[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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.