Scout Camp: 4 Adult Leadership Challenges

By | July 31, 2019

[July 31, 2019] This is my fourth (and possibly last) article on Scout Camp leadership lessons (see the other three here, here, and here). In my last article, I wrote about “youth” leadership challenges, and today, as promised, I highlight some of the key lessons of their adult leaders.

One of the reasons which I did NOT cite as a youth lesson was that “preparation” is the key to success. I think they did well. The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared,” and they were prepared in both mind and body (the prerequisites of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts). The adult leaders, in my opinion, were not as well prepared.

Certainly, the responsibilities of adults and young boys are different; or at least at a different level. The adults are tasked with ensuring the safety and well-being of each scout. In that, a much better job of it could have been done. Here are four adult leader challenges as I saw them:

  1. Identifying high-risk issues and correcting them: Scout professionals are trained in proven methods to identify and correct (or improve) those things that pose an unacceptable risk to Scouters and do so promptly. One egregious example where nothing was done was to remove very large, long-dead, dangerous trees in the scout campsites.
  2. Integrating girls into Scout Camp: Frankly, our adult scout leaders were not fully prepared for young girls. Yes, there were available bathroom and other private facilities designated for girls. However, proper dress codes were not established, and common sense guidelines were not followed. Furthermore, there was no assistance provided to girl troops in camp to help them overcome their lack of scouting experience. Expectations were also not addressed to the girls or their adult female leaders.
  3. Ad hoc decision making: A common leader error. Adult leaders made decisions on the fly without regard to scouting or campsite policy. There was no overarching narrative for conducting the camp; no stated mission or vision statement as well as no ability to articulate for camp employees (mostly young scouts themselves) to conduct themselves in a certain, scout-centric manner. Fortunately, since most of those working at the camp were repeat employees, this had no serious negative impact.
  4. Strategizing for the future: While next year’s guidance was given out in draft form, it was simply a repeat of current and past policies with little updating. Boy Scouts of America policies were integrated as best I could tell (like new Merit Badges) but little in the way that would affect a safer and improved quality of experience at our Scout Camp.

Scout leaders are selected for a very specific reason; they have the dedication and knowledge to provide scouts an exciting, fun-filled, SAFE, and motivated experience at camp. Several adults sat with the adult senior leaders to help them identify issues and feedback was graciously accepted. The question is whether it will be acted upon.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

27 thoughts on “Scout Camp: 4 Adult Leadership Challenges

  1. Ed Berkmeister

    I truly enjoyed this series on lessons from Boy Scout Camp.

  2. Scotty Bush

    Thank you, Gen Satterfield, for sharing your experience with us. I’m sure it’s deeply personal, as good leadership will always be, so we are humbled by it and eternally grateful. Please pass along our thanks to those who volunteer for the scouting program.

  3. José Luis Rodriguez

    Wow, well done! Thanks for volunteering for this interesting and valuable service.

  4. Greg Heyman

    Great article about your Boy Scouting experience. I hope some young people are reading this and learning.

  5. Terri Issa

    It may have been informative for the camp managers and ALL scout leaders to have conducted a post-camp evaluation of how things went…especially if this was the first year Girl Scouts were integrated into the camp. It would have helped establish parameters for the future. At the very least surveys should have been provided for the scout leaders for input on how things went. Just because they’ve probably been conducting BSA camp for decades doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Becoming lax in leadership may lead to failure.

    1. Maureen S. Sullivan

      Spot on comment Terri. Looks like many of the adult leaders got caught looking the other way.

  6. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Your mini-series on leader lessons from boy scout camp is great. I appreciate you taking the time to do an analysis on what was learned there. I printed them out and gave them to my High School students to read and comment on. I got a lot of great responses. I think they are new-found fans of yours.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Mr. TJ, I wish I had had you as a teacher in school. Maybe I would have learned more practical info about the real world instead of the propaganda they teach kids today.

  7. Janna Faulkner

    Hey, Gen Satterfield, this is a bit off-topic but did you hear about US Pres Trump’s comments on Baltimore and how screwed up the city is because of failed city leadership? Sadako Red has written about it several times. I really enjoyed his articles but haven’t seen anything in a while.
    Readers, if you haven’t read Stupid is as Stupid Does …City of Baltimore, do so now. Here is a link.

    1. Forrest Gump

      Please, please, please encourage SR to write another article on Baltimore. 🙂
      I want to read more about “stupid is as stupid does.”
      Ha ha ha ha ha ha …..

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      The city of Baltimore is corrupt. It’s run by liberals who think they are morally and intellectually superior to everyone else. When a problem crops up, then it must the fault of someone else.

  8. Eric Coda

    You article has convinced me to find a scout troop and begin volunteering to help. I don’t know much about scouting (although I was a tenderfoot many decades ago) but that doesn’t mean I cannot learn and with my leadership experience, I’m sure I can add value.

    1. Xerxes I

      Bully for you, Eric. Anyone who does this deserves my respect.

    2. Jerome Smith

      Eric, by picking up such additional responsibility shows “how” it is possible to work full time and still do more for your community. Scouting is filled with volunteers and they simply don’t have enough good men to fill needed positions.

  9. Willie Shrumburger

    Please, Gen. Satterfield, write at least one more article from your scouting camp experiences. I find them both educational and entertaining.

  10. Max Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, I don’t believe that safety is the highest responsibility of adult leaders at scout camp as in any other human endeavor. We can ll be safe sitting in our basements playing games in our underwear. I think its showing scouts about responsibility and the self-worth they gain from it.

    1. Harry B. Donner

      Good point Max although I didn’t take Gen Satterfield’s lessons or commentary as identifying SAFETY as a leader’s most important mission. However, I do agree we should be careful to act safely, train others to be safe, and then go about our business.

      1. Harry B. Donner

        [oops, hit the reply button too quickly] .. about our business of doing those ‘good’ things that must be done and staying on the path of goodness.

    2. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Thank you Max for highlighting this. You are correct, safety is NOT the first priority of leaders but when kids are involved it must be high on our list. Teaching them responsibility through fun is the pinnacle of our mission.

      1. JT Patterson

        Well said and I agree completely. If you want to motivate young boys (and anyone for that matter) then it is our job to make things interesting for them. No better way to get the attention of young people than to have them self motivated.

  11. Army Captain

    As I wrote before, a great series of lessons.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Thanks Army Captain, my sentiments exactly. What we have here is an attempt to add to the body of chaos (yes, chaos) of so much leadership writings. This cuts directly to the core of what leaders should or should not be doing. Another reason for me to keep coming back here.

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