‘Why We Do This’: One Scoutmaster’s thoughts will inspire you

With all the behind-the-scenes legwork you do to make Scouting a success in your unit, it’s easy to lose sight of why you signed up in the first place.

It’s all about making a difference for our Scouts.

That’s why I’m thankful for Scouters like Michael Tances Jr., third from the right in the photo above.

Michael, the Scoutmaster of Troop 273 of the Michigan Crossroads Council, got back from camp earlier this summer and opened up about Scouting in a Facebook post for friends.

Scouter Kim Gbur saw his post and thought it was worth sharing with others.

I agree. Michael’s words are a reminder that the little moments of Scouting add up to a movement that makes a massive difference in the lives of youth. 

Why We Do This: One Scoutmaster’s Thoughts

By Michael Tances Jr., Scoutmaster

After spending a week at Summer Camp, sleeping in a tent and enduring all types of weather, here are a few things I observed:

I saw 16- to 17-year-old Scouts take a shy, quiet Scout who was new to our troop under their wings and make sure he felt welcome.

I saw a Scout that had never been “Up North” tube and canoe down the Rifle River, laughing and in awe of everything he was seeing.

I saw a young lady Venturer, new to the Scouting program, take to it like a duck to water, and it was amazing how she could get the other Venturers to work with her.

I saw young boys who have never been away from home making breakfast for 25 people and smiling while we guided them through it.

I saw young Scouts playing an actual board game — no controller needed — imagine that for a second!

I saw Scouts sit through hours of rain and not complain.

I saw young Scouts who thought they could do it all by themselves figure out that it’s better to work as a team.

I saw a Scout who was in tears last year when he couldn’t make it three feet up the climbing tower climb like he’d been doing it for years while the troop cheered him on — a moment I will never forget.

I saw a young Scout whose feet could barely touch the water when he was in his tube never give up in the relay race, even though he didn’t make it more than 10 feet from shore. His troop rallied around him, praising him from not giving up.

I saw Scouts who didn’t understand why they were asked to do things (but did them anyway) stand tall when their troop’s number was called to stand and receive their Honor Troop Award — some of them may have even pumped up their chests a bit!

Through it all, I saw nothing but smiles, and that, folks, is why we do it! When it’s all said and done, it’s not about me or the other adult leaders in camp.

It’s about the Scouts, and I’m proud to be their Scoutmaster.

25 Comments

  1. Having been in the Scouting program for over 20 years (still involved), a conversation will usually lead to Scouting and if that individual was involved, what are some of their fondest memories.

    The experiences I’ve heard about run the gammet, but one point that has always fascinated me was I would always ask this question: “Do you remember your Scoutmaster?” Almost every response, whether they had been in Scouting for a year or 50 years, young or old, the name rolled off their lips as if it was yesterday! And a big smile would appear on their face.

    Do not underestimate the impact and impression we leave on these youth! We can and do make a difference!!

    • I had 3 Scoutmasters and all of them were extremely important in my life. Among other things they were a strong, positive, stable father figure in my life when I was lacking that at home. I credit all 3 of them (especially my first one) for influencing me to become the scout leader that I am today. I owe them all so much.

  2. Now this is a unit that has a great deal to smile about. I read the words and then looked at the picture and came away with the great impression that this is a “Multi-Unit.” (1) Multi-genders, (2) Multi-ethnicity, (3) Multi-age groups and (4) Multi-smiles. The scouts should be proud of Mr. Tances and he should be proud of them. Bravo !

    • I cannot fathom why this would receive a down vote. Having moved many times – both as a scout and scouter – I have been privileged to have shared in many troop experiences with many different troops. This is exactly the type of unit we look for.

  3. I have to admit that nothing gives me a better feeling than seeing a scout accomplish something that I knew he could do, but he didn’t – until he did.

    That happened several times over the last year, and I expect it will happen more times this coming year.

  4. Thank you for sharing this article. I’m a Boy Scout and Girl Scout leader and I too see that these are the reasons that I do what I do. It’s not about me, but my daughter or my son, trying something new with their friends, expanding their horizons outside of their electronic comfort zone and enjoying the experience of something different that they didn’t think they could do. I do this for my own kids but I so enjoy seeing this program through the other kids eyes just as much as my own!

  5. being a Scouter for over 15 years I could not agree more. There were failures but oh so many successful events and probably life changing moments . I would not have missed it for anything.

  6. It brought a tear to my eye the first time I read it, and did the same now. Those boys are blessed to have such a caring leader. Way to go Mr Tances!

