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The Blessings of a Large Troop

posted Apr 18, 2016, 9:43 PM by Brian Pratt   [ updated Apr 18, 2016, 9:49 PM ]

(originally posted Sunday, October 4, 2015)

At last week's Green Bar Council (GBC) meeting we had our Senior Patrol Leader, his 3 Assistant Senior Patrol Leaders,  our 9 Patrol Leaders, and our 4 Troop Guides.  I had more scout leaders in my living room than most troops have scouts.   You think I'm joking, but BSA says that the average troop size is 15 scouts.  If you've ever been to Camp Parsons and looked around at the other troops lined up  in front of the dining hall you know I'm not exaggerating.

That's pretty amazing.  It's also a problem - but it is a high quality problem.

As the scouts spitballed meeting ideas at the GBC, our SPL had to constantly remind his guys (and these were his actual words) that we had to think about how all these cool meeting ideas would scale.  Even if we only get half our guys there on any given Monday, you still have to think about how you play broom hockey or do t-shirt printing or first aid drills with 40+ guys. It makes even the simplest ideas kind of complicated.

It can also be a problem for outings - many public lands restrict group sizes to 10 or 12 per party.  On last summer's West Coast Trail 50 miler we had to send out 5 groups of 10.  (All of whom were totally awesome and came through with flying colors - I could not be more proud.  That's known as one of the world's most challenging hikes, and we ran a bunch of 12 year old scouts through it).

On the upside, it's pretty awesome that our guys, as teenagers, are learning how to manage an organization with 90 members (call it 200+ if you throw in the parents).  How great does that look on a resume when you're a 16 year old applying for a summer job?  This is experience that most college graduates lack - what an incredible opportunity.

And it's pretty awesome that we have something like 80 sets of parents we can draw from as merit badge counselors, outings tripmasters, and adult leadership.  In a small troop it's usually the same two or three parents that do absolutely everything that's needed to enable the scout led troop.  That leads to burnout, or a troop that's not actually scout led.

It's a constant balancing act to avoid becoming victims of our own success, but the combined teams of scoutmasters, troop committee members, and scout leadership are extremely thoughtful and keenly aware of the challenges, advantages and opportunities that come to us in our current size.  The energy and diversity our size brings us is incredible, and I wouldn't trade T186 for anything.  This is the best troop on the planet!

- Brian Pratt, Scoutmaster T186