Mike Walton (blackeagle)

Scoutmaster-assigned position or project
By: Posted On: 2020-08-17

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Screen capture from BSA advancement website


Jim wrote to me a while back and asked:
"I understand that there are certain positions Boy Scouts must hold in order to earn the higher ranks.  In a large Troop like ours, we run out of those positions rather quickly.  I see in the book whereby the Scoutmaster can assign a project to a kid to do instead of holding a position.  Isn't that against the "service project" rules or something?  Have you used this "position," and how did it turn out?"

Rudy piped in and asked me: "In doing one of these special projects, does that lessen the importance of being a leader, as evidenced by the holding of key Troop positions?"

Mike wrote and asked: "Why doesn't the BSA accept Assistant Patrol Leader as a valid leadership position?  They accept Patrol Leader and Troop Guide, but not Assistant Patrol Leader.  What gives?"

Hey Jim!

The short answer is YES. I've used this option to:

- create special positions in the Troop (before the BSA embraced the Webmaster and Order of the Arrow Representative positions, that's exactly what I had two Scouts to perform for my Troop)

- create special positions OUTSIDE of the Troop (I created a "Sports" and an "Arts" Ambassador for my Troop. These boys would meet with community sporting and arts groups in town and gather information, bring it back to the Troop and discuss with the Senior Patrol Leader how the Troop can use this information)

- create special projects which require leadership.  In our town, we had DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and they were looking for a youth coordinator.  I volunteered one of my Scouts working toward Life to do it, and he continued serving as the DARE youth coordinator long after he earned Life. He didn't earn Eagle in my Troop -- too busy -- but he did, later on, earn Eagle as an Explorer because he organized a DARE Explorer Post and became the Post President.

The project or position should not be "high and mighty," but it should be measurable and realistic for the Scout to work through and achieve. I required my Webmaster to create three pages with content each quarter, to maintain our current set of pages, and to post three original photos to the site each quarter. My OA Representative had to attend Chapter meetings at least once a quarter, participate in a Lodge training program, and encourage Troop Ordeal members to "seal their membership" by participating in the Brotherhood ceremony.

The "Sports Ambassador" and the "Arts Ambassador" had to attend three meetings or activities each quarter, and I would check with the chairperson of those groups to ensure that he's actually attending and not just skating out on the afternoons or evenings that they are meeting.

These options should be used when your Troop's leadership roles are all "maxed out" or when you need to provide a little more incentive to that kid that has served as Senior Patrol Leader for an entire year and is two merit badges and a service project away from Eagle -- and he's only 13 and a half.

Rudy, no, the intent is NOT to circumvent the existing leadership positions a Scout may work in meeting the leadership requirement. I don't know for a fact, but my suspicion is the reason why the "Scoutmaster-assigned project" was inserted was that there are some Scouts who are not challenged enough with the "standard positions" and if we want them to "think out of the box" and more like the leader we've coached and assisted him toward -- that perhaps something which will meet the needs of the Troop (and community) would be an appropriate "leadership position."

Mike:  To be honest, I thought I knew why the Assistant Patrol Leader was not considered as a "leadership role" for Star, Life, and Eagle. However, in reviewing the various Boy Scout Requirements booklets I have access to (one of the few resources I have down here in Tennessee; everything else is back up north in Minnesota), I don't know why.  *My suspicions* is that Assistant Patrol Leader and Bugler don't allow the Scout to develop a large range of capacities that Patrol Leader or Scribe would. But then, before we had the Leave No Trace Trainer and the OA Troop Representative, how was leadership "developed" for some Scouts? And doesn't the Assistant Patrol Leader "subs in" and take charge when the Patrol Leader isn't there?

I can see (no, I really can't, but its goofy to say *smiling*) why not Bugler. But then, we have Historian and Chaplain Aide as "countable positions" -- why not Bugler? All three provide limited leadership experiences.

Mike, you've posted a great question for the BSA's national advancement team to assist us with. I'll post a question and let you and everyone else here know why when I get a response.

(and the following is from Christopher Hunt, who was the previous professional lead/advisor for the BSA's National Advancement Task Force; he moved onward in Scouting from that role which is now held by Mike LoVeecho)

Christopher Hunt:  I am happy to help, Mike.  The positions acceptable in fulfilling the Star, Life, and Eagle requirements, if properly approached, influence the operation of a troop, team, or crew, as a whole.  Den chief, at first glance, may not seem to meet this test, but the idea is that he's an "ambassador" from the troop, and paves the way for a transition into Boy Scouting. An assistant patrol leader's *primary* responsibilities lie within the patrol and do not have the same potential for influencing troop operations as the other jobs.

The BSA intends that the positions listed to fulfill the requirements are those with influence at a troop level. This is the reason the alternative leadership project for Star and Life is to help the *troop*. You'll note in the requirement language, too, the header for each sub-list of positions says, "Boy Scout Troop," "Varsity Scout Team," etc. these are not meant to be patrol positions.

Thanks, Chris.  In business and military parlance, this is "thinking, working, and developing "out of the box."   We need to insure and empower those working with us and for us to not just look at the "straight line" but also perhaps that "curvy line" which will get us to the goals we desire...and which will allow that person to really grow as they work through issues and "challenges."

And it starts ... and many of you are going to say with me ... with Boy Scouting.



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