Micro Troops

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Micro Troops

Postby Reasonable Rascal » Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:00 pm

I'm looking for input on what I see locally as a trend, that of Webelos cross-overs and their parents forming micro troops rather than join an established troop. This has happened here the past 2 years, with just enough Webelos crossing over to charter a new troop (I believe 5 boys is the minimum number to charter a troop, correct?) of what I have come to refer to as the micro variety, i.e. too small to field more than a modest-sized patrol, too small to have youth leader opportunities for more than a couple of boys at a time, and definitely too small for anything approaching inter-patrol activities. From what we were told at last year's cross-over it appears that the same phenomenon will take place this year as well, i.e yet another micro-troop being formed by a cub leader whose son will be coming of age/completing the 5th grade.

The impetus seems to be coming from the parents themselves, rather than boys who have checked out a local troop or two and decided they'd rather be solely among friends. In fact, if we get the one required visit Webelos need for their Arrow of Light award we are lucky.

I will grant that our troop is not without its problems. No troop truly is. But it isn't a rabble bent upon destroying society as we know it, though truth be told there isn't an angel one amongst them. :shock:

Does anyone else out there have this problem? Is it common?

I should add that our community comprises a population level of around 60,000 within a 15 mile radius, and had 3 troops before this trend started. One is LDS, another was the result of a split-off from this one when one leader decided he wanted a more outdoor-oriented (Venture crew) program about 7 years ago, and mine. Now we have the original 3 plus 2 micro troops with an apparent 3rd on the way come cross-over time.

Observations? Suggestions? Commiserations?

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Re: Micro Troops

Postby nolesrule » Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:07 pm

Sounds like a DE's dream.
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby alex gregory » Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:49 pm

The problem is Helicopter parents who just cannot let their kids grow up. The few times I've seen troops too small to succeed they quickly fold, and the one or two families that actually are interested in Boy Scouts find a real troop.
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby alex gregory » Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:52 pm

Invite the micro troop to join your troop on some real outings and you'll probably pick up the kids who want to experience real scouting.
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby Mrw » Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:05 pm

How many of these families have girls in Girl Scouts which tend toward microtroops?

These parents obviously do not really understand what happens if a kid drops out and they cannot recharter the next year.

I would invite them to join your troop for joint activities as Alex suggested. That way the boys know they have another option when their tiny troops fold. I would make a point of doing this with all the micro-troops, although not all at once.
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby Reasonable Rascal » Sun Jan 16, 2011 2:57 am

Answering all (I hope).

A DE's dream, I agree. Quantity over quality, though.

Yes, we are talking helicopter parents here. Usually moms but dads are involved as well, though not always primary in the decision it seems. My SPL was the recipient of a 2nd week at summer camp - gratis, I might add, that camp's policy for SPL's - and brought home the concept of the "Webelos III" from his 2nd week. Basically adults who follow their kids over and want things to run just like they did in Cubs.

We have tried to rendezvous with the other troops with very limited success. May get a Scouter parent over for an official visit, son in tow, and some did come to our Carpentry MB clinic in Dec. but that's the extent of things. See them at district camporee or MB clinics but that is the extent of things.

None of these micro troops have Girl Scout daughters involved that I am aware of. I know one troop had to switch from afternoon meetings to evening so they could attract enough boys to stay chartered. Even then I believe they are at the minimum of 5. The other I don't know, Dec. would have been their first recharter that I know of.

I am in no way accusing our DE of such - not even indirectly - but I have in years past seen a troop charter renewed year after year with names taken from current public school enrollments but everything sent to "General Delivery" for the addresses. That was with one of the largest (land mass area) councils in the country, BTW. The DE was the one who did it.

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Re: Micro Troops

Postby WVBeaver05 » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:12 am

Reasonable Rascal wrote:Basically adults who follow their kids over and want things to run just like they did in Cubs.RR

I have seen this too. And as someone who frequently teaches the SM Leader Specific training - I always emphasis the differences (and, the looks and some reponses from the Cub leaders who are just getting ready to transition are amazing). When I have leaders in this category I always emphasis the differences between Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting.

[Aside - one of the reasons I am concerned about this particular training being transitioned to on-line, web based.]

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Re: Micro Troops

Postby Nuts4Scouts » Sun Jan 16, 2011 12:03 pm

A community of 60,000 should be well able to field 6 Troops. My community is about 54,000, and there are 5 Troops. All are over 50 years old, and all are of a decent size. Even at that, we still have not tapped all of the available youth.

The small, 5 Scout, Troops created specifically for two or three families, will fold soon enough. Boys will discover what they are missing when they attend council/district activities with other units, and transfer. The ones who like a Cub Troop will eventually get bored, or their parents will, and quit.

The Troops that make it, and grow, will obviously have something in their program that attracts new members. While that "something" may not appeal to you, it does not have to. Troops are different. That is why is is a good idea for Webelos den leaders to take their den to visit a variety of Troops.

Don't worry about the quality of the program in other Troops. Concentrate on your Troop. Provide your Scouts a great program, word will spread, and you will get recruits.
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby wagionvigil » Sun Jan 16, 2011 7:25 pm

Maybe tyhe required training will stop some of these. No training no activities or charter
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby smtroop168 » Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:29 pm

I've seen 3 of these pop up in the past 2 years here. One where all the 7 W2 started their own troop because they thought the troop their pack usually fed was poorly run. The 2nd year all the W2 also joined the new troop.

