If you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
By and large that is the reason we have an Eagle Scout Board of Review. We can assess and determine though the interview with the Scout whether or not the program is delivering the promise of Scouting and achieving its goals of helping make young people of character, good citizens, that are physically fit. Along with all of that, do they make ethical choices and does it look like they will do the same in the future.
Reflection is an important part of every thing that we do in Scouting. It allows us to take a look back and see if we achieved the outcomes we want in playing our game.
Reflection comes in many forms, we can do it as a group or take time in silent reflection. But no activity is complete until the reflection is done.
This last weekend our Troop went camping. First winter camp out of the year and we went caving on Saturday exploring the largest Lava tube cave in the US. It is adventurous and challenging and our Scouts love to test themselves. As with most outings or activities a theme develops throughout the weekend. This weekend the theme quickly became “Rising to the Challenge”. Overcoming hardship, attitudes, and things that make you uncomfortable were some of the behaviors that we noticed in our Scouts as they went through the weekend.
For some of the Scouts it was the first time they would camp in sub freezing temperatures. For some it was their first time in a cave. For others it was a leadership challenge as they learned that as a leader there were Scouts that depended on them to just get through the weekend. Cold weather, challenging experiences, and doing something new and difficult.
These young men learned and practiced great leadership. I was pleased to watch as members of the Patrol Leaders Council made their way through camp checking on the younger Scouts. Instructing them on how to get through the night. Reassuring younger Scouts that they will be ok and that if they do what they are taught, they will be warmer in the morning and will be able to have a better experience in winter camping.
I walked through camp Saturday night around 10:30 and found gear properly stored, tents pitched with all the tie outs in place and the sounds of tired happy Scouts sitting in their tents, the gentle glow of a headlamp lighting the green nylon of a tent fly.
Sunday morning leadership was once again challenged as cold fingers attempted to pack even colder nylon tents and sleeping bags. Our departure time was supposed to be 9:00 AM. We missed it by 20 minutes, but the reason was acceptable to me. The Troop was in Patrol lines taking a few minutes to share a few things they learned over the weekend. Patrol leaders talking with their patrols about the challenges they faced over the weekend and how they all rose to the challenge. Before we loaded up I shared with them my pride in them and how they are great young men. I shared with them the fact that they needed to reflect on the weekend and see just how much they learned about skills, their attitude, and how they grew because of the experience. The final question that I asked them to reflect on was this, Is there any place you would rather be?
When we got back to the hall and parents started arriving to pick up their Scouts, many of the Scouts came to me and shared the answer to that last question. Each and every one of them say “NO WHERE ELSE”.
So reflecting back on this weekend I would say Promise Delivered and Program solid.
It is important to reflect. You may not always get the answer you want, that is your opportunity to learn and grow doing better next time. If things are going well… keep it that way! Don’t let it slip.
Make sure that reflection time is a part of your program. Have the Scouts take time to reflect and have serious reflection on how they are doing in the Scouting program. It is a game with a purpose, without reflection, you will not know if that purpose is being met.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
If you play a game that has a desired outcome or purpose it is important that you first know what that purpose is and then have some way of knowing if you achieved the results you were looking for.
A 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!
As you know by reading the blog, I am a fan of gear. I like to play around with gear, test it, try it, and change it often. There are pieces of gear that I love and pieces of gear that I am always looking for the newer, better, more efficient, or just cool. Lately I have been in a few discussions about some gear like knives and stoves. What is significant about these discussions is the idea that for a lot of Scouters there is little knowledge about what is allowed, what is not, and what is out there to show to your Scouts as gear choices.
Take a look at all the old Field books and Hand books, Peek into the Boy Scout catalogs, it’s all the same stuff. All the old-time tested and true gear. It all works well and is super reliable. I don’t have a problem with any of it, but just because it has always been there and done that way does not make it the only or best way to do it.
