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My Top 10 Reasons to Sign Your Son Up For Cub Scouts

My Top 10 Reasons to Sign Your Son Up For Cub Scouts

This September is a great time to sign your son in Kindergarten through 5th grade up for Cub Scouts. All over the country, Cub Scout packs will be welcoming new members. They’ll be holding joining nights where you can sign up your boy for an adventure that will prepare him for life.

My mom signed me up as a Cub Scout in 1985, in the basement of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Putnam. The program changed my life. Next June, I’ll be signing my now 4-year-old son up for the program. Now, you might be on the fence as to whether or not you should register your son. Here are my 10 reasons why I think you should. There are thousands more.

To listen to this as a podcast, click here.

 

10. He’ll Try New Things

The first mountain I ever climbed came during my time as a Cub Scout. My mom, who was also my den leader, climbed it with me. Mount Monadnock is the second-most climbed mountain in the world (because it’s easy to get to, and not terrifically difficult.) But when you’re 10, it’s a big deal. I remember getting to the summit. You see the world differently from up there. It’s a perspective that you can’t get anywhere else. You see that this really is a great big world, but you also see that if you keep working, you can get just about anywhere.

Cub Scouts launch rockets. Sometimes they’re model rockets. Maybe they’ll be water rockets. Sometimes air powered, but they launch stuff. It always gets oohs and aahs. There’s a certain amount of awe and confidence gained when the model rocket that they built shoots into the sky.

There will be lots of life-changing experiences like this. It could be the first night ever staying over in a tent. Maybe it’ll be the first time cooking their own food (with supervision, obviously.)

Cub Scouts is like the weather in New England. It always changes. One week they’re building birdhouses, the next, visiting the local firehouse, and the next they’re doing a community service project.

As life is varied, so is Cub Scouts. Nobody just does one thing. Throughout our lives, we play many roles, and in Scouting, you get to try out a lot of those roles.

 

9. You’ll Get to Experience Cub Scouts With Him

Cub Scouting is a family program. For kindergarten and first grade boys, it’s a “parent and me” program. You get to jump in with your boy. You get to be silly. The two of you will get to work together, going on adventures, and play together. You’ll probably learn things at the same time he does.

You get to be there when he does this impossible. You were there for his first step and remember his first word. Why wouldn’t you want to be there when he spends his first night in a tent, catches his first fish, or is awarded his Bear Badge? How much fun will it be to work with him building that Pinewood Derby car? Or baking that cake together?

Our kids grow up really fast, and these are moments that only come once in a lifetime.

cub scout photo

Photo by jillccarlson

 

8. He’ll Learn By Doing

There’s an old Chinese proverb, “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

Scouts get to try things. They get to experience being a leader. He’ll get to build things. There will be exploring. He’ll see what it’s like to go to the TV station. Through “Go See Its” he’ll discover how things work.

He’ll learn to help his community by… helping in his community. Scouts in the US do over 13 million hours of community service each year.

 

7. Cub Scouts will Help Him Overcome Shyness

I think on some level, everyone has some level of shyness. Maybe you remember the old Jerry Seinfeld joke about people being more afraid of public speaking than death? Well, there’s really only one way to get over that fear, and that’s to actually get in front of people. Cub Scouts get to try out performing songs and skits in front of their whole Pack.

Now, this video may not be the same as acting on a Broadway stage, but it takes a great deal of bravery to get up in front of your friends to perform like this.



6. He’ll Make New Friends

A Scout is Friendly is a point of the Scout Law, but Cub Scouts learn to make friends. In Cub Scouts, the kids from the country get to meet and play with kids from the big city. As they get older in the program and go to more events, they more they’ll meet.

Through scouting I’ve made friends from all over the country, and all over the world. In the course of my time in Scouting I’ve made friends from all over the country, and all over the world. One year on camp staff I roomed with an exchange scout from Egypt. The biggest thing you get isn’t how different people are, but how similar they are. Sure, the climate and landscape of Egypt and Connecticut are different. The cultures are vastly different – but Shicco was amazing at working with the kids. He also got a lot of text messages from his friends who I don’t think realized he was on the other side of the world, so his phone buzzed at 3 a.m. rather often.

