training

Be Prepared

“Be prepared for what?”  I always ask our Scouts.. “Anything” is the answer and they are correct.
This last weekend, the Scouts of my Troop went camping out at one of our favorite Scout properties, Royce Finel on the Oregon Coast.  Heading out to the coast in November is as the young guys say “Sketchy”.  You never know what kind of weather to expect, but for the most part you can expect to get wet.
The plan for weekend was to work some camp skills and have a cook off for the dinner meal.  The weeks leading up to the camp out I kept hearing the SPL announce to Be Prepared to be cold and wet.  The week leading into the camp out a couple of the older scouts brought in their packs to show how to pack for wet weather and gave some tips on staying dry.
Well, the proof is in the pudding as they say and Friday night arrived and it was time to go.  It started raining while we gathered in the parking lot at the church and got the packs loaded into my truck.  When we got to the trail head the rain had let up a little and we started our hike in to camp.  The heavy coastal rains from the last couple days made the trail interesting, especially when we got to a couple of areas where crossing swampy land was made difficult due to high water and some of the foot bridges being washed out.  But we arrived in camp and got things set up.
The first thing that I noted was that instead of jumping right into setting up tents, they had carried tarps in and set them up and got all the packs under the cover.  Then the older guys helped the newer Scouts get their tents set up and their gear put away.  The next morning after a night of heavy rain, everyone was dry and ready to have a great day.  The Troop cooked breakfast and got things cleaned up and we decided that since it was raining, and it looked like it would rain all day, that we would hike back out to the cars and head to Ft. Stevens and tour the museum there. 
After a couple of hours at Ft. Stevens we loaded up and headed back to camp.  The hike in this time was drier as it stopped raining.  Lunch was prepared and the Scouts started working on skills, namely getting a fire going.  There was nothing dry in the camp, but they managed to find some undergrowth beneath a fallen tree that would prove to be just the thing to get a fire going.  They gathered anything, wet or dry, lying around that would burn and they were successful in getting a fire going.  I checked on the guys sometime after the fire was roaring, the scouts were dry and having a great time.
The cook off went well, and everyone was thankful that the rain held out.  Around 6 PM it was dark and we all stood around the fire singing songs and telling jokes.  At 7:30 it started to rain, then came the thunder and lightning.  The guys decided it was time to head to their tents and we all went down for the night after the fire was put out.
Sunday morning we had a little drizzle, but the Scouts got packed up, ate breakfast, and we hiked back to the parking lot.  At the end of the parking lot is a dock going out into the lake, it was decided that the dock would be a good place for our Scouts own service.  At the conclusion of the service, the SPL went around the circle and had each Scout tell us what they learned over the weekend.  Some talked about how they learned to make fire in the rain, some talked about their gear, some talked about what they need to do better next time.  As I listened to them talk I heard one theme come out, and that was being prepared.
Knowledge, skills, learning from mistakes, the right gear used correctly.  All of these things lead to being prepared.  Prepared for anything.
As we arrived back in town for pick up, one of the parents made a comment about how clean everyone was.  Yeah, we had muddy boots, but uniform pants, and wet rain gear, were all clean.  One of the newer Scouts looked to his dad and said, that’s how you stay dry and warm and have a good time camping.  I smiled and said to the dad, “well I guess they do listen.”
Whether it is gear, skills, or knowledge, putting it together is the key to being prepared.  It is great when you see it put to the test and when the Scouts see themselves a success in being prepared.  It is a lesson that they will never forget and one that they will use more often in scouting and in life.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, Just fun, Leadership, Motto, training | 4 Comments

