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#1 wdfa89

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 11:43 AM

Hello,

 

Interested in hearing some opinions.  In our town of around 50K (a bedroom community for a larger metro area) we have 4 troops (although one is chartered thru the catholic school/church and their membership is generally parishoners/students so their members generally didn't consider other troops and non parishoners/students dont join), 1 LDS troop.  there is also a troop at the nearby base and one each at two much smaller but adjacent communities.  So lots of great options for boys.  All troops are healthy, no issues, good leaders/boys.  I would recommend any of them to anyone.

 

So far we are on track for 23 crossovers (our current troop size is 46, while I don't have exact count the other 3 troops in town are smaller but i think in the 20-30 range--I am separating out the "Catholic" troop, for the stated background their numbers are pretty stable and constant).  We may get even more.  The last few years we have been getting 15 or so.  Our troop is growing, the others are holding or shrinking, their crossover numbers have been on a downward trend.

 

Why am I writing.  Our committee (of which I am a member) has a genuine concern for the other troops in our area.  we recognize scouting in general is better/stronger when all the troops are healthy.  We "recruit," which is to say we reach out to local packs and invite them to visit.  when they visit we show them our program, their boys meet our boys, parents meet our parents/ASMs/committee members/SM.  we supply den chiefs, we invite packs to a couple different events during the year. While we certainly do not shy away from touting what our troop has to offer and why we like it we do not do it in a comparative fashion (i.e. we are the best at something, or the only one to do something).  we do not say anything bad about the other troops, in fact, we encourage all to visit as many troops as possible. We always close by asking if they do not pick us please join somewhere, please join scouting.  I know all is the uniform message potential families receive from all adults they come in contact with

 

I know the other troops do more or less the same.  Our issue/thought is we truly do not want to drive the other troops out of business and over time if these trends continue we are fearful that will happen.  There is really no easy to direct a boy away from one troop to another.  I don't think setting an arbitrary limit on crossovers is right (first come first serve?).  Nor would we ever want to turn any boy away--no guarantee they join anywhere.  That always disappointed me tremendously about GS, they were not shy about saying our unit is full, can't take any more, please go on our waiting list for an open unit.  Sometimes that is a physical limit (my wife would take as many girls as she and her co leader could manage.   when they ran out of adult leaders they ran out of slots--a span of control issue) but most time it was a clique deal where a circle of friends forms a unit and they don't want outsiders.  but i digress

 

we are also concerned about maintaining our program and providing a great experience to all of those new boys.  It will be a tremendous challenge (which we are ready for!) for our boys (and adults) to train these boys and get them moving (at their own pace) on the advancement (or just plain adventure/fun) trail.

 

Anyway, would love for those who are interested to share their thoughts on a) managing the large new class and really big troop b) preserving the health of our neighboring troops and ensuring they are getting a healthy influx of new members. c) anything else out of this scenario I have forgotten or not been wise enough to ask about


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#2 DuctTape

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 12:01 PM

With those boys, also comes their parents. From that group the CC should recruit committee members, and the SM should recruit ASM's. Get the adults trained so as to manage the larger troop. If it is too much for a single SM, then have the troop "break" into 2 smaller "troops" each with their own "SM" (really an ASM.)

The one area most find difficult is managing camping trips this large. Encourage less "whole troop" and do things as patrols. The entire troop can go together to district camporees or other similar type events. My point is, to concentrate on the patrols, not the troop as a whole. More scouts = more potential adult volunteers.
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#3 Stosh

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 12:19 PM

If the troop is broken into patrols of 6-8 boys, one can rely on the boys developing their own leadership so an influx of more adults is not necessary.  20 new boys?  3 patrols, 3 TG's a half dozen new Instructors is all that is needed.  The PLC will grow by only 3 boys.  If more support leadership is needed, the SPL might consider more ASPL's to help with the load, maybe an ASPL dedicated to supporting the 3 new TG's.

