The 411 on Scouting Terminology



Overheard at roundtable: “If you’re going to serve on the NYLT staff, you should take the Trainer’s EDGE conference at PTC. You should also encourage your SPL and ASPL to complete NAYLE. Your DE can give you more information about both courses.”

Okay, I made up the previous sentences—but only because I’ve expunged the memory of the many jargon-laden pronouncements I’ve heard at BSA training courses, roundtables, and PTC—sorry, Philmont Training Center—conferences. The fact is, statements like those are made all the time in Scouting—to the bewilderment of many Scout leaders.

If you’re one of those Scouters who doesn’t know the difference between PLC and PTC, NCS and NCCS, and field director and director of field service, a great resource is the “Language of Scouting” section of the BSA website: Here you’ll find a fairly comprehensive glossary of Scouting terms, local council positions, and acronyms and abbreviations. You’ll even find references to obsolete terms, which can be helpful since many Scouters hang onto these terms decades after they go out of fashion. (See, for example, the entry on Cubbing.)

An Eagle Scout Certificate from Scouting’s Favorite Fraternity



At least in popular culture, Boy Scouting has little in common with college fraternities and sororities. The characters in Animal House and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising certainly don’t seem like the kind of people you’d single out for praise in a Scoutmaster’s minute!

But there’s one fraternity whose values align perfectly with those of Scouting: Alpha Phi Omega.That’s because the group was founded in 1925 to “assemble college men in the fellowship of the Scout Oath and Law, to develop friendship, and to promote service to humanity.” APO membership is no longer limited to former Scouts, or even male students, but the service group still has close ties to Scouting, especially at the local level. Many of the 360 chapters host merit badge fairs, run district pinewood derbies, or even sponsor Cub Scout packs.

Given that background, a certificate from APO makes a nice recognition item for any new Eagle Scout. You can request such a certificate at The process is quick and simple, but note that you do need to allow up to three weeks for processing.

Who knows? Perhaps the certificate will help your new Eagle Scout find a place to continue to serve after he leaves Scouting for college.

A Scoutmaster’s Minute for Troubled Times



If I were a Scoutmaster right now, this is the Scoutmaster’s Minute I would give at this week’s troop meeting. Feel free to use it yourself. I think its message is both timely and timeless.

Scouts, we live in a challenging time, a time when all too often people settle their disputes with guns instead of words. Just look at the recent shootings of black men in several cities and of police officers in Dallas. But the problems go beyond these incidents, as tragic as they are. Everywhere you turn, it seems that you have to choose sides. Either you’re liberal or you’re conservative. Either you’re for Black Lives Matter or you’re for Blue Lives Matter. Either you like the Wildcats or you like the Cardinals. [Substitute your favorite sports rivalry here.]

It seems like there’s no middle ground, but in the middle is actually where most people live. The challenge is to find the middle ground when it’s easier to retreat to the safe corners where everybody looks and thinks like us.

The 1960s were another time where people were divided, especially about civil rights for African Americans. One of the leaders of the civil rights movement was a young Methodist pastor named James Lawson, who happens to be African American. (Yes, he’s still alive today!) In his book The Children, David Halberstam tells an amazing story about what Rev. Lawson did after a couple of protesters named Solomon Gort and Bernard Lafayette got knocked down by white counter-protesters in Nashville, Tennessee. I’d like to read it to you now:

Jim seemed nonchalant—just another day at the office. The leader of the whites was sporting what was the prevailing uniform of the day for white toughs: black pants, black leather motorcycle jacket, duck’s-ass haircut. When he saw Lawson he was enraged by Lawson’s coolness and he spat at him. Lawson looked at him and asked him for a handkerchief. The man, stunned, reached in his pocket and handed Lawson a handkerchief, and Lawson wiped the spit off himself as calmly as he could. Then he looked at the man’s jacket and started talking to him. Did he have a motorcycle or a hot-rod car? A motorcycle was the answer. Jim asked a technical question or two and the young man started explaining what he had done to customize his bike. Amazingly, Bernard thought, these two men were now talking about the levels of horsepower in motorcycles; a few seconds earlier they had seem to be sworn enemies, one ready to maul the other.
By this time both Solomon Gort and Bernard Lafayette were back up on their feet, the line was moving again, and Jim and the young man were still talking about the man’s motorcycle. In that brief frightening moment Jim had managed to find a subject which they both shared and had used it in a way that made each of them more human in the eyes of the other. As they walked away Jim waved to the man, and the man remained still, neither accepting the friendship nor, for that matter, rejecting it.
 Are there people in your life that you think you could never agree with, who you know are wrong because you are right? My challenge to you is to figure out what you have in common with those people. You may be surprised at what you discover.

