Parents of Eagle Scout and Olympic gold medalist Ryan Held tell their story

We’ve heard from Ryan Held, the Eagle Scout who won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics and says Scouting gave him a welcome respite from the stress of competitive swimming.

Now we get to hear from his parents, who say both of their Eagle Scout sons are proof that Scouting helps prepare young people for life.

In a video produced by the Springfield, Ill.-based Abraham Lincoln Council, Randy and Cheryl Held tell their story. (See the video at the end of this post.)

Ryan, a star swimmer at North Carolina State University, won gold in the 4×100 freestyle relay on Aug. 7. Ryan’s older brother, Kendall, is a physician.

Cheryl says Scouting made Ryan and Kendall “more confident young men.”

“They’re respectful — and respectful not only of people with different backgrounds but respectful of our nation,” she says.

Randy says the 21 merit badges required to become an Eagle Scout give young men “exposure to things they may not ever see.”

Like the Personal Management merit badge, where they learn to make and stick to a budget. Or the First Aid merit badge, where they learn how to treat an injury. Or the Citizenship in the Community merit badge.

“One of the requirements is go to a town council meeting,” Randy says. “How many kids ever do that?”

Cheryl watched as her two sons became more resourceful young men.

“So many of their really good qualities have been developed through Scouting,” she says.

Ryan started swimming at age 8, but even as swimming became a bigger time commitment, Held stayed in Scouting.

“My parents and my uncle — an Eagle Scout — really pushed me to stay in Scouting and reach for the rank of Eagle, and I’m so glad that they did,” Ryan says.

In Ryan’s story, we see just the latest proof of Scouting and sports living in harmony.

“Ryan is a prime example of you can be a very good athlete — a dedicated athlete — and a Scout at the same time,” Randy says. “They can coexist.”


  1. Totally agree. My Eagle Scout son still holds the Mid Atlantic Prep record fro the 2 mile, captained his high school Cross-Country, Indoor and Outdoor track teams, and ran NCAA track and cross-country at Harvard.

    The leadership skills to become captain of those teams came from Scouting.

  2. Thank you! My son is a year around competitive swimmer and an Eagle scout also. It’s a challenge to balance but not impossible…..both sides make him who he is.

  3. While I could not agree more that Scouting gives youth things that sports cannot and that choices of either/or don’t necessarily need to be made.
    The example set by Ryan’s parents and the testimonials are sadly in the minority. Not necessarily because of parents or even the youth making the decision though.

    It’s the coaches and marching band leaders who threaten to bench your athlete or musician if they don’t attend every minute of every practice. Both parents and youth are too intimidated by these small minded and selfish “leaders” to stand up to them. If your son or daughter is truly valued by these coaches, there should be none of that behavior. So what suffers? Scouting. Because Scouting is forced to be the one who is all accepting and generous.

    Not because the rules say we have to, but because we know it’s the right thing to do.

    I am not sure anything can be done (probably not). But increasingly over the years Scouting will keep diminishing due to this bullying behavior.

    • I agree with this post – my son was forced to quit high school band by the band director because a job he had would have meant he had to miss one of SEVEN practices a week. He needed the job! The one statement I disagree with you about is this one: ” Because Scouting is forced to be the one who is all accepting and generous.” The Scouts went to the Supreme Court to be allowed to exclude gay members and leaders. It has been pressured to change over recent years, including by its own members and Eagle Scouts – however, all-accepting they are not.

  4. I’m proud of your Eagle Scout and mine. My son went into the Marines and got the Company High Shooter Award. Fox Co. #2121. He is a wonderful respectful son.???

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