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Scoutmaster Bob writes:

May 7, 2012

This month’s Scoutmaster Blog Post is about the Patrol Method.


Long ago, Lorne W. Barclay wrote this to Scoutmasters about the Patrol Method:


“Scouting develops good citizenship, not merely through the personal advancement of each boy in the Scout Requirements, but by increasing capacity for team work through Patrol games, contests, and projects.

Citizens live up to the law not through fear of prison or thorough regard for the policeman, but through a living spirit of loyalty to their fellow citizens. The boy’s gang is his group of “fellow citizens.” The Scout Patrol becomes his gang. He works and plays for the success of his Patrol. He learns to be a citizen by loyalty and team play in the Patrol. As the boy grows his loyalties enlarge. At first he thinks of himself, his family, his gang; then his school, his church, his home town-beyond that his state, his political party, his country and finally, all mankind.

The growth of these loyalties depends on the boy’s learning, sooner or later, to play the game for the good of his gang or Patrol. He must put himself in the background and push for his gang.

This is why inter-Patrol activities, trust and confidence in boy leader, Patrol responsibility for programs, and good discipline, are important to you.

The Patrol Method has always been the policy of the Boy Scouts of America, as outlined in the original Handbook for Scoutmasters. Many Scoutmasters have used the Patrol Method for years, and are today running their Troops on this plan… The kind of training you give your Patrol Leaders will make or break your Troop.”


The “Patrol Method” and “Boy-led troop” ideas have become a mantra in today’s world as THE way to run a Scout Troop. But how do you know if you are employing the Patrol Method to maximize the benefits for you Troop? The following is a checklist developed by Bill Nelson in 2010.


  1. Do I always think of my Patrols in terms of the leaders? Do I always transmit announcements and information to the Scouts through the Patrol Leaders or do I get up in front of the whole troop and make all the announcements myself?
  2. Do I always answer the Scouts’ questions about routine details by saying, ‘Ask your Patrol Leader; he knows!’ instead of giving them the answer myself, thus doing my part to develop in them a certain amount of respect for those leaders, to whom they have to look for vital facts and guidance?
  3. Do I keep asking the Patrol Leaders for specific pieces of information about their Scouts, such as advancement, progress, personal interests, hobbies, or activities at school, to encourage them to get to know all their Scouts?
  4. Do I stick these alleged leaders right out in front at every opportunity where they get a feeling of leadership?
  5. Do I commend the Jr. Leaders publicly whenever they show signs of taking responsibility, and do I always refrain from criticizing them before their group?
  6. When something goes wrong in one of those Patrols during a Troop meeting, say a little matter of discipline, do I jump on the Scouts themselves, or do I first call the Patrol Leader aside and point out the situation to him, making him realize that it is his responsibility to handle it?
  7. Does the troop hold a mini-PLC after every meeting and major event that goes over what occurred at the event, what we should continue to do, stop doing and start doing to improve it?  Do we also go over the agenda of the next meeting or activity to make sure everyone is ready?
  8. Does the Senior Patrol Leader hold a PLC meeting once a month to plan out the troop activities for the month?  Is every patrol represented?
  9. Does the troop hold a Troop Leader Training after every change in youth leadership? 
  10. Do I hold quarterly Scoutmaster Conferences with each Patrol Leader and the SPL?
  11. Do patrols meet on a bi-weekly or other regular basis apart from the troop?  Do they go on separate activities?
  12. Are the Jr. Leaders NYLT trained?
  13. Does the troop send at least one potential Jr. Leader to NAYLE each year?
  14. Do I hold 10-20 minute training sessions at least once a quarter during the PLC meetings?
  15. Are the Jr. Leaders running the troop calendar planning sessions?
  16. Are the Scouts running the troop meeting with me only involved for the Scoutmaster minute?
  17. Do we have a “Green Bar” patrol made up of the PLC that goes on their own outings (say once a quarter) where we conduct training and motivational activities?
  18. Do the patrols take responsibility for each Scout’s advancement?
  19. On campouts are my patrols separated at a sufficient distance (e.g., 300 feet) that they feel ‘on their own’?


If you can answer, “Yes” to more questions than you answer, “No”, you are probably doing a good job of letting the Troop leverage the Patrol Method and reap all the benefits therein. Remember that the aims of the Patrol Method are not to throw the boys in a lake to see if they can swim, but, instead, to teach them, guide them, lead them, and equip them to be able to run the Troop on their own. Make no mistake about it, this is HARD WORK. Every Scout has different needs and learns differently. Some are born leaders and some must work at it; Either way, our job, as Scoutmasters, is to invest our time, talents, and trust in them. Then let them lead.


More next month!


Scoutmaster Bob



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