Homepage Forums Boy Scouts (Scouts BSA) When is Eagle too early

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  • #172002 Reply


    We have an epidemic in our Troop. Recently 4-5 scouts failed to earn Eagle due to aging out. All of them did everything necessary to earn the rank but failed to complete some simple tasks (i.e a few MBs, the project, the paperwork).
    It is my opinion that the ScoutMaster or ASMs should step in when a good candidate has reached the age of 17. Our SM and ASMs keep telling me that the “Eagle journey” is up to the scout and their decision and responsibility to get it done.
    While i agree that it is the responsibility of the scout, i also think that encouragement and mentoring can go a long way to help achieve the rank.

    What is happening in our troop is we have more and more good scouts earn all the badges, participate, and lead but never earn the rank.
    I just finished a Eagle Project review with a scout who turns 18 in early January. He has NOT started the project and has just over a month to get this done. It is winter here and holiday seasons. I do not believe the scout will:
    1. get the proper leadership responsibility – that is really what the project is about.
    2. get good participation/volunteers – it is holiday season and outdoor projects do have weather considerations.
    3. Finish – even if he does finish the project i have a hard time thinking how he is going to finish the Eagle app and all the tasks that go along with that process.

    Next, his project is way too simple too. He is a very bright scout with great abilities, but due to the timing he is doing a project that a cubscout could accomplish. I know in my heart that his father will end up doing the majority of the work, will not gain leadership, will not do any fundraising, and will not be challenged.

    With all of that information above. I am trying to get my SM and adult leaders to understand that a 16-17year old boy is still a boy. School, job, car, girls, etc will get in the way and unless we step in and try to help the scout plan out a path when they turn 17. It is NOT the job of the SM to do the work, but is their job to give guidance and encouragement.
    For example, let’s say we have this same scout. At his 17th birthday he is life rank scout, has 20 Merit Badges, and has the leadership requirements completed. He needs a few MBs and the project to be done. He has a full year to get a few items done. Our SMs or adults do not intervene, and this scout ends up being my example above. 17 years and 10+ months old. We have now setup a future leader for failure. That scout is going to work hard for a few weeks, find some roadblocks, and give up.
    Alternatively, lets say we have a scout turning 17 that rarely shows up, Star rank at best, has only 15 MBs, really does not have any focus or care, attends camps because his parents make him, and just doesn’t care. While the SM had a few previous years to encourage and lead that scout, the damage is done and that scout will likely never work hard enough to earn Eagle.
    Wouldn’t it have been better if the SM approached the first Scout (and his family) with a simple meeting when that scout turns 17. The meeting will ask the question: Is becoming an Eagle important to you? If the answer is NO, then let the scout continue his journey and enjoy all scouting has to offer. If the answer is YES, then start the next series of questions: Are you going to put in the necessary effort and priority to earn Eagle? Are you going to build a plan (with achievable dates) and stick to it to accomplish the remaining requirements? Are you going to keep your plan as a journal and share it with me and your parents, so we can help keep you on track?
    Then I think the SM or an assigned Eagle Mentor should meet with that candidate every 2weeks to a month and simply review the journal. If the tasks are on task then congratulate and inspire. If they are not then ask what they can do to help.
    To end; should the SM intervene earlier in the Scout career and either mentor or find a mentor to help that scout earn Eagle? Or should the SM continue to avoid this and let the scout age out and say “BoyScouts is boy led and up to them to ask for help”?

  • #172883 Reply


    IT SEEMS that training may be helpful for you. I respect your desire to help the youth, but the “program” already accounts for everything you’re suggesting.

    Your Scoutmaster is RIGHT when he makes advancement the responsibility of each boy (good for him, need more SMs like him!). As long as he guides the SPL and PLC to plan monthly/weekly outings and troop meetings spent learning/doing “scout stuff”, he’s on target.

    Advancement is a frequent message within the Program; “instant recognition” at troop meetings, formal recognition at the Court of Honor, discussing “advancement” at each SM Conference, Committee members talking about advancement at the Board(s) of Review, etc… advancement is being discussed frequently from age 11 through 17 already.

    This is a CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT program where move young men away from Mom & Dad and make them responsible by giving them real responsibilities; a knife that can cut, a fire that can burn, a leadership position (and a vote) that impacts how a patrol/troop actually functions, etc. \You can’t teach responsibility if you also take away consequences. If adults step in and “push” a boy to do something, either you’re forcing him to do something he doesn’t want to do, or you’re taking the RESPONSIBILITY for self-motivation away from him… thus diminishing what the Eagle Scout rank embodies.