 

The knee jerk reaction to a situation like this is to add more adults rather than accepting the challenge of developing new youth leaders.  As a boy led, patrol method scouter, I'd go with developing more boy leaders to carry the load.

 

I went from a 5 boy troop that was floundering to 28 boys in 3 years.  I was SM and I had 1 ASM.  More adults were never considered an option during that growth period.


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#4 Stosh

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 12:21 PM

AS far as the other troops are concerned, maybe a mini-RoundTable of SM's would go along way to help the others with their program and recruitment.


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#5 Eagledad

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 12:28 PM

Well first let me speak for the large number of new scouts. Our experience was very much like your experience, so here is what we learned. 

 

Anytime a troop jumps 40% in size, the program is starting over again. I know that seems kind of extreme, but neither the adults or scouts are used to the dynamics of so many members with zero knowledge or experience in your troop. Over the years, our experienced scouts would say the worst behaving scout in the troop is the new scout. When half the troop is new scouts, behavior can quickly get out of control. So prepare the scouts that new scouts like chatter, wonder around, talk while others are talking and even disappear (going to bathroom without anyone noticing). Double up the Troop Guides. We even had a Troop Guide ASPL who was responsible for making sure the NSPs had enough TGs. Teach the adults to stand back far enough to let the TGs work, but close enough for scouts to ask for help if their situation becomes impossible. The adults will be tempted to step in, and they need too, but in most cases the scouts get it figured out. Adults should never make the first move in any situation. Let the scouts deal with it and ask for help if they need it. 

 

Keep the new scouts busy. We found that teaching the new scouts how to use camping equipment for their first campout was a good way (fun) of indoctrinating them into the the Troop program. They get to practice with real troop gear (very cool for them), and the experience allows the troop guides time to build confidence working with these wild monkeys, and building a personal relationship (just learning names takes time). NSPs that struggle the most are the ones where the scouts do the most sitting. After about a month, they will settle down.

 

Consider NOW the logistics of your troop. Is the meeting place big enough? Do you have enough drivers? How about patrol equipment? Our new troop of 15 scout got 25 new scouts the next year. We lost half those scouts in three months because our adults stumbled around reacting to the new size instead of getting a head of it. Scouts run the program, but the adults are in a panic, the scouts will feel it. So react with confidence that a new problem is a good problem. Oh, remember, last years summer camp site will be too small this year. 

 

Work hand in hand and as a team with the PLC for working out ideas, situations and problems. The PLC will be grateful for the help, and grow a lot in maturity for the responsibility. The more they do, the more your troop will mature. Next year will be a lot easier for them. 

 

That's it for right now, I'm sure I can think of a lot more if you need. Our troop took grew 40 to 60% each year for the first seven years after starting. We are boy run troop, so we weren't looking for that kind of growth. At least not that fast. We learned A LOT.

 

As for considering the health of the other troops, That is a very noble approach. Well done. If I were you, I would invite the SM and CC of the other troops over for refreshments and cookies to discuss your concern. I would practice how you will start the discussion so that you don't come off condescending as the troop receiving such a large new group. Instead speak in the big picture of the health of the troops and how to approach the keeping some balance. Maybe consider a Troop night night where all troops set up a booth and display at at church or school. Or a day where the troops set up a patrol campsite to allow the Webelos to visit and ask questions. 

 

But more importantly is for all the troops to maintain a good relationship so these matters can be easily discussed. 

 

Be aware that the unit leaders might not feel as noble and instead have more ambitious ideas. I had to deal with a lot of, lets say, overly zealous unit recruiting while I was on district. They don't see themselves as doing anything wrong. 

 

Still I admire your troops attitude and think it's worth a try.

 

I hope this helps a little.

 

Barry


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#6 Col. Flagg

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 12:30 PM

If boys are coming to you because you have a good program, why would you want to direct them away? It's the boys' choice where they want to go.

 

Now, if your troop decides that they can only accept (x) boys per year, then that's another thing. You may not have enough gear, drivers, volunteers to handle the sudden increase. That might be an excuse you can use. But this could back fire and you could get the reputation as having set limits in the past, so why join you guys next year.

