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How To Pick a Scouts BSA Troop
Whether your Scout has already been a member of a Cub Scout Pack or if you are brand new to Scouting, picking a Scouts BSA Troop that’s right for you and your family is a key decision that can make a big difference. But before you worry about making the «wrong» decision, relax; you can change later if the «fit» isn’t right.
Let’s start with some basics:
- Scouts BSA is a program for middle school and high school aged boys or girls. If your child is in elementary school, you’ll want to visit BeAScout.org and find a Cub Scout Pack near you.
- Not all Scouts BSA Troops are alike. Yes, they all follow the same program and your Scout can earn the rank of Eagle Scout in any troop. But there can be subtle differences in the way one troop plans campouts and other events compared to another troop. Or, one troop may like to meet on Sunday afternoons while another prefers to meet on Monday nights. And so on.
- Some Cub Scout Packs have great relationships with particular Scouts BSA Troops and have a history of their Cub Scouts graduating or «crossing over» into those troops. But if you don’t feel like that troop is a good fit for your family, it’s ok for you to shop around and visit other troops.
The most important thing to remember is if you join a Scouts BSA Troop and it it’s not working out, that doesn’t mean your Scout has to quit. We would advise you to first visit with your troop’s Scoutmaster and/or Committee Chair if you’re not happy with the program being offered by the troop. If you can’t work out your differences, remember the Scout Law and stay Friendly, Courteous, and Kind… but start looking for another troop that’s better for you.
How do troop visits work?
Meeting with potential troops — either during a formal visit or at an activity — allows parents and Scouts to interact and decide if the troop is a good fit. Parents can schedule a visit by contacting a troop’s Scoutmaster or other adult leader listed on the unit’s listing on BeAScout.org. Volunteer leaders in your area (that area is called a «district«) will organize special activities designed to bring Webelos Scouts (those are Cub Scouts in 4th or 5th Grades) and Scouts BSA members together, such as a campout called «Webelos Woods.»
It’s a good idea to visit at least three troops on two different occasions. Talk with other parents and leaders and ask questions about fundraising, communication styles, advancement, troop gear, committee needs, types of activities and other troop functions.
If possible, look for a good age mix in a prospective troop. Some troops have a new-Scouts BSA patrol designed specifically to welcome and include younger boys and girls in a comfortable setting (each troop is organized into smaller groups of 8-10 Scouts called a «patrol»). Or, if a Webelos Scout has special needs, such as a learning disability, search for a troop with knowledge on how to offer the best program possible for these Scouts.
How do you know when you’ve found the right troop?
You and your child should be familiar and comfortable with the youth and adult leaders of the troop and feel excited about beginning this new adventure. Some families will worry that a troop of 70-80 Scouts is too large and worry their child will «disappear» during activities. Others may be concerned that a troop of 10-15 Scouts is too small to take part in certain activities or trips. On the other hand, a smaller troop may be exactly what your child needs to get early leadership opportunities and more personal attention. Or, you may want a large troop because it offers the chance for your child to make more friends. There really is no right or wrong answer.
What if I need help choosing a troop?
We have special volunteers called Commissioners whose job is to help Scout units. Each district in our 15-county service area has a volunteer with the job of District Commissioner; this volunteer manages the volunteer team that visits Scout units and provides coaching and support to help them be their best. The District Commissioner for the area where you live can help suggest troops that might be a good fit for you. You can find a list of leaders for your district (including the District Commissioner) by visiting the district information page and looking under «How do I contact my district leaders?»