plays a big role in the planning of the Scout year.  Teaching the Patrol Leaders Council how to look at the calendars and get the right program in place to meet the goals of the unit.  Polling the unit to get a feel for what they want to do.  And adding elements of the National Program into the plan, Jamborees, High Adventure Bases, and other National opportunities are all critical in giving the Scouts a reason to want to participate.
Here are a couple of tips that have helped us have a successful annual program and increase that participation percentage.
1.  Start early.  Establish what the range or start and finish of your “Scout year”.  Most units use the School year as their beginning and end.  Have your annual plan published before the beginning of the planned year.  Allow time for budgeting and family planning.  My unit uses October as the start of our Scouting year.  We do this for a few reasons.  First, it falls on a month with a “Non Negotiable” event.  Webelos Woods in our District is always in October.  This event is a fantastic opportunity to recruit for the unit as well as stand up against the rest of the District allowing our program to be showcased.
And second, October is a good month to launch the program year.  Everyone has been in School for a solid month, the holidays are just around the corner and it allows for time in summer to get the plan in place.  Starting in June and July, the Patrol Leaders Council meets with the patrols polling them for prospective activities for the coming year.  This includes location for Summer camp.  Starting early in the summer allows for plenty of time to look at all the calendars that effect the unit and by the end of August a solid plan is in place and the committee can start the budgeting process
2.  Stay away from the same old stuff.  Pretty much camping is camping.  Try new locations or different activities at favorite places.  Ensure that opportunities for National experiences are a part of the plan.  This in large part is the responsibility of the Scoutmaster and the Committee to provide the resources that introduce these opportunities.  In my Troop we look at the time spent in the Troop of the average Scout.  That seems to be about 7 years.  Over the course of those seven years we want the Scout to have the opportunity to get the very most out of his Scouting experience.  Local Council camps, out of Council opportunities, National Jamborees, National Order of the Arrow Conferences, and High Adventure Bases.  So we, along with the Patrol Leaders Council established a matrix that plugs these type of activities into the annual plan.  If a Scout takes advantage the plan, he will have a well rounded and extremely active time in Scouting.  When a Scout joins the unit he and his family can pick those High adventure trips, Jamborees and the like that he will go to well in advance.  This takes the burden away from fund raising plans and family vacations etc.  Families that have more time to plan will facilitate their sons Scouting experience.
Staying away from the same old stuff gives the Scouts of the Troop something to look forward to.  It shows that planning is important and that their experience is important to the life of the Troop.
3.  Possibly the most important, make sure the plan comes from the Scouts of the Troop.  The Patrol Leaders Council owns the plan, it is theirs and the success of the plan with rest with them.  They will  be guided and coached along the way, but in the end, they will be happy or not with their plan.  Now before you jump off the blog now, keep reading… this is a process that will not happen in one year.  We use guided discovery in Scouting.  Mistakes can be made as long as the Scouts learn from them.  The key for the Scoutmaster in this regard is breaking the Patrol Leaders Council from always taking the path of least resistance.   Give them permission to think big and out of the box.  If they want to go to Disneyland for Summer camp.. let them.  We had a troop recently go to Hawaii for summer camp.  Lots of planning and coordination went into it, but it was that kind of out of the box thinking that raised their participation percentage.  But its all about their plan.  As adults in the program we should support it and do what it takes to make it a success.
4.  And the final advice for today, Keep it fun.  Scouts are in School all day, they last thing they want is more School at meetings and on weekend camp outs.  Give them a reason to want to be a participant.  Each outing should be fun and adventurous.  When the Scouts know how much fun they are going to have they want to be there.  Here is the rub,.  Define fun.  Fun for one patrol may not be fun for others.  Find a balance within the Troop.  A great place to start is by establishing Troop Traditions.  Fun, silly, and things that build up the team.  A tradition of fun camp fires on each outing for example is a neat way of bringing together the Troop while having lots of fun.  A mascot can bring the Troop together also.  It gives them something to rally behind.  In our Troop we do and have both of those and we came up with a necklace that tells their Scouting story.  We took our mascot, a Gnome, and had totems made.  Each outing and activities has a bead that represents it.  At each Court of Honor, the Scout is presented with the beads for the activities he has attended.  At first it did not seem like that big of a deal, then the Scouts really took to it.  We make a real big deal about presenting the beads and wearing our totem.  This is a fun way of making the outings important and creating a reason to be a part of it.  We have had a Gnome as our mascot since our first summer camp in 2004.  This quickly became a Troop Tradition.  Now that we are a backpacking Troop we have inflatable Gnomes that the Senior Patrol Leader carries on each outing.  The Scouts love to show off the Gnome.  Allow the Scouts to define fun, but remember Guided Discovery, keep the fundamentals and methods of Scouting at the forefront of the program.  The Scouts may not need to know the exact purpose of the game, just make sure that the game is played fair and fun.
The participation problem is one that can be solved by a great plan, building in adventure, making sure the Scouts own the plan, and keeping it fun.  Traditions, and sticking to the methods of Scouting will assist in building a program that Scouts want to be a part of.  This will go along way in solving the problems with Scouts not participating fully in their Troop.
What are some things that your unit does to solve the Participation problem?  Share them with us.  May be a big help for someone struggling.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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