  7. I have a lot of hats in our Scouting area one of which is a Tiger Leader. These Tigers, actually the whole pack, are “my boys”. I try to start them off right so they will enjoy Scouting now and want to continue for years to come. My sons began that way and because they enjoyed Cubs I have an Eagle and a Life Scout. We have the best Scoutmaster in the world (we think so anyway) who kept that Cub energy going. She takes the new kids, the Cubs, the Venturers, and helps them enjoy Boy Scouting/Venturing as though they were those little Tigers. Some of the parents have decided that Boy Scouts are simply Cubs, just a little taller.

  8. Scouting was hit or miss when I was growing up. I remember walking to my den mother’s house (yes, I am dating myself) and a few camps and hikes when I was a Boy Scout. I had pictures of myself as a Boy Scout, but my records had disappeared when I went looking for them. I. too, can remember my Scoutmaster’s name, partly because he had a son my age who died when we were young (grade school). I 20 years experience as an adult leader, starting as a Webelos den leader. I have been recognized for my contribution to the youth in my charge; 1994, Cub Scout Rookie of the Year, a local award, Two Rivers District, Northern Lights Council; Feb 2007 District Award of Merit, Northern Sky District Northern Lights Council; March 2014, Silver Beaver, Northern Lights Council.

    I wear/have worn several hats in my Scouting career, but the one I enjoyed the most was Scoutmaster. It was my paycheck when I saw them growing in body, mind, and character. To see them about 4 ft. tall as incoming Scouts and aging out, sometimes as Eagles, at 6+ ft.

  9. This story inspired me to write my own “Why I Do This” note and post it on facebook. I thought i’d share it here too:

    “Today has been unofficially proclaimed to be “Scout Day on Facebook.” The idea is to encourage everyone to post a status update about Scouting to promote awareness of the organization. This morning I also read an article in Scouting Magazine, written by a fellow Scouter, titled “Why We Do This.” In the article the Scouter explains why he volunteers in Scouting. In the spirit of Scout Day on Facebook, I have decided to write my own “Why I Do This” post and proclaim it to the world (or, at least, those who are my facebook followers and friends). So, for those that may wonder why I do what I do (a question I have admittedly also asked myself on occasion), here is why:

    I get to watch the eyes of my Scouts light up when they go on adventures they would otherwise likely never experience. I have taken Scouts to the Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, South Manitou Island, Hocking Hills, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Mackinaw Island, the mountains of northern Pennsylvania, and many other destinations. Most recently we traveled to Acadia National Park in Maine. I truly believe these are experiences that will last a lifetime, and the joy they bring to the faces of my Scouts means a great deal to me.

    I get to watch Scouts challenge themselves to achieve goals they never thought possible. I’ve seen Scouts that fear heights climb to great heights and poor swimmers reach distances they once thought were outside the realm of possibility. I have seen Scouts hike and backpack to distances and altitudes that they never would have thought were attainable in their wildest of dreams.

    I get to watch Scouts gain confidence in themselves and become leaders of others. The shy boy that joins our ranks and 11-years-old is soon commanding the attention of a Troop of over 50 members. The now-leader provides instruction and guidance that his Troop mates willingly follow.

    I get to watch Scouts enjoy the company of those they are with in the great outdoors. Scouts are taken back to a simpler time when electronics and the newest gadgets of home become irrelevant. Societal class differences become moot in Scouting – we all wear the same uniform.

    I get to watch friendships and a tolerance for the differences of others develop over time. Some Scouts butt heads in their younger years and then turn to each other for support as they age and continue along the Scouting path.

    I get to watch a phenomenal group of Scouting volunteers engage our Scouts and provide positive examples to them. These are people that care for our Scouts just as much as I do, and they also contribute a significant amount of themselves to our Troop and its program. I consider them leaders in our community and among my closest of friends. I am indebted to my fellow volunteers, because they help enable our Troop and its program to exist – I’d be lost without them.

    I get to watch Scouts take pride in what they have accomplished – both in their small victories and the large ones. From their first camp-cooked meal to the day they age out of Scouting at 18-years-old, Scouts take pride in everything they achieve while in our ranks.

    I get to watch Scouts morph themselves from adolescent boys into confident, mature young men. Some achieve the coveted Eagle rank, and I get to watch as the emotions of the day and the life-long accomplishment pour out. The young man receiving his award is generally overcome by the totality of what he has accomplished and the pride the audience has in him – his voice quivers and his eyes swell. Oftentimes his Scoutmaster also experiences a similar, temporary loss of his own faculties as the award ceremony progresses.