When you’re six, your world is pretty small. You know your family, your friends, your teachers, and the kids at school. And that’s about it. But through Scouting you can meet people you otherwise would never come in contact with. You’ll get to realize that while, sure, there are lots of things that make us different, at the end of the day, we’re more similar than we aren’t.

While in school he may learn about other countries, but it’s a far different experience to actually meet them.

5. He’ll Lose at Pinewood Derby (And Build Character)

Cub Scouts build Pinewood Derby Cars with their parents or grandparents. They learn some basic physics. They see that the streamlined car goes faster. That weight distribution on the car matters. But more important than that, they learn sportsmanship. They learn how to be a good loser when things don’t go their way, and a gracious winner when they do.

I jokingly say that physics don’t apply to Pinewood Derby cars. So he’ll learn how to lose, and try again next year. In life, lots of things go wrong. Some of them we can control, and some are beyond our control – but either way, we need to be able to deal with it, and move forward.

From failure, we learn resilience. We learn to keep trying. We learn from our mistakes, and we learn that some things are the end of the world… and some things are not.

Scouting is a safe place to fail – and more importantly, to learn from that failure to succeed.

 

4. It’s Remarkably Safe

The Boy Scouts of America has a remarkable record of safety and abuse prevention. Their Youth Protection Policies work. No adult is ever one-on-one with a child that is not their own. Every leader undergoes a full background check when they register. Each and every leader is required to complete Youth Protection Training every two years – and you can take that training online yourself right now.

There’s a whole guide to tell leaders what activities the kids should and should not be doing, and at what age – that you can read yourself. Leaders are required to complete specific training before they take youth on outings, and it’s not just specific to the activity, but to the age of the youth. There’s a vast difference between taking a 7-year-old and a 17-year-old camping.

3. They’ll Get Great Role Models

You might be the most impressive person on Earth, but in this mortal coil, we are limited. Everybody’s good at something, but nobody’s good at everything. Through scouting, your child can meet (and learn from) adults from all walks of life.

It’s amazing the range of volunteers you find in Scouting. It may not be obvious at first (because the leaders are usually in uniform), but you can have lawyers and business leaders, construction workers and farmers all leading the same Pack. They’ll get to see great examples of productive people, and community leadership.

But it will be in an informal, silly, and comfortable environment. They’ll see that the firefighter they look up to isn’t all that different from them. At some point, they’ll make the connection that the people they look up to used to be just like them.


 

2. Cub Scouts is Fun

Cub Scouts giggle. A lot. The one thing you can be sure to see at just about any Cub meeting you go to is kids having fun.

I’ve always thought of Cub Scouts as a big magic trick. A good magician shows you what he wants you to see while hiding what they’re actually doing from view. This is how your grandfather made the quarter appear behind your ear.

The kids see the fun. They see the games. They see the pinewood derby cars, the rockets, the hikes, the swimming, and the other activities. What they don’t realize until later is what they were actually learning. Character. Citizenship. Fitness. Self-confidence. Empathy. Leadership.

They just think they’re having fun.

1. Cub Scouts will Improve His Life

It will prepare him for life. A Tufts University study tracked over 2,000 scouts and non-scouts in the Philadelphia area over the course of two-and-a-half years and studied the changes in their behavior and their attitudes. They did this so that they could control for the attitudes and values of the young people over the course of the study – to counter the argument that “Scouting merely attracts better young people instead of helping make them.”

The study found that scouts had huge increases when compared to non-scouts when it came to cheerfulness, kindness, hopeful future expectations, trustworthiness, helpfulness, and obedience. Scouts in the survey were more likely to respond with answers like “helping others” or “doing the right thing.”

The study shows us that the program actually does what it claims to do. It does improve lives. It does build character. The values that Scouting teaches actually do improve the lives of young people. As it turns out, repeating and reflecting on the values contained in the Scout Oath and Law has an impact.

The point of Cub Scouting is not to make the world’s best 9-year-old, though that’s a nice side-effect. The point is to prepare them to have well-rounded, successful lives.

