This topic contains 24 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by Damian 10 months ago.
April 6, 2015 at 12:57 pm #37160
I was wondering what others think is the ideal troop size. I’ve encountered small troops of just eight (8) Scouts and large troops with over a hundred (100+) Scouts in them. The BSA says that the average Boy Scout troop size is around 15 Scouts.
The building block of the troop is the patrol. Patrol sizes may vary but (according the numerous BSA publications) the ideal patrol size is eight Scouts. Although it could range from around 6 to 10 and still be functional; any smaller or bigger and the patrol dynamic changes greatly and doesn’t work.
As for the ideal number of patrols, I suggest between 4 and 8. Any more, and it becomes hard for a single SPL to coordinate that many PLs; and less and it becomes too simple (what does the SPL do in a 1 patrol troop?). If you have less than 4 patrols the troop may have a recruitment/retention problem. There are 7 grade levels between cross-over and aging out; so if each year you’re able recruit a new Scout patrol (and retain them all the way through), you should have about 7 patrols at any given time (although with some attrition as you hit high school and you may have 5-6 patrols)… if you’re only able to gain half a patrol a year (3-4 new Scouts) then you’ll have about 4 patrols at a given time.
So, to do some math here, 4-8 patrols of 6-10 boys each… that gives you a troop of 25-75 boys…which in my mind is the perfect range… not too big, not too small.
What is your ideal troop size? Bigger? Smaller?
April 8, 2015 at 10:39 am #37322
Having experienced life in troops ranging from 8 to 40, I’m indifferent about this.
A one patrol troop is likely to have fewer attendance problems, more activities during meetings, less noise! Easier to mobilize: first good idea out of someone’s mouth, we’re going there! On the flip side, they have to find opportunities to network with other scouts — or other youth in general — for service projects and wider fellowship.
A troop with more than 3 patrols becomes a challenge. Boys slip through the cracks, some don’t do well with the chaos. It’s hard to find camping areas with enough space to place each patrol 100 yards from any other. Encouraging patrols to make individual plans (and adults to support them) sometimes is met with push-back. On the other hand, the throng is so much fun! The singing is better. They look good in parades. Some methods come easier (e.g. I think you’re more likely to find scouts in uniform and positively reinforce that behavior).
March 13, 2016 at 1:59 pm #50603
In a Boy Scout Troop, the Scout is to primarily experience Scouting in his patrol, not in the troop context. That means the critical limit is the size of the patrol, not the size of the troop.
If a PL can guide his patrol in planning its program and lead the Scouts of the patrol in carrying it out, why is is not possible for the SPL to guide the PLC in planning the secondary troop program and lead the PLs in carrying it out?
What can BSA do to encourage the method absolutely mandated by its Rules and Regulations? How about a learning objective in Scoutmaster Specific Training of teaching what the Patrol Method is? There’s a wild idea! How about recognition for troops that are Boy Scout Troops? How about pointing out repeatedly that the Patrol method is not optional?
March 14, 2016 at 10:23 am #50620
Wholeheartedly agree that the patrol method should be made second-nature to every adult leader. That vision of the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with your mates is critical to our success.
However, although a fully operational patrol will mitigate that “lost in a shuffle” feeling that certain scouts have when walking into a troop of 4+ patrols, that feeling is not completely removed. For most boys that’s not a negative. They enjoy being part of something larger than themselves.
But for some, a roster with a couple of patrols is more comfortable. They walk in the room, there are two places to go. One other “team” to challenge. More facilities that both patrols could use at the same time. SPL is more “big brother” than the PL for your PL.
April 8, 2015 at 12:04 pm #37327
3 to 5 patrols with about 8 Scouts in each of them (so 24-40 boys total) is, in my mind, an ideal troop. 30 Scouts (or an average of about 3-5 per grade level) gives the perfect mix, keeps the program meaningful, but also keeps the program manageable.
December 13, 2015 at 3:07 am #48443
I agree Matthew. We were in a troop of over 100 scouts and at that point logistics dominates everything. Even with expert adult supervision and background support I believe the quality suffers. The fun suffers. A small troop of 15-20 scouts lends itself to meetings that are a lot easier, less chaotic, and the kids learn at a deeper level. They’re absorbing things not checking them off.