At a few recent Boy Scout break outs at round table we have talked about gear and gear alternatives. Much of the discussion focusing on stoves and knives. As discussed in my recent post “The Great Knife Debate“, it amazes me that many Scouters just do not know the rules. They perpetuate a rule that does not exist for what ever reason, but the net result is not the safety of the Scout, but a lack of exposure to new and different ways of doing the same old thing. The same can be said for alcohol stoves. The BSA has prohibited the use of “Homemade” stoves. And I can see that the BSA does not want some Scout to get hurt because his leaders failed to train him on how to do it right. But the use of alcohol stoves in general is not prohibited. Manufactured of purchased stoves are not prohibited and I am glad for that. I exclusively use an alcohol stove and scouts in my troop are using them also. I teach them how and make sure they do it right. There is nothing unsafe about them, well, they are about as unsafe as using an MSR Whisperlite. It comes down to training them to use it correctly. Stores like REI and many online outdoor outfitter are selling alcohol stoves. And the fact is you can use them to cook anything.
I can bake, fry, simmer, and of course boil water with them. Here is the point. They are an alternative way to do the same old thing. Camping, Cooking, sleeping in a shelter, whether that is a tent, a tarp, or a bivy sack is all the same. Camping is camping. There are many methods and ways to go about it, but in the end it’s all the same.
You also know that I am a big fan of wood stoves (like the Solo Stove). They are a great way to cook. It takes a little skill and you can absolutely cook anything with them. I have had Scouters tell me that one can not use them because you can’t turn them off. Huh? What? First Class Requirement 4 e states; On one camp out, serve as your patrol’s cook. Supervise your assistant(s) in using a stove or building a cooking fire. Prepare the breakfast, lunch, and dinner planned in requirement 4a. In the most previous edition of the Boy Scout handbook Second Class requirement 2g required the Scout to; On one camp out, plan and cook over an open fire one hot breakfast or lunch for yourself, selecting foods from the food pyramid. Explain the importance of good nutrition. Tell how to transport, store, and prepare the foods you selected.
So in one edition of the hand book, we have decided to dumb down the Scouting experience not make it a requirement to cook over an open fire, but it’s a choice. But it’s still there and it always has been. But in checking the Guide to Safe Scouting I can’t find anywhere that suggests wood stoves are prohibited or cooking over an open flame is prohibited because you can’t put it out. You see, to me that is just a way for Scouters to impose a rule that is not there when it comes to gear.
There are lots of great gear alternatives out there. Allow your Scouts to explore them.
Many of the Scouts in my troop are moving to camping under tarps. Some are using you standard 10X10 Wal Mart tarp, while most are going to good camping tarps. SilNylon tarps that are light and easy to put up. Some even have built-in doors and can be pitched between trees or using their trekking poles. I love the idea that the Scouts are exploring different gear and ways to camp. It keeps it fun and exciting for them.
I suppose the bottom line is that there are many options out there, as a Scouter you should gain an understanding and knowledge of that gear and not push it aside just because you don’t like it.
We had this same debate during the 2010 National Jamboree. Many ‘older Scouters’ did not like the idea of allowing the Scouts to bring and use “Electronics”. There was a misconceptions that electronics are not allowed in Scouting. No where is this found in writing. I allowed the Scouts of my Jamboree Troop to bring their “electronics”. Cell phones, Ipods, and of course cameras. I wanted them to be able to communicate with me and other Scouts, I wanted to be able to shoot a text to the troop when I needed to make quick contact with them. I wanted the Senior Patrol Leader to be able to get everyone on the bus on time and sent group texts to better communicate with his Troop. We established “No ear bid zones” Touring at Arlington National Cemetery for example was a No Ear Bud zone. Sitting on the bus for two hours however was not. As long as the Scouts obeyed the rules, I allowed them to use the electronics.
The same goes for their gear. As long as they use it as intended, be it a stove, knife, or any other piece of gear, I allow and encourage them to try new things.
This is a big part of the adventure of Scouting.
Get to know some new gear. Pick something to try with your Scouts. Try something new.
