Month: January 2012

Be Prepared

Last nights Troop meeting was like most Troop meetings following a camp out.  A quick run through of lessons learned using the Start, Stop, and Continue program started things off.  Our new Scouts learned a lot on their first camp out, but the lesson that they learned the most was to Be Prepared.
Now, most folks think that the learning happens only when things go wrong.. well, not in this case.
You see, on Friday afternoon, the Scouts arrived at 4:30 and laid all their gear out and inspected it.  They checked and double checked that everything was there.  They cross loaded their meals and then repacked their packs.  By the time they got to the mountain, they were ready.
They all knew a basic knowledge of cold weather injuries and first aid, and thank goodness they did not have to use it.
They all had the right gear.  Santa was very good to the Scouts of Troop 664 this Christmas.
They all had paid attention in the classes taught by the older guys on how to anchor tents, did cold sumps, and stay dry.
By the time they hit the snow, they were ready.
One of the comments made by one of the older guys last night was the reason that the new Scouts did so well was because they have not had time to develop bad habits.  Well, I told the young man.. bad habits are choices you make.. no one should develop a bad habit of unpreparedness.
Then the Troop worked on some of the requirements for the Camping merit badge.  They did it with their Troop guides last night, just going over some of the basics like the differences between tents, sleeping bags, and back packs.  They did not need us to help with that.  Then it was a quick review of gear that they all love, and preparation for the next camp out that is coming up in a couple weeks.
I think with the knowledge that the new guys have now, and the experience the old guys are starting to bring to the table, the next camp out up in the snow in a few weeks is going to be a blast.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Where worlds meet

For those of you that have followed the blog for any given time, you know that I am a fan of sports.  I believe that sports do great things in the lives of youth and I also believe that there is room for sports, scouts, academics, and a normal life for our youth.  I actually think that when youth participate in sports and scouts they become better young men and women.
This last weekend was spent watching my oldest son wrestle at a tournament with the High School wrestling team.  John did real well this weekend, and as I sat and watched, and for those of you that have been to wrestling tourney’s.. you know that it is an all day affair.  You have lots of time to sit and watch, think, write, or do as I do.. people watch.
I typically get into lengthy discussions with other parents.  This year has been interesting as John is a Senior and many of the parents we hang out with we have known since the boys were all in kindergarten.  So the discussions quickly turn to how amazed we are about our boys, future plans, college, and “do you remember when” subjects.  This last weekend we got into a discussion about one of the boys that I have known since he was 7.  He was in Cub Scouts with John, but when the time came to cross over, he made the choice not to continue with Scouting.  He turned out to be a great young man and is a good friend of my daughters. 
One of the other dads sitting with us said that his son had to drop out of Scouts because of athletics.  He could not do both as Scouting and sports don’t mix.
I had to ask why he thought that way.  The answer I got did not make sense to me.  He said that Scouting was more for kids that were intellectual and could not make it in sports.  He added that scouting takes too much time away from sports practice and social time. <insert record scratch>
I made mention that both of my boys were in scouts and they both are athletes, and they both are A’s and B’s students, and both have a good social life.  He said it was the exception not the rule.  Then I told him of the Scouts in my troop.  In my Troop there are football players, baseball players, wrestlers, water polo, swim team, lacrosse, soccer, and golf team members.  Of those guys, they are active in the Troop and are all either Eagle Scouts or well on their way to becoming and Eagle Scout.  All of them are good students and very active with their Schools.  Members of Student government or clubs, and are all really good young men.
Again, he said we are the exception not the rule.  So I had to ask.. why do you suppose that is?
I believe that young men that play organized sports learn valuable life lessons.  They learn team work and working with others.  They learn that the team comes first and individual egos should be left at home.  They learn that hard work produces great things and that when you lose you learn.  They learn that effort pays off and that collective effort will eventually win.
I believe that sports push young men to stay fit and sports develop in them a sense of committment and accountability.  The individual is driven to be there for his team mates, he understands that without every one pitching in and moving toward the same goal the team will not be a success.
I think far to many times parents and Scout leaders can not get past the old “Jock” stereotype. 
Speaking strictly for my family Sports and Scouting go hand and hand.  Sports and Scouting complement one another and help round out our kids.  Add to Sports and Scouting good family values, strong faith, and a host of friends that have the same interests, and we have been blessed with three awesome kids.
The boys John and Josh have been active in both Scouting and Sports since they could be.  Josh started playing Football in 3rd Grade.  John and Josh both run Track and played Soccer.  John took to Wrestling, Josh stuck with Football and Track.  Katelyn played Soccer and volleyball for the Nike Club league team.  She is talented in Band and is a great student academically.  She tried Girl Scouts, but could not fit in with their click.  So she stuck to a supportive role in her brothers Scouting lives.
The point here is that all three are great kids and sports and scouts have played a great role in that.  It has meant long weekends, lots of travel time, and spending money on the kids activities rather than ourselves, but the result is that we have a great family life and kids that are healthy, smart, and ready for life.
Sports gave them confidence, good attitudes, and drive to accomplish anything.  Scouting does much of this and more, but when the two worlds meet a great young person comes out the other end.
So this Dad that does not see the value in both.. or that its one or the other.. well, I think that comes from parents that see the hassle, Scout leaders that see the competition, and youth that go along with what they say.
Parents need to be supportive of a young man that wants to do sports and scouting.  They need to make a committment to their son that doing both is possible.  Scout leaders need to understand the value in having an athlete in their troop.  They too need to be committed to the Scout and his needs and interests.  Scouting and Sports can work together.
I am proud of the Scouts of my Troop that take the time to be athletes.  I admire their dedication and committment, and I tell them that during Scoutmaster conferences or when they have an achievement on or off the playing field. 
Here is what I know for sure.
It’s not 100% so I am not saying this for effect…
Young men that are Scouts and Athletes are better students, better leaders, are better fit, and have a higher confidence level.  They stick it out to the end and do not let their Troop or their team mates down.
I’ll take that any day!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

