Is Scouting really competing with sports, clubs and similar activities?
Aren’t our goals somewhat similar to those of organized sports, performing arts, debate, and the many other extra-curricular activities available to our Scouts?
I’ve adopted the attitude that we cooperate with these other activities in offering our youth every advantage in learning something about the world and developing important skills. Scouting offers a lot but we really shouldn’t require a Scout to choose it above all the other things he is doing. If we make Scouting an either/or decision we’ll lose more than we gain.
Unfortunately some who lead other activities make their rehearsals, meetings, practices and games mandatory and penalize less than perfect attendance. This has always frustrated me because such policies send unintended messages:
- Participants have to be compelled to attend because, given the choice, they would rather stay away. Why would I join a group if I did not want to participate?
- Participants can’t be trusted to make appropriate decisions on how to manage their time. How does one learn to balance commitments and schedule activities if they have no choices?
- Participants can’t be trusted to maintain a true commitment to the group. If I join, for example, a basketball team because I love the sport why would I need to be compelled to attend practice? Shouldn’t the assumption be that my love for the game compels me to do well and work hard?
I coached wrestling for six years in a small private school. I learned from experienced, talented coaches to foster a love for the sport and a dedication to the team in my wrestlers. We had very few attendance problems and did not have a policy of penalizing wrestlers who missed practices. Rare problems with an individual wrestler’s commitment were addressed as such instead of instituting broad policies that threatened to penalize all wrestlers. We had some very happy, successful teams during those years.
Boys don’t join Scouting because they dislike what it represents but because they are enthusiastic about what it promises. We should meet that enthusiasm with trust and commitment to providing a program that fulfills those promises. We don’t need to institute policies to prevent them from doing other things and compel their participation in Scouting. Rather we need to cooperate with them and keep Scouting relevant to a well-rounded experience.