As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Developing Youth Leadership in an All-New Troop

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.

Final Thoughts

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?

Scouts BSA Youth Leadership Positions Video

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best approach to leadership in an all-new troop?

In an all-new troop, leadership should focus on guided learning and gradual delegation of responsibilities. Since everything is all new to both the Scouts and the leaders, training and collaboration with experienced troops can be valuable.

How do you develop leadership skills in an all-new Scout troop?

For an all-new Scout troop, leadership skills can be developed by following methods like the EDGE method, which emphasizes explaining, demonstrating, and guiding before enabling. Since everything is all new, patience, practice, and encouragement are key.

How can parents be involved in leadership for an all-new troop?

Parents’ engagement can be vital in an all-new troop. Open communication, regular updates, and invitations to participate in activities can build trust and support, which is essential when everything is all new.

What are the challenges faced in leadership of an all-new troop, and how can they be overcome?

Leadership in an all-new troop can face challenges such as inexperience, lack of resources, and misunderstandings about the youth-led model. Addressing these with training, collaboration, gradual leadership development, and clear communication can make the all-new experience successful.

How can Scouts in an all-new troop be encouraged to take on leadership roles?

In an all-new troop, encouragement for leadership can come from proper guidance, role modeling, and providing opportunities to lead under supervision. Celebrating successes and learning from failures can also motivate all-new Scouts to embrace leadership roles.


3 responses to “Developing Youth Leadership in an All-New Troop”

  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
    Edmund J. Rainsford

    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.

  3. Scouter Eric Avatar
    Scouter Eric

    This is an old post but I’ll answer anyway to encourage those starting a new girls troop in 2023. These problems can be solved! We were in the exact same situation when we started our all-girls troop in 2019. Everyone was new, none of the scouts understood the scouting program, so we couldn’t be “scout led”. We found the solution, and grew rapidly to our current size of 56 female scouts.

    The first thing is for the adults to quickly educate themselves on the scouting program and how it works. We were lucky in that we had some excellent male alumni scout leaders from another troop who all had daughters and were committed to helping our troop get off the ground. Find at least one of those, it will save you a lot of time. BUT, it’s OK if you can’t! You can educate yourself comprehensively in about 2 weeks if you dedicate your evening hours to the task. There are a series of excellent, comprehensive, though slightly boring online training available on

    It’s well worth it. Go through the modules for 1) troop committee, 2) Assistant Scoutmaster, and 3) Scoutmaster. Read the first 50 pages or so of the official scout manual, and thumb through the rest. If you want a successful troop, get yourself educated.

    If you have a supportive linked troop you can also sit down for multiple coffee meetings and get questions answered. It sounds like this new scouter mom’s sponsoring organization was not super helpful, which is a shame, but that’s fine, you don’t really need their help if you educate yourself.

    If the Scoutmaster doesn’t know anything about camping, they need to recruit another adult leader who DOES know about camping, and make them the Assistant Scoutmaster for Outings, to get things rolling. Ideally somebody who has experience in scouts BSA. This can be a dad from the linked troop. As long as you have 1 female adult leader along for every outing, you’ll still be in compliance for the Youth Protection Policies. If you can’t find such a person, sign up for “wood badge” adult training (amazing training all your leaders should do if you can find it) with your local council. The tricky thing is that most councils only offer this once per year, so it may have to wait. Find an experienced camper if you can. Additionally, your scout manual is an excellent “how to camp, what to bring.” manual.

    You don’t need to buy a bunch of stuff, if you live near an REI you can rent most things.

    Next, before you really get the troop going you need more scouts. Ask for each scout to “bring a friend” and double in size. They don’t even need to know what they’re signing up for yet, just tell them you’ll go camping and ziplining and putt-putt golf & earn badges and have fun. Good enough for now. You can do all those things and more. Having fun is the key. If they don’t have fun, they won’t come back, and you won’t have a troop. So focus on having fun and bringing friends to build momentum before you work on all the rest of the scouting program. Get to 12. You need critical mass to have a proper troop, and 12 is a good number for momentum. We had several “pre-formation outings” to build momentum and launched our troop with 24 scouts. Our pre-formation outings were putt-putt, a rafting day trip, and a cabin camping overnight.

    I highly recommend your first overnight outing be a Cabin camping outing. We are in an urban area so we decided to ease them into the idea of camping. We did this and it was a massive hit. The girls all had a great time. We built a fire, cooked awesome food, did fun outdoor activities, then everyone retired to their comfy cabins, slept in beds, or stayed up all night talking. That first outing bonded the troop in a powerful way, and whet their appetite for more. Ease them into it.

    Do an easy backpacking trip next, like a 1 mile flat hike to a spectacular spot in a national forest, so they can be by themselves. Don’t go to a campground next to a bunch of RV’s. Get away from crowds. Soon enough they’ll be ready for longer or harder trips. After our launch we did an overnight every month, and within 6 months we had 24 scouts sign up for Survival Night, (look up the requirements for the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge) and they loved it, because they were ready.

    Note, we were careful to make sure it wasn’t going to rain on any of those initial 3 trips, and the survival night. We would have cancelled if the forecast was grim. Keep those early trips as pure fun as possible, with minimal suffering. There’s plenty of time for scouts to experience “type 2 fun” and suffer a little bit, later on. Early momentum is critical.

    Now, the reality is, you will not have a fully functioning “Scout Led” troop during the first year. Recognize that. For the first year or so, your scout officers (Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leaders) won’t have any idea what they’re doing. So your Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster will have to model the behavior you want the scouts to do. You’re using the EDGE method as the 1st reply said. Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable (I like to say “Encourage” as well)

    What you CAN do is make sure the weekly meetings are FUN and the outings are FUN, by suggesting a big menu of fun activities and letting the scouts choose what they want to do, which may include their own ideas. (We had 1 meeting which was purely Dance Dance revolution.) Ideally, you don’t want to focus too much time on advancement initially. just get them outside doing fun things that also happen to fulfull a few requirements now & then. Having an ASM focus on advancement planning through first class is helpful.

    After a year, the NEXT elected patrol leaders will know what to do, because they’ve seen the adults model the leadership. That 2nd PLC (Patrol Leader’s Council) will still need lots of mentoring, but you’ll have a mostly scout led troop. By the 3rd year, you’ll have some “senior scouts” who’ve been to summer camp 2 times, who are Star or Life rank, and who can now take over mentoring the younger scouts. It takes 3 years for any new organization to establish a culture. You’ll get there sooner than you know it!

    If this sounds like a lot of work, it is! But I promise you that if you start a new scout troop and grow it quickly to “critical mass”, then nurture it and mentor the young scouts as the grow up, it will be probably the most rewarding 3 years or your life. We did it from Feb 2019 to 2023, and created a wonderful, thriving troop of 56 scouts (and growing) that will outlast our lifetimes, I’m sure. Along the way, my daughter became our troop’s 9th Eagle Scout!

    You can check us out at troop 6 8 1 . o r g

    Good luck to all those looking to give their daughters the wonderful gift of scouting. In my opinion there is no finer leadership training program for youth anywhere than the Scouts BSA program. The things they learn will be priceless, but you need to help create a large enough troop (12 to 18) so that they have enough scouts to actually lead.

    Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.