Choosing a Troop
Many factors make a troop right for your boy and for you. The qualities that work for you will be different from those of others. These notes are offered to help you evaluate troops and make the best decision possible. If our troop meets your needs, great, welcome aboard! If another troop seems best, go for it! -- The goal of Boy Scouts is to succeed for boys.
There are troops in our area which have 10 boys and those with 80 boys. Smaller troops will prevent your boy from "being lost" in the crowd. Smaller troops, though, have fewer opportunities for patrol leadership, etc. Smaller troops offer more opportunity to be Senior Patrol Leader. Big troops often have a senior patrol or patrol of older boys which give the troops successes at Camporees. Big troops travel in caravans while smaller troops may only require a couple of cars. The biggest troops may have difficulty getting into some camping sites.
Type of Camping
The Boy Scouts is oriented around outdoor activities, especially camping. Some troops do much car camping. Others are strong back-packing troops. Some do a real mixture.
History / Tradition
Newer troops may be working through organizational issues. Older troops may have very established ways of operating. Some troops are proud of more than 25 years of service. Does the troop have long-established trips which are repeated each year, or is every year different? A mixture? Are ideas from new parents welcome, introduced to the program?
Leadership / Boy Run
The official Boy Scout program is that scout meetings and events are boy run. That doesn't mean they are dangerous or uncontrolled, but the leadership should come from boys. Some boys find fully boy-run meetings boring, others find them fun. Some troops' Scoutmasters have been running their troops for years -- they are really "the Scoutmaster's troops." Other troops have rotating Scoutmasters from the parent groups.
Scout Camps / Camporees
Scout camps are usually one week in the summer. Camporees are usually weekend camping competitions. Some troops go to scout camps every summer, sometimes switching among camps. Others go to the same camp each year. Some troops participate in camporees and have these competitions as an important part of the troop's program. Other troops don't attend camporees. Ask what the troop's policy is regarding boys calling home during summer camp: some troops virtually prohibit such calls, others consider it OK. (Parents shouldn't be ready to pick up scouts at the first hint of homesickness, regardless.)
Good for Younger Boys?
Some troops have effective programs for younger boys. Others allow the younger boys to flounder. For a boy of strong character and physical presence, a program aimed at the younger boys may not be necessary.
Many troops do an annual family camp. What is each troop offering?
The BSA has specific uniform requirements. Uniforms are available from the troop or from District people if the cost is a problem -- don't let this keep your boy out of Scouting! Some troops have very tight rules for uniforms for meetings, others have looser expectations. Note that some troops put unofficial patches on their uniforms -- just don't use glue to hold them on in case you need to talk them off later. Some of the patches will be available only from the troop. Ask your troop if they have a single patch with the full troop number. Some troops also have troop tee shirts for wearing at campouts and activities.
A Scout is Reverent
Reverence is part of the Scout program. Some troops are very religious -- they are part of the church's boy program. Some go home on Saturday evenings so the boys can attend church on Sunday morning. Others regularly hold and attend Scouts Own, the non-denominational spiritual observation of the Boy Scouts. Invocations are standard at some troops. Other troops nearly ignore religious observations.
Some troops have several required fund raisers. Others use parent/boy funds. Friends of Scouting is the District / National annual campaign where families are asked for a contribution of about $80 -- some troops hold a pledge drive at a Court of Honor, other troops low-key this.
Some troops have the boys perform service projects as part of many campouts. Others only do service projects as boys seek advancement. Service projects for the troop's chartering organization are also part of many troop's activities.
The BSA program offers a number of national programs including the National Jamboree and the opportunity to spend a week at the Philmont Ranch, the BSA's national backpack camp program. Also, there are even International Jamborees. These can be great highlights to a Scouting program. Some troops are active with these programs, but others are not.
Order of the Arrow
This is an honorary service and camping program at the Council level. Each year, each troop can elect a number of boys to join the Order of the Arrow. Some troops support this, some do not. This can be an asset to scouts, or, in some cases, a distraction.
The BSA offers youth training on a regular basis. Is this offered to boys in the troop? Recommended? Required? This can be great leadership training.
Does the troop support "1st Class in One Year," the BSA goal? Are troop meetings set up so that merit badges can be earned at the meetings? Are Scoutmaster Conferences and Boards of Review carefully scheduled so that ranks can be awarded at the next Court of Honor, or are delays part of the expectations?
Some troops have very little parent involvement -- at campouts, for example, parents are not involved in the boys' activities, and parents may not even be welcome at some campouts or scout camps. In other troops, the parents will be asked to participate and parent participation is welcome and even needed. Also, when parents go on trips, how are meals handled: as a group or individually?
We hope these notes will enable you to better evaluate your needs and the troops you visit. We wish you the best for your boy in Scouting!
Troop 135, Michael Von der Porten, (707) 545-7520 If you’d like to visit us at the Church of the Roses on a Monday night, please call.
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last updated: 11/11/09 11:53:31 PM