How Can You Have a Youth Led Troop When the Scouts Are All New?

New Scouting Mom sent in this question:

Six girls wanted to become involved in Scouting and found a chartering organization that is willing to sponsor them, where they are linked to a boy’s troop and share a committee. All the adults involved with the girl’s troop have no previous scouting experience including the Scout Master, who also has no camping experience. The chartering organization has provided the girl’s troop a table in a small room that is also used as a storage closet and does not have space for interactive activities.

So far the boy’s troop has not shared their equipment nor sent any troop guides or experienced Assistant Scout Masters to help equip or train the new start-up girl’s troop. The committee has given assurances of support but little else. What leaders in the boy’s troop and linked committee have done is advise the girl’s Scout Master that a troop is scout run and it is up to the scouts to plan and execute the troop’s program and if they do not the Scout Master has a “judiciary responsibility to let them fail”, which the girl’s Scout Master has embraced whole heartily.

To run the troop, the Scout Master has had the girls (three of which are still recruits and three have earned the Scout rank) take on leadership positions; one Senior Patrol Leader, two Patrol Leaders, and two Assistant Patrol leaders. At every troop meeting the girls sit around the table while the Scout Master suggests to the senior patrol leader what needs to be done, ‘The patrols need to work on rank advancement, choose a merit badge to work on, practice camping skills, plan a trip…’ then waits for the scouts to follow through.

The girls have tried, but without experienced scouts in leadership positions to model how to plan a scouting year, run troop meetings or plan a trip, and troop trainers to instruct new scouts in camping skills, like established troops have, things have come to a stand still. The result is the troop, which organized in May of last year, has not been doing much of anything, the girls do not understand the program and just want to have fun. The parents of the girl’s troop would like to see them getting out and doing things to keep them interested in Scouting, but without follow through nothing is moving forward. S

o at the last troop meeting one of the girl’s Assistant Scout Masters tried to assist by talking up a camping trip and going over a packing list. The Scout Master became infuriated and yelled at the Assistant Scout Master, because it was the responsibility of the scouts not the adults to do this. When the other Assistant Scout Master and parents interjected that the girls do not understand the program yet and need support until they are ready to take on the necessary leadership responsibilities, the Scout Master insisted the girls can do it. When asked what if they don’t do it, the Scout Master hollered back, “Then let them fail!” And, he really meant it.

I though the practice Scouting BSA endorsed is modeling and scaffolding, and that it is up to the Scout Master and adults, to get the program up and running then bring the Scouts into leadership positions when they are ready. And, that the Scout Handbook is the go to for the Scouting program, which indicates scouts working on the ranks of Star, Life, and Eagle are required to hold a leadership position in their troop for six months, but new recruits through First Class are not required to be involved in leadership positions, instead they are supposed to be learning about Scout methods, going on camping trips, and learning outdoor skills. Receiving less than minimal support from the chartering organization, committee, and linked troop, it is hard to get a little unit up and running. The girls are bored, the parents have lost confidence in the scout master, and the troop is at a stand still. What can be done before everyone losses faith in the scouting program?

I am all for the youth-led troop. But you have to work with the capabilities and experience of your youth. Without any example of previous youth leaders, they are going to need more help.

I think these brand new Scouts are going to need more support to get going. Think of the EDGE method. You wouldn’t start with the “Enable” step, which it sounds like what is happening here. Explain, demonstrate and guide have to come first, and that will take some time..

They can still learn leadership and make some decisions without being set up to fail. They are trailblazers and should be celebrated as such.

Gradually they should be given more and more responsibility, but early on they are going to need more support. Once they have some experience and training, then they can do more.

It would be unfortunate to see these girls turned off of Scouting. Adult leaders should be there to encourage, support, and mentor. Growth will come and leadership skills will develop, but they need to be nurtured. Then they can be good examples for the next group of young ladies who join the troop.

Readers, what do you think? Add your comments below.


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2 responses to “How Can You Have a Youth Led Troop When the Scouts Are All New?”

  1. Jon Tapply Avatar
    Jon Tapply

    I am a Scoutmaster for a troop of boys that most have special needs or the young scouts have no experience.They have various conditions that limit their social or cognitive ability. These boys are leaders of the troop. I tell them all; “Every Scout is a Leader”. WE practice this.
    But I take a Leader mentor role in working with them. I tell them; “I will not let you fail”. While lessons are learned from failures, it is true only if failures are used constructively. It is the SM’s role to make all scouts believe they can succeed, not fail.
    Scout led troops have to be based on the abilities of the scouts. If the scouts need more mentoring to be successful it is up to the adult leaders to provide this. The end goal is a troop of scouts enjoying the process of scouting, advancing and growing. The goal should always be to have the scouts take on more responsibility but teaching and mentoring and guiding should be an active process.

  2. Edmund J. Rainsford Avatar

    Having been a Scout in the 1960s, and earning Eagle in 1963, the description of the case study was not how it was done then. Based upon some reading, this “boy-led/girl-led” mantra seems to have emerged in the 1990s after the failed 1980s “disco-era” of Scouting. Go back and read Baden Powell and “Green Bar Bill “ and their tenets . Scouts should lead when they are ready. It is a continuum.
    The absolute hazing” of “boy-led/girl-led” for those not ready to lead, is nothing more than a perversion of the BSA program. It is a cop out for lazy adults, many of whom were “never there nor done that” as youths, and a salve to their own egos.

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