“Congratulations, Enoch. You are now the Patrol leader of the panther patrol.”
These words filled me with pride and excitement. Any one of the members of my Patrol would consider this an honor. But I, in particular, had always taken Scouting very seriously. This new responsibility weighed heavily on my mind. It was, in fact, what motivated me to learn as much as I could about the history of Scouting and the principles
that made Scouting great.
One Small Step for Scouting
Full of youthful ambition and energy, I dove headfirst into learning everything I could to make myself a better Patrol Leader. I was just splashing the surface of the deep waters of traditional Scouting.
One of the very first principles I discovered and put into action in my own Patrol was that of the physical separation of my Patrol from the rest of the Troop during meetings and camping trips. I read about this this in Baden-Powell’s “Scouting for Boys”. His suggestion is that Patrols camp fifty to a hundred yards apart or even more. The concept of Patrol Corners during meetings is all over old Scouting literature. In particular, I was impressed with the importance of this through John Thurman’s 1950 “Patrol Leaders’ Handbook”.
A Case File of Traditional Scouting in Action
I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do this starting out. I had to operate within the constraints set by the Troop leadership and by the building where we met. What this usually ended up looking like was this: during the Troop meetings, my Patrol would fortify itself in a little entry foyer that was separate from the main meeting hall. Within the safety of that realm, we could resist the onslaught of chaos from the surrounding Patrols that would occasionally sweep in waves against our little barricade. But during the interim where we were not defending our position, we did our best to tackle this whole Scouting thing head on.
I often ended up bringing rope and props with me. We created our own games; we did drills on various Scouting exercises; we studied in our books; and my Patrol often listened with impatience while I lectured on various Scout skills or the passion we all should have for Scouting in general. They were rather long-suffering in that regard.
During camping trips, it was much harder to form a separate camp away from the rest of the Troop for just our Patrol. Despite my efforts, my Patrol ended up pitching their tents dispersed through the rest of the Scouts in the Troop. However, I always tried to pitch my tent at the furthest edge of the camping area. It was there I created a little headquarters of sorts for my Patrol. I would usually build a second fire if it was allowed and pitch a little tarp lean-to between a couple of trees. It was there that my Patrol would often hang out together. As a matter of fact, many of the other Scouts liked hanging out with my Patrol as well.
A Genuine Team
I tried a lot of different things as a Patrol Leader. But this simple act, this simple effort, of creating a distance between my patrol and the rest of the Troop, is one of the things that I consider to be the most successful at creating Patrol Spirit. We were able to build personal connections in ways that the rest of the Troop struggled to do. The camaraderie that we shared during the many times that we were gathered together resulted in memories that I will never forget.
Our Patrol shined during Troop competitions and even regional competitions during which we were allowed to compete as a Patrol. This wasn’t because we were already friends or we just worked well together. The Patrol was a very diverse group. We came from all sorts of different backgrounds and had very different personalities. We clashed quite often over various things. In spite of all this, we continued to grow together as a group.
Traditional Scouting Works!
The principles of historical Scouting, the traditional Scouting framework, actually work. That is why I’m such a dedicated evangelist of it now. It wasn’t developed as a theory for youth organizations. It came about through trial and error and was field-tested intensely by Baden-Powell and many other Scouters who contributed as time went on.
There are many different ways these founders developed for forming a separate patrol identity. But simple physical distance is one of the most valuable. Separate patrol identities develop that special camaraderie we call “Patrol Spirit.” Patrol Spirit connects Scouts at a personal level and creates a whole host of motivations for pursuing Scouting in general.
Call to Action
If you are looking for a first step toward following the principles of Scouting, I cannot commend to you more highly this simple principle of creating physical distance between Patrols during meetings and during camping trips. Go ahead, try it yourself. It won’t lead to overnight success with the Patrol Method or with traditional Scouting in general. But it will be a positive and significant step toward establishing a good Troop culture within your group.
One tip: as you try to implement this, be sure not to adopt a top-down approach. It will be tempting to try to get quicker results. Rather, you must lead in giving the proper motivations, education, and inspiration to the Patrol Leaders and the Scouts themselves for creating and maintaining this distance.
What are some of the roadblocks that you have come across in trying to implement physical distance between Patrols? I’d love to hear about them. Just leave a comment in the box below.
Thank you for reading. and as always, Scout on!