April 9, 2015 at 6:19 am #37400
I was worried about this at one time but see it differently now. For years, our troop was usually around 12 to 15 strong, with 75% active constantly. A single patrol on campouts. As I added programs which the upcoming scouts asked about, we began to see an increase in cross-overs from our pack as well as other packs who liked what we were doing. We are now at around thirty scouts with another pack, who cross up in May and has no designated troop, looking at us. The boys have asked the patrol sizes to be around ten or so so they can have seven or eight in a patrol at campouts.
I wonder how much our program will change as we grow, and if it will resemble the program the scouts, who crossed up, found appealing? Others, who went to another troop, came back to us saying they felt lost in the crowd. I will never tell a scout he might feel more at home with another troop but to at least visit several to see how they operate.
As we are growing so much, our DE actually mentioned we shouldn’t recruit from the other packs and they should consider forming their own troops. Why? There are a couple of other troops with nearly 100 scouts, who usually recruit from these packs, so our size shouldn’t matter to him. Let the boys decide and your troop will be fine?
April 10, 2015 at 10:25 am #37496
I don’t understand how a troop with over 100 boys operates. How does a 15-year-old Senior Patrol Leader coordinate and effectively lead 12+ patrol leaders?
April 11, 2015 at 12:30 pm #37531
The big troop can take one of two solutions: increased adult management or serious boy management. Let’s assume that any SM would want to lean towards the latter:
First, there’s actually no reason that an SPL couldn’t manage a dozen real patrols. He puts patrols on a roster (e.g. for meetings one patrol ones opening, one runs closing, one does program), and it’s on the PL’s t follow through. Depending how he responds to those patarols’ performance, the patrols who are up next week will try to do as good or a better job.
If he has a “real” scribe. Not just one who checks attendance boxes, he can be as responsive to needs of 12 as an SPL without one can only serve 4. Minutes are his friend. He reads them, then follows up with the QM and JASMs about anything that should be addressed. If the bugler really leads, the SPL doesn’t have wake anyone up at camp, or let anyone know it’s time for bed.
SPL might request more than one assistant. Some might help with the younger patrols while he focuses on challenging the seasoned ones. (Or, maybe the other way ’round.) A depth chart is one advantage of a large troop, and the SPL can call on it to get things done that an SPL in a smaller troop has to do himself.
He doesn’t have to be exceptional, just a First Class Scout (in the true sense of the word). At the moment, I have a 17 year old coordinating a district-wide service evening. He did it last year with modest supervision from me. I’m confident he’ll have no trouble managing the dozens of units and hundreds of scouts who will show up. Why? When natural born leaders see one of their own stepping up to the plate, they’ll rally behind him/her.
If I expect that to happen in one youth for one evening. I’m sure a high-functioning SM is able to see that week in and week out from his SPL.
April 14, 2015 at 10:40 am #37658
Our troop currently has 8 scouts. Our youngest scout is 14 years old. The troop gets along well, with no problems cooperating. Of the 8, three are siblings.
The only issue we have experienced with this size troop is the lack of parental involvement, in terms of camping etc. We typically have two of the same 3 adults attending each campout. This can sometimes make it difficult for transportation etc, especially as nobody owns a vehicle which can tow a troop trailer 🙂
June 4, 2015 at 8:05 pm #40943
Lord Baden Powell was a very smart man. He knew from his military experience what constituted the ideal size patrol, the ideal number of patrols and consequently the right size troop. I’ve read many of his works and he speaks 5-8 lads for patrols and 32 lads for optimum troop size. The link below is very informative on why this smaller is better approach is truly better. Stop and really contemplate on the rationale given. Hopefully this will make perfect sense to you.
January 17, 2016 at 3:43 pm #49416
Let’s be clear. Units that aren’t big enough to have MULTIPLE patrols are NOT running a “Scouting Program”. There are a lot of nuances in this program that have nothing to do with “scout skills”, badges, and “camping”; leadership… communication… cooperation… problem resolution… etc. The REAL value of Scouting is what’s NOT in the Handbook.
These lessons DON’T happen in troops that only have a handful of boys. “Small” units are also in direct violation of the Patrol Method, where the BSA policy clearly states that patrols separate boys by “age, interests, and abilities”.
So unless you are in the middle of cattle country and the next unit is an hour’s drive away, units that only have a handful of boys should migrate to another unit where they will form a large enough group so the BOYS GET THE FULL SCOUTING EXPERIENCE.