    So, to those of you who have asked me “why do you do it?” or “is it worth it?” my answer to you is simply this: yes. The financial expense of providing the program ($1,200+ each year from my own – currently unemployed – pocket) and the time involved (averaging 10-30 hours a week depending on whether there is a campout) are worth it. I am oftentimes annoyed at the bureaucracy of Scouting and the seemingly never-ending list of trainings and other mundane tasks that are required of me, but those, too, are worth the effort. Scout parents sometimes question my judgment, decisions, and level of caring for their child – some politely insinuating and others rather insultingly accusing – but even those I tolerate while truly attempting not to take offense. All of the meetings and all of the behind-the-sceens logistical time I contribute are worth the effort. It’s all worth it.”

  10. We are going through a lot of changes and upheaval, here in Michigan, and the need for faith and patience and belief in the program is now more needed than ever. I haven’t met Mr Tances (don’t know if we were at summer camp the same week). But it is Scouters like him that will help us through this transition time. Thank you sir.

  11. Having the pleasure of coming from his troop, I can fully attest to what I witness at every function that we have been to this year. I am grateful for the time and effort that is put into by all of the leaders of not only my troop but all of scouting. I have seen the growth in these young men in just the six months since my son crossed over from cubs. I don’t know if we say it enough but thank you leaders for all that you do to make scouting what it is. I look forward to my son reaching his potential and I believe scouting will play a part in that. Thanks again.

  12. As a curent venturer aging out soon with the plan to stay on as an advisor for my crew this is something that touches me deeply. I started in venturing 4 years ago. I went through all the youth trainings have and am currently serving on our VOA have been an NYLT SPL Being the first female SPL in our council, seeing the questioning looks of parents and scoutmaster so dropping youth off for NYLT, those looks of why is a female here is she really qualified to be teaching these boys about leadership? That course was run just like every other course in our council it was no sissy course.
    But the two greatest scouting memories I have are both from this summer, a time when I a transiting from youth member to adult advisor and mentor. One was a shooting day we had with our crew, a new 14 year old female Venturing youth who was scared to death to even get to close to the firearms. I spent my day talking to her mentoring her and getting her to shoot that pistol walking through every step with her. But it didn’t stop there it was on to the rifles in the same way. Then the shotguns came out, she was NOT going near them. A little talking and mentoring later she shot that shotgun only one round but she did it.
    The story doesn’t end there its now time for some even bigger firearms. AK-47 and AR -15. Once again she wasn’t going near them. Instead of taking my turn shooting, I talked to her and got her to go up and hold one, some more mentoring and she loaded it. Now it was time to shoot, myself and two other scouts are now on both sides and behind her surounding her, she is in the prone position rifle aimed the three of us are walking her through everything that is going to happen. We get her to fire it! And she shoots all 3 rounds. Then we go to the other one and through the same process she shoots all 3 rounds of it.
    This young lady posts that picture of us talking her through shooting many times on facebook with the caption “this was the best day of my life”. It may have been hers but it was also mine, the first time I actually fully saw my mentoring being used and put into action.

    Anytime I get to work with the youth weather doing an activity or being staff on a week long camp, and here those youth tell me, another adult staff member or their parent/scoutmaster this was the best day/week of my life. I know that I have made a differance. The same differance others were making for me a few years ago and still are as I make the transition into being an adult leader.

  13. Rules for Being a Scoutmaster

    Rule #1: The Scouts must have fun.
    If the Scouts aren’t having fun then they won’t come to Scouting, let alone have the involvement that motivates them to learn skills and the skill of working together. People learn best from joy rather than obligation or fear.

    Rule #2: The Scoutmaster must have fun.
    No matter what the Scouts think they’re doing, if YOU are not having fun then THEY’RE NOT having fun. If you are not enjoying what you are doing, then you not only shouldn’t do it, you are serving as a BAD role model for the Scouts.

    Rule #3: Always Be Teaching
    Even if they don’t understand, tie Scouting Principles to everything they do. People learn by doing rather than listening, but if they think that there is a rational explanation for what they are doing, by the time they understand the explanation, they will have also mastered the skill and be able to pass it on to other Scouts.

    Rule #4: See Rule #1

    =======================================================

    How to Have Fun Being a Parent

    The Goal of Parenting is NOT to produce an Obedient Child OR a Rebellious Child, but to produce a Successful Adult.

    Most Parents, however, don’t understand that as Boys grow from age 11 through 18, “normal” is defining who they are by “pushing the envelope” and the boundaries of what they think and do. And Children (and People) do what you Inspect, Not what you Expect.

    What Parents fail to understand is that Children learn by Example, NOT by Instruction. A Child’s Role Model is NOT the way their Parents tell them to act, but the way their Parents act.