One of those great Scouting Days

Yesterday I participated in a great Scouting Day.  Our Annual Program and Training Conference was held yesterday at the Scouthridge high School.  I am not sure how many Scouters participated, but there where many.  I got the feeling that there were more than last year.  There were classes ranging in topic from Songs and Skits to High Adventure.  There was a nice midway that hosted a booths from the Scout Shop to Pampered Chef.  For you Dutch Oven cooks out there, Pampered Chef has some real nice stuff.  Anyway, there was a lot to see and do and I was happy to see that Boy Scout leader participation was up.
You see we used to have a couple of opportunities for Scouters in the Council to gather and get some training and program ideas.  We used to have an Advancement extravaganza, this was primarily for the Boy Scout Program.  And we used to have a fun event called Pow Wow.  It was geared for Cub Scouters, but a real fun day of training and gathering of ideas.  Last year the two programs were combined into the Program and Training Conference.  I believe it was an idea borrowed from the Chief Seattle Council.  So last year was the first time that I was asked to teach and so I did.  I was invited back this year.  Scouter Adam and I held a couple of sessions on using Social media for your unit and I taught Scouters about the Scoutmaster Conference, one of my most favorite subjects in Scouting.
I did two sessions of the SM Conference and they seemed to be received well.  What I find interesting is the different views on BSA policy and the way in which Scouters interpret the BSA training.  You see this in the way people ask questions and share their opinion on one issue or another.  Now I am not saying this is always a bad thing, especially when they are looking for the right answer or the right way to do something, but it still drives home the point that Training and doing training right is important.
Mike Walton from the USSSP was a guest presenter this year.  He flew out from Minnesota to share some thoughts of up coming changes in the BSA and did a joint session with our Councils CFO.  It was an interesting session to say the least.  I say that in a real good way because Jason and Mike both told it straight yesterday, and for those of you that have read this blog for anytime, you know that’s what I like and that’s how I do it.   They shared thoughts of current issues, you know the homosexual thing, and they talked a lot about money in Scouting.  I loved the comments about how people tend to blame “Council” for many of the problems, issues with their units, and financial woes.  Jason asked “who is the council?”  You see the majority of Scouting volunteers equate the “Council” with the support desk, the DE’s, and the people who never seem to stop asking for money.  But, the answer is that WE Volunteers are “THE COUNCIL”.  Too many units, Scouters, and other volunteers fail to take matters into their own hands when problem solving for their units, yes there are times when we need the support of the DE or the support desk, but to blame Council for every problem we have in our Scouting world is laughable.  It was refreshing to hear it out loud yesterday by both the volunteer and the professional.
I spent a fair amount of time hanging out with the Wood Badge crowd yesterday.  Recruiting for the upcoming course and spreading the word about great Scouting training.  Again it was nice to see how many Scouters showed interest in Wood Badge and it looks like we are going to have another full class, just based on interest.  Registration opened yesterday too, so we will see how quick the class fill up.
Yesterday was a fun day of hanging out with Scouting friends, sharing ideas, and helping Scouters deliver the promise.
Like yesterday was for me, and bid you Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Scoutmaster conference, Service, training, Wood Badge | Tags: | 3 Comments

What kind of Scoutmaster are you?

In the last post, we got a pretty good feel for the general attitude toward the “Merit Badge Mill” for a lack of a better term.  It seems that there is not a lot of support for this style of merit badge earning.
Now, I did receive some emails that found that style the best practice in, as one guy put it “the world we live in”.  But those comments were far less than those opposed.  In all fairness… I did ‘accept’ any comment that was made on the blog.  I did not respond to all of the emails, especially the one that called me “Old fashioned and not in touch with today’s Scouts”.
Which led me to thinking this week… What kind of Scoutmaster are you?
It was brought to my attention that the 1998 Scout Handbook does not make mention of Baden-Powell.  I have not checked this out for myself, but if that is the case, it begs the question.. Why?
But back to the subject at hand.. What kind of Scoutmaster are you?
Baden-Powell said in “Aids to Scoutmastership” that we need not be “Know it all’s”
To be a Scoutmaster you need:

  • He must have the boy spirit in him; and must be able to place himself on a right plane with his boys as a first step.
  • He must realise the needs, outlooks and desires of the different ages of boy life.
  • He must deal with the individual boy rather than with the mass.
  • He then needs to promote a corporate spirit among his individuals to gain the best results

