scouts-l Mail Archive for April of 2000: Re: How to "Shape Up Troop" (long)
MAJ) Mike Walton (settummanque, the blackeagle (blkeagle@USSCOUTS.ORG
Tue Apr 06 1993 - 18:45:52 CDT
Kris Swank asked:
>My husband took over as Scoutmaster of a small town troop that has been
>said was always a "maverick".
>He has been trying very hard to get the Troop with the program, boy run
>the boys are fighting him tooth and nail.
They are fighting him, Kris, because they don't believe that this guy is
actually going to let them do what they want to do. That's natural...after
having years in which things were handed to you and you were told "now we're
going to do this", and this guy is coming in now and saying "What do you
want to do today?" the first reaction is going to be "let's sit on our
bottoms and wait until his fantasy is over...and things will be back to
normal and they'll leave us be with this "boy-run stuff"."
He has to establish the LEADERSHIP of that Troop as THE LEADERSHIP. As I've
wrote here several times in the past, he cannot do it merely by saying that
"okay, guys...we're NOW a "Boy-run" Troop!!" Wood Badge will help him
toward things he need to do to re-establish the Troop.
Let's start at the top: Your husband should have a person-to-person
(remember YPP!) talk with the boy that is currently "senior patrol leader".
In this talk, your husband needs to tell the senior patrol leader that "You
are the leader of this Troop. I am not. I am here to keep you all safe and
healthy, and to provide some guidance to you. I will not do your work for
you anymore. I will not provide your program for you unless you want me
to...and you will have to
ASK ME to do so. I will only come to your assistance when you need it.
You, are the leader of this Troop. You run the meetings. You manage the
activities. You TELL ME what the Troop's going to do based on what your
Patrol Leaders and other Troop officers tell you that they want to do. "
The kid is first, going to be scared because your husband will probably do a
bit of yelling. That's fine. Let him yell a BIT. The kid is next going to
be defensive, because the previous Scoutmaster never talked to him like
this...and will probably say something about his "lack of training" or "Mr.
So-and-so always did things".
Your husband's response should be "This is YOUR TROOP. Your fellow Scouts
picked YOU to lead it. Therefore, YOU TELL ME what you need to do and what
the Troop would LIKE to do and together, we'll see about doing it."
Stay positive, even when the kid says stuff like "I don't want this...I'll
quit!" (remember when you were younger and your parents told you that you
have to do something and you informed them that "you weren't going to do it
and they can't make you?" Excluding my mom (who knocked me into the middle
of next week when I said that to her!), most parents replied "Fine. I won't
make you. But don't expect ME to do YOUR work for you." and stuck with it.
Eventually, we wore down and came out and did the task (for one reason or
Next, your Troop's parents need to be told what's going on. Parents are
great....they will reinforce things you tell them to. They need to be told
that Scouting is all about making mistakes and learning from them. It's
about learning how to follow and lead. It's about the idea of "citizenship
in a room". So, your husband need to let them know that.
Finally, although he's getting the training, the youth leaders and his
Assistant Scoutmasters need some of that training too, Kris....they need to
all be on the same sheet of paper, working down the same street.
>The old Scoutmaster would cancel campouts if there was even a strong
prediction >of rain. This past weekend we had a very wet campout and this
evening at the >Troop Meeting the boys complained bitterly.
Let them complain!! Any good "drill sergeant" will tell you that if they've
complaining, then all's well. If they stop complaining, then you've got
trouble because they don't feel free enough to complain......
>When he tries to teach the Spl and Patrol Leaders something to pass on to
the >boys he is resisted by at least one of the Patrol Leaders. The boys
want to make >campouts into hazing and play time.
The hazing part needs to be CUT IMMEDIATELY OUT, Kris. Period. Send them
home if they can't deal. Play time is good, but set up some time UNDER THE
LEADERSHIP OF THE SENIOR PATROL LEADER to do that playtime.
And SUPERVISE IT until he feels confortable in the ability and control span
of the Troop's Senior Patrol Leader.
>There were complaints that they couldn't spend the whole time
>fishing and puttering around in the canoes. They don't want to cook and
So who do they want to do the cooking and the Kitchen Police (KP)? Mom??
Dad?? The Scoutmaster? NOOOOOOOOO!! No "policing", no eating.