 

It is nice that you worry about the other troops, but IMHO it is not your responsibility to collude with other troops to make sure everyone gets a fair take of the available Scouts. Let the boys decide and everyone lives with the results.


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#7 MattR

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 12:36 PM

We had 25 one year. It was really hard. If you can come up with a way to even things out, and everyone is happy with it, I'd suggest that.

 

The first important question you need to ask is why all these scouts picked your troop instead of the others. If the others are running a similar program and these scouts just randomly decided to pick your troop then a friendly round table with the other troops is a great idea.

 

If the scouts picked your troop because the other troops were rude, ignored the visiting webelos, or have a horribly boring program, then you have a bigger challenge. In this case, Eagledad's comments are good.

 

So, call some of the new parents and ask.

 

At the same time, I never said no to a scout. If at the end of the day they want to be in your troop, don't tell them no. You might just cause the kid to drop scouts all together. But Be Prepared for the chaos.

 

Good luck, you have what's called a high class problem.


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#8 DuctTape

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 12:57 PM

More adults are necessary to be drivers to events, and if more patrol based trips occur more adults are needed to have 2-deep on the separate events occurung simultaneously at different lications.
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#9 Stosh

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 01:01 PM

More adults are necessary to be drivers to events, and if more patrol based trips occur more adults are needed to have 2-deep on the separate events occurung simultaneously at different lications.

 

Our troop YPT's all our parents so they can drive.  They do not need to be involved in the program of the boys, but the boys do!  :)

 

When we need more people on-site for an activity, it just means getting a bigger pot for coffee.


Edited by Stosh, 14 February 2017 - 01:01 PM.

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#10 wdfa89

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 01:25 PM

Thanks.  great feedback.  Like I said, we are not turning anyone away nor will we.  just a general concern for the other troops--we all have friends and good relations with all of them and in the end I don;t think anyone wants to become a one troop town.   We run a good program and know it--and more importantly the scouts and the community do as well.  we know that is what is selling.  we are patrol method, boy led.

 

we are planning on three xover patrols with dedicated TG and Instructors for each.  we plan on taking those patrols and their TG/Instructors  aside so during the first half of the meeting they work on Scout to First Class Skills while the remaining older boys work on advanced skills.  then we join back up for a group activity/announcements/closing.

 

we didn't do as well last year with 16 xovers and the change in the scout rank requirements.  we are hopeful we have learned from that and have applied those lessons to substantially improve.


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#11 Stosh

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 01:43 PM

Thanks.  great feedback.  Like I said, we are not turning anyone away nor will we.  just a general concern for the other troops--we all have friends and good relations with all of them and in the end I don;t think anyone wants to become a one troop town.   We run a good program and know it--and more importantly the scouts and the community do as well.  we know that is what is selling.  we are patrol method, boy led.

 

This is an important point.  If one has the problem with one troop being inundated, can one imagine if the one troop had to take on all the boys?

 

It is better to preserve the multiple troops in town rather than take them all in and find out that one has to break it apart later.  Starting a new troop is difficult at best. 

 

Instead work with the other troops to show them what you are doing to improve their troops to be more competitive with you.  It also offers less burden on everyone if they can share the BSA program with all the boys equally.  You will find that competition is not a healthy situation.  Imagine the day where a young cross over has to decide between 5 different troops of equal programming.  Their decision will depend more on where their friends are going and not have to worry about getting a quality program.  Everyone wins!


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#12 DuctTape

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 02:01 PM

Our troop YPT's all our parents so they can drive.  They do not need to be involved in the program of the boys, but the boys do!  :)
 
When we need more people on-site for an activity, it just means getting a bigger pot for coffee.



Perhaps I wasn't clear. I am not advicating for more adults to be involved in running the program, only as logistical resources. This also maintains a pool of potential future SMs.