Now BP goes on to explain all these points in the book and I won’t just copy and paste the whole thing here.. Google search Aids to Scoutmastership and get your own copy and read it.  But I will say that if you do as BP says.. you may just be a good Scoutmaster.
Scoutmasters should be a friend to the Scouts.  He should remember that these are boys and not adults.  We ask a lot from these young men which is all a part of the program, but at the end of the day they are boys.  They have issues at home, school, sports teams, and the everyday life of a teen ager.  So for the Scoutmaster that places himself on the “right plane” with the Scouts does a better job understanding them and working with them as they grow and develop.
The Scoutmaster needs to understand where the Scouts are in life.  Once again, they are not men, they are boys and they all grow and develop at different rates.  Some 14 year olds are more mature that others.  Some 12 year olds mature faster than some 15 year olds.  So it is important that the Scoutmaster works with the Scouts individually and not paint broad strokes with his Scoutmaster brush.  At the same time, the Scoutmaster needs to build the team up as well as the individual.  The team (Troop and Patrol) is an important part of the Scouting program and a huge part in developing young men.
On the other hand.  And I know too many Scoutmasters like this, they are ‘roped’ into doing the job, they have no real desire to do the job but they do it because their son is in the troop, and they have no desire to learn the program or assist in running it right.
Now is that a subjective statement.  Not so much.  In the introduction to being a Scoutmaster in the Scoutmaster training program, the trainers introduce the new Scoutmasters to the 8 methods of Scouting.  And with few exceptions the methods have remained the same for 102 years.  Those same methods that BP himself outlined.
In both Aids to Scoutmastership and Scouting for Boys, you can find all of the methods that we currently use to achieve the Aims of Scouting.
The Patrol being the foundation for the Scout to start learning.   The ideals found in the Scout Oath and Law as well as the motto and slogan take that foundation and apply it to their daily lives and the attitudes that shape the Patrol as a group.  Scouting is done and should always be done in the outdoors with a Patrol.  The Outdoor program is fundamental in the Scouting program.  It is as BP said “our classroom”.  Advancement opportunities set challenges and goals for the Scout to meet.  The Advancement program tests the Scouts ability to manage his goal setting and give him a measurement of his own success.  Not the success of the unit, but himself.  The association with adults is a method that is often confused.  Confused, because it is a method for the Scout.. not the adult.  In associating with adults the Scout learns to manuever through the world.  It places the Scout in a position to learn to be comfortable in job settings as well as social settings.  The adults role in this method is to be a good example.  Personal Growth is perhaps one of the most important methods that is often overlooked by Scoutmasters that do not take a personal care for each of the Scouts in their Troop.  The Scoutmaster that does the job for a set amount of time or because no one else would take the job often look at Scouting as a camping club.  Merit badges just happen at Summer camp and it really doesn’t matter if there is personal growth in the individual Scouts.  I mean, after all you only have to care for them on Monday nights and one weekend a month… right?  The uniform is where I see most of the lack of care for methods.  Cost is always an excuse, but rarely a solution is given.  The uniform has been a part of Scouting since the very beginning and should remain a method as long as Scouting exists.  It is not a financial burden if the Scout believes and lives the part of the law that suggests that he is “Thrifty”.  Adults create the burden by not enforcing the standard.  To many parents fail to see the value in Scouting’s values and would rather take the easy way out and just say that it can’t be done.  Hog Wash!  And finally, when it comes to methods Leadership development.  Now, I do know that I put this one last and that is not how they are listed… but here is where I see a big gap in the ways in which Scoutmastership is practiced.
Leaders are made, not born and sometimes that trial and error called learning is not pretty.  The Patrol and Troop are the practice grounds for leadership development.  And to be honest.. it’s real ugly sometimes.. that is when the good Scoutmaster needs to allow it to be ugly.  Parents don’t like to see that.. but it is the best way for a Scout to learn.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn as long as the Scoutmaster is there to teach, coach, train, and mentor the Scout.  By applying “Guided Discovery” the Scout will develop into a leader.  He may not be the next Patton or [insert your favorite leader here], but the lessons he learns while discovering his leadership potential will serve him later in life.
In short.. What kind of Scoutmaster are you?  Are you one that embraces the lessons taught us by Baden-Powell or do we throw it all out the window for “modern thinking” and convenience.  “Old fashioned and not in touch with today’s Scout”.  I don’t know about you, but can you disagree with the Values of Scouting?  How about the methods?  These are time-tested and work well when applied by caring Scoutmasters.
If that makes me old-fashioned… so be it.. but if you do as BP suggests.. you can never be out of touch with today’s Scout.  They are the same as they always have been… they are boys looking for adventure.
I am curious to hear what you have to say about this.  What kind of Scoutmaster are you?
“What the Scoutmaster does, his boys will do. The Scoutmaster is reflected in his scouts. From the self-sacrifice and patriotism of their Scoutmaster, Scouts inherit the practice of voluntary self-sacrifice and patriotic service.” – BP in Aids to Scoutmastership

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, comments, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Scoutmaster minute, teamwork, training, Values | 5 Comments

Oregon and Youth Protection

The BSA’s response to the Oregon Supreme Courts recent decision on ineligible Volunteer files.
There should never be a cover up, and we want those that are sick enough to engage in this activity to be punished severely.  Further, we don’t want them in our organization.  If we can screen them out early.. then let’s get them out or not let them in.
God help the sick bastard that try’s to hurt a Scout in my Troop.
A Scout is brave.. he is even more brave when he knows he can trust his leaders to tell when things are wrong.  A Scout is also brave enough to stand firm on policy and say no to those that fail to live the values that we promote.
I’m glad that those of us in the BSA take this more serious than our Supreme Court.  Arrgh!

OK.. so directly from the BSA website here are the facts about the ineligible volunteer files.
Know the Facts: BSA Ineligible Volunteer Files
The Boy Scouts of America refuses to compromise on the safety of our youth. As part of our comprehensive screening and youth protection efforts, prompt reporting of inappropriate conduct with youth is required of all Scout leaders. The BSA records such allegations in the Ineligible Volunteer Files—whether or not the adults involved were Scout leaders or the youth involved were Scouts. By being proactive and acting upon many kinds of information—including tips and hearsay that cannot be proven in a court of law—the BSA has successfully kept dangerous or potentially dangerous individuals, as well as inappropriate role models, out of our organization.

Scouts are safer because of the Ineligible Volunteer Files. Recent efforts have sought to make the files public and suggest that the BSA is trying to hide something by maintaining their confidentiality. That is far from the truth. The following provides additional information about how they help protect our members, and why their confidentiality is important.