*By the way.. the picture on this post.. Gerald R. Ford,  39th President, Eagle Scout, Football player at the University of Michigan 1933

SHOW 100

Print these glasses.. you will be needing them for the SMMPodcast SHOW 100!  IN 3D.  Listen in as I am interviewed or at least have a great discussion with Scouting Friend and District Commissioner Gary.
We talk about the 1st 99 shows and the future of the SMMPodcast, Journey to Excellence, and more.
Its been a great journey to thru the first 100 shows!
Thank you to all that listen in, give feedback, and keep me going.  I appreciate it!
I hope you enjoy the show.
Have a Great Scouting Day!



1:32 of Respect

OK… this may seem like a rant.. and it probably will be.. so if you want.. stop reading right now.  I could really care less what you all think about my opinion on this one.
The other night I attended my oldest son’s wrestling match at the High School.  Before the match, as with all sporting events they pay respect to the Nation by playing the National Anthem.  The announcer asked for everyone to stand, face the flag, and remove their hats.  The crowd stood and turned toward the flag.  The Anthem began to play.  Immediately a group of students in front of us begin to talk, and horse around.  One of their cell phones ring and a conversation starts between the caller and the student.  One of the teens starts a little dance to the sound of our National Anthem and by the time “Home of the Brave” is sung the group of teens are ready to move on with the evening.
The point.
What ever happened to the respect that our National Anthem warranted?  What ever happened to respecting the meaning of our National song?  What ever happened to the feeling of National Pride in hearing the words that tell the story of American character, determination, and endurance?
It drives me wild to see the disrespect of our National Anthem or the lack of understanding of why we play it.
It upsets me that in the face of men and women that have served our Nation, these teens could not show one minute and thirty two seconds of respect to our Country, the rest of the people in the stands, and yes.. I’ll be selfish.. Me.
Now I am not so arrogant to think that the National Anthem should be played for me… no… this is as American as … as stupid as this sounds… America.
We teach our Scouts to be good citizens.  Is this not a basic part of citizenship?
I am done with the rant… but I have to say that this is really something that gets under my skin.