Allow the adventure of Scouting to happen.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Lets talk about membership.
We all know that we need members to keep Scouting alive. There are many different angles and directions to answer the membership question. I am not going to solve this issue in this post, rather, I am opening up the dialogue to see what you all think.
Scouting in the United States if a bit different from the rest of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM).
First, we are not Coed, until you get to the Venturing Program.
Second, our programs are not connected. Yes, Cub Scouts go to Boy Scout etc… but in most cases outside of the US, a Scout group is made up of youth from 7 to 21. The units are formed from a group. This allows for continuity in the program and allows for leadership and example to be promoted from within the group. Personally, I like this idea. I think it solves a few of the issues we have in Scouting in the US. Namely keeping youth in Scouting.
I have become pen pals of sorts with some Scouters from outside of the United States. While they do have their own issues it seems that young people stay in Scouting longer and have a great Scouting experience along the way.
Starting off as a young 7-year-old and staying in Scouting till they are in their young adulthood. I think this creates a better Scouting life for them.
Anyway, as stated, I am not going to answer the question, just start the discussion.
I think that the BSA will need to explore the COED option sooner than later. With declining membership and the Girl Scout program not what most girls want… I think that opening the doors to a COOED program may go along way to saving Scouting in America.
So how does that work? Will we lose our values and program? I don’t think so. I think we can move forward with the program we have. We need not tailor the program to girls, they will fit right in. Look at the Venturing program as it is? It would be much better if it were filled with young people and adventure.
OK, membership at the core.
I think that our professionals at the National and Council level have the very best of intentions when they talk membership. It is a simple equation. Get more youth in and membership will fix itself.
A few things that I know for sure.
You will never be able to out recruit your losses. You will never be able to keep Scouts in a program that is floundering.
When I was a young Scoutmaster I was told the three keys to a successful troop were Program, Program, and Program. If you build it they will come. Boys do not join Scouts for Monday night meetings. They join for cool programs and camp outs. Parents bring their sons to our program. Not to our meetings. They need to be able to see value in the program.
Program will drive membership. So I think sometimes we put the cart before the horse. The horse is our program, the cart is membership and money. Now, you can’t have one without the other, but if your priority is not program, you won’t get members. That, I know for sure.
So where is our effort more effective? Building programs or recruiting? I think we build programs and let them come.
There are more factors to this discussion to be sure. It is not always that simple I understand. At the unit level programs need to be the priority. Build it and they will come. Recruiting efforts need to be a part of the annual plan. Focusing on Cub Scouts is not the only answer. We need to sell Scouting to all eligible youth.
This is where I see other WOSM get it. They appeal to youth of all ages and keep them in longer. There is a coolness factor about hanging out with their peers and they longer they stay, so do their friends. I think this is an important part of our membership issue.
So.. lets take a few posts and explore this issue?
What do you think? Let’s discuss this.
Here is a little video I stumbled on that really got me thinking. It is from the Scouts in Germany. I would love to see our youth in American Scouting like this one day. I got to see Scouting like this when I was a kid in the Transatlantic Council as we did many International Scouting activities.
Also take a moment to check out the Kandersteg International Scout Center videos. See what they look like and lets see how we can implement some of this here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
It’s August, 8 months into the year 2014, 8 months into “The POLICY” Change that sent Scouters into a tail spin running for the hills and screaming that our values suddenly changed. 8 months since the “End of Scouting” as we know it. Really? Where are you? What has changed?
I have yet to see an openly gay Scout. I have yet to have to deal with sleeping arrangements and one boy hitting on another one. Just has not happened and I hate to be that guy.. but I told you so.
I lost a good Assistant Scoutmaster over this non issue. And 8 months later nothing has changed except for ink on a policy letter.
So where are you? Where are all these gay boys that were screaming to get into Scouting? Where?
Ok… drama aside…
Last night at our District committee meeting we were discussing the real issues, in particular membership and saving Cub Scout Packs. The idea that people have turned away from Scouting because of this policy change came up. The fact of the matter is that nothing changed, EXCEPT… now we are open to serve ALL young men.