  • The Ineligible Volunteer Files are an important part of the BSA’s comprehensive focus on youth protection. Youth protection is of paramount importance to the BSA. Accordingly, the BSA developed a three-pronged youth protection program, including local and national screening of adult volunteers, education and training, and clear policies to protect youth members. The Ineligible Volunteer Files are used as part of the national registration process that follows a leader’s selection by the local chartered organization, prior to granting membership. 
  • The use of the files at the time of application is a long-standing and well-documented process. While the records maintained by the BSA are confidential, their existence is a well-known component of Scouting’s registration process. Their use has been referenced as far back as the 1930s in books, Scout publications, and news articles. 
  • The files provide an added layer of protection to criminal background checks. Today, any adult who wants to join Scouting must pass a criminal background check, but the BSA began collecting information on those ineligible to be volunteers well before computers and other electronic databases were available. The process that exists today is much the same as it was then and has proven to be effective in keeping potentially dangerous or inappropriate individuals out of Scouting.  It is actually very simple: The Ineligible Volunteer Files links a name with information that led the BSA to determine that the individual was not suitable to lead youth. As part of the membership application process, the names of adult applicants approved by local chartered organizations are cross-referenced with the names included in the Ineligible Volunteer Files. If the individual appears in the files, he or she is not permitted to join Scouting.
  • Files are updated any time a determination is made that an individual should not serve. Scouting policies require prompt reporting of any inappropriate conduct with youth, whether in a Scout unit or in the larger community. Whenever the BSA receives such a report from the local community, the national organization creates a record, whether or not the adults were Scout leaders and whether or not the youth involved were Scouts. In some instances, the allegations cannot be proven to the degree required by a criminal court, but the person is still banned from Scouting. Centralizing this information helps the BSA act more quickly (on suspicion alone in some instances) to identify and keep out persons who have been determined to be ineligible to serve as volunteer leaders. 
  • The sole purpose of the files is to prevent those deemed ineligible from registering as Scout leaders. The Ineligible Volunteer Files maintained by the BSA have always served solely as a barrier to entry preventing those who are ineligible to serve as Scout leaders from joining or rejoining Scouting.  Suggesting that they would provide any greater insight from a research perspective reflects a misunderstanding of the purpose and content of the files. The BSA believes—and independent, third-party experts have confirmed—there is nothing in the files that would further the research field or help develop a profile to prevent abuse.
  • The confidentiality of the Ineligible Volunteer Files encourages prompt reporting. BSA members are instructed to report any suspicion of abuse to local authorities and Scout executives, but BSA has always believed that victims and their families have the right to choose for themselves whether to share their stories publicly. People are more likely to come forward to report real or perceived misconduct if they can do so confidentially.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Character, Leadership, training, Youth Protection | Leave a comment

Prepared. For Life

As everyone that reads this blog knows, the BSA’s new(er) slogan is as the title reads… “Prepared.  For Life”.   I have often stayed away from advertising gimmicks and jingles.. “An Army of One”, and “Be all that you can Be” come to mind.  But this one hit home as I thought about how Scouting does impact our lives.  Yesterday was my first day back from vacation and so I spent a little time catching up on emails, reading my favorite blogs, and cleaning camping gear.  My good buddy Adam posted a piece about his vacation last week.  It is a great article and illustrated just how Scouting is Preparing us for life.
I was and I suppose still am reluctant to tell this story in light of Adams blog post, but once again I find myself in need of sharing this wonderful thing called Scouting.
Last week we spent at Glacier National Park.  If you have never been.. GO!  It is truly an amazing place.  So as you can imagine when I go camping I go prepared.  We are ready to sustain for a week in comfort and have a good time out in the woods.  This time was no exception.  Since it was family time, I went a lot heavier than I am used to, the big cabin tent, the big stove, the coolers etc.  But I still had my day pack which had my 10 essentials in it and since we were in Glacier NP, a canister of Bear spray.
One afternoon as we sat in camp, a scream came from the road in front of our camp site.  The boys were throwing a football around and one fell.  HE ran straight into our site crying.  Why our site and not to his parents.. I don’t know.  Maybe instinct told him that I had just completed the Wilderness First Aid course, or that I was a Scoutmaster, or he had no idea where he was.. either way.. here he ran into our site bleeding from the hand.
I had him sit down and told him to look me in the eyes.  Josh, my youngest son, had already got to my day pack and retrieved the first aid kit.  I told this youngster to relax and that he was going to be fine.  His alligator tears started to dry and I just kept talking to him.  Found out that in three days he would be turning 9 years old and that he was from Canada.
All the while I gloved up and started treating his cut.  He had fallen on his hand and took a good layer or two of skin off his palm.  Cleaning the area and bandaging with non stick pads I was done with the bleeding part.  Then I started looking for possible fracture.  He asked why I was poking and pressing on his wrist and hand.. I told him I wanted to make sure he was ok.  He was.  Right about that time, his dad came into our camp.  He said he had heard the scream and started heading in this direction.  I told what I had done and that I think everything is going to be ok, keep it clean and if he needed I would change the dressing the next day.
He saw the Scouting stickers on the back of my truck and made a comment about them stating that his son had run to the right place.  “Who else would be ready to anything”, he said referring to the stickers.
So all of this got me to thinking about just how we Prepare our Scouts for life.
It’s not just first aid and camping skills, but as the mission statement states, Making ethical choice throughout their lives.
I often talk in this blog about character and making choices.  Being fit and healthy, being of service to others, and of course skills that will help them get through life.
Scouting is a great platform for this learning, discovery, and practice of the life skills that these young men will need as they go through it.  Being Prepared for as Baden Powell said.. Anything.
So it’s not just about camping and fun.  It truly is a game with a purpose and all of us should remember what that purpose it.  This new(er) slogan.. Prepared.  For Life.  Is the Boy Scouts of America mission statement in three words.  It is our call to action as Scouters.  It is what we are here for.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, stories, training | Leave a comment

