Learning Scoutmastership at the Opera



For years, I’ve said that Boy Scout leaders could learn a thing or two from their counterparts in sports. For example, a Scoutmaster who doesn’t trust his senior patrol leader to lead might walk right up to him in the middle of a meeting and interrupt, but a football coach would never do the same thing to his quarterback (or if he did, his team would get penalized).

The problem with that Scoutmaster/coach analogy–aside from the disparity in pay!–is that coaches are far from hands off during games. Unless the quarterback is Peyton Manning, there’s no doubt who’s really calling the shots. That’s why broadcasters interview coaches as they head into the locker room at halftime and show their sideline reactions to great or boneheaded on-field actions.

In a recent Associated Press story, I found a new Scoutmaster role model: the opera prompter. This is a person who typically sits in a small box at the back of the orchestra pit, invisible to the audience, and keeps the performers on track and on pitch. Here’s a description of the role from the Opera Idols blog: “Opera is a live event, so things go wrong all the time. Most of the time, however, the audience is not even aware something went wrong. The audience is not even aware that there is a person in the prompter’s box, because even if they sometimes yell out certain words, this does not carry towards the audience.”

Other than the yelling part, that description applies to effective Scoutmasters as well. Things go wrong all the time in troop meetings and on troop outings, but a great Scoutmaster helps his youth leaders get back on track without anyone knowing that something went wrong–or that an adult had to intervene. He anticipates problems and finds subtle ways to nudge his youth leaders in the right direction without pushing them out of the spotlight.

The great Luciano Pavarotti once said of Metropolitan Opera prompter Jane Klaviter, “I could trust her implicitly. Her presence gave me the security I needed to give the best performance possible.”

Can your youth leaders say that about you?



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