So, this should open doors to new membership, right? Wrong. Boys that are attracted to Scouting will join Scouting. So what do we need to do to attract them? That is what we need to do to get them in our great organization.
Ideas floated around and you know it all comes down to what Scouting is. A great values based outdoor organization that promises adventure and fun. It appeals to parents and boys and always has. The biggest issue is that we do a terrible job of selling that. We get to wrapped up on political correctness and worrying what the public perception is. If we just stick to the basics of what Scouting is.. they will come. But we need to tell that story.
National is not spending the dollars during prime time to tell our story. Local Councils do not have the budget to do it either, so it’s up to us to get out there and tell the story of Scouting.
Start by know what Scouting is. Tell the story as often as you can. Don’t be afraid of what people think, change their minds by what they see.
A policy to allow ALL young men the opportunity to join Scouting should not have sent anyone into a tail spin, it should have opened the door to talk about what Scouting offers in the year 2014 and beyond. Instead an over reaction and a terrible lack of action on the part of Scouters to get out in front and say.. NO.. We invite everyone, but the need to follow our rules.. it’s that simple.
8 months into this year of change and where are they. Those that value Scouting and Scouting’s values are here, the rest left or have not joined.
So now what. We have a crisis in membership at the Cub Scout level. WE NEED TO GET MORE CUB SCOUTS!
Is this policy an issue? NO. So lets move on and sell Scouting.
Tell our story.
From the Boy Scouts of America website; The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.
Is there something there that people have a problem with? If so, move on and tell the story to someone else.
A Scout is Friendly, Courteous and Kind.
Get out there and tell our story!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This summer our Troop went on a great adventure. We backpacked in the Olympic National Park. We.. the whole Troop. We broke up the Troop into three crews, that way we could maintain Wilderness area policies of no more than 12 heartbeats and good leave no trace principles. As we began the process of planning for the adventure we were met with resistance. The first was the issue of our new Scout Patrol. 11 year Scouts, what will they be doing? Backpacking was the answer. 11-year-old boys can not do a 50 mile backpack trip I was told. I believe that they can was my reply.
I searched the age appropriate guide lines, the guide to safe Scouting, and other BSA policies and could not find any thing that would suggest that a new Scout patrol could not complete a 50 mile backpack trip.
So we started training. Three backpacking trips that would increase in length prior to the big trip. We began tearing apart backpacks and looking at detailed packing lists. We looked at getting pack weights down to accommodate the little bodies. Menu planning and setting the course for a “doable” adventure that would accomplish the 50 mile goal and ensure success for every one in the troop.
The plan was to allow the three crews to determine their miles. The older Scouts wanted to move fast and far, the middle group wanted to stay around the 50 mile mark and the new Scout Patrol decided that 50 miles would be enough. I believe in them.
We decided on 7 days on the trail. This would allow us to spread the miles out over more days keeping our daily mileage around the 6 to 8 mile mark. That would put us in camp daily earlier allowing us to provide some program. The New Scout Patrol would focus on the trail to First Class while they were in camp, the middle group would focus their time on leadership development, and the older group was in it for adventure.
The plan was set, we used the Philmont meal plan, and got busy mapping our course. The three training outings went well and prepared us for some of the challenges we would find on the trail. Map reading, adapting to changing plans, and working as a crew.
As we prepared we made major changes to the way we would prepare meals and how we would rotate leadership within the crews. We also found which Scouts worked well together and based on their performance on the practice trips we set the crews. I believed that they could all do it.
Watching the Scouts do the practice trips gave me more and more confidence. I knew that they could all do it.
