Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Christmas Scout

I got looking around for stories about Scouting and Christmas and found a great little story called "The Christmas Scout" by Samuel D. Bogan. It was published in Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul in 1997. I've seen it on several different web pages, which made me think it might be public domain, and I was about to copy it here. Then I looked at the book on Amazon and found the permissions page. That seemed to indicate it was copyrighted, so I won't post it here.

But I will give you a link to a site that did here.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Youth Basketball

I may be a little unconventional here, but I'm not that big a fan of church basketball. I remember when I was a boy we played basketball all the time. At scouts. At home. Even when I went on my mission, we played basketball regularly. So it's not that I don't know how to play, or even enjoy playing on occasion.

When I was called to serve with the Scouts, that's all they were doing. Even when the leaders had something planned, they would do it in the gym, which led to boys playing ball instead of participating with whatever it was the leaders were trying to do. My first goal was to get them out of the gym so we could actually do something with Scouts.

That worked really well. In fact, we haven't had basketball as our "default" activity for three years now.

But then there's the annual youth basketball tournament. I really struggle with this. I'll admit, sometimes I wish they wouldn't do it.

I don't know if other wards call a coach for this, but in my ward it falls to me as young mens president. I know several wards who essentially suspend Scouts during the basketball tournament so they can practice. I don't. In fact, in the last two years I've been YM president we haven't had a single organized basketball practice.

During the games, I don't even give them any coaching. I figure they all know what they're doing anyway. And the older boys will often step in and coach the younger ones when they need it. The only thing I've done is tell them when to substitute and for whom. And my goal there is mostly to give everyone a chance to play (and occasionally try to calm them down when they get a little hot around the collar). In fact, I've told them regularly that I don't care if they lose. Maybe that's bad, but its what I've done.

The last two years, they have taken first place in our stake and finished third in the local 5-stake tournament.

On Friday, they lost their first game of the season. It was during the 5-stake championship, putting them at either 3rd or 4th place (we didn't play for that place like last year) and ending the season. Afterwards, I took them all out for milk shakes.

After we ordered and were waiting for our shakes to come, the boys told me I was the best coach ever. They had noticed what the other team did during this last game. During the last quarter, they had all their young, small guys sitting on the bench and only played their older boys. They wanted to win. So did mine, but they thanked me for making substitutions and letting them play, even if it meant losing.

During the games, there was a poster sitting by the score table reminding everyone about the purpose of church sports. I don't remember exactly what it said, but it was similar to what is in the Church handbook regarding activities. Namely that they should provide meaningful experiences and build relationships.

Part of why I haven't been a fan of church sports in the past is because I haven't seen this happen. People get angry at each other, they get upset about losing, and relationships are strained rather than built.

But this time, I think we did it right. Our boys were great about letting everyone participate and have a shot. I think they really got it. Sure, they felt bad about losing. But in the end, they recognized that it wasn't about winning. I think they realized what I have been telling them the entire time, that its not really even about basketball.

The way I see it, if we have met those purposes outlined by the church for activities, then we have succeeded, whether we win or lose. But if we haven't, then it's been a waste of time.

Like I said, I'm probably a little unconventional when it comes to church sports. But I'm okay with it. And I think my boys are too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Court of Honor

I've got a lot of thoughts about last night's court of honor and I'm not sure quite which ones to share or how to share them.

On the one hand, I'd like to focus on the positives:

Four out of six Venturers in uniform, only one of which was a Boy Scout uniform. The other three had the recommended green Venturing uniform. They sure looked sharp.

I was able to award a Venturing Bronze award to one young man. This is only the second bronze award earned in our crew. Ever (as far as I can tell). I think I've got some others who want to work on them, but need a little more motivation. The boy who earned his is now thinking seriously about trying for Silver. How cool would that be?

I think I got some interest from at least one boy in trying out the Varsity program. This boy was a real leader in the Boy Scouts (deacons) and was awarded his Life rank last night. He just turned 14 so will be joining the Varsity Scouts. He was the one I thought might take the bait. What was the bait? A promise of a hand made hiking staff (with some simple carvings and orange paracord handgrip involving two three-strand Turk's heads and French whipping) for the first boy to earn the Denali award. This boy came up to me after the meeting and asked me "so, what's the Denali award?" I directed him to his Varsity coach.

Three of my Venturers surprised me with a recognition of their own. These three had been on staff for our local Boy Scout camp (one being the staff Senior Patrol Leader) teaching merit badges to younger boys. One of the badges they were teaching was woodwork. During the process, they built a stool and carved the Venturing logo in the top. Last night they gave me the stool. I was blown away.

Then there are the negatives.

But I decided I'm not going to focus on those. I actually had it all written out and then deleted it. I decided I'd rather just look at the positive. Isn't that part of being Cheerful? Anyway, I'm going to stick to the good stuff--for this post anyway. Only let me comment that it's interesting that all of my positives had to do with the boys while all of the negatives had to do with adults. Hmm.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Climbing the Mountain

This comes from Ernest Thompson Seton, founder of the Woodcraft Indians. He was influential in the beginnings of the Boy Scouts and served as the first Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of America.

Afar in our dry Southwestern country is an Indian village, and in the offing is a high mountain towering up out of the desert. It was considered a great feat to climb this mountain, so that all the boys of the village were eager to attempt it. One day the Chief said, "Now, boys, you may all go to-day and try to climb the mountain. Start right after breakfast and go each of you as far as you can. Then when you are tired, come back, but let each one bring me a twig from the place where he turned."

Away they went, full of hope, each feeling that he surely could reach the top.

But soon a fat, pudgy boy came slowly back and in his hand he held out to the Chief a leaf of cactus.

The Chief smiled and said, "My boy, you did not reach the foot of the mountain; you did not even get across the desert."

Later a second boy returned. He carried a twig of sagebrush.

"Well," said the Chief, "you reached the mountain's foot, but you did not climb upwards."

The next had a cottonwood spray.

"Good," said the Chief, "you got up as far as the springs."

Another came later with some buckthorn. The Chief smiled when he saw it, and spoke: "You were climbing; you were up to the first slide rock."

Later in the afternoon one arrived with a cedar spray, and the old man said, "Well done. You went half-way up."

An hour afterwards, one came with a sprig of pine. To him the Chief said, "Good; you went to the third belt, you made three-quarters of the climb."

The sun was low when the last returned. He was a tall, splendid boy of noble character. His hand was empty as he approached the Chief, but his countenance was radiant, and he said, "My father, there were no trees where I got to--I saw no twigs, but I saw the Shining Sea."

Now the old man's face glowed, too, as he said aloud and almost sang.

"I knew it! When I looked at your face, I knew it. You have been to the top. You need no twigs for token. It is written in your eyes, and rings in your voice. My boy, you have felt the uplift, you have seen the glory of the mountain."

Oh, ye Woodcrafters, keep this in mind, then--the badges we offer for attainment are not "prizes"--they are merely tokens of what you have done, of where you have been. They are mere twigs from the trail to show how far you got in climbing up the mountain.