Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Game of Scouting

I've mentioned this before, but I get to be on staff for Wood Badge this fall. I'll be a troop guide for one of the patrols (I don't know which, yet). It's great. And a lot of work.

One of the presentations I get to give discusses the Game of Scouting.

Robert Baden-Powell is often quoted as saying that "Scouting is a game with a purpose." (For a more in-depth look at where that phrase really comes from, click here.) 

It is important, as leaders, to ask: What is the purpose of Scouting?

The purpose could be summarized in the "aims" of the BSA, which are: to build character, develop citizenship, and foster personal fitness. That's why we do what we do. That is the purpose of Scouting.

So what is the Game? Well, that's the part that makes boys want to be involved. To them it's a game. It's fun. It involves activities and camps, uniforms and advancement, service projects and ceremonies. In short, the Game part of Scouting are the "methods" of each program.

For Boy Scouts they are:
  • The Ideals
  • Patrol method
  • Advancement
  • Association with adults
  • Outdoor activities
  • Personal growth
  • Leadership development
  • The uniform
For Venturing the methods are a bit different:
  • The Ideals
  • Group activities
  • Recognition
  • Adult association
  • High adventure
  • Teaching others
  • Leadership
I think too many leaders forget some part of all this. It's probably a different part for each leader. Some perhaps focus so much on the purposes they forget to let the boys play the game. Some like playing the game, but only part of it. Some emphasize advancement but ignore patrols. Far too many say that uniforms (for Boy Scouts) are not important. We give leadership positions but don't develop leaders.

Another thing Baden-Powell said was that "the Scoutmaster teaches boys to play the game by doing so himself." Too often we get scout leaders who won't play the game themselves. I've seen too many who won't wear a uniform. Most of their boys don't either. Too many don't participate in skits and silly songs around the campfire. How does that encourage a boy? I've even seen a few who will not raise their hand in the scout sign and repeat the scout oath and law. That just baffles me.

How is a leader supposed to lead, except by example? Scout leaders, PLAY THE GAME!

Monday, July 18, 2011


Uniforms are an interesting thing in the Venturing program. Unlike in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, the uniform for Venturers is optional. It's a crew option, not an individual one, but optional nevertheless.

Not only is the uniform optional, but the crew can decide on their own uniform. Or, they may decide to not have a uniform. The BSA provides a "recommended" uniform in green with charcoal grey pants. It really is a sharp looking uniform, and most people who have seen it really seem to like it. I know I like mine. However, the crew can decide to have a different uniform if they wish.

It could be a simple tee-shirt, or polo shirt. It could be a white shirt and tie. It could be hot pink lederhosen or a loin cloth, if that's what the crew decides. I hope I never see a crew in either of those, but the point is that the crew decides. And when they are in their uniform (recommended BSA version, or tee-shirt) they can use the Venturing salute. It would seem a bit odd to me to see a group in tee-shirts using the official salute, but that's the way it is. 

This brings me to a gripe I have. It's with the so-called "class-A" and "class-B" uniform designation used by so many Boy Scout troops. I know everyone does this, but in reality there is no such thing. For Boy Scouts, there is one official uniform. Period. Anything else is not an official uniform. There is no such thing as a "class-A" or "class-B." There is a uniform and everything else. It would be more appropriate to call it an activity shirt.

That said, I suppose a Venturing crew could designate an official "class-A" and "class-B" uniform, although I don't know why anyone would want to. Just choose a uniform and use it. If you're doing an activity that doesn't require a uniform, or if something else would be more appropriate (service projects), then wear an activity shirt. No reason to use this "class-A" and "class-B" nonsense.

Another thing I should mention, and I want to really emphasize this. Venturers should never wear a Boy Scout uniform. I know, I've got some who do. But they shouldn't. Boy Scout uniforms are for Boy Scouts. It would be like having your Boy Scouts wear a Cub Scout uniform. It shouldn't happen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wish List

This is going to be another one of those blog posts lamenting the apparent fact that everyone ignores Venturing. But I'll try not to be so negative.

The BSA has a supply website ( where you can buy all kinds of Scouting related items from uniforms and patches, to camping gear, to craft projects. While they have a few things specifically for Venturing, they don't have most of the really cool stuff.

Take tee-shirts, for example. Tee-shirt design changes periodically, but there are usually quite a few different options for Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. I think I've only ever seen two for Venturing and neither one had a design that anyone in their right mind would want to wear.

