Fifteen Minute Patrol Leader Training

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Patrol leader training is not an event; it is an ongoing process of coaching and mentoring.  Good coaching comes from a solid, simple, shared understanding of the fundamentals.  To my mind a trained patrol leader knows these fundamentals.

Here’s how I train patrol leaders in fifteen minutes.

I usually conduct this training just before or after a patrol leader’s council meeting. Note that this is based on asking the Scouts questions and teaching them specific answers for them. Since we’ve used this training method for a few years my older Scouts know the answers and usually are able to give them verbatim. Answers other than the ones here are received with something like:’that’s an important part of the answer, but I am looking for something very specific.’

Fifteen minutes? Yes. Avoid commentary and digression – stick to the main ideas and keep it moving. At the end of the first pass through this information go back and repeat each question in sequence to further cement the answers in their minds. I’ll explain why this is important after we walk through the questions and answers.

Finally, don’t distribute printed handouts until the end.  Otherwise Scouts will be looking at the handout rather than engaging in the discussion. Here’s my Fifteen Minute Patrol Leader Training PDF of the questions and answers.

I’d also suggest that you don’t call this training, just have a discussion with your Scouts.

Here’s my notes on the presentation, the questions are bold, the answers in italics:

I want to ask you patrol leaders a few questions,

What is your goal?
To Lead, Train, and Inspire Scouts to become First Class.

We know when Scouts reach First Class that we are keeping our promises to them. They are going camping, working with their patrol and learning the skills of Scouting. So let me ask you this:

How do Scouts become First Class?
By doing things that Scouts do.

It’s a little difficult to understand the difference between completing requirements and doing the things that Scouts do. If we plan and prepare for doing the things Scouts do, then they will complete requirements as a result of  participating,  If we plan to ‘do requirements’ we create a classroom experience where you go over material because you have to rather than doing something because you want to.

We don’t ‘do requirements’ we complete requirements because we do what Scouts do. That may sound a little confusing at first but it will begin to make more sense as you think about it. My next question is:

What do Scouts do?
Scouts go camping, they learn skills and apply them to their activities, they explore hobbies and careers, they serve their community, they are responsible to organize and plan their own activities, they put the Scout oath and law into practice.

Almost all of this happens in the patrol, so the patrol leader’s job is very important. Everything the patrol leader does is centered on serving the Scouts in his patrol by making it possible for them to become First Class, he is entrusted with fulfilling all the promises of Scouting for his patrol.

My next question is

How do Scouts do these things?
By attending and being prepared to participate in the events we plan.

That’s a simple answer, but it’s one we always need to be thinking about. If a Scout isn’t participating we have to ask why. Is he busy with other things? Is our program interesting and engaging? Does he want to be here? Did his patrol leader talk to him? Your example and encouragement is the most important factor in making this happen.

Here’s another easy question;

How do Scouts know about these meetings and events?
We communicate the details they need to know and the preparations they need to make.

Communication only happens when we ‘close the loop’ – that means you are actually speaking to a person and get a reply to what you have said that indicates they understand. Phone messages, text messages, and email does not count as communication until you ‘close the loop’.

[I may demonstrate this by imitating a phone call from a patrol leader to a scout in his patrol, showing how to close the loop by asking teh Scout to tell me what I have told them.]

If we know that communicating is important to getting Scouts here then my next question is:

How are Scouts prepared for these activities and events?
We instruct and train the Scouts so they know the skills and complete the preparations for what they are about to do.

To instruct you must prepare, that means studying and knowing the information that is in the Scout Handbook. Once you agree who is doing what and when they are doing it that’s a plan – but there’s another step that has to follow, and another after that. This leads to my next question:

What are the three steps to making things happen?
Planning, preparation and execution.

Time used 


WHO is responsible, WHAT are they responsible for, and WHEN they are doing it


Developing HOW the task is going to be done and WHAT is needed to do it


Making it happen.

Planning happens in minutes, but it is only the first step. If you do not prepare you are lost. Preparing means reviewing and studying the skill, practicing the skill and rehearsing your demonstration. Demonstrating a skill is not instructing – once the skill is demonstrated it must be practiced so part of the preparation sage is making sure that you have adequate supplies for practice and rehearse how you will lead the practice.

That’s what a patrol leader does. It’s pretty simple. Let’s go over these questions and answers again…

What I am aiming at is simple, succinct ideas that are easy to remember.  Arguably this is a simplistic approach to some complex issues, but the idea is not to unload two tons of information – just the main points. I’ll take advantage of other opportunities to expand on the complexities in subsequent meetings. If the Scouts have this simple ‘catechism’ in their minds I can begin explaining the more complex things by asking the applicable question. That’s why it’s important we all know the questions and the set answers.

As an example suppose you are observing the patrol leader’s council before a meeting. They are just milling around not doing much of anything. I ask the senior patrol leader; ‘what are the three steps to making things happen?’

He answers: “Planning, preparation, and execution.”

I ask; “What step are you doing right now?”

He replies, “Preparation.”

I ask,”So everything is prepared, you can start the meeting right now?’

He replies, “well, I guess so…”

I say, “What do you need to do to answer that question a little more certainly?”

You get the idea. Because we have a shared understanding and rote memory of these things my coaching takes a few seconds and the Scouts feel confident in their responses. I get the opportunity to help them discover the more complex ideas as we go along without interfering or having to explain everything on the spot.