There were 2 others each started with 5 boys. Homeschoolers and Church group from what I heard
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby Hawkrod » Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:30 am

I agree with many of these posts but I disagree that it is a bad thing. I started a Webelos III Troop a couple of years ago. I too was a Webelos Leader and my DE pushed us to start a unit but we did it because we were not impressed by the other long time existing units that were out there.

I will tell you that my DE did put the bug in my ear that the local Troops were long in the tooth and not well run but I now realize that this may not have been entirely true and also said to me in such a way as to allow me to interpret it to be worse than it was. I admit to taking the bait. The reality is the other units did have stuff to offer but we have also had problems with them. I actually think they may have tried too hard to court us and I was looking for an excuse based on what I "thought" I knew. Things probably would be different had I known I was being manipulated.

Having said all of that, I do not regret it either. We started small (6 boys) but I disagree on the leadership opportunities involved as when you are small, all are in a position and all have to work to be successful. Being small gave us a leg up in that we were much more flexible and our program the first year was crazy. We did a ton of stuff that we could not have done had we been larger like we are now. The boys do miss out on the opportunity to work under older experienced boys but we were active in Council events and resident camping and got some of that as well (and some of that turned out to be not so good as well!). Our second year was much better and we tripled in size but fast growth was really too much and we did lose a couple of boys who were less "participatory". I would rather not have had it happen but some of them just could not keep up and were not comfortable. One quit because he said "all we do is go camping". I was disappointed in that (it isn't close to true) and even more so when he joined a neighboring Troop that camps a bunch more than we do. I know he will like it less there than with us but they convinced him it was a better fit.

We are a very community service oriented Troop and spend a lot of time doing flag service or participating in local events and we have a camping or hiking experience once a month if it is possible (we have been pretty good so far). Now that we have some time under our belt and have an established program, we are doing well. We have a number of boys joining in the next month but we now know what we have to offer and what we can handle so we have been smarter about how the program is run. We are a Boy run and led program but because the oldest is still only 14 we do have to offer the youth leadership a bit more guidance and direction but they are getting it and take it to the membership. We expect to have another successful year and continue to grow and offer an excellent program.

I will also note that being small initially did allow us to get a well trained group of leaders as one parent from each family did IOLS and most did Scoutmaster specific. I would actually wager that we have a significantly higher percentage of trained adults than any older or larger group in our area. Being small was a lot of work but it has paid off and we are now a solid unit that will continue for years to come. We now have some older boys from other units who have come visiting and an 18 yo Eagle came to our last meeting and did some map and compass and is considering becoming an ASM (he is also Venturing, lots of great skills and has a great attitude!).

I am sure that a lot of these new units will not succeed but I think less credit is being given here than they deserve. The potential to succeed is there and being small is only a negative for a short time if you have good youth and a solid program. In the begining we did tell the boys what we were going to do but now they tell us what they want to do and I think we are well past the Webelos III point.
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby AquilaNegra2 » Wed Feb 02, 2011 5:15 pm

I say, let them go for it. The local troop might do well to find out WHY they are doing it, though, and possibly remedy whatever the problem is for the next year.

One of my friends is a SM for a micro-troop. He was CM with the boys all through their cub experience, and they all crossed over together. The 6 boys are best friends, their families are tight, and he maintains complete control (on the adult side). They're a high-adventure troop that does amazing things, with the boys leading under his direction. They've grown to 8 in the last two years, and have no plans to get any larger, though there are a lot of boys who would like to move into his troop. The boys are simply amazing, and they deal with NONE of the problems that so many other troops do -- he would have them leave if they did. It works for them.

When my sons first joined their current troop, it was homeschool-only and small. They've since moved from that, and grown 300%. There are good and bad things with growth, but it has worked for us.

I think a micro fails or succeeds for the same reason a larger troop does. I can definitely see the advantages of it being small, though, especially for younger boys. Seems like a micro-troop would make a natural move to a Venture Crew as they aged.
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby Mrw » Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:38 pm

AquilaNegra2 wrote: They're a high-adventure troop that does amazing things, with the boys leading under his direction. They've grown to 8 in the last two years, and have no plans to get any larger, though there are a lot of boys who would like to move into his troop. The boys are simply amazing, and they deal with NONE of the problems that so many other troops do -- he would have them leave if they did. It works for them.



It does take away the teaching part of leadership when they do not take in new members. And it is a certainty that the troop then disappears as the boys age out in a few years. I am sure the kids are having a great time, but I like what I saw my boys learn as they dealt with unruly fellow scouts and the problem solving needed when the group had growth and shrinkage pains over time.
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby AquilaNegra2 » Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:38 am

Mrw wrote: I am sure the kids are having a great time, but I like what I saw my boys learn as they dealt with unruly fellow scouts and the problem solving needed when the group had growth and shrinkage pains over time.

To each his own. My own experience is that those "unruly fellow scouts" use up an inordinate share of the time and effort available. I think my boys see enough of that outside of Scouts. Same with unruly parents.

As far as the teaching and the leadership, from what I've seen of his boys, they have diverse interests and are encouraged to share and teach them with the troop-mates. And, yes, they will probably fade away when they all age out together.
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Re: Micro Troops

Postby wagionvigil » Thu Feb 03, 2011 8:06 am

High Adventure Troop? Sounds Like a Venturing Crew to me :D
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