Fast forward now with me to the end of the trip. 7 days backpacking in the Olympic National Park. The First year Scouts did 51 miles and not one Scout failed to complete the adventure. On the 7th day the Troop met at a large camp ground to spend our last night in the Olympic together. There were nothing but smiles all around. I took time that night to talk with the new Scout patrol. They all shared the same attitude, “Lets do it again”! The middle crew ended the trip at 52.4 miles and saw some of the most beautiful country in the Northwest. It was an epic adventure. The older Scouts ended up backpacking 70 miles and found a great place to base camp where they dropped packs and went on a 20 mile day hike. They placed themselves close to the group site on the 6th day and got a jump early on day 7. They hiked so fast that they had time to jump in the cars and head into the nearest town and take showers. That last night we had an awesome campfire, singing songs and sharing stories of our adventures.
I knew we could do it.
Since we got back I have shared our story with some Scouters. They think that we stepped way out-of-bounds taking first year scouts on this adventure. I disagree.
Before the trip I called out those adults that seem to think that it was ok for us when we were kids to have adventures. Drink from hoses, stay out till the street lights came on etc. I still believe that the reason our kids today “can’t” do it is simply because we don’t let them. Well We let them and they proved me absolutely right! They can do it. More so though.. they WANT to do it. We need to believe in them.
For the past three weeks I have completed 9 Scoutmaster conferences, mostly with the new Scout patrol. They all remain excited about their accomplishment and can not wait for the opportunity to do it again.
I believe in them. It is that belief that allows me to let them seek and find adventure. It is that belief that gives our Patrol leaders council the ability to plan the next great adventure. It is a visible attitude that sets these young men apart. Sitting on their butt is not an option for them. They want to get out there and explore their world.
I read about troops sharing their summer camp score about this time each year. 20 Scouts, 99 merit badges etc.
Well, here is our Score for this year. 23 Scouts. 23 merit badges. 31 50 miler awards. An adventure that they will talk about for the rest of their lives.
I believe that we offered them this thing we call SCOUTING!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Note: I hiked with the middle group. These guys impressed me to no end. The leadership that they developed over the course of the trip was great. I believe that they will be outstanding leaders for the future of our troop.
The other night I had the pleasure of sitting in as an advocate for a Scout in my Troop at his Eagle Board of Review.
I enjoy the position that the Scoutmaster is placed in as the advocate, physically the Scoutmaster sits behind and out of the view of the Scout and mentally, it is a great place to learn from the Scout to know that you are truly delivering the promise of Scouting.
The first question the board asked this young man was if he had ever looked at the back of his Scout Handbook. On the back cover are the Aims of Scouting. The Scout replied that he had not looked at the back. The board asked him to pick up his book and read it. Then asked if he was aware that these were the aims or goals of Scouting. He said that he did know that. How did you know that they wanted to know. My Scoutmaster does not stop talking about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness the Scout said in a matter of fact. They chuckled a bit and then asked what he thought about those three words and how much they meant to Scouting. His answer knocked me out of my chair. He looked at the board and said “Those three words mean more to me than this award. They mean that I am a good man and that I will always be a good man.”
From that point on I knew that this board was going to be interesting. And it was. He had an opinion when they asked for one, he talked about the great times that he had in Scouting and he shared what he had learned about being a leader.
As I sat behind him I felt deep pride in this young man and listened as he confirmed that we really are providing a program that the boys get.
To close the board, they asked about the Scout Oath and Law. He shared his feelings, understanding, and practice of living the Oath and Law daily. Not without challenge and difficulty but the bottom line was that he is that person every day.
This got me to thinking about comments I have heard from Scouts and Scouts all over. It reminded me of an on going discussion that we have about being a Scout and living Scout like all of the time, the fact that we only have One Life.
We are what our Facebook Status says we are. We are what our Twitter account looks like. We are where we hang out and the people that we associate with. We are what we say and what we do. That defines our Character.
You are not just a Christian on Sunday, you not just a Scout on Monday nights, you are not just a Dad when the kids are around, you are not just a Scoutmaster when you wear the hat.
There is no separation. There can’t be, that goes against the principle of Character. Choose to accept that or not but your Character will be your guide and that is when you will have to face the reality of who and what you are.
