Selecting a Boy Scout Troop
Each Boy Scout troop, while offering similar programs, is unique because of its members, size, activity focus, and overall”personality”. As you and your son evaluate troops, consider the type of troop that is the best fit for your Scout and your family. The result will be a much more successful Scouting Adventure for your family. Below are some items to consider as you visit and evaluate the troops.
Key Elements in Selecting a Great Troop
Many troops have traditional program elements, like Indian folklore, backpacking, kayaking, etc. Each troop sets its own activity calendar and decides what activities to do.
When and where the troop meets must fit with the overall family calendar. Most troops meet weekly, some less often. Some events may be mandatory, so it is important that your son’s schedule allow him to participate. Most troops have optional meetings which allow flexibility for homework, sports, etc.
The number of active Scouts in the troop impacts the type and number of activities that can be offered. Some boys prefer small troops where they know everyone. Others find that larger troops offer a wider range of program and leadership opportunities.
Advancement is a key method to teach new skills and attitudes. As such, look for a strong attention to advancement in most troops.
Troops should be led by the Scouts, with support and guidance by the adult leaders. Troops that are run by Scouts develop strong leadership skills in boys but will be somewhat chaotic at times while the boys practice these skills. While adult run troops are more structured and predictable, they miss an important purpose of Scouting. Look for adult leaders to be present in supporting roles and ready to step in where health and safety require their involvement. While this may look chaotic, boys learn best by doing, and that is how boys best learn to lead.
Boy Scout troops typically offer a wide range of outings; look for variety in the past year’s calendar of events.
Some categories to look for include:
High Adventure – these are trips that can be physically demanding and generally require substantial preparation. Examples include long (50 plus miles) backpacking trips, wilderness canoeing or class 4 white water rafting. These trips offer older Scouts extra challenge and will help to hold your son’s interest from ages 13-18.
Outdoor Outings – events like camping, shorter backpack trips, day hikes, caving and rappelling, submarine trips.
Educational Activities – activities that focus on the mental and skills development rather than on physical skills. Examples are CB Radioing, woodworking, tours of local businesses and museums.
Service Projects – all Scout troops offer some level of service projects. They can range from Scouting for Food to Trail repair to visitations at senior centers.
There are two elements to look for here. Note that Scouting can provide one of the best ways that parents can stay involved with their son and his friends as the boys reach teenage years. Good troops have involvement from adults in many families.
What level of involvement is expected from each family?
Troops will vary from expecting every family to be actively involved to desiring but not requiring involvement.
What parent opportunities are available within the troop?
Typically the opportunities are leadership/committee, activity support, or general support roles
such as (merit badge counselor, Public Relations, quartermaster).
Are any of your son’s friends or schoolmates involved in the troop?
If your son has at least one friend in the troop he is more likely to embrace Scouting and the troop and stay in the program longer.
Are there adults in the troop that you know?
This may or may not be important to you, but familiar adults can help you navigate the first year a little easier.