With many patrols, working independently of each other there will be a time when all these patrols choose different outings for the same weekend. This is where having a cadre of other scouters becomes necessary. Not a larger pot of coffee, but 5 smaller pots each 50 miles away.
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#13 NJCubScouter

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 02:02 PM

On the subject of your feelings that other troops may be in danger, I think you have already done everything you can to be a "good neighbor" to the other units. The kids want to come to your troop, and as someone else pointed out, trying to "allocate" people may backfire in that the Webelos may decide not to go anywhere. I think the increase in size is manageable if you do as others have suggested above.
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#14 Stosh

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 02:41 PM

Perhaps I wasn't clear. I am not advicating for more adults to be involved in running the program, only as logistical resources. This also maintains a pool of potential future SMs.

With many patrols, working independently of each other there will be a time when all these patrols choose different outings for the same weekend. This is where having a cadre of other scouters becomes necessary. Not a larger pot of coffee, but 5 smaller pots each 50 miles away.

:)  Large troops of 5 patrols all going in different direction would need only 1 SM and 4 ASM's. they can be accompanied by other registered leaders with YPT and no SM/ASM training.  They will know how the program works and why coffee is important.  Drivers, on the other hand, do not need to be registered, but we have them all take YPT for their own protection.


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Stosh

 

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#15 blw2

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 03:02 PM

my thought....

I agree with NJCubScouter.  You've been a good neighbor.  Can't really worry about them or do anything for them.  Can't even really go over and tell them what they are doing wrong... that's kinda like going to the neighbor's house and telling him his living room walls would look better yellow (taken loosely from Clarke Green)

     but I do like the sentiment that someone wrote earlier about helping them to know what you are doing.... being willing and open to show and help.

 

and my other thought is this.... any time I read about large troops, I think of this one short chapter, by BP himself

http://scoutmastercg...mastership/#OneReason Why a Troop Should not Exceed Thirty Two

 

    but what to do?  I surely don't have the answer.  Don't want to turn boys away, but is bringing them in in the best interest all around?  granted, the more modern model with multiple ASMs sorta trumps old BP's 32 in some ways, but I think the logic is still quite sound.


Edited by blw2, 14 February 2017 - 03:02 PM.

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#16 Eagledad

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 03:20 PM

 

 

    but what to do?  I surely don't have the answer.  Don't want to turn boys away, but is bringing them in in the best interest all around?  granted, the more modern model with multiple ASMs sorta trumps old BP's 32 in some ways, but I think the logic is still quite sound.

Trust me, this is much harder to accomplish than you think when your program is the most popular in town. Our goal was to keep the number below 40. We tried all kinds of ideas to slow our growth, but we past 40 in our 3rd year. shesh, thinking back, boy run becomes very complicated when the troop grows that large that fast.

 

Barry


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#17 mashmaster

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 07:18 PM

Good luck, Logistics will most likely be the most difficult part.  You will have a lot of energy in your troop for sure,  When we grew huge, going to summer camp was a problem.  Some camps have a limited amount of space, that affected where our boys are going this summer.


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#18 Sentinel947

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Posted 14 February 2017 - 08:34 PM

It's very rough, but it's manageable. Back in 2009 my troop had maybe 50 scouts. By 2013 it was up to 80. We are floating around 70  We didn't change much in our program in that time period, although I will say we were very much a "troop method" troop, but other Troops were having stability issues (Tin God Scoutmasters, charter orgs pulling the rugs out from underneath troops). 

 

The key is the patrol method. When the boys are in smaller semi autonomous groups, they are easier for themselves to organize and adults to supervise. Getting as big as we did made the sales pitch for the patrol method fairly easy. 

 

The biggest issue is camping locations. There are plenty of places where a troop of 50+ cannot always go without sucking up a strong portion of the campground. Even with the patrol method. Equipment and transportation logistics can be challenging with that quick of growth. 

 

Like your Troop, we don't turn Scouts away, we don't heavily recruit, we don't bash other troops. But we want as many youth to get a scouting experience as possible, and if they want it to be with us, then we are going to do our best to make that happen. 

