Scoutmaster Musings - Scout Explosion

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Scoutmaster Musings

Scout Explosion
Since 2002, our troop has been gradually growing - from around 20 to 55 scouts. Throughout each year, some drop along the way, some age out, and then each spring we get an influx of new scouts. Pretty typical.

This year, 30 Webelos chose to join the troop - about double the average for the past few years. This has popped us up to 84 scouts.

Fortunately, I've been pushing to move from our cramped meeting area for awhile and we just got that to happen on March 1st. Now, we're overflowing this new, larger area already. :-)

Logistically, adding the new guys has gone very well:

But, my feeling is that a troop over 40 or 50 is less healthy and should become two troops:

Just this weekend, a patrol organized a "Bike Rally" campout for the troop. We had over 40 bikes congesting the 20 miles of trail at a local park. They did a great job of having patrols spaced 5 minutes apart so we weren't a huge mass, but I'm sure we disrupted the morning of quite a few people on the trail - much more than 20 bikes would have don.

I realize there are some very large troops that operate in a way that works for them. There are two troops using Troop Kit that have over 100 scouts. I would love to visit them and see how they have scouts manage the troop.

In my case, I believe a smaller group offers more opportunity to the scouts and allows them a better chance at ongoing success with less stress and frustration. By this time next year I expect to have a plan to divide the troop into two units. Since we have age-based patrols and multiple patrols at most age levels, the actual division is pretty easy. Getting families and the troop committee to support the change will be the challenge. It may be that someone else will be comfortable supporting a group this large and will take over the scoutmaster position. We'll see.

Until then, we've got an exciting summer of hiking, backpacking, sailing, and camping starting up and 50 scouts going to summer camp. It's an exciting time!

Scout On
Posted: 7:18 04-21-2010 494
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 Apr 21, 2010 - Brian Nielson
3 thoughts-
First of all - You must have done a great job of presenting to these boys. This is a great problem to have.

Second - I think your instinct about too many is right, I remember at Woodbadge (1998) they presented that the ideal size was between 23 & 30- which allows for 4 patrols of 4-8 boys. Enough to lead, compete, & support each other, but small enough that most are needed.

Third- Consider the rarely used, oft misunderstood, hidden jewel in the Scouting family-- Varsity Scouts. Originally conceived in LDS units (about the only place you see them), Varsity Teams are like the older brother of Scout Troops. Longer Program focus (3mos v. 1 mo) Increased boy leadership (more positions, direct program responsibilities, boy created program v. boy led program). A second advancement program begins and runs parallel to Eagle advancement, which is still a component.

I'd be happy to comment more.
Apr 21, 2010 - Clarke Green
We have picked up 16 new scouts so far this spring effectively increasing the Troop by 50% - a very big deal.

I think you have the right idea in dividing into two units. Chester County Council (my council) is in the top five percentile of council's with troops of thirty or more scouts. We have several 60+ troops. These are not impossible (you note several troops of 100+) but there's definitely a scale to scouting. There are effective maximum and minimum sizes - 3 does not make a patrol, 12 are too many. I have hit what I believe is the effective maximum for a troop at 45-50 Scouts.

Much bigger and you begin to experience the effects you note, the point where a second unit makes a lot of sense
Apr 21, 2010 - Tricia
Our troop numbers just under 200 scouts and just over 200 scouters. We have a great program but believe me it takes time and organization! I don't feel that any of our scouts suffer in fact in every BOR that I have been on the question is always asked "What do you like about this troop?" the answer is always something to the tune of "I like that there is always something to do to stay busy." We have been a troop continuesly for 83 years. We have a great first year scout program that is run by our older scouts. Our scoutmaster knows each and every one of our scouts and makes sure to talk to everyone that is at the troop meeting. Yes you did see that we have more scouters than scouts. We have enough scouters at every meeting to run at least 3 BOR plus the store, advancment, recharter, cashiers, eagle coaches, patrol advisors, fundraising chair, outdoor chair, quatermaster, chaplain, and alot more adult positions. Most of these positions have a scout assigned to them and the adult is just the mentor. We still have our problems and when they come up they are addressed and solved, most of the time by the scouts.

So you see a troop of 50 is no big deal. It just takes organization to make it run the way it should.
Apr 21, 2010 - Mark
I personally don't think a Troop has a serious problem until the go past the 100 person mark, this is for a couple of couple of reasons. The first reason is that I have noticed the statistic of only about 50% of the boys will be available for activities and such. This may be higher or lower but I have worked with three different boy scout units and this stat has held true in all three. Next it gives the opporttunity to have your patrol leaders actually do the work, in a unit, which is the primary purpose of the patrol method. Remember that BP and the BSA has always encouraged patrol outings,look at G2SS and Patrol leader handbook.

I do not like small units because then you are always needing the same people to stay in the same position and if that happens burnout happens very quickly. I know from experience because I worked with a Troop that only had 10 active boys and about 20 on the roster, and it was always pulling teeth to get someone to even think about taking on a leadership position.

That is my 2 cents about what I think.
Apr 22, 2010 - Ron
1) The SPL should add a couple of ASPLs (and give each a speciality, game time, instruction time, campfires, tent inspection, etc)
2) SM needs to put and ASM for mentoring Life to Eagle, and ASM on troop guides, etc.
3) The high school boys should definitely get a venture or varsity designation and have 2 or 3 events for them exclusively.
4) Every high school age boy first class or over should have a leadership position.
5) Involve the adults.
6) Take it outside for meetings in the spring and fall occassionally.
Apr 22, 2010 - Milt Smith
Comming from a troop that started around nine scouts, shot up to over 75, and then had there charter pulled for having to few scouts all in a matter of ten years, dont make any moves to soon it might be just a flash in the pan. You may want to use your ASMs and your JASMs to take the load off your Scout Master, and you ASPL to free up your SPL. give it a couple years and if you continue to stay above 60 scouts then split.
Jul 01, 2010 - Ben Dibble
Why do you have so many Scouts? Is it low attrition, or is it big incoming classes of Webelos?

There's a Troop in our area that has around 80 Scouts. I wondered what they were doing right that I was doing wrong. Then I found they get 20 Webs crossing every year, and have the same attrition I have. So their program isn't making the difference, their size is due to the pack size.

I'd love to see your thoughts on this. thanks, Ben Dibble
SM T21
Hudson, NH
Jul 01, 2010 - Scoutmaster Paul
We exploded because of a huge group of Webelos this spring. But, we've been consistently, gradually growing for the past few years anyway. I believe the gradual growth is because I ask the SPL and Troop Guides to really work on attrition. Two Troop Guide goals are to lose no new scouts and have every new scout reach Tenderfoot by September - it doesn't always happen.

Cub Scouts can go to any troop they want (normally) so if your troop needs more scouts, there's a lot you can do for recruiting - Den Chiefs, Scout Skills Day, have Eagle Scouts visit a den meeting, ... - and be open and welcoming to the Cub parents.
We don't recruit into our troop, but we do recruit Boy Scouts. We have a Scoutorama day and make sure all the Webelos den leaders know that their scouts can visit us any time for their Arrow of Light requirements.

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