Climbing

Training, Nature or Nurture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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!

Qualified, Trained Leaders

trainednewWe often talk about having all of our adult leaders trained.  When we speak of training we are talking about the basics.  Has the adult completed Youth Protection?  Attended their Basic Course for the specific position?  And according to the Boy Scouts of America, that’s pretty much a trained leader.
You are qualified to be an adult that delivers the promise of Scouting.  Really.
Ok, now… everyone just take off your Scouting hat and put on your parent hat.  Now you know nothing about Scouting except that your son wants to be a Scout.  You know that Scouting is a great organization that reinforced those character traits that you are teaching at home and he and his friends enjoy going camping once a month.  But who is this “Trained” leader?  What qualifies him to take your son out into the woods?
A couple videos?  An online training session and a “suitable for framing” print out certificate?
That’s it.
Oh, but maybe the leader has been to Wood Badge.  So he knows the Boy Scout Program and is able to teach and reach his goals.  He communicates well, but what of the skills he needs to take my kid into the woods.
My point here is this.  In a world in which we bubble wrap our kids.  We don’t let them stay out after dark, they can’t climb trees, drink from a garden hose, or in some cases even push a lawn mower.. we drop off our sons to people we don’t really know, they hop into their trucks and vans and drive away for a weekend in the woods.
Say that out loud and it is a bit creepy.
We trust that they know what they are doing with our kids.  We hope to see smiles on their faces and that they are in one piece when they arrive back at the meeting hall.
Trust.  That is what we have in our leaders.  But it’s 2014 so what has he done to be trusted.  What skills does he have to gain my trust.  Who is this guy taking my kid into the woods?
I am a big fan of Boy Scout Training and take it a step further.  I am on our district training team and teach the Scoutmaster basic course.  I am a Wood Badge staffer and love to teach leadership.
So knowing what I know, I know that the Boy Scout minimum training is not enough to build that trust.  But the leader that goes the extra mile and gets more training, now that’s the guy I want.
Not to toot my horn, or the horns our leaders in my Troop, but we respect that trust and that is why we all go the extra mile.
In our Troop, all the Assistant Scoutmasters are Wood Badge trained.
We have Certified Climbing instructors.
We have Certified Wilderness First Aid First Responders.
We have Wilderness First aid trained leaders.
COPE instructors
White water rafting guides
Leave No Trace master trainers
Kayak guides
Cold Weather camping experts
Backpacking experts
Pioneering instructors
Leadership trainers
Everyone is CPR/AED trained
Everyone has done the supplemental training for Trek Safe, Safe Swim defense, Safety Afloat, and Climb Safely.
I know that I am missing something, the point is that we go out of our way to be over trained.
This is where the trust of the parents is gained and maintained.
It is an important part of protecting our youth and delivering the very best program to them.
So who is your Scout leader?  Do you trust him or her with your son in the woods?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Unit Culture

IMG_2059Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election.  Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership.  We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”.  When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders.  The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’.  At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow.  We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA.  I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now.  There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same.  A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout.  Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here.  Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap.  I asked why they think that is.  The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it.  If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee.  Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree).  Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire.  I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed?  Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look.  The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit.  New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture.  Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture.  Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled.  This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop.  They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp.  They like to show up with nothing but their packs.  This attitude is a big part of our culture.  It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from?  Well, certainly I had a part to play.  Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it.  As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other  adventurous activity.  It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are.  And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method.  The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring.  When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader.  They never stop hearing it.  The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”.  The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture.  More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session.  It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”.  Stuff that they just need to talk about.  To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust.  I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law.  Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here.  Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them.  That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence.  We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting.  We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program.  I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend.  That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is.  I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men.  I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous.  I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone.  I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times.  This has become our culture, this is our Troop.  I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell.  That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different.  My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it.   Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Snow Peak 700 Review