    Step back and let the SM do his job, and let the Program run the way its designed to. If you’re not already, become a Committee Member so you can sit on Board of Review(s) and make sure advancement is discussed.

    • #173061 Reply


      Thanks for your reply. I appreciate the insight and comments. I have been very involved in Scouting for years and on the Committee doing BORs, Advancement review, project review, round tables, camps, meetings and more. I do understand the ‘process’. I am very proud of all the scouts in the troop and would never think one is ‘better’ than another for achievements. My goal has always been to give these scouts opportunity to learn and have FUN. Earning Eagle is the icing on top.

      Over the next 3 months we have 3 Life scouts that are going to age out. In the next 8 months we have 2 more. I’ll let them take their responsibility and just encourage them.
      I am, however, glad I did encourage/remind/help the two that just finished. You can say i pushed but also clearly can say i did NOT do any of the work for them. It was all just strong encouragement. Both of them are not saying ‘WOW Mr. Dude, this really is a big deal’ as they continue to receive letters, certificates, and notes from various senators, representatives, and local leaders.
      Also, when I mention to my peers that my Son is now an Eagle I hear 100% of those people say “That is awesome, i wish i stuck with it when i was a kid, i earned star or life then fizzled out”.
      Interesting to hear more perspective.

  • #172909 Reply


    You 4-5 scouts who aged out at Life rank? That’s awesome!!!

    The distinction between an Eagle scout and other scouts Life scouts is often that attention to detail. He uses his school, job, car, and friends (even his girlfriend) to help him advance. Not because those things exist for advancement, but they are there to help him do good in the world.

    What you might miss going on behind the scenes: at Scoutmaster conferences and Boards of Review, adults repeatedly offer scouts their time. We often say, “The next step is a challenge, we’re here to help.”

    I have brought scouts to the base of a 1000′ hill, and told those who could use it the time and place of our hike. Who shows up? The scouts who have already earned camping MB!

    Am I ashamed of that kid who passed on those opportunities? No! He’s grown up strong and good. He’s just not an Eagle scout.

    I’ve done a thought experiment … what if we remove the “by age 18” requirement that’s been in place for sixty years and let ASM’s and SM’s be able to make rank like they used to? That would remove the “he’s just a boy” excuse. Let him complete the requirements whenever he grows out of whatever ailed him. How many of these Life scouts would eventually make Eagle? My bet is very few will. In fact, I bet many boys who are last-minute awardees today would also never make rank. Having forever, they’d take exactly that long!

    It’s great that you’re concerned though. I really know how this feels because sometimes there’s a class of cross-overs who make it all look easy and all earn Eagle, then the next class you’ll be lucky if one in the bunch pulls it off. My best bottom line of advice: be proud of all of the youth in your life. Encourage them, and when one of them asks for help do your best to move that mountain for him/her.

  • #173055 Reply


    I think there is some sort of happy medium in all of this. I am a scoutmaster and a District Advancement Chair. I have about 80 units that I am over in my District.

    In my own troop I take the time to be a mentor, a coach, and a cheerleader. While I let the boy decide their path in the advancement, I offer concrete guidance of how the boy can accomplish their goals. Being a Scoutmaster does not mean that you are just there to make sure they don’t get hurt on activities. You are there because you have life experience that the boys do not.

    I think of the 26 page Eagle workbook. It is a confusing mess of blanks that, to the uninitiated, can appear to be more effort that it is worth. I sit down with the boy and his parents. I explain to just work on the proposal to start with. It is 6 pages. I explain what is being asked for. I certainly do not do the work for the boy, but I offer guidance for them to feel confident in what they are doing. I help the boy to know who to speak with to get the appropriate signatures. I do not tell them what project to do and I do not contact the signatories for the boy. That is their job.

    When I took over as Scoutmaster I was told that all 5 older boys (16-17) in the troop had no interest in scouting. Two of these really did not. Great! That left more of my time to work with the others. When I met with each of the other three boys and their parents, each boy told me that they had the goal of reaching their Eagle, but they did not know how to get there. We then, together, put in place a plan for advancement. Each boy made their own plan with some guidance. In the end all three boys reached their goals including earning Eagles. The total amount of time left combined between these three before their 18th birthdays was 34 days. So what! One gathered in nearly 800 lbs of clothing, hygiene supplies and food for a shelter. One raised funds for Operation Underground Railroad, and the last painted a school playground. Each chose their own projects and did them. They led others and did the work. None would have gotten that far without a little nudge once in a while to help them focus on their goals. They and the 11 other eagles in the troop over the last 30 months attest to their desires to succeed not only in advancement, but to their desire to serve others.