    Children seeing their Parents behaving constructively and having constructive fun as Adults tend to use THAT as a role model. As a result, Parenting is NOT a one minute, one hour, one day, or one year experience. Parenting is a Relationship.

    Scouting provides a Relationship Environment Sons (and Parents) learn skills that help them (and their Parents) constructively “push that boundary” to help them (and their Parents) become successful Adults.

    While Scouting is a way of “Learning How to Enjoy Life”, the biggest benefit of Scouting is NOT what your son learns as a Scout, but what YOU learn as a Parent.

  14. It’s amazing how a man took a young boy that didn’t come out of his shell. It reminded me when I first joined Pine Bush Troop 37. And they took a young wheelchair bound boy and turned him into a man. Nine years later he’s still going. And I will never give up that good fight. I hate quitters. There’s no need for quitting. Just keep moving forward.

  15. As a boy I did it all in Scouting. I have now been a SM for over 35 years. Over those years I have come to a simple statement of why I continue to do it: I’m changing the future of America one boy at a time.

  16. I had a 9th grade Venturer, who maybe weighed 95 lbs wet, carry a 30 lb pack around the Porcupine Mts. for 4 days and 3 nights for her first backpacking trek. It did not fit her very well. We did about 5000 feet of total elevation change. And the mosquitoes were pretty bad. She always had a smile and I could tell she will do it again.

  17. Thank you to all the Scout leaders out there. I know that is why Men and Women like my dad and I are in Scouts

  18. Sitting on any number of Eagle Boards of Review we ask the scouts to tell us about their least favorite campout (http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2013/11/07/longtime-scouter-left-behind-template-for-running-eagle-scout-boards-of-review/) and they leaned of it about themselves. Without exception, they tell that learned that they make it with out mom and dad! How valuable is this? This is NOT an Inquisition, in fact they happy to address this question. We follow up by asking them, if they fun in spite of this? (usually the weather they talk about; heat, rain, etc.) They respond an enthusiastic yes!, so we ask them how can you relate this to the rest of your life. I assure they get it.

  19. Being in a troop leadership the last 15 years or so, I can agree with most of this without any doubt.

    My proudest moment was probably when we were evaluating on a weekend evening/night activity with our scouts. Each of us moderated the discussion of a patrol – and in mine, the patrol leaders were two girls of 14 and 15. We discussed a.o. what made them produ and happy to be scouts (out of a discussion during the activity why quite a few other kids see scounts as “odd” or “nerds”).

    One said “the personal development is certainly a big part of that.” They both thought about it for a few heartbeats. And then added, agreeing with each other “but the best part is helping others to achive their personal development.”

    Sure, I could have walked on water right there – but even more importantly, that proves to us that we are doing the right things with our troop leadership.

    (now, some two years later, the older one of them will soon be joining the troop leadership team, by the way)

  20. It’s great that you had such a nice experience as a scouter. I was a scouter in cub scouts, and there were some good times, but it got progressively more difficult, and honestly, disappointing, so I quit when my son crossed over.

    He’s in boy scouts now, but what I’ve observed in multiple troops is that the boys are hostile in so many ways. Rather than help a fellow scout who is struggling in any capacity, they verbally and physically abuse each other. The scouters alternately micromanage the scouts and ignore them. Rank requirements sometimes need to be repeated several times or delayed for several months due to any number of reasons: poor record keeping, obvious willful ignorance, they literally will not take two minutes to confirm that a tent was pitched or equipment was packed (despite being asked politely multiple times per campout), etc. My son isn’t really enjoying scouts much anymore, but it is teaching him how much he can accomplish despite the inherent unfairness of life. He’s learning that you can only trust in yourself, and no matter how many times boy scouts will kick you down, you can still get back up. I truly never expected those to be the lessons to come out of the boy scout experience, but they’re valuable lessons, so he’s sticking with it.

    One exception – camp staff are still the same, nice people they’ve always been. If they were anything like the campers, I’m pretty sure they would be fired immediately!

  21. I was a jock thinking it was the way Elementary, Middle, High School and College. I had no idea. I believed the Boyscouts were for rich kid. I WAS A Fool. My wife joined my son while I was in Afghanistan. She is the leader and a good one! Through personal experience in swat and military thought I could lend a hand…These young men through cubs and scouts are better than me they function at 13, 14 yrs old better Than I did in my 20’s. Not the Scoutmasters story but I have stories. These young men inspire me!

  22. My husband has been scout master for over 20 years, before our son was even born. Our son has just made Eagle at 17 1/2 but my husband wants to stay. His early Eagle scouts are bringing their sons back in now. So amazing to watch each and every scout grow up and kudos to those who do it. We are exhausted but the rewards are more than worth it……..

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