sp700Well, It’s Sunday and today we are celebrating our Troops 10th Anniversary as well as Scouting’s 104th.  Every year our Troop hosts its annual Red and Green Dinner.  A celebration of the Troop and Scouting.  This year we will recognize former Troop members and have a great time looking back on the 10 years that got us where we are today.
Today, since my day is dedicated to the Troop’s Red and Green, I thought I’d share this gear review with you.
Quickly becoming my “Go to” pot/cook set again, I went away from it for some time in favor of the Imusa mug.  I still like the Imusa, it gives me some options in cooking namely the size of the pot that the Snow peak 700 does not.
For the size and weight though, it’s tough to find a better pot for backpacking and cooking single servings.
Enjoy the review, let me know what you think.  Drop us a comment.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Training for the Parents

trainednewIt is often said that “Every Scout deserves a Trained Leader”… well.. sure.. Every Scout certainly deserves a trained leader, but do you really think that the Scout cares?
The saying should say, “Every Parent deserves a Trained Leader”.  Right?  After all, the training is more for the parents right?
The Scout does not care that you know the rules of the safety sandwich.  The Scout does not care that you have been to wilderness first aid.  The Scout does not care that you are climb instructor certified or that you have completed Youth Protection.
Ahhh… But the parents do.
They come to a unit and want to know that as they drop off Tommy Tenderfoot on Friday night that the guy driving the car is insured, trained, and will bring back their son in the same condition that he climbed into the Suburban heading to the camp out in.
Parents care a lot about the training that the Scout leader has.  I for one would not send my sons out with a Scout leader that was not trained.  I would not let my son go out into the woods with a guy that got his training by watching Survivor man on TV once.
Nope.  The parents deserve a trained leader.  I would go further to insist that every leader that goes near a Scout is trained, and if I were King for the day.. any leader that did not get trained or refused to spend the time, energy and money to get trained would not be allowed to be a Scout leader.
Boy Jerry.. that’s harsh…  Really?  Like I said, I would not let my kid go off for the weekend with a guy I don’t trust.
Training builds that trust.  At least it opens the door to trusting the leader.
I have talked a lot on this blog about leadership.  It goes not just for our youth leaders, but the adults too.
Think back to the 4 “C”s I discussed.
Don’t you want your adult leaders to be Competent and have Courage?  Compassionate and Candor?
Those are all things that come with training.
Our Troop goes climbing every year.  We have 8 climbing instructors in the unit.  Why?  Because it is the right thing to do.
We have multiple Wilderness First Aid certified leaders and First responders.  Why?  Because we go looking for  adventure and we are not near a parking lot.  It’s the right thing to do.
We go winter camping at least 3 times a year.  We have cold weather instructors and skilled leaders that know winter camping skills and stay up on gear and techniques.  Why?  Because we will never put a Scout in harm’s way.
The point here is that when a Scout crosses over into our Troop the parent knows that we care and are willing to do our very best for their son.  They can rest assured that we are trained and will take care of their boy.
Every one of the Assistant Scoutmasters, the Committee Chair, and me are all Wood Badgers.  Why is that important?  We all believe in life long learning and are committed to being better.  Wood Badge demonstrates to our Scouts and their parents that we are serious about training and taking care of their sons and more importantly, that we want to do Scouting right.
So every parent does deserve a trained leader.  Get trained or get out.  It’s that simple if I were King for the day.
On a side note.  I have been doing this Scouting thing for some time now and have served at the District level also.  Being the District Program Chairman and later the District Chairman, I had access to lots of reports that really don’t mean much.  The one thing that did mean something to me was the amount of units that struggle in multiple areas.  Membership, activities, etc.
The common thing that we saw in EVERY unit that struggles are UNTRAINED Adults.  You do the math.
Get trained for your Scouts.. and your Parents.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Mountain Hardwear Bandito Gloves

I recently talked about my gloves and layering system for keeping my hands warm.
Here is a closer look and review at the Mountain Hardwear Bandito finger-less gloves that I wear.
The Stats:
The body of the gloves are made of Deflection ™ Soft shell which is 100% Polyester.
The mitt portion of the glove is made from windblock and stretch materials pulls over fingers for added warmth.
The Palm is Synthetic leather, although it feels like fleece, very comfortable.
Weight:  3.6 oz or 103 g
They are windproof and breathable.
These gloves are Unisex and it is important to try of for accurate fit and sizing.
The Bandito glove is marked as a “Climbing glove”, but I find them great for backpacking, especially while hiking and doing camp chores.
The Mountain Hardwear Bandito glove retails for $45.

