Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Discussion with a YMP Counselor

Following is a letter I wrote as a result of a discussion I had the other day:

Our discussion got me thinking, and I wanted to present some ideas.

It seems there was an underlying question to your comments last night, along the lines of how do we kick-start this program, and get the boys [Teachers/Varsity Scouts] involved and excited? How do we re-kindle their interest? I really believe that the answer lies in presenting them the whole program, and guiding them in implementing it themselves. And a good yardstick for measuring the effectiveness of that program is the Journey to Excellence, the BSA’s new council recognition program, designed to encourage quality programs. It provides another goal to shoot for.

I will say that from a personal standpoint it bothers me that the ‘official,’ called Varsity Team Coach and Venturing Adviser were not present at the Court of Honor, especially when the Eagle recipient was one of their own. This to me is a symptom of something more worrying: you will never get the boys to be interested if the adult leaders don’t take an active interest in the program. [My son] B just turned 12; I am afraid that he will have a great experience with [Scoutmaster M] for the next two years, only to see his Activity Program become a shell of what it was just because he had a birthday, and at 14, “we don’t do Scouting anymore.” Attitude reflects Leadership; if their leaders aren’t committed to the program, and trained in how to present it, the boys will think it unimportant (except insofar as driving privileges are concerned). There seems to be a tendency in the Church of thinking that the value of Scouting lies in the badges received and the resultant “Priesthood Résumé,” as opposed to its being a holistic youth development program that is inherently valuable by itself.

June’s Ensign has a great article from Young Men General President David L. Beck, called “Capturing the Vision of Scouting.” You may have read it already. I’d like to pull a quote from his article: “In a program as demanding as Scouting, some leaders are concerned and tentative and might feel inadequate or overwhelmed…The best way to deal with such feelings is to just jump in – now…Young Men Advisers in the [Church] should be the best implementers of Scouting in the world” (Ensign, June 2012, p. 47-51, emphasis in original).

Varsity Scouting is Scouting, with bigger challenges and bigger rewards. The great thing about it is that it’s designed with older boys’ interests in mind. Remember, it’s not about the Eagle badge, it’s about building boys into men who can and are willing to care for themselves and others: Citizenship, Character, Fitness.

Some other points:
  •  If they’re not showing interest, what can be done to kick-start it? 
    • Outdoors/Camping – they’re likely bored with the drive-to-a-campsite, sleep-in-a-tent, home-by-10-the-next-day model (which is, I believe, a short-sighted way to do it anyway) that they experienced in Boy Scouts. So, what do they want to do? Is their outdoor experience limited to one High Adventure camp per year? What about a snowshoeing expedition, or a sunset photo shoot in Arches? Is there a reason for the camp out besides just sleeping in a tent? 
  • Five fields of emphasis – what the boys do:
    • Advancement (Eagle, pins, letter, Denali) 
    • High-adventure and Sports 
    • Personal Development 
    • Service 
    • Special Programs and Events 
    • (Alternatively: Cars, Gadgets, Girls, Movies and Pizza)
  • Methods – building blocks of a quality program:
    1. The Ideals (Scout Oath & Law) 
    2. The Team Method 
    3. The Outdoors 
    4. Advancement 
    5. Association with Adults 
    6. Personal Growth 
    7. Leadership Development 
    8. The Uniform 
  • Lead from the front. Let the Young Men know that, yes, Scouting is still on the table, and we’re going to be doing more of it. But not tying knots and lashing poles. We’ll be planning adventures, sporting events (maybe they want to learn curling?), service and conservation projects, etc. Not Wednesday merit badge classes and skills sessions, but preparing fun activities. Use the commitment pattern and find out why they’re turned off to Scouting and what they’re interested in. 
  • Activities/team meetings: are they organized and planned by the boys, or do they show up on Wed not knowing what will happen? Is the default Duty to Spalding? Do they have time set aside to plan Scouting activities? If there are boys who are working toward Eagle, are those who are farther along helping them out in meetings? They should already have basic skills, so you don’t have to do merit badge classes or skills sessions (though a semi-annual first aid review would be a good idea). Instead, use the time to plan adventures. 
  • Boy-led – What kind of emphasis is placed on boy leadership? I’m a big fan of the concept, and like the catchphrase: Presidents preside, Advisers advise (and Coaches coach). And none of that can happen in absentia. Remembering who has been set apart in which calling can help everyone understand roles and responsibilities. As adult leaders, we facilitate, advise and provide opportunities and resources so the boys can run their program. I’d even go so far as to make them responsible for the paperwork. 
  • Expectations – as you’re well aware, people will rise or sink to the level we set for them. I’ve seen these boys rise to a high level in their performance of AP duties, so expand those high expectations to their Scouting activity. Do the boys understand that Varsity Scouting is still their activity program? And that the program is what they make of it? They likely don't equate Scouting with calling their own shots. 
  • On my honor, I will: do my duty to God; or do my Duty to God book? 
  • Advancement: Do you and [Varsity Coach] know each boy’s advancement status, and what he needs to progress? Advancement, while not the end-game, is the “game” the boys “play” that brings together all the other methods, including leadership, teamwork, growth, Duty to God, Etc. It includes the Eagle rank, but introduces Varsity pins, the Varsity Letter and the Denali Award. These can either stand on their own, or work as progress checks toward Eagle. 
  • Training: What is your plan to ensure both you and [Varsity Coach] are basic-trained? (includes Youth Protection, Leader-specific training and Outdoor Leadership Skills) 
  • Uniform – Leaders, both adults, but especially the Team Captain (the Senior Patrol Leader equivalent) should set the example. Resistance is inevitable, but ask them if they’d not suit up for football, or for administering the Sacrament? 
  • I did a write-up about the supposed conflict between the Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting. If we do it right, there is no conflict; there’s not even a line of demarcation between the two. 
Other resources
Merit Badge.org Varsity page – Program description and planning helps
Varsity Team Program Features – three-volume set of ideas for the youth to implement their program 

USSSP page – Program description and helps
VarsityScouter.org – Program description and helps
Varsity Team Coach Huddle blog 

Adventures and Accidents – (Venturing blog, but still relevant)

1 comment:

Fishgutts said...

If you need a copy of my binder that I give to new Varsity Coaches to help kick start the program, let me know!!