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!


  1. From the viewpoint of a Unit Commissioner I know over the past 2-3 years many Scouts that have left Scouting because Scouting in general and summer camp has become too expensive (and the costs go up every year) at at a time when many parents are losing jobs or having to take pay cuts and Scouting no longer fits in the family budget. We also see fewer parents wanting to participate in unit activities because they are working longer hours (for the same or less pay) or more than one job.


    1. I guess money could be a reason. I personally don’t buy it. Our Council has 3 Boy Scout Camps. They are full. That means a lot of Scouts are attending Camp. Only 54% of the Scouts from our Council attend our Council camps, but many Scouts from out of our Council fill those slots. That means they are traveling into the area to attend camp. That costs. Of the 49% of the Scouts that are not attending our camps many are going with their units to out of council camps, mostly up in the Chief Seattle Council. We are also sending over 10 Troops to Jambo next year and have a council contingent heading to Philmont this year. My troop has two crews going to Philmont and the rest of the Troop attending Summer camp this year.
      FOS (Friends of Scouting) dollars are also up across the Nation this year. In our Council alone we had a net increase from $1,598,611 in 2010 to $1,648,060 in 2011 and we are 3 months ahead of our goal for this year. In 2011 the Chief Seattle Council posted $1,893,620 in FOS income while the Council in Cincinnati, OH net’d $1,873,322. Councils all over are reporting that Campership dollars are being awarded so no Scout should be left out.
      And product sales are up too. If a Scout is thrifty.. he will pay his own way. When we talk about product sales we are talking about opportunites to take away excuses for not participating. Popcorn yields 37 cents of every dollar to the Scout. Camp cards are paying the Scout 50 cents of every dollar sold. Net product sales are up and have steadily increased over the last 5 years. Last year our Scouts earned $394,942 in sales. Thats a chunk of change going right into the accounts of our Scouts. Oh and by the way.. that is pretty average around the country. I will conceed that some areas are worse off than others. But still there are ways to get Scouts to pay their way. I have said it before and I will continue to say it… The economy is not sky rocketing in the Portland Metro area and yet we still seem to be able to make Scouting work. This too I have said.. I have two sons in Scouting and they have paid their way for years. Mowing lawns, shoveling snow, odd jobs, and yes even product sales.
      So we need to take the “economy” into consideration, but I don’t think it is an excuse for not being in Scouting.
      Oh.. and one last thing… Giving and Endowments for Scouting are up also from years past. Last year the council received $646,633 in endowment gifts. Thats up from $77,042 in 2010.
      Thanks for the comment.


  2. I sincerely believe that youth of all ages (including adult youth) are attracted to program. If we set up a fun thing, people want to do it. It’s tough getting people to volunteer for the parts that this takes. I believe we can grow our units by doing more fun stuff. In order to do that, we need to be the ones who apply the elbow grease.


    1. Yes Mike, I agree that we need to keep it fun.. but fun within the context of the Scouting Program and we also need to allow the Scouts to define what fun means to them. Fun is very subjective. Doing more stuff that includes those teaching moments, those times where citizenship and character are practiced and learned, and fitness is being promoted. You and I both know that there are many flavors out there of fun. Recognizing that and playing on the strengths of the PLC and their decision making to drive the program will lead to fun adventures that will certainly keep the Scouts engaged.
      I guess the argument really is what are we all doing about the Obvious facts. The fact that Scouts are walking out the back door. That we are not growing in many areas. That Scouts are not advancing (a lesser of the issues IMO, but one that keeps Scouts in). Money, by all accounts are not really the issue. Just looking at our District is seems to be apathetic adult leadership that are not wiling to apply that much needed “Elbow grease”.
      Thanks Mike.


  3. Just wanted to say that I am new to the blog and really appreciate the content. It’s making me THINK and I will be passing along some of the nuggets to our committee.


  4. I think that the guys in my troop don’t leave because of a lack of money. If they leave, it’s because they are not enjoying our program. It’s not that we don’t go camping- we do every month. The problem is that the older guys in the troop never helped out the new scouts. The only scouts that ended up staying in the troop out of a 10-boy den crossing over were two friends that I reached out to (this was a year ago). I think that to improve retention, the PLC needs to organize the program better. As the new SPL of my troop, I made it a point at our first PLC with new leaders to plan better skills instruction for our meetings, so that the guys don’t get bored wandering around in the hall. I also think that the youth leaders should be getting trained at NYLT. When I went, it was a fantastic program, and I learned so many new things. To keep the scouts interested, planning and organization should be the #1 priority.


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