Was this review helpful?  Let me know what you wear.  Leave a comment and share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Scouting… Cool?

cropped-rockwellphilmont.jpgFirst off.. if you are a Scout or Scouter read this post with caution.  You may not agree with some of what I am going to say.  Know that I love the Boy Scouts of America.  I am always trying to tell our story in the best light of Scouting.  I think it is the greatest youth program around.  But in the discussion of membership it is fair that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, Why is it Not cool to be a Scout?  Please, if you disagree, read to the end and then leave a comment.
One of the most common things that I hear as a Scoutmaster during conferences is that sometimes our youth don’t feel that it is cool to be a Scout.  Peer pressure at School and in their neighborhoods, comments made, and the fact that in most cases the uniform causes a boy to shy away from the program and certainly not invite his friends to join something that is not cool.
So why is that?
In my opinion one of the reasons is that we and the National Council do a terrible job at telling Scouting’s story.  In our focus to deliver the “Main thing” we have lost sight on what Scouting has traditionally been about.
When I was a Scout, and I cringe at starting a sentence that way, but none the less, when I was a Scout I joined the Boy Scouts because it looked cool.  I was drawn to the adventure.  I was longing for to be in a group that Norman Rockwell painted climbing to the Tooth of Time or heading out for a weekend of canoeing.  I watched as older boys embraced leadership and taught me skills in the outdoors.  Older guys that played on the high school football team that we all looked up to but were not afraid to lead a song or skit at camp.  Members of the Order of the Arrow that dressed like plains Indians and stood in canoes with torches blazing, landing on the shore and presenting dramatic ceremonies that left me wanting to be a part of their group.
While I am a believer that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are… I am also a believer that we can take the Scout on an adventure that will challenge him and leave him wanting more.  Instead, the Scouting story is that of catering to the lowest common denominator.  We dumb things down because of parents that are over protective and do not understand Scouting.
We take away from the challenge and make it “Accessible”.  I want every boy to have the opportunity to be a Scout, but I want every boy to accept the challenges that lead to self-reliance, life long skills, good character, and being fit.  There is plenty in Scouting for all, but we have made it so restrictive that leaders no longer feel that they can seek and provide adventures in their units.
THE PRESS.
Bad press is the only press.  That’s the story we get.  It does not impact our youth that much, but it keeps Mom and Dad from bringing their son to us.  When all we see is bad press, we judge the program based on it.  Suddenly all Scout leaders are fat bone heads that push over billion year old rock formations.  We are all looking to abuse youth.  We are all.. well you get the point.
But what of good press.  National does nothing.  No ads on TV.  Yes, I know that costs money, but what does the BSA waste each year fighting in the courts?  How much does the BSA waste in preaching to the choir?  They target the membership campaigns to those who are already in Scouting and fail to tell our story to those that need to hear it.
We have been systematically removed from the Schools, the Churches are bailing, and parents see this as an organization that can’t keep it’s poop in a group.  It’s all bad press and yet we do nothing to turn the tide of the bad publicity.
We tend to circle our wagons and rally the troops from within the organization, but that’s it.
I watched a great video the other day on YouTube.  Rex Tillerson, the former BSA President talking at the National Meetings of the BSA about the new changes that are taking effect.  Of course I am talking about the new Non discrimination policy.  What Rex had to say was fantastic, but you know, I bet only Scouters saw it.  Why was it not on TV?  Why did the BSA not contact the major media outlets and networks and have that 10 minute video or parts of it in the main stream media?  10,358 views on Youtube.. and I bet they are all Scout people.  A google search produced hits on the video all associated with Scouting websites, blogs, and of course the National office.
NERDS.
Scouting is for nerds.  Just ask your Scouts.  That’s what they will tell you their classmates think.  I recently sat with one of my Scouts at his Eagle Board of Review.  One of the board members asked him if he thought Scouting was not cool.  He answered that he thought it was cool, but it was not cool to those guys at his high School.  The discussion kept going, “Why do you think that?” the Board member asked.  “Because of what they think we do in Scouts” the Eagle candidate answered.  “What do they think we do?”  “Well, for the most part they think we go camping, but it’s mostly about crafts and artsy stuff.”