To find a pack near you for your son, go to beascout.org.

If you didn’t see your favorite reason, feel free to list it below.

Scouting units and districts, please feel free to copy this material for your website, I just ask that you link to the original when doing so. Thanks.

 

 

Posted by Mike Cooney in Cub Scouts, Grow Your Group, Marketing, Recruiting, Scouting, Volunteering
GaGa Ball – What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

GaGa Ball – What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

If you’ve been to a scout camp in the last four years or so, you’ve probably seen kids playing a lot of GaGa Ball. It’s been the hit of our day camp for the past five years, and it seems like the pit at every resident camp I’ve visited is in near constant use. There’s even a “Gaga Center” on 93rd Street in New York City.

It’s a great game that will keep kids moving, and entertained for hours. It’s painfully simple to learn, and as kids play, they’ll start to develop strategies. Teenagers can play a fast, exciting physical style, and yet the game can be played effectively by kids as young as four or five.

 

The Origins of GaGa Ball

According to Stephen Silver of Tablet Magazine, the inventor of Gaga Ball is Steven Steinberg. Steinberg was a 17-year-old camp counselor at a JCC camp in Maryland, Camp Milldale.

One rainy day in 1975, Steinberg took the six-year-olds in his care to a covered, wall-less shelter. There they started playing a “form of dodgeball”. In order to stop the ball from rolling down a nearby hill, he laid some benches along the sides to contain the ball. And Gaga Ball was born?

And what about the name? Gaga Ball? It’s been said in some places that it’s from “touch touch” in Hebrew, but according to Steinberg, it isn’t quite so cultural. Apparently, during a moment of frustration with the children, he called his six-year-old charges, “a bunch of babies”, and they responded by making baby sounds. Goo goo, ga ga.

The name stuck. And when the activity became scheduled, it was written down as “ga-ga.”

 

Gaga Ball Rules

While the rules seem to vary by location, here are a set of “official rules” according to the Gaga Center in New York, here:

  • All players start with one hand touching a wall of the pit.
  • The game begins with a referee throwing the ball into the center of the pit.
  • When the ball enters the pit, the players scream ‘GA’ for the first two bounces, and ‘GO’ on the third bounce, after which the ball is in action.
  • Once the ball is in play, any player can hit the ball with an open or closed hand.
  • If a ball touches a player below the knee (even if the player hits himself or herself) he or she is out and leaves the pit. If a player is hit above the knees, the play continues.
  • Using the walls of the octagon to aid in jumping is legal as long as the player does not permanently sit on the ledge of the octagon.
  • If a ball is caught on a fly, the player who hit the ball is out.
  • Players cannot hold the ball.
  • If needed, a second ball can be thrown in the pit to expedite the end of the game. The last player standing is the winner of that round.




Making Your Own Pit

So, if you’ve got the time and a suitable permanent location, you can build your own Gaga pit. You’ll just need twelve 2x12x16′ boards, six 1x6x12′ boards, sixteen 3″ hinges, and two pounds of 2″ deck screws. And some tools. And it would help to be a much, much better carpenter than I am. But if you this kind of person, or you know somebody who is, you can find a complete set of instructions at kaboom.org.

 

Or… you can buy an inflatable portable one

As you can see below, Gaga pits are on the expensive side. Probably out of the price range for most packs. But if you’re a council or district representative, you might want to look into investing in one. I know of at least one council that has one and lends it out to packs and troops as needed. They’re great for joining night activities.

The nice thing about it is that it’s portable and relatively easy to set up. It’s a little on the heavy side, but a couple of adults should be able to maneuver it. You will need an outlet to power the pump.

 

Photo by Camp Pinewood YMCA

Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Grow Your Group, Scouting
7 Life Skills You Learn from Backpacking

7 Life Skills You Learn from Backpacking

One of my favorite Scout leaders passed away last month. He could be a little gruff – in a good way. If the troop hadn’t been backpacking in a while, he’d notice that the boy’s discipline on campouts would start to break down a little. They’d take a little longer to get going in the morning. “We haven’t hiked them in too long,” he’d say.

