For Christmas this past month, my 4-year-old grandson received a youth basketball goal. (Here in Kentucky, the three Rs are reading, writing, and rebounding!) Unlike standard basketball goals, this one can be adjusted to heights ranging from 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 feet, so it will last him a lot longer than the Little Tikes goal he was able to dunk on just a few months after he got it.
That new basketball goal started me thinking about Scout troops and how adjustable they are–or aren’t. The beauty of the patrol method is that it allows a troop to grow exponentially without becoming structurally unwieldy. However, it’s all too easy to make decisions now that will cause problems later.
Let me offer an example. A troop I worked with years ago had troop tents that everyone used, and that created an artificial ceiling on the number of people who could go camping. Of course, we could have (and occasionally did) buy more tents, but that meant an outlay of serious cash. Moreover–since we hadn’t mastered the youth leadership method yet–caring for the tents fell on the adult leaders, who would have been quite unhappy if we’d doubled in size and thus doubled their workload after outings. Had we encouraged Scouts to bring (and care for) their own tents, troop size wouldn’t have been a problem.
Here’s another example. If you have a troop of six Scouts, it’s easy for the senior patrol leader to call everyone to tell them you’ve canceled a meeting due to inclement weather or to remind them to bring their registration fees. But what happens if that troop of six Scouts quadrupled in size? How effective would that SPL be at making 36 phone calls?
As you develop a vision for your troop’s future, take a hard look at your present condition and identify what works now that wouldn’t work then. What’s standing in your way of becoming the troop you want to become? You may not be able to control things like the size of your meeting space, but you can control most other factors that make growth difficult. (I’d love to hear what you come up with; as always, the comments section is open.)
Oh, and one more thing. That basketball goal I mentioned earlier came in a box with these words: “Enjoy the Game at Your Level.” I think that applies just as well to the game of Scouting.