Crafts and artsy stuff.  Yep, that is what we have become.
As a Cub Scout I remember doing craftsy stuff.  Soap box derby races, pinewood derby and rockets led the list of cool things that we did as a den.  The craftsy stuff when we got to Boy Scouts was Monkey bridges that actually crossed water.  Signal towers that you could actually climb.  Earning the Paul Bunyan Ax man award and actually chopping down trees.
But that’s all gone now.  In the name of Safety?  Really?  No, in the name of insurance fear.  I am not advocating getting Scouts hurt, but we didn’t then so what’s changed.  We moved away from adventure and got wrapped up in the lowest impact don’t let Tommy Tenderfoot get dirty family camp.
Look at our merit badge program.  Last summer at camp we had more Scouts earn the finger printing merit badge than the canoeing merit badge.  It is what we have become.
We as parents have forgotten that our boys need to be boys.  We as parents have forgotten that getting dirty is part of childhood.  Playing in the woods and coming home when the street lights come on is part of the adventure of being a boy.
We are so afraid that every boy is a victim.  Every boy is fragile and a broken bone is the end of the world.  I once broke two bones in my arm when I was 10.  What was I doing?  Trying to fly.  Not smart, but you know what, I am no worse for ware.
I watched a Patrol mate burn his eye brows off blowing on a camp fire.  A great laugh and no harm done.  I can remember coming home from camp outs and my mom not letting me in the house till I first took all my clothing off and hosed down in the backyard.  I learned, I grew, and I am a better person for it.
I never earned Basketry or the Art merit badge, and if it were around in 1980 I would not have earned the game design merit badge.  game-designI did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges.  Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
OUR STORY.
The Boy Scouts of America has a rich tradition and yes it has undergone many changes since 1910, but our story is the same.  Our Story is still about Character building and Citizenship.  Our Story is still about challenge and finding our limits and growing from experience.  Our Story is still about great outdoor programs.  Our Story is still about adventure and life long learning.  Our Story is cool.  But we don’t tell our story the way we want it heard.  We don’t take the opportunity not to be just another YMCA or after school program, but to be the Boy Scouts of America full of the cool stuff that boys want and need.
We tell the story of numbers and membership, but forget that not everyone wants to be or should be a Scout.  We tell the story of abuse and scandal without telling the story of the million great things going on every week at meetings and on monthly camp outs.
We get excited when we have a mediocre district event and wonder why our Scouts are not better recruiters.  We miss out on telling our story in the media when things are going good.  We miss the boat on getting ahead of bad press and showing the Boy Scouts for what we really are.  We are cool, we are making a difference, we are what we say we are.  But, for a group that prides itself of spinning a great campfire yarn, we don’t do a great job of telling our story.
Some thoughts.  We clean up and get ourselves right.  When we have guests come to our house, we straighten up, vacuum, and maybe even light a candle to make the place smell good.
Scouting needs to do that.  We need to get our leaders to wear their uniform right and agree to deliver the promise of Scouting using the methods.  Leaders need to be trained.
We need to get our Scouts in full uniforms out in the community doing something other than selling popcorn or marching in a parade.  We need to show Scouts doing service and other cool stuff that really makes a difference.
We need to budget for local advertising.  We need to get in the media in a positive light every opportunity we can.
We need to sell adventure… Not just another chess club.  (I have nothing against chess, but we are talking adventure here) Boys want and need adventure.
We need to get with current outdoor practices and try new methods of camping.  It is fun for the boys and increases the challenge for the whole unit.
We need to develop better relationships with the Forest service and Park Rangers.  They are a great resource for Scouting.
Do you want Scouting to be cool?  Then you need to act cool.  You need to be cool.  You need to look cool.  Hey, we are cool… right?
I am tired of the BSA getting beat up for nonsense.  I see so much potential in how we can move ahead to tell our story so we can change the perception of Scouting.  And then, our numbers will go up, boys will stay longer, and we will be cool, not just to us, but to everyone.
Your thoughts?
Have a Great Scouting Day!