What’s Your Scouts’ Bowl Game?

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Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, Americans everywhere are looking forward to the next major cultural event: college bowl season. (Oh yes, and Christmas!) Between December 15 and January 7, dozens of football teams will play in more than 40 bowl games, from the venerable Rose Bowl (the “Daddy of them All”) to the not-so-famous Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Given the crowded schedule, most athletes stand a much better chance of playing in a bowl game than graduating in four years.

There will still be plenty of teams on the outside looking in, however. And as some of those teams have limped to the end of their losing seasons, TV commentators covering rivalry games have been quick to say things like “This is their bowl game.” And while there’s not (yet) a Losers’ Bracket Bowl or a Toilet Bowl, it’s probably true that most players would rather take down a hated in-state rival than play in a forgettable bowl game in a half-empty stadium on a cold December Tuesday night.

So what in the world does all this have to do with Scouting? I think it’s easy to put so much emphasis on high adventure–as life-changing as it can be–that we forget that most Scouts will never visit one of the four national high adventure bases.

For most Scouts, summer camp is their bowl game. Or the district camporee is their bowl game. Or even a totally forgettable (in your mind) troop outing is their bowl game. And so we owe it to them to make every activity special, even as we encourage them to challenge themselves and expand their horizons.


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.

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Court of Honor Thank You Gifts on the Cheap (and Easy)

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I’m writing this post just before Thanksgiving Day, when most of us focus more on gratitude than we do the other 364 days of the year. But giving thanks shouldn’t be limited to Thanksgiving Day. In the world of Scouting, it’s especially important whenever Eagle Scout courts of honor happen.

How can your next Eagle Scout thank those who helped him along his journey? Years ago, a mom who’d bought The Eagle Court of Honor Book shared a great idea with me.

Several months before her son’s court of honor, she began thinking about inexpensive but thoughtful gifts her son could present to some people at his court of honor. That January, she bought a few wall calendars (at terrific markdown) that featured photos of eagles and wildlife. Next, she bought (also on sale) some 10″ x 13″ frames. She and her son glued the calendar photos to textured poster board, outlined the photos with a gold paint marker, and framed them. A personal note from her son on the back completed each gift.

The neat thing was how well the gifts fit the recipients. A wolf picture went to his Wolf Cub Scout leader, a bear picture to his Bear leader, eagle pictures to his Boy Scout leaders, etc. (Choosing a picture for the Webelos Scout leader was a problem, but that’s another story!) And all these gifts cost less than $2 a piece, allowing the family to give gifts to lots of leaders without breaking the bank.

How do Scouts in your troop say thanks? Share your ideas in the comments section.

And thank you for all you do for the Scouts you serve!


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

The Serenity Prayer and Your Troop

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Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr is credited with writing the famous Serenity Prayer, which is usually quoted like this:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Despite its Christian origins, the prayer is used by people of all spiritual backgrounds, as well as those in various 12-step recovery programs. It seems to help all sorts of people put the problems they face in perspective.

I thought about the prayer recently when I interviewed a Scoutmaster who leads a troop on a military base. (The resulting article will appear in Scouting magazine next spring.) As he explained, this Scoutmaster faces a couple of unique challenges. First, as is the case with all troops on military bases, he’s liable to lose big groups of members each year as families transition to other assignments. Second, because his base is rather small and has less-than-optimal housing and school options, many families choose to live off base, reducing the population of potential members.

Rather than carp about these things, which he most certainly cannot change, this Scoutmaster is making do with what he has–and is making a difference in the lives of a group of young men.

I’m sure your troop faces challenges as well, including some you cannot change (like the hegemony of youth sports) and some you can change (perhaps a frayed relationship with your chartered organization). By focusing on what you can change and accepting what you can’t with serenity–or at least resignation–you can create a better program and serve more young people in the months and years to come.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

 

Scouts BSA and the Harm Our Words Can Cause

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Did you roll your eyes when you heard the news that the GIrl Scouts of the USA was suing the Boy Scouts of America for trademark infringement? That’s perhaps understandable–until you dig into the complaint GSUSA filed.

Here’s some of the problematic language various BSA councils, districts, and units have used, according to the complaint:

  • “The proceeds from the luncheon will providing funding for our Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Adventure Scouts, Explorer Scouts, and in the development and implementation of our new BSA Girl Scouting Programs!”
  • “GIRL SCOUT Volunteer Opportunity”
  • “Boys/Girls Scouts of America Volunteer Form”
  • “Come talk to me about the GIrl Scouts BSA Troops forming in Kirkland”
  • “There is no more GIrl Scouts”

As someone who writes extensively about Scouting, I try very hard to use terms correctly and often refer to the Language of Scouting website. I always cringe when I hear people talk about “Venture Scouts”–there’s no such thing–and “Cubbing”–a term that was replaced by “Cub Scouting” generations ago. But the examples above could have pretty far-reaching implications.