Imagine how “wrong” it is for a boy to spend years wearing a Boy Scout uniform and never really know what it was SUPPOSED to be like to be “in Scouting”, or let a boy become an “Eagle Scout” and never experience actual “leadership” opportunities.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “large” troops. It only puts emphasis on the proper Patrol Method, good guidance during the PLC meetings, and delegating leadership responsibilities to the respective Patrol Leaders.
January 18, 2016 at 9:03 pm #49434
Yours is an absurd polemic.
Eight boys who grow to love each other will experience leadership, problem solving, cooperation and those many things we wish four our scouts.
Susan mentions a single patrol troop of 14-17 year-old boys. They will be able to do some increasingly challenging activities. So in principle, they are conforming to the notion of a patrol.
That’s not denying her troop’s very real problem. There has been no influx of crossovers for consecutive years. For the younger scouts, the best thing to do is start cooperating with a nearby troop and eventually join them.
January 23, 2016 at 1:51 pm #49492
Interesting word use but neither me or my post is polemic. Polemic means an “attack” or an “argument”. I’m doing neither. I’m doing nothing more than RESTATING the BSA policy on how a Boy Scout unit is supposed to be ORGANIZED and FUNCTION as to teach all the wide array of lessons embedded in the Scouting program.
Assuming her 8 boys are all the same “age, interests, and abilities”…
1. She has a very nice PATROL, but she doesn’t have a TROOP.
2. There is no difference between “patrol leader” and “senior patrol leader”.
3. There is no difference between a “patrol meeting” and a PLC meeting.
Simply put… the boys are missing out on something.
We restructured our troop with 3 boys, grew to 12 within 2 months, and within a year grew to 50. So I may very well stand corrected. If a “small troop” is in the process of growing, then I eat my words. If the ONGOING status of her unit is 1 patrol worth of boys…. I repeat my suggestion that the boys would be better served finding & merging with a larger unit.
January 24, 2016 at 1:13 pm #49499
I am new to scouting with a first grader in cub scouts. I am not new to studying leadership, or new to studying the abilities of boys and men at various ages. I hire and fire people all the time.
I did not find anything in the BSA website that states a requirement for multiple patrols. In fact I found writings that state the opposite of an earlier poster.
An earlier poster wrote of benefits, saying they only exist in troops of multiple patrols. The writing I found at the BSA website states that those same benefits exist at the patrol level and that the patrol method is the only method.
It also stated that patrols can temporally join with each other for particular activities and then separate again. There was nothing to state that happens only with patrols within the same troop.
That poster stated units without multiple patrols are in violation of BSA policy. I did not find any such policy. It would be nice to have it identified and even nicer if a link was provided.
A large unit with many multiple patrols, out of necessity will create certain leadership experiences, but those additional experiences will be for only an extremely small percentage. If it will be competitive to determine who gets that experience; would seam to contradict some of the BSA writings.
I could see a large troop sharing facility and equipment cost to be an advantage in those areas. The writings on the BSA website state the opposite regarding another posters claims regarding certain benefits not being available at the patrol level.
I think involvement has to be considered. A large troop of multiple patrols with low involvement/participation, will naturally feel a large group is necessary to make up for the no shows.
A small troop with high participation will likely be too busy to notice they are missing anything.
There is a lot written about how many people an adult leader can affectively manage in various types of situations. Such writing predates Jesus by hundreds of years.
Larger numbers of subordinates are only suitable in work environments that do not require as much supervision and don’t require as much leadership skill. Those tend to be less desirable jobs, both for the subordinate and supervisor.
I don’t expect a boy to handle the same number of subordinates as a man, and certainly not for the same amount of hours as a man. It is difficult to convince me that putting a boy in charge of a large group will allow him to develop the leadership skills that are necessary in higher paying jobs where there are fewer direct subordinates.
Having a large number of subordinates does not determine leadership skill and out of necessity prevents the use of certain leadership traits. In not using those traits they will not be developed.
January 25, 2016 at 3:54 pm #49520
Please understand that my opinions are meant to benefit EVERY boy in Scouting with the best opportunities and experiences that the Program has to offer. With those GOOD INTENTIONS clarified, let’s get to it… “by the book”…
You are 100% correct, there is ABSOLUTELY NO stated BSA requirement that a unit MUST have multiple patrols, but those who do maximize opportunities and EXPERIENCES in leadership, communication, conflict resolution, cooperation, “older teaching younger”, compromise, organizing, SPL responsibilities, PLC responsibilities, etc.
