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Losing Interest in Scouts BSA

Stephanie sent in this question

My son has just crossed over into Scouts BSA with 11 other boys. Since this group has crossed over in Feb. the boys are dropping out fast. Of the 11 there are 4 or 5 left. The same complaint is being heard by all the parents. The fun is gone. I know Scouts BSA is different than Cubs, but is it supposed to be no fun? Is there a suggestion I can take to the Scoutmaster that might help him keep these boys interested?

The key to fun is letting the youth lead the troop. The PLC  (Senior Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, and Patrol Leaders)  should be planning activities which help Scouts advance but are also fun.  A common problem is that meetings become totally focused on advancement with kids sitting around “working” and getting things checked off.

A better approach is to let the youth leaders first plan what they want to do – a theme for the month for example – and then they can decide how that fits in with advancement and the other methods of Scouting.  They should ask their troopmates what they are interested in doing. Your son and his friends should suggest to the PLC what they would like to do. The Scouts BSA Troop program features are a good start if your PLC is not sure how to do this. These contain a month’s worth of troop meeting plans with a good balance of instruction and fun.

Your youth leaders might need more training also. If your troop is not sending Scouts to National Youth Leadership Training every year, start raising some funds to send a few next year. Our troop tries to send about three every year. They will learn leadership skills and will also come home with a whole set of team building, instructional, and initiative games.

Finally, Scoutmasters are typically overworked and underpaid. 🙂 Very few troops have too many adult leaders. Your youth leaders need a lot of mentoring and help.  I always recommend that adults who really want to improve the troop go to Adult Leader Training (sometimes known as Scoutmaster Training). This is not just for Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters. Training will help the parents understand the program better and know how to help. Both moms and dads can get trained.

Training is important because parents often want to do something to help the program, but without a good understanding of the methods of Scouts BSA they will often introduce ideas which are not consistent with the appropriate methods. This can lead to tension between the Scoutmaster and the  parents. Parents will think that the Scoutmaster is ignoring their input, when in fact he or she might just be trying to run the program the way it is intended to be run. Sometimes the methods of Scouts BSA seem inefficient or just don’t make sense to somebody who is not trained.

I hope that helps. Perhaps some readers can add their input in the comments below.

11 Responses to Losing Interest in Scouts BSA

  1. Carol Bowden July 12, 2013 at 12:41 PM #

    Camp outs that incorporate fun along with advancement are great. Camp near a lake and the boys can fish and earn that merit badge as well. Cooking merit badge is also fun (boys love to eat) so work on that too.

    Each meeting should contain rank advancement work, planning of activities for next outing along with a group game. No boy likes to sit and just talk and work.

    I have 2 boys. One is an Eagle and the other is working on his project for Eagle. When the meetings were boring they didn’t want to go. Scout spirit is lost. It is very important for them to feel needed and accepted and to have some fun activities incorporated into each meeting.

  2. Webelos Mom July 12, 2013 at 1:21 PM #

    I see this happening a lot to our boys that crossover. We are a “feeder pack” to a Boy Scout Troop and everybody goes there. I see them dropping like flies and it bothers me. It bothers me to the point that I do not believe my group will be feeding that troop this year.

    But, what I tell the parents that talk to me about it, is don’t let your son drop out. Visit other troop meetings, ask questions, find out what they do. Not all troops are the same! Some are laid back, some are highly organized, some are into camping, some are into high adventure, there is a troop fit for everyone. It could just be that your son doesn’t fit into this troop. Encourage him to explore elsewhere – perhaps at least two other troops – before letting him walk away. It may just renew his love of scouting and keep him on the path to Eagle.

    • David J. Reiller February 16, 2016 at 4:22 AM #

      According to what I know and I believe that it is correct is that Webelos 2 when they were working on the Arrow of Light portion of Advancement they are supposed to visit at least 3 different Troops to see where they might fit in to. I belong to a Troop that now doesn’t have a feeder Pack . We used to have a feeder associated with our church where we meet but due to not having any Cub Scout aged boys around us we had to drop the Pack. With that being said I wish that Packs that might be somewhat close to us would visit so we could keep the inflow of new Scouts but seeing we don’t we have only a few boys and we might one day close up our Troop also. So getting back to replying to your comment urge your Webelos if you can to look around and see what could be a better choice for them to join and continue on their adventure we call Scouting.