Wilderness First Aid

Well, I completed more training today.  Yep… can never have enough training.  But today I completed a Wilderness First Aid course.  Two reasons for the training.  First, it is a requirement for each crew on a Philmont trek to have at least one person in the crew certified in Wilderness First Aid.  You also need to have a current certified CPR/AED member of the crew.
Last week at our Troop meeting we certified everyone in the troop on CPR/AED.  It’s just a good idea.. more training never hurts.  So we have lots of CPR certified folks heading to New Mexico.
Second, Wilderness First Aid is a great idea for a troop like mine.  Being in the back country each month we have to be prepared and part of that preparedness is being trained.
So lets talk about Wilderness First Aid for a second.  Three things:
First.  Depending on your level of competence or skill level in first aid the Wilderness first aid course will either bore you or you will learn a ton.  Having said that, there is never a reason not to take the training to reinforce your skills.  Much of the Wilderness First Aid class is a review on basic first aid.  IF you spend a good amount of time training your Scouts on their trail to first class you will know much of the first aid introduced in the class.
Second.  There is material to learn.  What I took home from the course were two things.  Rapid Body assessment and spinal injury training.  Those two things were a fantastic piece of training and extremely valuable.  Basic First aid rarely discusses spinal and or head trauma.
And finally, it’s about muscle memory.  If you don’t use it.. you lose it.
The course places you in scenarios that allow you to develop and hone your first aid skills.  It places you in situations that require thinking, skills, and working as a team to assess, treat, and stabilize a patient in the wilderness.
Take Home points.
Here is what I learned (aside from the additional skills).  I learned that assessment is critical to negotiate a good treatment and stabilization plan.  I learned that CPR really is [in most cases] a token effort that with a few exceptions will not save a life.  It may sustain life until professional help arrives and ‘calls the time of death’.  Like I said.. there are exceptions and for us Scouters the good news is that it works well on kids, people who have been submerged in freezing water, and lightning strikes.  So the next time you are planning on an injury.  Be a kid struck by lighting on a cold lake.  I am kidding, but I was surprized to hear and see evidence of just how ineffective it is.  Having said that… do it.. it’s better than doing nothing.  But really, once someone goes into cardiac arrest.. there is too much damage to the heart.  So says the Red Cross and most search and rescue folks.
Assessment is critical, I have said that?  Wilderness First Aid has given me tools to use to do accurate and timely assessments.   The other reality that we were introduced to was the fact that (out here in the west) help is not on the way any time soon.  For search and rescue you can expect to sustain a victim for up to 5 hours.  That is a long time to sustain treatment.  It is a challenge and one worth the time, but as a Scout leader in the Northwest, knowing that help is a long ways out.. It equips me with the knowledge that we have work to do when it comes to treatment.
And the last thing that I learned is that I have a good foundation of First Aid skills and am not afraid to use it.  controlling a situation, assessing the victim and the environment and moving to rapid treatment seem to be a strong suit of mine.  And so it goes into the tool box of Scoutmastership and the confidence that taking these Scouts into the wilderness is worth the risk inherent in the activities associated with being a backpacker.
So the wilderness first aid course is complete.  Never stop learning, and I will re certify in two years.
One step closer to Philmont and one more training class that made my Scouts a bit safer or at least prepared.
If you get a change to take the course.. take it.
Here is a link to the BSA site on Wilderness First Aid.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, planning, Risk Management, training | 2 Comments

who’s it gonna be?