He was right, of course. There’s a lot to be said for summer camp and you can learn quite a bit at a Scout meeting or a campout. But there’s something about a backpacking trek that just can’t be duplicated anywhere.

Backpacking experiences are life-changing. When you get back you see the world differently. You see yourself differently. There are things you can learn on the trail, and nowhere else. These are things that can’t be taught. They have to be experienced and learned. I can tell you about what it’s like to put your foot on the summit, but until you actually do it for yourself, you can’t understand.

Backpacking teaches Goal Setting

mount washington summit photo

Summits are easily identifiable goals. Photo by Willeke_igkt

Mountains are wonderfully clarifying things. When you set off to climb a mountain, the summit is an easily identifiable goal.

You know you have to keep hiking until you reach the summit. Getting to the summit is a success, anything less is a failure. And you’re not competing against anyone but yourself, and I suppose, the mountain.

But you can’t climb a mountain in one step. It’s a series of little victories. Get to the end of each section of trail. Pick a tree in the distance, and hike to it, and when you get to it, pick another tree – until there are no more trees.

Then go for the summit.

Getting to the summit always gives you an amazing feeling of accomplishment. You’ve set yourself a goal, and you’ve met it – and you’re literally on top of the world.

When I used to be an instructor for Camping Merit Badge, we’d always make the last requirement the one where the scout would have to “Hike up a mountain where, at some point, you are at least 1,000 feet higher in elevation from where you started.”

When they reached the summit, I’d shake their hand, and congratulate them on completing the badge.

And when I proposed to my now-wife, I did so on the summit of Mount Cardigan in New Hampshire. Because while the summit of a mountain is a goal, it lets you see for miles, and lets you see all the other goals you have still in front of you.

 

Appreciating Nature

I live in Eastern Connecticut, which I think is one of the prettier parts of the globe. It’s hilly, but not mountainous. So you don’t get the amazing views you get from summiting a mountain.  You don’t get to look down on a cloud. There’s a perspective about the world you can only get from a mountaintop, where you can see for hundreds of miles in every direction, and see the curvature of the Earth all around you.

You can see the trailhead you started from, and you realize that even though it’s a great big world, you can get just about anywhere if you keep going forward, and don’t give up.

mount washington photo

You can’t get an education like this in a classroom. Photo by InAweofGod’sCreation

Self-Discipline

The temptation is always there to stop. To find a comfortable spot on the side of the trail, and take a nap. (I must admit, some of the rocks on the Appalachian Trail are extremely comfortable, napping-wise.)

But you aren’t going to get to the summit by napping. You aren’t going to get to your goals in life by taking constant breaks and hoping something comes along. Nobody’s going to carry you to the summit, and there’s never a bus when you need one. You need to rely on yourself and prove to yourself that you can keep going.

And you have to keep your stuff together. You only have so much daylight to get from where you are now to where you’re sleeping tonight, and if it’s 15 miles, you’d better get a move on. No time for messes. Dawdling in the morning doesn’t cut it.


Philosophy

When hiking alone, or in small groups, you wind up with a lot of quiet time. The distractions are all gone, and you’re left alone with your thoughts. It’s a wonderfully clarifying thing, especially for young people in an age of nearly constant stimulation. Hiking leads pretty naturally to reflection and self-contemplation.

I find, even now, that my best life choices aren’t made sitting on the couch, but on a hiking trail.

You also learn that you if you’re quiet, and you pay attention, you’ll see a whole lot more. As Yogi Berra once said, “you can observe a lot by watching.”

When I was a kid, I was always amazed at how my dad always managed to see so many animals while we were walking in the woods. Now that I have kids of my own, I find myself pointing out the animals to them.

Backpacking teaches Planning and Self-Reliance

What do you really need when you go camping? How do you pack your backpack for efficiently to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible, whilst keeping your pack under 70 pounds? Do you need three magazines? How many pairs of socks do you actually need?

You learn each time you go what you need, and what you don’t need. Good socks are a must, but you can probably leave the Dutch Oven at home.

Have you got enough water for the trail? Can you get water along the way, or do you need to need to fill your bottles for the journey? Will you need a water filtration system?