Focusing on the original post of a “small troop”, my ASSUMPTION is that the troop has a mix of boys ranging from ages 12-17. IF SO, a SERIES of age-based GUIDELINES absolutely DO come into play which MIGHT result in “small troops” operating against BSA policy:
1. The BSA does not intend for diverse-age boys to be grouped together in the same patrol (“patrols are groups of boys grouped by age, interests, abilities”).
2. If a “small” unit were to attempt to form patrols based on age & ability, they’d end up with patrols of only 3-4 boys, which again, not a “rule breaker” but is LIKELY to be too small to function well.
3. Per the Guideline to Safe Scouting, when Tent Camping, boys greater than 2 years apart are NOT PERMITTED to share a tent unless they are siblings.
4. Per the Guideline to Safe Scouting, the “buddy system” also SUGGESTS that boys greater than 2 years apart (in age or maturity) be STRONGLY DISCOURAGED as buddies.
5. Throughout Scouting (from Cubs, to high adventure, to COPE, to Venturing) the BSA observes CLEAR lines of separation based on AGE & ABILITY, and several activities do have official AGE LIMITS.
Embracing the Patrol Method, we accept that (with the exception of Merit Badge work) much of Scouting is intended to be done at the “Patrol level”. HOW does such a patrol function when the 16 year old members want to go “splunking” and the 12-13 year old Scouts are not permitted? Or do a High Adventure trek? Or do COPE together at Summer Camp? Or SCUBA? Or TRAIN for a high adventure outing (even if the activity itself is permitted for younger Scouts)? Or want to attend a World Jamboree?
The GOOD INTENTIONS behind my advice is the hope that any boy involved in Scouting experience the FULL BENEFIT of what Scouting offers. Exceptions are many; not all of them “against the rules”, but not the OPTIMAL way for a unit to operate either.
Scouting is all about EXPERIENCES, and if the unit is “too small” to expose the boys to a variety of situations, then certain experiences are therefore lacking. That’s all I’m saying.
IN MY OPINION… if that if that means closing down a “unit” were attendance hovers around 7 or 8 boys and taking them somewhere else, then that’s the right thing to do.
January 27, 2016 at 11:19 pm #49544
My observation of 1 patrol troops indicates that none of your points are reason for a unit to shutter its doors.
1. Age is often offset by ability in mixed-age patrols. That is, the youngest scouts acquire skills quickly, and abilities converge. For example Son #1 came back from his first summer camp (all the patrols were mixed age) having learned to make excellent pancakes thanks to his 16 year old patrol leader. Mrs. and I got served breakfast in bed on several occasions that year!
2. Even when a 1 patrol troop sometimes splits by age (e.g. 4 boys are old enough to join another troop’s high adventure contingent, while the younger boys plan a weekend on grandpas farm), by and large they will spend most of their time operating as a patrol.
3.Boys more than 2 years apart, according to G2SS, “should be avoided” … that wording is not quite as strong as your paraphrase. Nevertheless, scouts who would tent together usually are the same age. Regardless, the problem is most simply resolved by sleeping under the stars!
4.Again the precise wording in the G2SS for buddies is “Self-selection with no more than two years age or significant differences in maturity.” In any case, most one patrol troops are easily divided into same age buddies. I’ve never seen this being a major issue.
5. When limits apply, the mixed age patrol might have to arrange two activities in close proximity. They reconvene after attending to their respective activities. These aren’t so much obstacles as unique leadership opportunities that same-age patrols miss out on. 🙂
Keep in mind that most of the big-ticket scouting you mention (especially Jamborees) are attended by boys outside of their own patrol.
The reality is there might be a reason the small troop exists. Some boys in large troops feel lost in the shuffle. Micro management by adults might be undermining youth leadership, or a large troop might have streamlined advancement to the point that boys aren’t enjoying it. Whatever the reason, sometimes two units in the same community is the best way to get the most boys enjoying scouting.
January 25, 2016 at 4:19 pm #49522
Another earlier poster explained the specifics of how it is possible for an SPL to run a troop of many multiple patrols. Everything I read in that explanation is management and administrative skills, not leadership skills. In fact, that poster uses the word management twice in the very first paragraph.