If you’re planning to say anything at all about the inclusion of girls in Scouts BSA (as the Boy Scout program will be called beginning on Feb. 1, 2019), I urge you to review this new Scouts BSA Branding Infographic, which offers helpful dos and don’ts. For more information, review this two-page memo that went to national staff members back in April. (Among the points you’ll read there is that you shouldn’t use quotes from GIrl Scouting founder Juliette Gordon-Low in BSA materials.)

It’s no surprise that you can generate negative headlines for violating Youth Protection Guidelines or getting a Scout hurt on an outing. But the words you use can also cause real harm to our movement (and to other youth-serving organizations) as well.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

 

 

Dear (Eagle Scout) John

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For new Eagle Scouts, receiving a thick stack of congratulatory letters from politicians and celebrities can be pretty exciting. But let’s face it, the letters often sound a lot alike—and may sound a lot like “Dear John” letters.

If you choose to read the letters as part of a court of honor, you can greatly improve their impact with a little planning. First of all, make photocopies of the letters you plan to read (which doesn’t have to be the complete set!) and put them in logical order—the mayor before the Congressman before the President, for example. Next, go through each of the copies and highlight the sections want to read during the ceremony. You should never, for example, read the part where your Senator apologizes for not being able to attend the ceremony (Did you really expect her to?), but you should always read the parts that talk about the significance of the Eagle badge or the writer’s personal connection with Scouting.

A little thought and strategic pruning can go a long way toward making congratulatory letters a meaningful part of the court of honor—and not just a pile of junk mail.


What? You don’t have a copy of The Eagle Court of Honor Book yet? Click the title to order one now in either print or Kindle format. When you do, I think you’ll agree with the reader who said, “The information is insightful and a welcome addition for our parents preparing for their sons’ ceremony. It is well organized and easy to follow. It flows like a river.”

Hand Washing 101 for Scouts

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One of the occupational hazards of being a Scout leader is eating the food young Scouts have more or less cooked. I’m sure most of us have choked down our share of hamburgers cooked to the consistency of hockey pucks and bacon that can just about still squeal.

Unfortunately, many Scouts’ cooking techniques are on the level as their sanitation techniques. Not very good in other words.

Ubiquitous bottles of alcohol-based hand gel can help in that regard, but they can also give Scouts (and you) a false sense of confidence. Did you know that hand gels are not effective against C. diff, a nasty bacteria that kills half a million Americans every year? (Yes, most of those victims are older people in healthcare settings, but community-associated infections are on the rise.) And did you know that the gels are less than effective on excessively dirty hands–which are de rigueur on most Scout campouts?

Fortunately, help on hand-washing is close at hand, so to speak. The Mayo Clinic website includes a good basic introduction to the right way to wash your hands, including a link to a fun Jimmy Fallon video you might want to show your Scouts. (Preview it first, however, because it does include a couple of PG-rated comments.)

It’s tough to avoid sampling the questionable cooking your young Scouts do. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t protect yourself and them from the nasty bugs that hitch a ride on dirty hands.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Onboarding for Not-so-Dummies

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One of the ongoing challenges the BSA faces is retaining new members, Back in 2004, the National Boy Scout Retention Study found that nearly four in 10 new Scouts leave within a year. Here’s the specific breakdown

  • One year or less: 39%
  • Two years: 20%
  • Three years: 17%
  • Four years: 19%
  • More than four years: 5%

I’m not sure whether those numbers are still accurate, but I assume they’re pretty close. I also assume that a big percentage of those who quit within a year actually quit within the first month. In other words, they never really get started in the program in any meaningful way.

New member retention can be a big problem in Cub Scouting as well, which is why the BSA just launched an email campaign designed to welcome new families and smooth their transition in Scouting. You can read about the campaign on the Bryan on Scouting blog, but in essence each family that registers online receives a series of five one-topic emails during their first 14 days; they receive pack contact information, details on uniforms and equipment, an invitation to subscribe to Boys’ Life (if they haven’t already), and more. (Of course, their pack leaders probably shared most of that information at the signup night or orientation meeting, but much of it probably whizzed right past their heads as they tried to decipher all the jargon and acronyms they were clouding the air.)

The BSA isn’t doing the same thing for troops quite yet, but there’s no reason your troop couldn’t adopt and adapt the idea. Simply think about what new families need to know, pre-write a series of short emails, and create a system to send them out automatically. For example, the person in charge of processing applications could schedule the emails to go out, using the “delay delivery” feature in an email program like Microsoft Outlook. (If you use Gmail, Boomerang for Gmail might be a viable option.)

If you live in the corporate world, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the concept of onboarding, which companies are spending a huge amount of time and money on improving these days. One oft-quoted study says new hires who complete a well-designed onboarding process are 69 percent more likely to still be on the job three years later (than, I suppose, new hires who are left to find the bathroom and breakroom on their own.)

Would you like to increase the odds that your new Scouts will still be around in three years? Onboarding emails might help.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.