First of all, thank you all for the congratulations and nice comments about my oldest son earning his Eagle Award.  On behalf of John and the rest of the family, we are thankful and appreciate the comments.  It’s been a helluva week around here and I have not made time to sit and write.  I’ll try to make it up to you.
Now- on with the blog.
Thursday night was our District committee meeting.  The main topic was on Cub Scout recruiting.  Now Jerry… this is a blog that focus’ on Boy Scout subjects, why bother us with Cub Scout recruiting.  Great question.  And the answer is simple.  BECAUSE IT IS THE MAIN THING!
The main thing is providing Scouting for boys!  If they join Cub Scouts, the statistics tell us that by and large they stay in Scouts.  So Boy Scout leaders.. you need to grow Cub Scout Packs if you want to have a healthy Troop.  And that’s the fact.. Jack! as Bill Murray would have said.
So the other night we dove into the subject searching for answers and trying to establish a workable plan to grow Cub Scouting in our area.  Our Council has set a goal of 3oo new Scout units over the next 3 years.  100 units a year.. should be a piece of cake right.  The numbers show that Boy Scout Troops are healthy and doing well.. but over the last 5 years there has been a steady decline in the Cub Scout program.  So how do we reverse this trend?  How do we get 300 new units chartered?  How do we sell the Cub Scout program in our area?
Well, the answer to these and other questions seem to be a mystery, a tough nut to crack.  But I think we can offer some suggestions as least from the discussion we had the other night.
First.  We all know that we continuously preach to the same old choir.  We all belong to a group of dedicated Scouters that love this program.  And I have heard the sermon.. it’s good.  What we need is a bigger choir!
I am sure that your Roundtable nights are very much like our Roundtable nights, the same Scouters hanging out, great training, fantastic discussion, but only reaching about 30% of the Scouters in the District.  I am probably high on the 30% number.    So we need to get the word out.  We need to take our sermon to the streets and get where the Scouters and potential Scout parents and Scouts are.  We need to evangelize the word of Scouting.  Everyone at our meeting concluded that this was a major part of growing Scouting.  But who’s it gonna be?  Who’s going to be the Evangelist for Scouting?  I suggested that everyone in the room was responsible for preaching the word of Scouting.  Further, Scoutmasters.  You play a big role in this plan.  Develop relationships with Cub Scout Packs in your area.  Think outside of the traditional “Territorial” box and create choices for Cub Scouts crossing over.  Just because they go to a certain church or school does not mean they must attend that Pack or Troop.  Boys stay in Scouting when they are having fun.  The right Troop that offers they right program for that individual Scout is the answer.
Scoutmasters.  Create contacts with prospective Chartering partners.  You have been around longer than most Cubmasters and Den leaders… help them out by setting up prospects and visits.  You know the Scouting program and can sell Scouting to new Chartering partners.
Scoutmasters, you need to become evangilists for Scouting.  Pay a visit to a Pack in your area and talk to parents about the value of Scouting. Invite Webelos to camp with you and encourage them to attend resident camps.  Ask Packs if you can help them with their next join night. Bring Scouts with you.
Committee members.  You need to be evangelists for Scouting.  You are resource people.  You have contacts and ways of getting things done in Scouting.  Do not sit idly by and let Scouting happen.  Get in the mix and help grow Scouting.  You can arrange visits, parent meetings, and use your contacts to find new Chartering partners.
Get trained.  EVERYONE!  What I know for sure is that “You don’t know what you don’t know”.  One of the reasons Cub Scout leaders fail to grow their units is that they do not understand the value of Scouting and/or they do not know what lay ahead for the Scouts in their Packs.  Den Leaders and Cubmaster across the Nation need to get trained.  In our Council only 43% of all direct contact leaders are trained!  They don’t know what they don’t know.  Training opens the program up and sets Scouters on a course to make their units successful.  There’s that choir again.. and we keep preaching to the same old folks.
With training comes confidence and direction.  As soon as leaders are trained, they get excited about delivering the promise.  So who’s it gonna be?  Who’s willing to step up and be the evangelists for Scouting?  The answer to all of our problems is in the answer to that question.
Who’s it gonna be?
Have a Great Scouting day!

Categories: blog, Leadership, training | 3 Comments

Captain Obvious

Earlier today I received an email from a “fan of the blog and podcast”.. his email is certainly appreciated and I am glad that he took the time to express his thoughts, but…
I will not post the email here, but let me share with you the part that got me to write this post.
“OK Captain Obvious, we all know the ‘Methods of Scouting’ and use them, please tell us something we don’t know.. after all, if it isn’t broke we are not going to fix it”.
Really now.. it isn’t broke.  Well good timing my friend.  Last night at the Top Team meeting our Scout Executive presented the 2011 Progress review to the District Chairman.  I was floored by the results of the audit at both the National level and our Council.  Let me tell you that we have work to do.. at both the National Level… and the Council level.  Now our SE said we are going to “Celebrate our short comings.. and work to fixing the issues”.. I would suggest, strictly from “Captain Obvious’s” point of view that we need to work and work hard to get some of these things fixed.  So, tell us something we don’t know he said.  Let me tell you that the discussion on Methods is exactly what we don’t know.
Let me share some National numbers with you..
MEMBERSHIP-  In my last post on the Outdoor program, I suggested that PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM, and working the Outdoor program method was a key point in getting Scouts to join and stay in Scouting.  It is what gets Webelos to cross over and invite their friends to join.   When I was at the National Meetings last year in San Diego, Rex Tillerson the BSA President talked to us about “the Main thing”.  that Main thing is delivering Scouting to young men.  They can’t do Scouting if they are not in Scouting.
In our Council we are seeing a terrible trend in Cub Scout market share (market share is how the BSA measures growth).   Our Council is pretty much average with the Nation, but here are the numbers from 2007 thru 2011.  In 2007 we had 15,022 Cub Scouts in the program, 14,465 in 2008, 13, 902 and 13, 303 in the next two years and in 2011 we ended the year with only 12,600 Cub Scouts.  That is a significant loss.  The reason that I find this alarming is that without Cub Scouts you drastically reduce the ranks of Boy Scouts.
Boy Scout membership in 2007 in our Council was 11,960 and in 2011 it dropped to 11, 731.  Now this may not seem significant but long term, the Cub Scout numbers will catch up.  Boys are in the Boy Scout program longer than their Cub Scout years, so we have not felt the impact of the dropping number yet.
I would suggest that this is broke and the question first is why?  Could it be programs?  Could it be the lack of leaders not trained.. we will get into that in a second.  Could it be that methods are not being followed?  I wish I had the answer.. but Captain Obvious here knows broke when he sees it.
Now the good news is that our Retention numbers are looking pretty good.. but only pretty good.  The National Average in retention is 70.6%.  We have way too many Scouts going out the back door.  Our Council’s retention rate is 76%.. still not a great number.. so why are they leaving?  Is it that they don’t agree with our values?  are they bored? are they not getting the bang for their buck?
The average size of a Boy Scout Troop in America is 21 Scouts and we recruit about 9 a year on average… so where are they?
Ok.. lets move on to Advancement.. yeah.. remember that’s one of the methods also..  How are we doing?
Only 39.8% of the Boy Scouts in the Nation advanced a rank last year.  Need we say more?  Captain Obvious says we need to work a little harder on this.
Now get ready to treat for shock.. TRAINING!
Only.. and I hope you are sitting down for this.. ONLY 34.4% of Direct Contact leaders, that’s Tiger Leaders, Den Leaders, Webelos Leaders, Cub Masters, Scoutmasters, and Venturing Advisors are Trained in their positions!  As my daughter would say OMG!  And we are taking these boys in the woods and asking parents to feel good about it.  I would not allow my sons to be in a unit with untrained leaders.  34.4 % is the National Average of trained leaders and I would suggest this needs immediate fixing.  There is no excuse what so ever for an adult to be un trained.  NONE.  In an age where the BSA has made Training easier than ever to access, District and Council training committees are holding multiple training events annually… why are we not trained?  How do we have “Adult Association” and mentoring for “Leadership development”.  How does an adult who is not trained teach, coach, train and mentor a Scout?  Captain Obvious is shocked.
So once again, I would like to thank the reader for the email and suggest that we revisit the “Main thing” and the Methods of Scouting.  maybe, just maybe we can fix some of these issues… nay.. we have to fix these issues and the methods will help you and your unit fix what you think is not broke.  Here is what I think.  Those that don’t know.. don’t know.  Those that are untrained, will not know.  There are no excuses for this.  We all love Scouting and for the most part will do what ever it takes to deliver the promise of Scouting.  Scouting is alive and well, but has some work to do to deliver that promise.  It’s obvious what we need to do.  ON MY HONOR I will do my part!
What are your thoughts?  I am curious to know what you think.  drop an email, leave a comment, or send me smoke signals.
Have a Great Scouting day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Camping, comments, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, training, Values, Webelos to Scout Transition | 6 Comments