That post goes on to emphasize record keeping and minutes. From that post I understand that more record keeping, and record keeping that is more specific and more detailed is essential with large troops. So there is a time and personnel requirement in creating, maintaining, and referring to those more extensive records.
Out of necessity a large troop creates an opportunity to emphasize administrative skills, wich are different and seperate from both management and leadership skills. Out of necesity a larger troop will have a smaller percentage of boys experience the SPL position.
The post also emphasized making examples of good and bad performers. How someone does that, may or may not be good leadership. But most importantly for this specific discussion, that is not something that is exclusive to large troops, and in fact those are things that happen at the patrol level. In all the posts above, I have not seen a specific example of character and trait building that only exists in large troops.
Management and administrative skills are very important to a leader but they are developed at a low level of responsibility. If one doesn’t already exercise them at a low level of responsibility they are not likely to start just because they are given a large responsibility.
A larger troop will have a smaller percentage of its members experience the SPL position and their experience will be one that emphasizes paperwork.
January 27, 2016 at 11:24 pm #49545
To that last point, in a small troop no boy experiences being SPL. Sure, one might hold a patch but the position is merely a figurehead. Two PLs can get together with their assistants and coordinate a troop just fine.
February 13, 2016 at 7:38 pm #49988
The second sentence at the start of this thread was talking about troop sizes of over 100 boys. My earlier comments regarding large troop sizes are in that context. I earlier wrote “a large unit with many multiple patrols”. My comments are not a blanket statement against multiple patrols.
As for someone saying “in small units no boy experiences being SPL”. Earlier I wrote that according to the BSA website “patrols can temporally join with each other for particular activities and then separate again. There was nothing to state that happens only with patrols within the same troop.” So it seems to me that an SPL can be created for a particular activity that includes not only multiple patrols, but multiple troops as well.
A patrol may not have to wait until recruiting goals are met before it can experience certain activities. Therefore the argument to shut troops down because their size prevents “optimal” experiences may not be valid at all.
There have been some harsh comments in this thread. Such as telling people they are not truly doing scouting, and they are in violation of policies that remain un-cited. And people speaking in absolute terms: such as “no” being used to mean “all” and “never”; and saying if a troop is of a certain size it should shut down; and the decision to shut down a troop should use the extremely high standard of the “optimal BSA experience” which may not be possible for certain communities.
Troops have to start somewhere and as children age out of a troop, the size of a troop will naturally fluctuate. Birthrates also fluctuate within a community. Economic and volunteering abilities of a community also fluctuate. One poster seems to suggest that until a community can sustain what he considers the optimal BSA experience, scouting should not exist at all in that community.
Some troops are located in areas where it is not possible for the boys of a troop to shut down and join another larger troop. The negative language in this thread is not helpful to them.
I don’t see the negative talk as helpful or productive. I think it is best to encourage and help people do what they can reasonably do.
I think it is important to remember that these things are accomplished by volunteers. Telling existing or potential volunteers and or potential recruits if they don’t have a particular number, they are not doing scouting and they are in violation, is harmful in that:
1. It doesn’t help maintain an existing organization.
2. It doesn’t help an existing organization to grow.
3. It doesn’t help establish new organizations.
Imagine someone exploring the idea of joining BSA, or someone questioning if they should stay in the BSA, coming along this thread and reading that scouting isn’t being done right in their local organization according to some policies that are never cited.
Some of the language in this thread hinders volunteerism and recruitment. I certainly don’t see myself repeating that language in person at my local level.
Perhaps someone in a community where recruitment and volunteerism comes more easily can get away with that attitude at their local level. Perhaps that language is someone’s way of patting themselves, or their very large troop on the back, while preventing what they see as competing troops.
When BSA talks about expanding and growing, it is obviously talking about communities where recruiting and volunteering is more difficult to come by. It would be helpful to consider that some communities are never going to have a troop with over 100 boys in it; and or are never going to have the finances and volunteers that other communities are capable of. Putting out language on the internet that belittles them isn’t helpful to them and does not set a good example for others.
If someone has a good point to make, it will be received well, and put into the appropriate context. Hiding behind un-cited policies that don’t seem to exist, or misrepresenting suggestions as concrete policies, doesn’t help the person’s argument get accepted. It comes across as someone trying to bully their world view into existence, regardless of what reality is.