When you teach your Scouts.. or any one else about citizenship.. help them with some understanding of our National Anthem.  Teach them by being a good example and placing your hand over your heart.  Learn the words.  Stand and face the flag and show 1:32 of respect.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Scoutmaster Pay off

Over the last quarter of the year last year (2011) we received a bunch of new Scouts into the Troop.  They all seemed real gung ho about joining and could not wait for the adventure to begin.
We are preparing for our first winter camp out with the new Scouts right now.  In two weeks, we will be taking them up on Mt. Hood for their first weekend with the Troop and after the last few weeks and what’s left of January worth the training, they will step off on their Scouting adventure.
Last night at the Troop meeting the Scouts demonstrated layering.  Each Scout showed up and was inspected by the older Scouts in their winter clothing.  They were given a pass or no pass on their choice of winter clothing.  They all did great.
I gave out a bunch of spare stuff I have been collecting and outfitted about 5 Scouts with pants, sleeping bags, and other cold weather items.
When these new guys crossed over in November we talked about gear expectations and what they needed to have versus what we would provide.  I explained to them that they were joining at the perfect time.. Right before Christmas and gave them suggestions for their Christmas wish list.
So last night as I talked with a few of the new parents and answered their questions and concerns the subject of gear came up.  It became obvious that lots of camping gear appeared under the Christmas trees of many of the Scouts.. nay.. all of the Scouts got some piece of new gear.
One of the new Scouts came up to me and said he was excited about the up coming camp out.  He asked if he was going to be cooking for himself and his buddy on the trip.. I replied that most certainly he would be cooking if he was going to eat.  He got a huge smile on his face and said . YEAH!!!  I got a stove for Christmas!  So I asked him what kind.. “The Jet Boil SOL” he said.  Now, I have said before that I am not a big fan of the Jet Boil… but these new units are much improved.. so I may be swayed a little.  Then the little guy got me… he said he’d been cooking on his new stove at home.  I said fantastic.  His mom chimed in stating that he had made spaghetti and a few Mountain House meals.. then the Scouts told me.. “A MINUTE 45!”  I said “Whats that?”  He said he can do Hot Choco in 1:45!  His smile was from ear to ear.  Just then, I had a crowd of the new Scout patrol around me.. They were all sharing with me all the cool camping gear they had got at Christmas.  I was smiling and laughing with them.. and of course shared the list of cool camping gear I got for Christmas too.  One of the mom’s told me that I had created a gear monster!  SCORE ONE FOR THE SCOUTMASTER!
These new kids are ready to go and pumped up!  They are embracing the adventure and I look forward to many adventures with them!
Last night’s Troop meeting was the Scoutmaster Pay off!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