  3. Melissa Wilcoxen July 12, 2013 at 6:28 PM #

    Each troop has a personality. The key is to find a troop that is a good match for your son. There is a troop that some of our weblos went to it was tradition at every camp out that a pre sunset game of flag football took place. The boys that chose this troop loved the idea…but that was the reason my son chosr to join a different troop. Also get involve yourself and change it up….

  4. Shanae Ames August 7, 2013 at 11:14 AM #

    Buy a copy of the book “I Thought Scout Uniforms Were Fireproof: Putting the Fun in Scouting”. Tell your Scoutmaster that you just read a great book about scouting and you thought he/she might enjoy reading it too, and lend it to him. It’s a great book, with a lot of ideas on how to improve pretty much every aspect of scouting, especially making it more fun. (Note: it was written by an LDS Scoutmaster, but the LDS Church is only mentioned a couple of times, indirectly).
    I’ll be buying this book and lending it out to every scouter I come in contact with (since I’m the CS Roundtable Comm. that’s a lot of scouters LOL), and using a lot of the ideas in my own pack. Good luck to you!

  5. Lee Murray August 28, 2013 at 2:48 PM #

    My son joined a Troop 6 months ago. I jumped into assist after I realized that our Scoutmaster like to talk about doing stuff. A lot. A few dads got together and we decided that our boy’s patrol would become the “Doing Patrol”, not the “Talking Patrol”. The boys do not like sitting around and talking about what they are going to do. We have organized several activities which we invited the other patrols to join; Backpacking, Orienteering, Wilderness Survival, to name a few. All of our patrol will reach 1st Class by the end of the year. All of a sudden we are spending less time talking, and more time having fun!

    If the Troop isn’t suiting your needs, you might also look around for another Troop that is more aligned with your son’s interests. I know of a family in our area that switched troops 3 times before settling in a really well-organized troop.

    Good luck!

  6. MaryAnn July 30, 2016 at 10:04 AM #

    Our Troop does a variety of activities; enough to keep boys with various interests involved – if they wanted to, in addition to weekly Troop meetings, boys could attend one, two, sometimes three other activities in a week – from camping, to hiking, to biking, rock climbing, kayaking, white water rafting, summer camp, car washes, service projects, Eagle Scout service projects, and more…… I agree with the folks who suggest visiting several Troops in your area to find the one that “fits” your son best – I am lucky that my boys chose wisely. As a den leader to my younger son’s Webelos den, I made sure the boys visited around – and did not push anyone into joining the Troop my older son was already in.

    Proud mom of an Eagle Scout and a Life Scout (who have both been in Scouting since becoming Tigers in first grade)

  7. Chuck April 27, 2017 at 8:18 AM #

    Wow…our family is struggling with this issue. My oldest was so gung-ho about Scouts and is a Life Scout as a seventh grader. However, the troop has a new Scoutmaster and assistant, and their only concern seems to be disclipline/work. For instance, on a recent camping weekend, they spent nearly all day Saturday cleaning tents. The ONLY “fun” activity was a hike; the kids were constantly called down when they tried to throw a football or frisbee.
    My kids are starting to seriously pull away; they are already resisting ANY activity for which they don’t get advancements or merit badges.
    Is this the new focus for Scouts? The new Scoutmaster is complaining that kids get their Eagle and disappear… like he can’t see the forest for the trees. Kids can’t wait to get out of there!

    • JOSEPH October 11, 2017 at 3:19 AM #

      May need to say something to the Scoutmaster or just go find a new troop.

  8. Scout Dad January 3, 2018 at 10:04 PM #

    It’s not just a problem with scouts. The cultural/system change can affect former Cub Scout leaders as well since in Cub Scouts there is an enormous need and opportunity for adult involvement there. But at the troop level I was hardly utilized at all. Some leaders are fine with this level of involvement, but I quit as an ASM just shy of a year.

  9. Anonymous May 5, 2018 at 6:29 PM #

    As a boy scout, I can say that I don’t remember half the stuff I get taught because it’s boring 90% of the time and not usually needed in my life.

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