If the poster of negative comments and un-cited policies is in a community where what he sees as the optimal BSA experience is easily accomplished; then of course, we have no reason to suggest that community shouldn’t strive to accomplish that goal. However, the same poster seems to be seeking to accomplish his idea of the optimum BSA experience by discouraging the existence of other organizations. I suggest it is better for one to just point out the good things they have to offer without putting others down.
I think a large troop can recruit from smaller organizations by allowing participation in certain activities where they can present the benefits they have to offer. People can weigh the pros and cons for themselves without being put down and or told to limit their decision making to only certain thoughts.
I don’t see calling people violators as a good tool for recruitment of members or volunteers. Hey, you’re doing scouting all wrong, but we want you to shut down and join our troop.
There are only so many hours in a day. People also pursue other activities outside of scouting, and it could be that the larger troop that is further away and requires a longer commute, just doesn’t fit their schedule and therefore the reality is it has nothing more to offer, because it just doesn’t fit that person’s schedule. A person’s ability to volunteer might only exist at their immediate location.
There is a lot to consider besides some hypothetical optimal ideal. If one is going to pose their argument in a vacuum with hypothetical polices that are being violated, then of course, that person can always be right. But people reading this thread still have their reality to deal with. I wouldn’t tell someone to shut down their organization based on some hypothetical impossible alternative.
February 14, 2016 at 2:21 am #49995
When someone holds others to their high ideal of offering the optimal scouting experience, in deciding to label them as a unit that should be shut down, it causes me to question their motives and the examples they have to offer as role models.
1. Have they ever built something from nothing? Are they just not willing to do things without getting the “optimal” pay off?
2. Do they have the ability to maintain something without attacking others? Can they recruit on their own merits without putting others down?
3. Is it a district or council level individual that wouldn’t mind having fewer units to oversee and help build?
That particular post reads like an all or nothing attitude. I think shutting units down for not offering someone’s idea of the optimal scouting experience would require an entirely different approach to recruiting and the establishing new units. A more expensive and more labor intensive approach.
There do exist scouting units on military bases, including overseas bases. It’s not like they can go out into the foreign country and buy land to set up camps or other optimal activities. They also do not have the number and size of corporate donors to pursue on site. The number of boys to recruit from at some bases may fluctuate greatly. Is the earlier poster really suggesting that those units be shut down for not being able to provide the optimal scouting experience? Shame on them for not being in a community that offers the same fund raising opportunities as other communities in the states.
Where do we draw the line, and why do we draw it there? When speaking hypothetically it’s easy to pretend that such a harsh measure as shutting units down is better for the boys. But the reality is, first one would have to show that the hypothetical ideal truly exists as an alternative for the specific boys such a policy would impact.
March 25, 2016 at 10:17 pm #51709
In my 20 years of being a Scouter, I have often heard from DEs and Council folks that the “magic number” for a troop size was 25. They went further than that: Troops with less than 25 registered Scouts were termed “The walking dead.” (No kidding! And this was WELL before the TV show etc, etc.) I suppose getting up to 26 Scouts made you a member of the Non-Zombie club?)
I think the basis for that assumption and generalization was the Patrol Method that more or less dictates a generic patrol size of 8 and a number of patrols set at the magical number of three (3×8=24). Ah, and one left over to be SPL? (24+1=25 Bingo!)
I have never studied the origins of this belief, but I think its origins can be traced to the early Druids.
September 21, 2018 at 1:15 pm #149006
My troop has 157 boys I am the SPL yea it is actually easy to manage because I have 4 ASPLS and each one of them manages 4 patrols mixed ages. Their are only about 100 active members plus the QM Scribe JASM assist me directly and that creates a separate zone of authority between me and the ASPL. My troop is chartered by the Rotary international. We run quite smoothly at the scout hall with two groups at one of the two meetings each Sunday. All of our events run for about half the day with about 4 scouts from each patrol attending for a few hour shift.
October 16, 2018 at 9:06 am #159167
Sorry for possibly derailing this thread but I came here searching for the correct BSA terminology when it comes to patrol, troop and other organizational units. I’m involved in scouting in Sweden and we’re bringing some 1800 scouts over next year for the World Scout Jamboree. At our end we’re trying to decipher what is the correct jamboree terminology and what is the correct BSA terminology. Sometimes it’s the same and sometimes not. From what I’ve gathered 5-8 scouts make up a patrol and one or (preferably) several patrols make a troop. And then there are a number of troops in a council and several councils in a district (right? or the other way around?).