Eagle Court of Honor Support Jobs: Photo/Video Coordinator



This is the last in a series of posts on support jobs for Eagle courts of honor, those behind-the-scene tasks that really ought to be handled by someone other than the person who is stage-managing the ceremony itself. This week: the photo/video coordinator.

Perhaps the biggest regret parents have after an Eagle court of honor is that nobody recorded the moment for posterity. There’s no video of the presentation of the Eagle badge, no recording of the moving charge the Scoutmaster gave, nothing but fading memories to preserve the moment.

The photo/video coordinator can help prevent those regrets. His or her job, simply put, is to record the event by either taking photos and videos or by coordinating the work of other photographers and videographers.

Two things can help make the photo/video coordinator successful. First, he or she shouldn’t have any other role in the event (including mingling with guests at the reception). Second, he or she should review the script ahead of time and be aware of specific moments that need to be captured: pinning the Eagle badge, making the speech, cutting the cake, etc.

One photo he or she should definitely take is a portrait of the honoree in uniform, either on the day of the ceremony or a few days before. Before works especially well because the photo can then be used in the printed program or onscreen as a backdrop. Either way, that photo will quickly become a treasured family keepsake.

Here are links to the other posts in this series:

The Eagle Court of Honor Book has more information on all seven support jobs:

For more great ideas, check out my new ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both and

Safety First, Last, and Always



A few years back, the news was full of reports about 12-year-old Michael Auberry, a North Carolina Scout who wandered away from camp and was lost for four days. I don’t know enough about Michael’s story to judge how well or poorly his troop leaders reacted, but I was pleased by the strong endorsement Michael’s dad gave the troop leaders even before Michael was rescued.

That story made me think about what I believe is a common attitude among Scouters to risk and safety. It occurs to me that many of us unconsciously decide at the outset whether a given activity will be risky and then adjust our safety measures accordingly.

If we’re going swimming, we rigorously enforce the buddy system (along with the other elements of Safe Swim Defense). If we’re going backpacking, we make sure our first-aid kits are fully stocked. If we’re going rappelling off a 100-foot cliff, we become hyper-vigilant about minimizing horseplay.

If we’re just plop camping at our council camp or day-hiking at a local state park or doing a simple conservation project … well, the safety rules don’t seem so important.

Which brings us back to Michael Auberry. If nothing else, Michael’s story should remind us all as Scout leaders that every activity carries some risk and that it’s often when we let our guard down that bad things happen.

Somebody once asked Lord Baden-Powell about the Scout motto and what exactly Scouts should be prepared for. “Why, for any old thing,” he replied. As Scouters, we too should be prepared for any old thing on troop outings.

Eagle Court of Honor Support Jobs: Congratulatory Letter Coordinator



I recently began a series of blog posts on support jobs for Eagle courts of honor. These are the behind-the-scenes tasks that are less visible than, but nearly as important as, planning and running the ceremony itself. This week: the congratulatory letter coordinator.

One popular court-of-honor tradition is to have someone read aloud excerpts from congratulatory letters the honoree has received. The reading often starts with a letter from the mayor and culminates with a letter from the President of the United States; interspersed might be letters from religious leaders, sports heroes, movie stars, or other famous people.

Many public figures have standard letters that they’re happy to send out to new Eagle Scouts; others will send proclamations or certificates. As the congratulatory letter coordinator, your job is to solicit these letters and mementos, which means you have to compile a list, find addresses, prepare letters, and send them out in time for the court of honor.

Like everything else about the court of honor, however, you should customize the list for the honoree. If he’s a lifelong Presbyterian who cares little for sports, don’t request letters from the local Catholic archbishop or the coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, seek out people who are meaningful in his life. And don’t leave out people who may be celebrities only in the new Eagle’s eyes, such as an out-of-town grandparent who can’t attend the court of honor. These personal letters are more meaningful than the canned responses celebrities send.

There are a few pointers you should keep in mind when requesting letters. First, you’ll probably get better results if you explicitly ask for a congratulatory letter instead of just sending an invitation. (This may also reduce the number of letters that begin with “I’m sorry that my schedule does not permit me to be with you on this special occasion.”) See the sample letter below. Second, consider enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope, especially when writing to people who likely can’t afford to send out hundreds of letters a year. Finally, send your requests as soon as possible after the board of review to ensure that the letters arrive in time for the court of honor.

When the letters arrive, make photocopies of them and put the originals in a binder or scrapbook. (If they come in various sizes, an expanding cardstock wallet from an office-supply store is a good option.) Then, go through the photocopies and highlight those sections that you want to read at the court of honor. A little careful editing can greatly increase the impact of reading the letters.

The Eagle Court of Honor Book offers a sample request letter, as well as detailed information about six other support jobs.

For more great ideas, check out my new ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both and