    I think many scouters feel that we should simply stand on the sideline and leave the boys to their own devices. That certainly has it’s merits. However that is also just babysitting. Share your knowledge, your wisdom, and your adult thought processes with them. Help them to develop. Help them to become stronger men. Trial and error only goes so far. A little failure is a great learning lesson, but help them to find success in learning from the failures. Don’t just let them fail.

    As a District Advancement Chair I have gone through more than 200 Eagle packets/projects. I have seen every level of error, success, parental interference, and self motivation. I see what are clearly “Mommy Eagles” to boys who do every step on their own. I have seen special needs as well as valedictorians. The one common theme is that each boy did the work. Each boy had leaders. The best projects were done by boys who were not only self motivated, but who had even just a little push from their mentoring adults.

    I leave this quote from my wife when the last of the three older boys in my troop received his Eagle. “They cared because you cared.”

    • #173379 Reply


      Outstanding Kristian! This is really what i think our SMs should be doing. Ask the scout for their ‘priority’ and if Eagle is important to them.
      If it is then; help setup a plan to get them there. Gently nudge them to success but don’t overwhelm them with this. It is still their responsibility and action, but 16-17 year old boys have a lot of other things on their mind.

      I simply want to know if i’m stepping in too far by helping Scouts achieve the rank by nudging and asking.

      I feel as though my SMs seem to put it all on scout and offer assistance but never really remind/nudge/drive toward the goal.
      Thanks again for all the insight on this forum!

    • #173827 Reply


      I grant that the current requirements have scouts doing 23 merit badges: the two hidden ones being pedagogy (a.k.a., EDGE) and contracting (that hideous workbook)!

      So, encouraging them to get those “make work” items done is a good idea.

      I guess it depends on your goals. As an SM or Crew Advisor, your attention quickly shifts to making sure that every scout is first class (the concept, if not the patch). That also includes making sure your older scouts are working towards goals that they can be proud of. That may or may not include rank advancement.

      Meeting every two weeks? That sounds like a recipe for motivating a scout to quit.

      What I do is simpler. I train scouts in the upper ranks that when I ask them “What’s the plan?” I expect them to tell me what rank they are working on, how many badges they need to earn for it, and what badge they are working on this week. That’s usually enough to keep them rolling along.

  • #213116 Reply

    Kurt Lofton

    The requirements of the Eagle Rank prevent it from being earned “too early”. From the time that a scout can join Scouts BSA, age 10 (after 5th grade and with AoL), or 11 to the time he/she turns 18 there are time/day/month(s) requirements that must be met.
    Technically a scout can earn Eagle at age 11 and 11 months if he/she begins at 10. If he/she begins at 11, Eagle can be earned at 12 and 11 months.
    The 30 day fitness work for Tenderfoot is the first length of time that must be completed.
    The four months wait from 1st Class to star is the second length of time. The six months from Star to Life and the six months from Life to Eagle are the third and fourth respectively.
    It is difficult and I don’t think it will be much fun for the scout, but it can be done, but never too early.

    • #214993 Reply


      There most certainly is a “too early” if you understand and accept what Scouting is here to teach boys. Eagle Scout is about self-motivation and the “culmination” of YEARS of various experiences embedded deep in the program that can only be learned by repeated experience and exposure.

      Eagle is not “21 badges” plus a service project, so it should NEVER be measured simply by “meeting the written requirements”. It is incredibly rare that a boy under the age of 14, dare say 11 1/2″ would EVER have MASTERED and is able to put into practice all the leadership skills he was meant to have ingrained in his personality through repeated participation in Scouting.

      Show me a 12 year old Eagle Scout and I’ll show you a Scoutmaster who doesn’t know what his real job is, or a parent who is pushing their son too hard.

      PERSONAL MANAGEMENT MB is one of the most important badges Scouts will ever earn, as they will deal with money, debt, insurance, investing the rest of their lives. While there is no BSA restriction on “ages” for a merit badge, a boy who is 11 or 12 is not REGULARLY handling money will never “understand” what this badge is supposed to teach him. This is just 1 example of how boys shouldn’t be rushed through the program.