JTE revisited

As with many of us we wear multiple hats in Scouting.  First and foremost we wear the Dad (or Mom) hat, then the hat appropriate to our unit, like Scoutmaster or Committee Chair.  Then there often times is some District level hat, whether that is part of the District Training team, a District event, or serving on the District committee.  Some are active within their Order of Arrow Chapters or Lodges, and so another hat is hung there.  And for some, and the numbers narrow here, the Council comes a callin’ and more hats are added to the hat rack of Scouting.  This is all well and good as long as the person wearing all of those hats can A.   balance and manage the time,  B.  give full attention to all the positions that he or she has volunteered for, and finally C.  Remember that this is Scouting and it is still a game with a purpose.
All of that to say… I am putting on my District hat right now for this post.
Thursday night at our District committee meeting I was asked to take on an additional responsibility, that of the District Committee Chair while we are looking to replace our retiring District Committee chairman.  I currently serve as the District Program Chairman, so this was not to far a stretch and so I accepted the interim role.
That is neither here nor there when it comes to the subject of this post, other than to say that in the role of both the District Committee Chairman and the Program Chairman one of the reports that our District Commissioner gave disturbed me to no end and I am looking for solutions.
That report was on the Journey to Excellence status of units within our District.  I’ll jump right in.
In November our Council wraps up it’s rechartering process.  This way all units are good to go heading into the new year.  If done right by the units, this is a nice way to end the year and start their Scouting calendar year off clean.  Maybe it’s because I do not know anything else, but this works well for me.
In November we also close out our now Journey to Excellence (Former Honor unit, Quality unit, Centennial Quality unit) report.  Now of all the programs listed in Parenthesis.. I like Journey to Excellence a lot.  It is a fair way to rank and rate your unit.  It is a good measure of how your program is delivering the promise of Scouting.  In the Thunderbird District we have 129 units that rechartered this November.. well 124 actually turned them in on time.. we are still waiting on 6 of them… which will add to my point here real quick.  Out of the 129 units only 35% of them turned in the paper work for their Journey to Excellence.   That’s only 45 units (Packs, Troops, and Crews).  45!
So the question has to be WHY?  The score card is easy to use, the goals are fair and offer a sliding scale from Bronze to Gold so that units have a way of stepping up their programs with rewards for small and large success’s.  But why would only 45 out of 129 units report how they are offereing up the program?
Is it a lack of knowledge?  A lack of training?  A lack of buy in?  Or does this tell us that the 84 units that did not report are not providing quality programs and do not want to tell that to the District and Council?  I sincerely hope that this is not the case.  I know that there are great Scouters out there in our District and I see the units around doing activities, service projects, and outings.  So why not report.
My thoughts went back to the Good turn for America program.  Our District struggled in getting units to report there also.  We asked a volunteer to chase down units and assist with their reporting.. read.. do it for them.  And amazingly, or not, the numbers went sky rocketing.  Now I am not suggesting that this is all about numbers.  I certainly am not, what I am hoping is that the Promise of Scouting is being delivered in the 84 units that have made the choice not to fill out the form.
In talking with one Scouter, I came to the conclusion that he just did not know how the process worked.  So a lack of training on his part led him to not being able to go through this with his unit.  I call BS on this to a certain degree.  The program is not that tough to just figure out.  He asked about tools that could be used to help with the process.  I told him to go to and look up the Journey to Excellence.  There he would find an easy way to set the goals of the unit, track the progress of the unit, and print the final report.  Along with definitions, Frequently Asked questions, and support.  I also reminded him that the number one function of the District is to support units and he could always call us.
Here is what I like about the JTE program.  If you use the tracker, and I mean break it out monthly and see how you are, as a unit progressing through your program based on your goals.  You will achieve success.  The tracker allows the unit to see potential problems or short falls before they happen.  It allows Troop committees to make adjustments, it is a nice tool for the Patrol Leaders Council to stay on track with their program.  After all the main emphasis of the JTE is in program and participation.  Most of us have a competitive gene in us.  Our Scouts certainly do.  So the Journey to Excellence plays on this part of the game.   There are incentives within the unit to continuously improve.  Better Performance means better Scouting for youth!  Better Performance can earn a higher level of Recognition, and Key requirements are tracked and improvement can be quickly identified so they can see where they are on the field.  It’s kind of like being in a 3rd and long and waiting to punt or 3rd and short and know you can score!
I also like that each year the requirements will change.  Each year,  the requirements will be reconsidered to reflect the improved performance by units.  This is why it is important that ALL units report.  Right now in my District 45 units will set the performance measurement for the rest of the District.  New standards for 2012 are already out.  You can see the Troop score card here.   
So I am looking for solutions to this problem.  If you have any ideas, please leave a comment or drop an email.
Share your Journey to Excellence success’s also in the comments section of this post.
Like I said.  I know that there are good Scouters out there doing the right thing.  But the Journey to Excellence program will help make Scouting better.  Better for the main thing… Scouts.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Winter Camping Leader Tool box

As we get into serious winter camping again for this season, we reinforce with our Youth leaders  and other adult leaders some of the principles that make for a successful outing.  In developing Youth leaders we put a lot on their shoulders and give them responsibilty.  When they accept that responsibility it is then that we hold them accountable for leading.  In doing this, they practice what they know, they show by their example that they can be trusted as a leader, and they Do the right thing.
Here is an outline of some of the Winter Leader skills training that we do within our Troop.

