A Question about Developing Youth Leadership in an All-New Troop
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.
So 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?
My Thoughts on Developing Youth Leadership in an All-New Troop
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, these all-new Scouts are going to need more help. Lets break it down and look at the issues.
Issue 1: Lack of Experience and Support
The newly-formed girl’s troop is struggling due to inexperience and limited support from the boy’s troop and the chartering organization. The situation seems to be rooted in the insistence that the all-new troop should be youth-led without providing necessary guidance.
Training and Collaboration The Scoutmaster and other adults should undertake training in scouting methods, camping skills, and leadership. Collaboration with other experienced troops for guidance, support, and sharing of equipment could bridge the knowledge and experience gap.
Misunderstanding of Youth-Led Approach
There appears to be a misunderstanding of the youth-led model. The Scoutmaster is pushing the girls into leadership positions without guidance, leading to stagnation and frustration.
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.
Gradual Leadership Development A progressive approach to leadership should be adopted. Starting with guidance and training, followed by incremental delegation of responsibility, can foster a more successful youth-led environment. 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.
Even though they are an all-new troop, they can still learn leadership and make some decisions without being set up to fail. They are trailblazers and should be celebrated as such.
Lack of Space and Equipment
The troop is confined to a small space that is not conducive to interactive activities, and there is a lack of shared equipment from the boy’s troop.
Negotiate Shared Resources and Explore Alternatives Open communication and negotiation with the boy’s troop and the chartering organization for sharing resources should be prioritized. Exploring alternative locations or outdoor venues for activities can also address the space constraint.
Parental Concern and Loss of Confidence
The parents are concerned and losing faith in the Scoutmaster due to the lack of progress.
Parental Engagement and Communication Parents should be kept informed and involved in the progress of the troop. Regular communication and transparency can help rebuild trust and confidence in the leadership.
By addressing these issues with targeted solutions, the girl’s troop can overcome current obstacles and blossom into a successful, youth-led troop. Collaboration, proper training, gradual leadership development, shared resources, and clear communication will foster growth and success. It’s essential to celebrate these trailblazers, provide them with the support they need, and nurture their skills and enthusiasm for scouting.
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 about encouraging leadership in an all-new troop?
The emphasis on youth leadership in Scouts BSA is a fundamental concept that’s being navigated by the all-new girl’s troop mentioned in the article. With all-new Scouts and adult leaders, the challenge is finding the balance between guiding and allowing the youth to lead. The Scout Master’s insistence on a youth-run approach, without proper scaffolding, has resulted in a standstill. While the principle of youth leadership is crucial, the all-new troop’s experience highlights the importance of gradual development, support, and guidance. The adults’ role in an all-new troop should include modeling and mentoring to ensure that the youth are truly empowered to lead.