  • #215243 Reply

    Jay the Antelope

    Thank you Guru! As always, you’ve made an excellent point in your reply. I agree with you on the example of Personal Mgmt MB. I’ll add that in today’s Scouting environment I’m reading and even experiencing a lot of analysis of the “letter of the law versus the spirit of the law” when it comes to interpretations of rank, MB, and award requirements. Only a couple times have I ever had a Scout push back when I’ve explained that they hadn’t met any requirement in question. It’s my feeling that it’s parents coaching, and pushing in a way that intentionally works to circumvent or exploit perceived loopholes or simple ambiguities in the language of the badge/rank/award in question so their young Scout is awarded whether they can actually DO, or KNOW what they’re being credited with.

    When I was a Cub Scout leader, I had the pleasure of being the presenter of the awards. Our CM did the ranks, but I got the fun of announcing the other stuff. We (our unit’s adults in Cubs) made a big deal of it. We aimed to inspire in our immediate recognition. I would tell them that by the end of WEBELOS, they’d all be decorated to look like “little dictators”.
    One day, a dad who happened to be an Eagle, called me out on it and started to explain the “program” to me. I assured him I knew the program. It’s CUBS I explained. If we don’t get them now, they’ll be first year dropouts when they cross-over, I explained. He was not pleased with my answers. He said, you need to start over. He assured me the parents will get it wrong. He was of the opinion that parents would start pushing for credit for any possible activity their Scouts engaged in and before long, we’ll be just like every other activity-based group–handing out participation trophies with Eagle Scout engraved upon them.
    As much as the program has remained the same, it’s the parents who’ve changed.
    We’ll now, so many years later, the program has changed. Radically.
    The parents are even more changed. Everyone is far too eager to check boxes and pin that sacred Eagle Award on the chests of anyone willing to cross into this great program.
    Now when I see that fellow at Roundtable, we shake hands and I ask him where we’re meeting after. Someday, he’ll buy. What can I say, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

    • #218107 Reply


      Thanks, I’m glad I found someone who agrees with my HOLISTIC view of Scouting and you are 100% right, there is the “civil war” over the LETTER of the law and the SPIRIT of the law.

      Think about what is (in my opinion) actually happening…. and notice NONE of this stuff is a “requirement” you can find in the books:

      For each camping trip, they learn the following:
      1. Menu & Duty Roster creation – communication, conflict management, load-balancing work, “fairness”, and looking out for each other’s advancements in making sure those who need “cooking” requirements are able to get them

      2. Camping – setup & break down – planning, proper camping techniques, recovering from “wet” trips when tents leak, learning to obey “lights out” and “quiet time”, following the rules, and working together to setup, breakdown, clean gear, KP duty, making sure the younger patrols are getting along OK, “supervision”

      3. PLC meeting (as SPL or other) – Organized planning, communication, conflict resolution, Robert’s Rules, exploring interesting ideas, learning to schedule & prioritize, consideration for what other boys find enjoyable or not, researching camping destinations, documenting planning idea, publishing & communicating ideas to the rest of the troop.

      4. Youth Leader Positions – how to lead, how to NOT lead, REPEATED events where leadership is developed and corrections are made, sharing work, fairness, listening, consideration for other ideas, responsibility of fulfilling your assigned duties, contributing to the whole as an individual & “leader”, learning that leadership is really about “serving” more than “ruling”

      The list is endless. The REAL VALUE of Scouting has NOTHING to do with badges & awards. The AIMS & METHODS are golden and they only bring value if you PARTICIPATE over and over and over in order to get it right.

      DONE RIGHT (IMO), Scouting “advancement” just happens when you run a good program. Focus on the “good program” and everything else takes care of itself… but you CAN NOT RUSH IT.

  • #215687 Reply


    Just for the record: at age 11, I was managing my own $ for buying savings bonds and paying troop dues. I helped dad count cash at the end of the week, and worked at the beer distributor over the summer.

    IMHO, Personal Management should be the first badge that many scouts should earn.

  • #218128 Reply

    John H. Schloemer

    I am a Scoutmaster for about 20 years. As a Scoutmaster you’re role is not unlike any teacher. You are a mentor & responsible for every Scout to understand what needs to be done. Not all Scouts are alike. Some need more encouragement & counseling to achieve rank advancement including Eagle. Not all, like in Schools, have parental support. Let the Scout do the work to attain rank advancement, but don’t ever let them do it alone if they need help. I’m amazed there are SM who feel the Scout needs to do it alone or he’s not worthy of being an Eagle Scout. Do you really believe every Scout has the same support for encouragement? Step in & be a true leader & give that young man the help he might need to achieve Eagle Scout.

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