Now my question is – is the patrol made up primarily of scouts the same rank or is the idea to have it the other way, i.e. have a patrol made up by different ranks? Could anyone shed some light on this? Again, sorry for maybe being a bit off-topic.
November 1, 2018 at 7:57 am #163842
Quick answer: At least 10, but less than 100.
While that sounds tongue-in-cheek, I’m sincere, and I think a little perspective is needed, given the abundance of hurt-feelings that seems to be prevalent in previous posts. The simple truth is that any group of boys (and soon to include girls) that adheres to the ideals of scouting can succeed, given appropriate support from the parents and chartering institution. The above range is based on simple math: Given that scouting is available to youth over a 7-year period (10 if you count Venturing), any group of less than 10 simply won’t have enough scouts to participate in any activity that could reasonably be considered a group activity. If the “troop” is 6 scouts, and participation at any event is 50% (that would be optimistic) you are having a play-date, not a scouting event. On the other end of the spectrum, if your “troop” is 150 scouts, you will spend all your time on logistics, and each patrol will have to be further grouped into a company or squadron, and you may as well break into 2 or more troops.
In between those extremes is a vast gulf of possibilities, depending on the interests, commitment, and resources of the youth and the adults. As you lay out your plans for recruitment, keep in mind what you want, and realize that what you can realistically accomplish will be dictated as much by numbers as by your desires. On the lower end of numbers, you will gain from a tighter camaraderie and easier problem-solving, because everyone knows everyone, but you will lose on on economies of scale. On the higher end, you will gain from economies of scale but you will be more burdened with logistics, and the members will not be intimately familiar with those outside their patrol.
For recruiting and growth, I think the easiest thing to do is map out what you want to do, as far as advancement, goals, merit badge camps, summer camps, high adventure, awards, campouts, etc., and what is the preferred teaching style of the willing adults (for example, classroom-type lecture vs. one-on-one), and then map out how many adults and scouts are needed to make that happen. THEN and only then, recruit up to that number plus a safety margin of about 15% (no matter how cool your troop, there will be some attrition).
Here are a couple of real-world examples, mine from when I was a scout, and that of a high-school friend, who was in a different troop at the same time. We both enjoyed scouting, but the approach of the troops couldn’t have been more different. My troop typically had 60-75 registered boys (boys only in those days), with 40-50 active. The inactive group included older boys who were enticed to participate/help lead larger events as ASMs. Our troop focused on getting everyone to first class (so they could participate in high adventure), then less of a push to go beyond that. We turned out a few Eagles (myself included), but the main focus of the troop was high adventure. We went to Philmont every other year, including a 4-6 week tour of the US (and sometimes Canada). In addition to the Philmont trek, we always toured national parks and climbed/hiked/went spelunking and had amazing adventures. This included, just to name a few, climbing Mt. Rainier, Grand Teton, and Long’s Peak, hiking rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon, rock climbing to the top of Devil’s Tower, and visiting almost every national park in the West. To support and train for this every-other-year adventure, the troop had a well-mapped out progression: join the troop, go to scout camp your first summer. The following year, go back to the regional scout camp as a veteran/leader. The next year, go to “medium-high” adventure like the Allagash. Then go to Philmont. Then help out at one of the previous places as a “senior,” then go back to Philmont as a veteran/leader. Obviously, to support something like this, you need a lot of people. You simply couldn’t accomplish this in a small troop of 10-15 scouts.
My friend’s troop on the other hand was much smaller, maybe 25 registered and 15 active. Their focus was on advancement. Despite being a much smaller troop, they turned out as many Eagles as we did (including my friend). They went to summer camp, but when it came to high adventure, if any of their scouts wanted to go, and there always were a few, they went with the council. They did not do as many high adventure things as we did, but they did a lot of “medium-high” adventure things, particularly on a local level. In fact, they made much better use of the local trails, so much so that my troop would sometimes piggyback on their local adventures.
Both of these troops provided excellent, rewarding experiences, and both are legitimate scouting organizations, and in fact both are still in existence today (forty years after we were scouts!) Unfortunately, a lot of the above posts seem to say that THEIR way is the only way. In fact, scouting makes room for a LOT of variability. My advice is, take that built-in wiggle room and build the troop that YOU and your co-leaders want to build.