 

Best of luck!

 

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#19 blw2

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 08:25 AM

 

The key is the patrol method. When the boys are in smaller semi autonomous groups, they are easier for themselves to organize and adults to supervise. Getting as big as we did made the sales pitch for the patrol method fairly easy. 

I think this makes a whole lot of sense.

Focus on the patrol, not the troop.  Scouts are patrol members first and foremost, so if you can get everyone thinking that way it seems like its a more manageable bite sized snack!

 

I wonder if it would be good for a larger troop to think of themselves as a collection of smaller troops......

I know this is not how things are intended....but running with the thinking

             that the total roster is no more than 32 scouts so that each scout can get individual attention form their scoutmaster and from the program

             and that no troop really wants to turn away scouts, or really break up and find other CO's to take them

 

so the SM is over the whole thing of course..... setting the tone for the troop

but what if you subdivide that troop into.... well let's call them platoons for the lack of anything better?

each platoon has an ASM, and is made up of 4 or 5 patrols to meet BP's magic "32" number of scouts.

and then think of each "platoon" as anyone else would a troop.  Platoon A could go to a different summer camp than platoon B, and so on..... 

Each platoon does everything a troop would do normally, and about the only thing the platoons share would be the number on the sleeve.

Seems like it works for troops of around 60 or more active scouts, until you start considering a troop trailer for each "platoon", or stuff like that...  

 

hmmm.... I wonder, do any of you with mega troops out there do this sort of thing?


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#20 Eagledad

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Posted 15 February 2017 - 09:35 AM

I wonder if it would be good for a larger troop to think of themselves as a collection of smaller troops......

I know this is not how things are intended....but running with the thinking

             that the total roster is no more than 32 scouts so that each scout can get individual attention form their scoutmaster and from the program

             and that no troop really wants to turn away scouts, or really break up and find other CO's to take them

 

so the SM is over the whole thing of course..... setting the tone for the troop

but what if you subdivide that troop into.... well let's call them platoons for the lack of anything better?

each platoon has an ASM, and is made up of 4 or 5 patrols to meet BP's magic "32" number of scouts.

and then think of each "platoon" as anyone else would a troop.  Platoon A could go to a different summer camp than platoon B, and so on..... 

Each platoon does everything a troop would do normally, and about the only thing the platoons share would be the number on the sleeve.

Seems like it works for troops of around 60 or more active scouts, until you start considering a troop trailer for each "platoon", or stuff like that...  

 

hmmm.... I wonder, do any of you with mega troops out there do this sort of thing?

Well we didn't end up doing this, but we did a lot of research into separate programs under one troop and the results weren't very good. Three out of the four programs changed back to one single program. 

 

First, logistics is a killer. The troops would require either meeting on separate nights or in separate meeting places. Either way the adults are being pulled hard, especially the SM. The committee is pulled in several different directions as well. Imagine the challenge of finding enough adults for one functioning troop committee, now you have to double or triple. 

 

In our research, the scouts do ok because they are in patrols anyways, so it's not that big of change. But, troops are adult programs for guiding youth toward men of character. Even in the most boy run programs, success and failure is dependent on the adults. What we found is that the programs become lopsided very quickly because skills of the adults will tend favor one program over the other. Not on purpose, it just worked out that way with the adults of the programs I researched. The SM burns out quickly as well as the adults on his staff and the committee who tend to work the needs of both programs trying to keep their heads above water. 

 

While boy run becomes more of a challenge as the troop grows, working it under a single program of skilled adults is easier than dividing the groups up. And, I personally found the scouts come up with some pretty good ideas themselves when you let them go.

 

Also, there is one other consideration, depending how far the unit wants to take it. Many of the families in our troop heard about our research and informed us that they joined the program that we had, not a program that might be split. They would consider taking their son and their adult volunteering time and leave for another troop.

 

Yes, it's complicated.

 

Barry


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