I stress character all the time in our Troop, in fact I care more about character than anything else in Scouting. I don’t care if a Scout earns his Eagle if he has not got the point about character, citizenship, and being mentally and physically fit. If he did not get it, he just got another patch and the award will be meaningless.
We hold the Eagle award up on that lofty space for that reason, we all do it. Every one respects and admire those that have earned this award and rightly so…if they got it. If they make that choice to have one life and that is the life of Character.
I was asked by a Scout why I will not friend him on Facebook. I make it a practice not to friend Scouts or any minor that is not family on Facebook. It is not because of what I might put on the internet… it’s that I don’t want to be placed in a position to know what they are putting on the internet. I would rather have them make good choices and discuss it during conferences. Facebook is not where I want to build my discussion bullets for the next time I see the Scout.
You have but one life. You do not get to split out your internet life and your real life. You have the ability to maintain good character. Once you decide to part ways with it, it can not come back. Once the bell is rung, you can not un-ring it.
Think before you act, pause before you hit enter, read before you press send. Character matters.
“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Maybe it’s that I am getting a little older. Could be that my mind tends to view things a little different with the kids growing and moving on with their lives. It may be that I have a clearer understanding of what is really important in my life. All of these things race through the mind and heart as I had hours and hours to reflect on life, keep my fire bright, and look to the future.
Scouting, the Order of the Arrow, Wood Badge… they all have a place in our hearts and minds. We pick and choose how we feel about them and they take on meaning in our lives, some greater than others and some more meaningful to each of us than others.
At the Rendezvous of the Order this year I got into a rather spirited debate about the Order of the Arrow and how some members do not get the most of the message of the ceremony, the meaning of membership, and of course the lack of some to uphold their obligation. It seemed that most youth can take it or leave it, it is just another part of Scouting, a part of the Scouting experience that they know is a bit more special, but at the end of the day, just another part of Scouting. I have watched as some Scouts do not fully grasp the meaning and the high ideals of the Order and on occasion I too have been that voice crying out for them to understand that it is more than just a club within Scouting. As an adult I tend to be more aware of the meaning with the hope that it all sinks in to these young men. I suppose I am one of those adults that want more from our boys.
Back at the Rendezvous I was one of the voices that expressed my concern about how Scouts are elected into the Order of the Arrow. Some units send everyone that meets the eligibility requirements, while other units select those that are good candidates to live the obligation. Looking ahead to a Scouts potential to be that example of Honored Camper-ship, a leader in Service, and one that will strive to uphold the obligation of the Order. Somewhere along the way Scouts get in to the OA and in some cases do not see the symbolism and meaning of membership.
Yesterday morning I was reassured about the Order of the Arrow when I completed my Vigil. I was welcomed to the fullness of the Order of the Arrow and in a discussion with a good friend of mine afterward, assured that this is where the separation of those that “get it” and those that don’t happen. Being called to the Vigil Honor is that affirmation that we do pledge to live the obligation and take it to heart and mind.
I do not say this with any intent to be arrogant or self-righteous. Simply that for those of us that do take this serious, it is nice to be among others that in their hearts and minds believe in the good that this Honor, this Order brings to our fellow-man. It is more than a club, more than ceremonies, more than camping… it is a life spent seeking the opportunity to be a leader in service to others. To be that example of service and a dedication to help other people at all times.
We serve to teach, we lead to serve, we serve to make our world a better place.
Ten hours alone in my mind and my heart was an overwhelming experience for me. I can share thoughts, but I will reserve the discussion about the Vigil so as not to ruin it for you.
Maybe it is that I am getting older, maybe a tad bit wiser. Maybe I think about the future, my kids, wife, and family. Maybe it is the lessons I try to impart on the young men of my Troop and the life that I try hard to lead. This organization offers so much in the way of finding yourself and giving you the tools and motivation, maybe the purpose to serve.
The more I sat and thought about why I was sitting in the woods, in the rain, tending to my fire, the clearer it all became. My steadfast purpose to be a better husband and father. To be a man who serves unselfishly. To be a leader that not just teaches, but models the way in which we want our young men to grow.