Why Mike Walton!! You would have them to STARVE to make a point?? You
betcha!! Dirty dishes and pots and pans attract bugs, disease. If they
don't clean their dishes, all they are doing is shoving nasty things into
their bodies, which will come out one orifice or another (maybe not right
away...but perhaps when they are on the school bus come Monday or in their
afternoon class!!) -- sometimes out of BOTH AT THE SAME TIME!!
So, I would side on the cautious side and insist on cleanings before we
press on with the next meal. Scouts are not as good cleaners than adults,
but they will learn that if you eat, you have to clean up.
And I've got another clue for your hubby going through Wood Badge: they are
going to teach him how to prepare some meals that take up LITTLE CLEANUP
(which means a little more time for activity)!!
>They want to play War, complete with tying up captured enemy and
>drop tents on each other (the tying and dropping both expressly
Then they don't want to be Scouts. Period. They want to play war games.
Your husband need to establish that he is in charge of a Scout Troop, not a
"junior army club." While Scouting's roots do go back to the military,
Scouting is NOT about "wargaming". If they don't want to deal with that, I'm
sure that there are other groups that they can be a part of in town.
>At Troop meetings it is very hard to keep most of the boys
>attention or keep them on task. The SPL tries hard but the kids for the
>most part won't listen or pay attention and the of the 2 Patrol Leaders
>one is ineffectual and the other is a rabble rouser. The Troop is small,
>about 15 registered, and very few of the kids are dependable. A classic
>situation of "Baby Sitters of America" at times.
Been there, Kris. What stops the "baby sitting" is a program that THEY "buy
into". That takes a little time, but eventually, they will consider
themselves the leaders. See, they don't really "see themselves" as being
"in charge". They have a lot of bark but no bite. And when they do bite,
they don't know how to bite in the right places to effect change on the part
of the kids in their Patrol or Troop. That's where the youth leader
training and the adult coaching the youth come into play.
>The frustration level after a weekend campout is very high and we are
beginning to >dread the next one.
First, re-read what I wrote and what others have wrote in regard to your
situation, Kris. Second, one of the things I do after every activity and
event is that I sit down with my Senior Patrol Leader and ask him how HE
thought the meeting went and how HE thinks it could have been better. You
would be really surprised at the level of honesty that you'll get from this
young man...the level will depend on whether or not he feels that he IS the
Troop's leader or your husband's "beat up man".
Second, after every "frustrating event", take yourselves out to do something
outside of Scouting WITH your uniforms still on. For me and my wife at that
time, it was bowling, because the bowling alley was open all night long and
there's usually a lot more open lanes on Sunday evening. You end up
forgetting most of the frustrating part and will find yourselves thinking of
the positives of the event or activity.
Why "with your uniforms on"? Because believe me, you will find ways to
demonstrate what Scouting is all about, and that will help your own
self-esteem as well as remind people out there that "hey...we have Scouts in
Third, FORGET ALL ABOUT those neatly conducted, highly motivated meetings on
those Scouting videotapes. I've always threatened to make my OWN version of
those training tapes, buy those secret cameras they use on "20/20" or "60
Minutes" and insert my OWN text about how "Scouting is NOT perfect and
doesn't have to be...to be effective"....I don't know of a single Troop that
is youth-led that doesn't have some control problems, which is what your
posting is really about. There's always a couple of Scouts that want to
"test out the system" and those knuckleheads are usually some of the
highest-ranking Scouts in your Troop. You can't hit them with a
slingshot....and you can't yell at them until you're hoarse. What you can
do with them is try your hardest to show them that you mean business and
they need to either get with the new program, or go someplace else.
You HAVE to be blunt, Kris. You can't say one week "You guys are in charge"
and the next week YANK it all back from them saying "You can't handle it!"
You have to MAKE THE TRANSITION AND THEN SET TO MAKE IT WORK IN YOUR TROOP'S
Finally, develop your own "Troop identity". This is how the Troop will be
"seen" to the outside, and will help to "shape" your Troop into what you
want it to be. That "style" will enable you to reform the Troop into what
the BSA says is what a Troop Operation is all about, yet allow your youth to
establish the fact that "Our Troop is different from all of the others
because...." of whatever.
Hope that my comments along with others is of help to you, Kris!!
Let us all know how things go....and tell your hubby to stick with it!
You're both doing GREAT!!