Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the 2017 National Scout Jamboree will kick off in just a few weeks. You may have also heard someone complain that the jamboree serves “only” 35,000 or 40,000 Scouts and adults, leaving many times that number on the outside looking in. I hear similar complaints from troops that get shut out of Philmont Scout Ranch or that can’t afford a trip to Florida Sea Base.
What I would remind these people—and you—is that national-level programs can never serve more than a tiny fraction of our Scouts, both because of capacity and cost. You and I must to serve the rest.
Program is the responsibility of unit-level Scouters (working, of course, through youth leaders) not the job of folks who wear silver or gold shoulder loops. It’s wonderful that the BSA provides jamborees and national high-adventure bases, and it’s great that local councils offer summer camps and their own high-adventure activities. But the fact is that those activities can never do more than supplement the unit program.
As unit leaders, we need to look at these supplemental activities as steppingstones to a better unit program—not curse them as stumbling blocks when we can’t get in or when the costs are too high or the distances too great.
Some troops that can’t get into Philmont year after year forgo high-adventure activities altogether. But the smart ones find a local council that offers similar activities … or connect with an outfitter … or simply create their own adventures—perhaps spending a week on the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. Is the planning harder than getting ready for Philmont? Of course. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely.
So celebrate this year’s jamboree if you have Scouts going. But then get to work planning other awesome adventures for your Scouts who won’t be spending 10 days at the Summit Bechtel Reserve this summer.
Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.