A rekindling of a fire that burns ever brighter today, the spirit of which will never grow dim. Even when the flame is not at its peak, the hot bed of coals glow from below keeping the fire burning.
I am Honored, and you know I do not throw that word around, to have been called to the Vigil. I have kept the Vigil and will keep it burning deep in my heart and mind to be shared.
I was given the name Schachachkatschimuin Wewingtonheet. Translated from the language of the Lenne Lanapi to Inspiring Story Teller. I think it fits.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared”. Prepared for what? Well, any old thing said our founder. Being prepared for your backpacking trek is an absolute must. When planning your next trek you need to consider those things that can go wrong. Preparedness will reduce the risk and make the trek a lot more fun.
Andrew Skurka, an Ultimate hiker, Adventurer, and Guide, shares on his website “When I embark on a trip, I always try to abide by the Boy Scout motto — “Be prepared” — by bringing three types of resources, either carried on my back or between my ears, to help me achieve my goals: Gear, e.g. clothing, shelter, stove, etc. Supplies, e.g. food, water, fuel, etc. Skills, e.g. how to hike efficiently, select good campsites, purify water, start a fire, navigate on-trail and off-trail, ford snowmelt-fed rivers, stay warm when it’s cold and wet, etc.”
Being prepared for those things that can go wrong starts with training yourself and your group to do things right. Practice packing, unpacking, setting up gear, looking at the individual gear and group gear that is on the trip. Map reading, first aid, and an honest to goodness understanding of where you are going.
Before a trek learn about the conditions you are walking into and how to deal with them. Trail conditions, weather, and the condition of your crew.
You know the route and conditions but what can go wrong? Plan for it. Injuries? How do we react if someone twists an ankle? Big cuts? Sickness? What are your bail out plans and how have you communicated them?
There is a fine line between over packing for your plan and making sure you are prepared to react. I have hiked with guys that carry 65 lb packs because they plan for every contingency. You can build kits for every plan, but what about that great tool between your ears.
In our Troop we have very few rules. Rule number 1 is always to Have fun. Rule #2 is no one gets hurt, if you are hurt you are not having fun. Rule #3 is refer to the Oath and Law. That is it. Not getting hurt and putting yourself in a position to get hurt is a person thing and starts between the ears.
I have heard the saying “stay low and slow” on the trail. That means to keep a good pace that reduces chance of injury and to stay grounded on the trail. Jumping, climbing, and choosing to venture on bad trail increases the chance of injury. Assess the risk and then go if it is safe.
Look at what you carry to react to or mitigate risk and risky situations. We all carry the 10 essentials and in a lot of cases we carry gadgets and neat tools to make our backpacking experience fun. Do you know how to use it all and have you ever needed it. If the answer is no to one or both, get it out of your pack.
So what can go wrong?
Injuries. Probably the thing that we worry about the most, but the fact of the matter is that we rarely have injuries that can not walk themselves off the trail.
Getting lost. This is a big one. More people get lost because they rely on guide books, GPS, and the fact that because they shop at REI they think they can take their shiny Subaru to a trail head and go hiking. Learn to read a map and use a compass. Train yourself on terrain association and staying oriented on the trail. Don’t wander or allow group members to wander off or away. Have a plan to rally should something go wrong while on the trail.
When hiking with a group always stop at any trail intersection and wait for the group to catch up. Stop and check the map every once in a while. Make sure that lots of people in the crew have a map.
Weather. We can not control the weather, but we can plan for it. Rain is not a downer on the trail if you are prepared. Know when the weather is going to change by monitoring the forecast in the area. Know that it will get darker sooner if you have heavier cloud cover.
If you are not prepared to hike during hours of limited visibility, be prepared to start looking for good camp locations before it gets dark.
Have a plan for water. Filtering, boiling, or carrying a lot of it. You need water. Plan your day around your water availability and resources.