Winter Camping Leadership Tool box

Winter camping is like no other camping.  It requires skills, smarts, and the right attitude. It also requires strong leadership.  Leaders that accept responsibility and leaders that understand that the group comes before the individual.

Here are some items for a leader to have in his tool box for camping in the winter.

1.  The right attitude.  You must demonstrate a positive attitude in the winter.  The people following you depend on it.  As you go with you attitude, those that follow you will go.

2.  Be an example of right.  The leader must possess the skills and attitudes that make winter camping successful.  The leader must demonstrate those skills and teach others to use them.  The leader can not take short cuts and look the other way.  The leader must set an example by doing the right thing. 

3.  Skills.  There is a list of skills that make up a good winter camper.  Here are some that the leader must use and teach.
Gear– use the right gear and use it properly.  More importantly taking the right gear with you and packing it right.  Every item in the pack or SECURED to the out side and covered with a pack cover.
Staying dry. – Wet kills in the winter.
In camp routines.  Camp set up.
                           Getting in and out the tent without dragging snow in.
                           Storing gear.  Everything stays packed unless needed.
                           Gathering and “Making” water.
                           Gathering fire wood and making the fire.
Setting up camp.  Looking for best placement of tents/shelters.  No widow makers.  Building up snow walls.  Cooking areas.  Designated BIO area.
Anchoring of tents/shelters.
Morning routines.  Get up and cook right away.  Get things cleaned and stored.  Pack un used gear.  Hang anything that is damp to dry.
Cooking.  Have a plan. 
                Store food in bags in order they will be eaten.
                Repackage meals to reduce trash.
                Hot meals always
                3 good hot meals and lots of snacks.
                Hot beverages
                Clean up as you go and never leave dirty dishes laying around.
                Pack it all out.  Do not dump uneaten food in the snow. 
                Just because you can bury it does not mean it is right.
                Monitor water use and stay ahead. 
               Watch fuel consumption. No flame without a pot on it. NO empty pots.
               Don’t be lazy.  Cook and eat well.
Sleeping.  Dry equals warm.  Stay out of wind and wet and you will stay dry and warm.  Open your sleeping bag as soon as your tent is set up.  Get the loft going.  Make sure to have insulation under you.  Closed cell pads work great in the winter.  An extra blanket works too when used with a pad.  If nothing else your jacket should go between you and the pad or under your feet.
Your boots go in the tent and under your sleeping bag (foot end).  Do not wear anything wet to bed.  Change your socks and clothing before you go to bed if you are wet.  ALWAYS change your socks before you get in your sleeping bag.
Avoid condensation in your sleeping bag.  Wear a hat and keep your face out of the bag.  Short guys.  Fold unused portion of sleeping bag under you.
Take a trip to the pee tree before you go to bed.  Relieve yourself and then get comfortable.  You do not want to hold it till morning. You won’t sleep and you won’t stay warm.

4.  Be a Good example.  Yes, we say it twice.  This will get you farther as a leader than anything else in the cold weather.  If you do things right and maintain a positive attitude, those that follow you will to.

IMPORTANT.  Leaders are responsible.  You are the last ones in the sleeping bag after everyone is checked.  You are the last ones to eat or eat before the rest.  This way you can check, assist,and monitor the rest as they prepare and eat.
Leaders.  You are the key to success.  You have been given the responsibility to teach and coach.  Use it.

Build your tool box.  Fill it with those things that make you a great leader and you will be.  Collective knowledge and a willingness to learn, practice, and share is the success of all leaders.

Have a Great Scouting Day!