John Erickson had the feeling he was being watched.
The then-Scout Executive was buying milk inside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, La., when he turned to see a boy staring at him.
“Are you a Scoutmaster?” the boy asked. He had noticed Erickson’s Scout uniform.
“Well, sort of,” Erickson replied. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Damon, and I’m a Cub Scout.”
“That’s great, Damon. What do you like best about being a Cub Scout?”
“Every week we get to go to my den leader’s house, and we play games and sing songs and all my buddies are there and we have a terrific time. Once a month we have a pack meeting, and Mom and Dad come and my little sister comes.”
Damon kept going, breathless.
“Next month we’re going to go to Camp Avondale — my whole family — and we’re going to sleep in a tent, and we’re going to go hiking in the woods. The best part about Cub Scouting is next summer I get to go to day camp. We go every day for a week. We play games and we get to shoot bows and arrows, and the fire department comes.”
“Damon, you certainly know an awful lot about the Cub Scouts,” Erickson said. “How long have you been a Cub Scout?”
“I joined last night, and my first meeting is next Tuesday!”
A promise made
That story — which Erickson says is mostly true — holds an important lesson about Cub Scouting.
A Cub Scout’s first night in Scouting — Rally Night or First-Nighter or Join-Scouting Night or whatever your pack calls it — is filled with a grandiose vision of the Cub Scout year.
We tell them they’ll go fishing and camping. We tell them they’ll take field trips and meet firefighters. We tell them they’ll learn to use a bow and arrow.
But then we have to deliver on that promise.
“We idealize what we can do,” Erickson says. “Sometimes we tend to overpromise, but it’s a good idea to perhaps underpromise and overdeliver.”
Erickson shares those ideas and more in the August 2016 CubCast, available at this link or through your favorite podcast app.
A promise kept
Listening to the 13-minute episode is time well spent for any Cub Scout leader. But here are a few key takeaways I extracted from this terrific CubCast.
- Make your join-Scouting night about recruiting boys, not leaders.
- “One of the real keys to this is to recruit our leaders enough in advance so that the Rally Night is not primarily a recruiting night of adults,” Erickson says.
- Remind parents why it’s important for them to be a leader.
- “They are not doing you a favor,” Erickson says. “You are doing them the favor by getting them involved in this great program.”
- Have a strong annual plan.
- That way you know what’s going to happen, and you know which leaders are in charge of each event.
- Recruit more help.
- “Always be looking out for somebody new that can get involved in your program,” Erickson says. “And the more help you have, the easier it is to keep those promises.”
- Communicate well.
- That means being clear about what’s happening when, Erickson says, and then reminding people again and again.
Check out the August 2016 CubCast for more great ideas.