Sit down and list all of the things that you think will go wrong on your trek. Think of ways that you can reduce those risks and plan for how you are going to address them when and if they happen.
Planning prevents poor performance and when you are backpacking you need to be aware and be prepared.
Know all of the skills that will make your trek fun. Make sure that you share that knowledge with the members of your group.
Skills, Gear, and Supplies will get you through the toughest times on the trail. What you have between your ears will go along way to making it a fun trek. Your skills and attitude will reduce the risks that come with backpacking. In short. Be Prepared.
In our next segment we will talk about preparation of gear and what to consider for your next long trek.
Have a Great Scouting Day.
The other day I posted my thoughts on training. I received some great feedback and feel that I need to address a couple of the comments, specifically a question that came up about the leaders themselves in the unit and how our attitude toward training is part of the reason we have great trained leaders.
Bob asked, “I’m curious as to whether you find that this “going the extra mile” is primarily something that a leader brings to the unit (nature), something that the unit brings to the leader (nurture), or some combination of the two. Or, to put the question another way, do you find that the adults that volunteer for leadership positions already have that “going the extra mile” mentality, or that the culture of the unit inspires a new (or existing) leader to go that extra mile?”
Thanks Bob the answers is simple. All of the above.
I believe that it is a bit of both Nature and Nurture. First, I think that our unit has built a culture of trained leaders and an expectation that leaders are trained. We ask a lot of our adult volunteers. It is the nature of the unit that we expect the adult to be willing to “go that extra mile”. Because it is a cultural thing or part of the nature of our unit, the volunteer knows what he or she is stepping in to. It is not a surprise when they ask that they will be given a list of training courses, materials, and expectations of what training in our unit looks like. If an adult leader expects to do the minimum, they are quickly encouraged to participate in some position other than that of a direct contact leader.
The culture of the unit dictates that in order to deliver the very best program to our youth, keeping them safe, and instructing them properly we need to do better than the training that is provided by the Boy Scouts of America.
We agree that the training provided by the BSA is designed for the common denominator and not adequate for high adventure, advanced leadership, and activities that take you more than an hour away from a car. This is all well and good, but in our opinion we need to do more. Maxing the minimum is not good enough.
We ask of the Scout to “Do his Best”… so should we.
We also Nurture our adult leaders to want to be “Over Trained”. Again, this is part of the culture of the unit. Firm expectations of the training that allows our unit to function at a higher level. When a parent asks to become a part of the adult leadership of the unit, the parent is invited to participate fully. But training comes first. Before an Assistant Scoutmaster for example can function as such, he must complete all of the BSA required training. He needs to seek advanced first aid training to include CPR/AED. We ask them to attend Wood Badge. We take the time to instruct them on being a mentor, teacher, and coach to our Scouts. We remind them that we do not lead, we assist. There are not patches in the Boy Scout program for adults that say the word “Leader”.
This nurturing and development of the new adult volunteer leads them toward advanced training.
What this does for the unit is simple. It opens doors. We need not rely on any outside instruction or guides for our activities. If we want to climb, we have certified climbing instructors to facilitate that activity. Water craft, backpacking, shooting, Orienteering, Pioneering, First Aid, and more are all on the table because of the adult cadre of volunteers that have become the culture of the unit. We also find that the adults stay active, even when the Scout has moved on. This level of commitment has kept our knowledge base growing and stable. The culture of the unit dictates that we do it all for the Scouts and we go the extra mile to make sure they have the very best Scouting experience.
So it is both Nature and Nurture. It is a culture that expects the adult to set the example by giving more. Being a model of the expected behavior of a servant leader. One that reinforces our 5 Leadership principles in the Troop.
Leading ourselves, Focusing on the small stuff, Being the model of expected behavior, Communicating effectively, and being a Servant Leader.
Once that culture is developed and has a strong by in, the unit will flourish with trained leaders.
Allan and Alex, I hope that answer addressed your questions also.
If you have more questions, comments of concerns, please feel free to drop me a note.
Have a Great Scouting Day!