When it comes to life, the specifics are all different, but the thought process is the same. A wise man once said, “planning is the art of living the experience in advance.”

Another just said, “Be Prepared.”


Perseverance and Character

Hiking is difficult. It’s challenging to carry 40 or 50 pounds on your back up a mountain, even for the fittest among us.  And the only way to get there is to keep going, keep moving, keep pushing forward. Whatever happens in life, like on the trail, you have no real choice but to keep moving forward.

satisfied hiker photo

Photo by Ken Lund

You learn a great deal about yourself by challenging yourself. I honestly think that if I hadn’t completed my first 50-miler through the White Mountains of New Hampshire as a teenager, I would have dropped out of college during my sophomore year. But if I could survive on the trail with a 50-pound pack, that I knew could manage in Boston.

Of all the great treks I’ve ever done in Scouting, my favorite may have been the one in which everything went wrong. We were climbing a mountain in western Connecticut. We’d done it a few years before, so we thought we knew the trail pretty well. Unfortunately, the school that owned the trailhead had cut a few more trails in the intervening years – and our maps were outdated (ah, the time before Google.)

A little while after lunch we reached the mountain’s summit. We took out our maps to see how much further we had to go to get to our campsite. To our great dismay, we noticed that none of the landmarks seemed to be where they were supposed to be on our map.

We had climbed the wrong mountain. And there was no trail between us and our campsite.

So the 12 scouts and four leaders had to navigate through a few miles of dense, even undergrowth. It was hard work, but none of the kids complained. They worked together, helped each other, and were even making jokes along the way. I’ve never been prouder of a group than I was of those boys that day.

And this group of teenagers was all asleep before 5 pm.

Problem-Solving

Once you get past the initial shock of backpacking and it starts to become fun, trails become puzzles. How are you going to get across this stream? Where do you put your feet on this rocky part of the trail?

How do you react when your equipment breaks? What do you do someone in your group breaks an ankle?

All manner of unforeseen challenges come up on the trail. Being prepared isn’t just about having the right stuff in your pack, but being mentally ready when everything goes to seed.

Of course, the biggest challenges in life don’t come when we’re backpacking, but in our regular lives.

It’s what we learn on the trail that gets us ready for them.


Posted by Mike Cooney in Boy Scouts, Grow Your Group, Scouting
Doing a School Recruiting Talk

Doing a School Recruiting Talk

Over the years I’ve done hundreds of school recruiting talks or “Boy Talks.”

They’re a great tool for bulking up your recruiting numbers. On average, it’s estimated that a good school recruiting talk can triple the number of families who will actually show up to your joining night.

Let me start with a little story about one of the first Boy Talks I ever did, or rather the result. That year I did around 20 Boy Talks in schools around Aroostook County, Maine. We had a great recruiting season and increased our membership as a district. But that seemed a little abstract to me.

It stopped feeling abstract when I was walking around Camp Roosevelt for one of the Cub resident camps the next summer. A boy who looked to be about eight stopped me on the trail and said, “You’re the man from the school.”

Those few words made my whole summer.

It probably took me about 25 minutes round trip to drive from my house in Presque Isle to his school in Mapleton. Probably another two hours to talk to all the kids in the lunch waves that day. But that brief bit of time got him to join Scouting, got him to camp, and changed his life for the better.

The biggest reason that kids don’t join the program is that nobody asked them. Getting a flyer is not an ask. A personal invite from you is an ask.




Getting the Boy Talk

I think the first question I think of when someone talks about something like this is, that’s great, but how do I get in the door?

You don’t want to overcomplicate this. In my experience, the best way is to just ask them. Go to the school, talk to the secretary, ask to speak to the principal, and tell them what you want to do. You want 3-5 minutes during each lunch period to talk to the kids about Scouting.

Ideally, the person doing the ask is a person with kids in the school, who knows the secretary, knows the principle, and is involved with the school community.

I’ve found that late July / early August are the best times to stop by schools to ask about doing a talk. There’s not a lot going on at the school, so they’re usually in a pretty good mood, and much more likely to entertain your request. If you go the first week of school in September, it’s going to be hectic, and you’re much less likely to get a “yes.”