Methods

Over the last couple of weeks Scouter friends and I have had numerous discussions about Scouting in our District.  After the last Scoutmaster training session it became pretty clear that many Scouters have heard about the methods of Scouting, but do not really put them into practice in their units.  Kind of like knowing that the BSA has a mission statement, but really it only applies at the National Level.. ahhh right?  Ahhhh.. No.
We got to talking last weekend about the methods of Scouting and how we should be using them in our units.  During the outdoor skills portion of the Scoutmaster training, it was unclear to many participants that the methods needed to be used to have a well-rounded program.. for that matter.. a Boy Scout Troop.
So I thought I would discuss the methods of Scouting over the next, lets see, 8 blog posts.
To quickly remind every one of what the methods are, they are:  Ideals, Patrols, Outdoor Program, Advancement, Association with Adults, Personal Growth, Leadership Development, and the Uniform.
Those eight methods are the steps that we take to reach our goals of Citizenship, Character, and Fitness.  The Boy Scout program (or the achievement of the goals) are dependant on all eight methods working at the unit level.
To start off the discussion we will dive into the IDEALS of Scouting. The ideals of Boy Scouting are spelled out in the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout motto, and the Scout slogan. The Boy Scout measures himself against these ideals and continually tries to improve. The goals are high, and, as he reaches for them, he has some control over what and who he becomes.  These ideals are the foundation for everything that follows in the Boy Scout program.  Without the ideals, it is just a club that goes camping.  The building blocks for the Scouts character is directly tied to the ideals found in the Oath and Law.  It is extremely important that every Scout learns the Oath and Law and practices these ideals daily.  As a Scout advances it is a good idea for the Scout to do a self check on where he is in his character development.  This is tough at times and some Scouts will understand or mature at a faster rate than his peers.  That is why the self check is important.  The Scout is not measuring himself against his peers, he is measuring himself against the Oath and Law which are lofty, but simple concepts that grow with the Scout as he negotiates his life.  The basic understanding that he must be a person that strives to achieve those ideas outlined in the Oath and Law is important and should not be taken lightly by the Scoutmaster.  It is ok to call out a Scout that is not demonstrating those values.
The other part of the ideals of the Boy Scouts of America are that they are not only an individual responsibility, but they are ideals, values, that are shared among the group.  We all know and believe that the values expressed in the Oath and Law are good and true.  We can all agree that every Scout, no matter what his background, education level, learning capability, or social status, can live up to the Oath and Law.  It is hard, but it is attainable.  Expecting that from every Scout and Scouter is reasonable.
These shared ideals are the foundation for the rest of the program.  If they are modified or removed, there is no reason to continue.  Character development hinges on the values found in the Oath and Law.
Dictionary.com defines Character as:
(noun)
1.  the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.
2.  one such feature or trait; characteristic.
3.  moral or ethical quality: a man of fine, honorable character.
4.  qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity: It takes character to face up to a bully.
5.  reputation: a stain on one’s character.
The Boy Scouts of America in setting one of its goals to develop men of Character considers this in its values.  Time tested, tried, and unwavering values that shape a mans character.
The qualities of being someone who can be trusted, a man who is loyal to his family, friends, School, work etc.  A young man who is helpful and works with a smile on his face, friendly, courteous and kind.  Someone that is obedient to our laws, parents, employers and faith.  A man with a cheerful spirit not someone who belly aches and brings down the morale of the team.  A man who is thrifty with his money, time, and resources.  This is the man who will develop a sound attitude of stewardship.  Brave is not just for standing up for himself, it is standing up for other people, ideals, values, and that which the Scout believes in.  Being Brave is important in the world we live in where our values are tested daily.  And then the part of a man’s character that keeps him clean and reverent.  These are matters of the mind, heart and body.  The Scout should stay clean of mind and body.  Spiritual health is important to for a well-rounded man of character.  These values, when put in to practice demonstrate the attitudes of character.  They are if you will.. the characteristics of character.  I think we all can agree here that without them Scouting is not Scouting.
The method of our Ideals is the foundation of Scouting and the launching point for all of the rest of the methods.  Everything ultimately comes back to the Oath and Law and as a Scoutmaster we need to continuously teach these values, not only with our words, but our actions.
St. Francis of Assisi said; “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”  We should do the same with the Oath and Law.
Let me know what you think.  Leave a comment or thought.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Scout Law, Scoutmaster minute, training, Values | 1 Comment

