When Scouting Isn’t Easy

You are not supposed to be reading this post!

Scout IllustrationInstead of this post, you should be reading a long and thoroughly exposited post about why long-term thinking is important in a Scout Troop.

However, after I got gotten it all outlined and was a good 500 words into it, I sat back, not at all satisfied with what I was writing.

This actually happens more often than you might think! I have a folder full of drafts, half-written posts, and discarded ideas which did not make the standard I try to set for this blog. For this post in particular, I realized that I was unnecessarily rambling about what I wanted to say and not simply speaking from the heart.

The reason I say this is because it closely relates to what it is I really want to say. I’ve often spoken of Scouting as an art, rather than a science. I still hold this to be true. In speaking about the Patrol System, John Thurman of England hit it right on the head:

“The Patrol System is a system made up of ‘a lot of littles’. This is why there are difficulties about it; why there are problems; why it is not too easy to understand.”

When I was a 15-year old Patrol Leader (not really that long ago!), I first started learning about Traditional Scouting. I learned about the Patrol System, the importance of the wilderness, and of leadership and character from the writings of such great men as Baden-Powell, Bill Hillcourt, and John Thurman.

Inspired by this, I set about whole-heartedly in implementing these concepts in my Troop and Patrol. Right away, I could see some things start to work! However, much of it didn’t work like I hoped for one reason or another. I became discouraged by this. I expected complete and immediate success to attend my efforts, and this certainly didn’t happen.

Scouts on Pioneering BridgeThe more I’ve read and learned about traditional Scouting, the more I’ve come to realize that a good Troop isn’t stamped out on an assembly line; it is crafted with care over time. It doesn’t shoot up like a skyscraper built with cranes and heavy machinery; it grows like a tree, slowly and strong, under dedicated caretakers.

Why does it work like this? Because a good Troop is really a micro-culture! The culture of a good Troop is made of a bunch of boys who have Scout Spirit! They encourage each other to grow in this and continue to pass it down to new Scouts. You may be fortunate to lead a Troop in a place where conditions are just right for Scout Spirit! More often than not, though, this Scout Spirit needs to be shared with Scouts over time; through example, encouragement, teaching, and enthusiasm.

It is these Troops that really make the biggest difference to the boys who are a part of them. A Troop can be ‘successful’; it can produce many Eagle Scouts, it can do all the activities and go through the drill. But without true Scout-Spirit, Scouting doesn’t really fulfill it’s potential.

Scout EMSSo, if you are going through difficulties like I did, don’t get discouraged! Don’t give up on traditional Scouting and take the easy route to running a Scout Troop. Think in the long term! It is so very much worth all the time, effort, and frustrations!

Since the 100th anniversary of Scouting, a lot of people have been thinking about the future of Scouting: how it will change, what it will mean, etc. Ultimately, though, it’s not going to be decided by culture, organizations, or politicians. It’s going to be decided by you: the Scouts and Scouters.

The reason we have the amazing heritage we look back on is because many Scouts and Scouters built Troops with Scout Spirit! They planted them, watered them, and took care of them. They didn’t hang their hats on numbers or show. They concentrated on building and implementing a fantastic and timeless program. The more I read about the men who made Scouting great, the more I am inspired by their patience and dedication.

This post isn’t going to be “Five ways to long-term thinking”. That post hit the recycle bin. This message is a simple exhortation to the passionate Scout leader and Scouters out there.

Don’t get discouraged! Don’t give up traditional Scouting because it seems too hard or slow! This is about the future of many young men; this is about the future of this movement!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post!

Scout On!

Scout Campfire

*All images in the post are from historical editions of the Boys’ Life Magazine. Many thanks go to the journalists who chronicled Scouting’s History!

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4 Comments on "When Scouting Isn’t Easy"

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Gwyn James

Echoed my thoughts! You can build a troop but unless if you have the right spirit it will not continue with out you for very long. The troop is a direct reflection of yourself, every leader or manager of a business should learn that. yes like you I’ve had my ups and downs, but the ups far out way the downs. Scouting gave me such a fantastic out look on life I will never pay the debt to my old leaders. I hope I passed that on to a few generations.

Gwyn James UK


Thanks for the comment! The kind of excitement you have for passing down Scouting to younger generations is the reason Scouting has lasted this long! Thank you!

Mark West

Scouting works and is still as relevant today as it was over 100 years ago. The leaders I was surrounded with during my time as an youth, most definitely changed my outlook on life. I would t agree that I as well will never pay the debt to my old leaders that they deserve. I hope to pass on what my leaders taught me to further generations, as I find that Scouting is the best youth organization in the world.


we have a troop of over 90 boys. I have been part of this for the past year. I have watch the SM struggle to get simple organization drilled into the boys an instead of giving commands there a lot of shouting which drive everyone crazy boys and adults.

I look forward to reading Powell and the others. So many parents WANT the program for their kids but so many kids are there for the wrong reasons.

No matter what though it is what we make it.
Great site!