You want to be prepared for possible objections. You appreciate that they don’t want to take away from the kids instructional time. Let them know that you’re on the same page here. You should also let them know that you’re going to stick to your 3-5 minutes in the lunchroom.

Each school is different and getting to know the people is usually the key to success.

 

Don’t Forget Private Schools

In over a decade of doing these, I have never, ever, ever been turned down when asking a Catholic School to do a school recruiting talk. My success rate at all private schools is nearly perfect. These schools tend to be extremely supportive, and receptive to your message.

Also, don’t overlook Day Cares and other afterschool programs. If you’ve got a tough time getting school access to do a presentation, these can be the next best thing. Also, don’t overlook the possibility of making presentations at Sunday Schools or other religious organizations.

Who Can Do a School Recruiting Talk?

So in just about every district, there’s a math problem. Packs tend to think that only their District Executive can do Boy Talks. But most districts have a lot of elementary schools and only one DE. Combine this with a limited number of days before your joining night, and you can see how a lot of schools won’t get covered.

So who else can do Boy Talks? The short answer is anyone. Of course, you want someone who’s pretty good at public speaking. Someone friendly and warm, who’s going to get the message across soundly.

You want someone who’s not going to fall apart at the snarky comments of fifth graders.

So what types of people should you consider?

  • Cubmasters and Den Leaders
  • Committee Members
  • Pack Parents
  • Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters from your local troop
  • Commissioners
  • Nearby District Committee Members
  • Eagle Scout Alumni




Types of Presentations

Lunch Talks

This the preferred method of school recruiting talk right now. You show up at the school before the first lunch wave. Someone from the school takes you to the cafeteria. When the kids are done eating, you give a 3-5 minute talk on what Scouting is.

These are probably the most exhausting type for you to do, as in some bigger schools you might actually be there for 4+ hours.

Classroom-to-Classroom

These are most common in private schools, particularly Catholic schools. Usually, they send someone with you to escort you from room to room. The teacher stops class for a few minutes, and you talk about Scouting.

School Assemblies

These used to be the most common. The kids are called from class to the auditorium, or cafeteria, or cafetorium. You then get 5-10 minutes to tell them about Scouting.

You can also get some schools to let you do brief assemblies at the end of the day, right before the kids get on the bus.

 

Doing Your School Recruiting Talk

There are lots of ways to actually do school recruiting presentations. No matter what you do, you want to keep it short, to the point. And you absolutely positively have to end it with a memorable call-to-action. “Come to the School Cafeteria at 6:00 pm tonight, bring a parent or guardian and be ready to have fun.”

My own school recruiting talk was pretty simple.

“Who here likes fun?”

Wait for the kids to raise their hands.

“Good, because Scouts have fun. They do fun things. How many here think it would be fun to go camping? (wait for hands) And put up a tent with mom or dad? (wait) How many think it would be fun to go swimming? (wait)”

And I’d list off a bunch of different activities that Cub Scouts do. If you’ve got girls in the room, make sure to talk a little bit about Girl Scouts. Better yet, have a Girl Scout representative with you.

Also, I usually steer clear of talking about shooting sports. You have plenty of other exciting activities you can talk about, that aren’t as likely to cause you trouble with a school administrator.

Make sure you have something to give them. A sticker with a phone number and a website. Maybe a pencil? Perhaps the flyer. I used to have pretty good success giving the kids their flyers and telling them to fold them up and put them in their socks to show to mom when they got home.

When you’re done giving your talk, you can “work the room”, going from table to table answering questions.

Here are a couple of other examples of a school recruiting talk.

You can find a lot more examples of Boy Talks on YouTube.

Take from them what works for you. Make it your own. And have fun with it.
Other Recruiting Articles

7 Things to Do Right Now To Get Ready For Fall Recruiting

9 Summertime Recruiting Opportunities

23 Great Places to Hang Flyers

 

Looking for great deals on camping supplies, check out our guide to Amazon Prime Day.

Photo by USDAgov

Posted by Mike Cooney in Cub Scouts, Grow Your Group, Marketing, Recruiting, Scouting