Delivering the Promise

At last nights Roundtable I was pleased to see a great turn out in the Boy Scout break out.  Last nights attraction was Camporee and what units can do to get ready for it.  We had about a half hour left so I thought it would be worth our while to talk a little District talk with the leaders that took their time to be at the break out.
Now first of all.. I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again.. at Roundtable we typically are preaching to the choir, but there were plenty of newer faces in the room, so putting on my District Chairman hat, I stepped up front and spent a few minutes sharing some district news, reported back a little on the District Journey to Excellence Score card, and made myself available for questions.
Summer camp.  This became a big subject last night.  There are way to many units that still have not reported a summer camp sign up for this year.  It is a fact that Scouts that attend summer camp stay in Scouting longer.  We looked at the numbers. Only 1/3 of the scouts signed up for our council camps are from our council.  That means that lots of units from outside of our council are flowing into our camps.  That’s a great thing, except to say, that means that lots of Scouts in our council are not going to summer camp.
Retention.  Summer camp leads us to retention.  IF lots of Scouts are not going to summer camp, then its no wonder why they are not staying in Scouting.  Our numbers show that we are doing well crossing Webelos into Boy Scouts, and we are doing a great job getting boys to join Scouts “off the street”.  But we are not doing the best we can to keep them in Scouting.  It is no surprise that boys leave the program when they are not engaged.  If they are not having fun, or participating fully in Scouting, they will leave.  I mean, why stay?
Program.  Back when I was a new Scoutmaster, a mentor of mine shared with me that regardless of everything else the key to a successful unit is the program.  He said Program, Program, Program!  I have shared this here before to, my “Field of Dream” philosophy.  If you build the program, they will come.. and stay.  Monthly camp outs, Summer camp attendance, advancement focus, service opportunities all add up to great program.  Youth leadership that is driven to lead to the next adventure keeps them excited and wanting more.  A solid program at the unit level is the answer to most if not all of the problems we face in the Scouting movement.
Which brought me to the final point of the evening.  What is the role of the Council and the District?   Resourcing.  It is not the role of the Council or the District to run units.  They are there to assist in the administrative tasks, financial opportunities, and resourcing of program (materials, camps, etc).  I think too many people wait around for the Council or District to do things for them.  The unit is where Scouting happens.  It is where Scouts become men of character, good citizens, and discover fitness.  If you wait around for the council to do that, you will never be a successful unit.  The council and district can not build you a program that is successful.  They can assist with the resources that will help your success… but wait around and you will fail.
A question came up about the DE and his role.  Again, he is a resource manager.  He is there to raise funds, develop relationships in the community to build and grow scouting.  He is there to assist units in training, growing, and ensuring that the promise of Scouting is being delivered in those units.  But wait for him to do the work at the unit.  You will fail.  This is not a bad thing.  This is the way Scouting was designed.  Scouting is owned and operated by the volunteers that care to serve our youth.  Bottom line.  We are Scouting and we Deliver the Promise.  We, the volunteer.  Our District committee is made up of volunteers, our Council committee is made up of volunteers, but more importantly, our units, Packs, Troops, and Crews are made up of thousands of volunteers that every single day do something to deliver the promise of Scouting to the great kids that come seeking fun and adventure.
It was great to be able to talk with some of those volunteers last night.  As I looked at the room and saw the faces of the BSA, people that really care.  I know that all is well.  The numbers are the numbers, and they will come around.  The people care and will do what ever it takes to develop those programs to make Scouting the greatest.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Summer Camp, training, Webelos to Scout Transition | 5 Comments

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