They have recently introduced a great new line of tee-shirts called TrekTek. They are ultra-lightweight polyester, perfect for hot summer days or high adventure activities that Venturers are supposed to do. But they're only available in Boy Scout colors (khaki, olive, and black), not Venturing colors (green, grey).

They also have a really cool cycling/soccer style jersey. I wish they had a Venturing version of that, too.

The uniforms are a really interesting case. Of course, a Venturing crew's official uniform is optional and is determined by the crew. It can be as simple as a tee-shirt with the Venturing logo, or the "recommended" green BSA shirt with charcoal grey pants. Most professional scouters I've met choose to wear the Venturing uniform because it is just plain cool. But some of it just has me scratching my head. The first pair of pants I bought were really odd, but it looks like they're phasing those out. Then they came out with the Switchback pants, which are nice (except for the mesh pockets) but they are no longer available on-line. Maybe they're re-designing them?

Then there are the hats. The cap I originally bought it pretty good but it's no longer available. They also had a boonie hat that just looked funny. It was all floppy and weird. The current Venturing hat is perhaps the weirdest one yet. They have introduced some new expedition, outback, and safari style hats that are pretty cool, but can we get them in Venturing colors, please? What I would really like to see is a Venturing version of the Campaign hat. Perhaps a straw version in charcoal grey. They do have a Venturing pin that can go on the campaign hat, which I have, but the colors just don't match the Venturing uniform very well.

That reminds me of the outerwear. There is none for Venturing. Not a single coat or jacket. Not even a sweatshirt. Sure, you could just wear the Boy Scout versions, or the generic black, but why not have one for Venturing? Imagine a Venturing version of the classic wool Jac-Shirt. Maybe that's not necessary. The red looks good with the Venturing uniform. But at least come back with a Venturing version of the pocket patch. There used to be an Exploring version but they stopped making that.

They do have two versions of a Venturing knives, and they aren't bad.

There is also a Venturing backpack in charcoal grey. But instead of the Venturing logo it has the generic BSA logo.

When one of the methods of the Venturing program is High Adventure, why don't they offer some high adventure equipment for Venturers. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there like me who would buy the stuff.

Perhaps what I would currently like the most is an Venturing Silver Award recognition plaque. They make one for Eagle Scouts, as they should. It has 28 nameplates for recognizing all the Eagles in your troop and can be expanded with an add-on plaque. But there isn't a similar one for Venturing. I have one young man who just earned his Venturing Silver Award. I would really like to get a plaque like that to hang up in our church building next to the Eagle Scout plaque. I think that might bring recognition to the Venturing program as well as encourage more young men to pursue Venturing awards.

They say that Venturing is the fastest growing division of the BSA. I just wish the supply division was growing along with it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An Image Problem?

Last week at work I spent an evening with a bunch of people from the Division of Wildlife and BLM. We were on a tour of the Book Cliffs looking at wildlife habitat/fuels reduction projects. Given the make-up of the group, and the subject of our tour, the discussions often revolved around the role of fire on our landscapes. Not only that, the group as a whole was in favor of fire as a management tool. One problem, however, are the difficulties in working with fire, both politically and logistically. Several times throughout the tour jokes were made about getting fires started "under the radar" if you will. More than once, I heard someone joke about getting the Boy Scouts out with fireworks, or some other such device that would lead to an accidental wildfire. The implication, of course, is essentially that the Boy Scouts are irresponsible.

I don't think this is an isolated case, either. If you were to pick up the newspaper and see a headline with the words "Boy Scouts" in it, would you assume the article was positive or negative? All too often, I'm afraid, the answer would be negative.

This probably comes from experience. Several years ago a group of Boy Scouts was visiting a State park near Vernal and decided to throw some rocks in the lake. The only problem was those rocks contained Dinosaur tracks.

How often have you read a news article about a Boy Scout getting lost in the mountains, or accidentaly starting a wildfire, or needing to be rescued from... whatever?

When did this happen? I thought the Boy Scouts were supposed to Be Prepared. I thought they were supposed to have the skills needed to survive in situations others wouldn't. I thought they were supposed to be responsible with fire. I thought they were supposed to be Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, and Kind.

When I have to step in to break up a fist-fight at winter camp, or spend my free time at a large scout camp picking up garbage, I think there might be a problem.

Isn't the purpose of the Boy Scouts to train boys to be men? Isn't it to instill in them a character ruled by the Scout oath and law? Isn't it to teach attitudes and skills that will allow them to be a service and a credit to their country?

Have we lost sight of these aims? I hope not.