scouts-l Mail Archive for April of 2000: Re: How to "Shape Up Troop"? (longish)
Neil Lupton (NeilLup@AOL.COM
Wed Apr 05 2000 - 19:28:18 CDT
Maybe one of the things they didn't tell you at Wood Badge is "Anyone can be
a leader for an easy Troop. The way you can tell a good Scouter is that
they are willing to take on a tough one."
You have received some excellent suggestions and I only wanted to add a few
1) Life is too short to do things which you dread as you said you dread
going on your next campout. You need to make a major change in the culture
of your Troop and, from what you have said, I believe you cannot make it
gradually. I suggest that you identify what you think the Troop conduct
should and make a straightforward set of rules and code of conduct for
meetings and campouts. Then sit the Troop down and in a very short but
clear meeting, lay it out and say "This is how our Troop is going to be! If
there is anyone who does not want to follow these rules or who believes that
there is some other Troop that you would enjoy more, I will give you a
transfer this evening. But after this moment, these will be the rules and
anyone who does not want to follow them is unwelcome."
And mean it. When you identify boys not following your rules, have a series
of sanctions ending up with calling their parents and being suspended from
campouts and meetings. This is the stick.
2) You also need the carrot. Boys like praise and like being rewarded.
Be sure they get plenty of reward and praise for doing good Scouting. If
there is a Camporee coming up, be sure to go. Target doing well at the
Camporee for a couple of months and prepare the boys for the skills they will
need. Even if you have only four or five boys who want to go, take them and
have them compete and do well. And praise them to the skies at the next
meetings and Court of Honor.
Be sure that the good Scouts get plenty of opportunity for advancement and
that the problem Scouts know that their performance needs to improve. When
advancement comes, praise the boys to the skies.
3) You say that the boys only want to have war but really, that is substantia
lly what wide games are. Be sure that there is a wide game (with
appropriate rules) planned and played at each campout. However, you may want
to make playing it for each Scout be contingent upon their good behavior.
4) I expect some flaming now because there will be leaders suggesting, quite
correctly, that I am not following boy leadership. That is accurate.
However, to achieve boy leadership, you need to have a starting place and I
am quite troubled by the "Lord of the Flies" culture you describe. I
believe that you will need to sterilize completely your current Troop culture
and build up the new culture which you want to have. That will likely mean
eliminating your current patrols and then rebuilding them.
I might be inclined to eliminate your current patrols and tell your curent
Troop boy officers that they no longer hold their positions (explain why to
the ones who are good leaders. Tell them that during this period, they will
be considered Troop Instructors so they will not lose Leadership time for
advancement.) Then on your next campout, break the boys into patrols and
have a skilled adult serve for just this campout as the Patrol Leader for the
patrol. Have a patrol campsite, proper meal rotation, cooking by Scouts,
cleanup, and interpatrol competition with a prizes for the winners. The
idea is to set a very detailed example of how you want Troop campouts to be
and what you expect the boy leaders to do. At the end of the campout, hold
a Reflection on what happened and why, how they liked it, what they liked and
didn't like, etc.
It may well be that only some of your boys go on this campout. If so, make
it the best show they have ever seen. You might want to have one or more
meetings with these same patrols if it seems to be working.
Then reform your patrols and have a reselection of Patrol Leaders. Be VERY
careful as you do this. If you believe, for example, that there are certain
boys who will try to torpedo your reorganization, you might want to consider
appointing the PLs or designating who can run. The key message is that YOU
are running the Troop at this time, not the previous leadership and that boy
leadership is something they have to earn and will only come in gradual
stages as they prove they have earned it and can handle it.
I would assign an adult as a counselor to each PL and to the SPL. It is
possible that your PLs will not be the natural leaders, so they may need some
Then keep working on it. Hold a Troop JLT for these PLs and SPL. Show them
how to do it. Don't let them try to do too much at once. It isn't fair to
ask first graders to do high school algebra.
Give plenty of praise and reward as the boys do things right. Take aside
the boys who are fighting it and again, give them the choice of following
the program or transferring out.
Many boys may leave. That is regrettable. But they stayed with the
previous leadership and previous culture because that was what they liked.
They may not like the Scout way. And if so, they may leave and probably
Over time, and I suspect it may take 1-2 years, you will get the type of
Troop which you wish. There is some small possibility that so many boys
will leave in the short term that the Troop will fall below the minimum
number. Build it up then with an outstanding program and solid recruiting.
Much of what one learns about Troop leadership is the equivalent in first aid
of a cut on the finger or even good nutrition to avoid problems. But you
have some serious problems. You have the Troop equivalent of arterial
bleeding or at least serious poisoning. So you need some serious leadership
and organizational first aid.
5) One final though. It is totally correct and proper for a husband/wife
pair to be the leadership of the Troop. However, I can tell you that
situation is now being commented on by the older boys in the Troop. From an
organizational point of view, husband/wife don't really have the same impact
as two totally disinterested parties. So I would recommend getting at least
one other adult from outside your family to participate routinely as part of
your Troop adult leadership. I believe that will help you more rapidly make
the changes you wish.
Needless to say, this is all my opinion. Please feel free to incorporate,
change, disregard or ignore as you see fit.
And thank you for undertaking the challenge of such a tough Troop. I hope
that you have a great deal of fun.