By Chuck Eaton, Scout Executive and CEO
Because of my Scouting background and my wife’s personal make up, we were eager volunteers when our two daughters where in elementary school. We immediately raised our hands to be Girl Scout leaders, run the PTO family fun nights, run the family church outings or the youth group. So no one had to coax us in, or cultivate our involvement. We were “those parents.”
However, many parents need a little support and a welcoming environment to help them step forward. They WANT what is best for their kids, and they WANT to be involved, but may not be able to see a role for themselves. If the parents are not technical – it’s difficult for them to see themselves serving as the robotics team coach. Or if the parents are not athletic they don’t can’t visualize themselves teaching soccer drills.
Years ago, my younger sister was learning to play softball in a community league. As an older teen, my schedule didn’t permit me to coach but I wanted to help out. A father who was involved in the organization had a conversation with me about my love for the Red Sox, and my years in organized sports. Through that conversation he got a fairly good read on my understanding of the game. He told me a few differences between little league softball rules and baseball rules. Next thing you know he gave me an umpire’s vest and voila – I was a “stand-by ump” ready to be put into the game whenever I was around.
Just like that, I was part of girl’s softball. No training was required – no forms to be filled out, and no criminal background check was performed. That was just the way the world worked back then. It was a simpler time and the path for involvement was shorter. However the basic technique to getting people involved is still valid today. Our most successful packs and troops are really good at doing exactly what that dad did for me by empowering me to help. Our best Troops, Crews and Packs are great at securing that first level of volunteer participation. They begin by talking to the parent and discovering their interests. They find a way to translate to interests into contributions to the program. They start out by finding a small task that the person can do that will ad value to the effort. This is the process of “parent engagement.” It’s a technique that creates enthusiasm in the parent as much as the child. (See the Oreo cookie blog for some great tips on the first steps of volunteering.)
Once the parent is engaged they begin to appreciate and understand the game of Scouting. They are often ready and eager to contribute more.
The challenge with Scouting compared to being a little League umpire is that Scouting is not as widely understood as softball. When I was 17, I knew the baseball rules so it was easy for me to step right in as a “stand by ump.” However, knowing the ins and outs of camping, or the nuances of the BSA advancement program, or having the logistical experience to coordinate a 50 person camping trip requires more in depth knowledge. Although they may be willing to assist, the average mom or dad doesn’t feel comfortable raising their hand and serving as a Den Leader. That’s a bit daunting for even the most willing parent. The BSA’s answer to this problem is adult training. Yet the navigation through the many BSA training programs can be just as daunting- even though in the end it makes volunteering easier.
For a new BSA volunteer they may not understand why they need training. “What training course should I take? When is it offered? Where is it offered? How long is the course? What is a roundtable? How will all this help me control 10 rambunctious 8 year old boys? “
The BSA has done a great job of putting a ton of training on line. However for some things there is no substitute for human interaction. A deeper and more successful training experience allows individuals the ability to raise their hands and as questions. There are significant benefits from interacting with others and practicing the skills hands on. These human to human experiences greatly help build the confidence to feel comfortable at the next den meeting, or the first camping trip.
The Spirit of Adventure Council is committed to supporting the development of adult volunteers. Here are just two examples:
The training search engine – to help people navigate BSA training and find the most appropriate training for their needs we have created a link. This will allow individuals a source to find answers to most of the questions above. Check it out and find the right course for your needs. Click here to try out the training search engine!
New England Base Camp Leadership and Training Center – Almost every Saturday we run 2 or 3 hour long courses, many of these courses are free of charge . These courses include lots of classic Scout training events, as well as recognized trainings from other partner agencies such as CPR, or Lifeguard training. Bring your kids! While your in the training the youth can enjoy the programs at New England Base Camp. Click here to see the list of upcoming trainings.
The Spirit Of Adventure council is committed to providing training to help parents and leaders improve the Scouting experience for children and young adults. You can use the training search engine to find a class near you, or you can stop by the New England Base Camp to sharpen your skills.
[infobox title=’EXPERIENCED LEADERS WANTED! ‘]We are always looking for great people to help. If you have a great skill you’d like to share or you’d like to join the training team, please leave your contact info here.[/infobox]