"The patrol method isn’t one way to run a troop. It’s the only way." Lord Baden-Powell
What is the patrol method?
The patrol’s a small team of eight or so Scouts, and it’s more than organizational convenience or a Boy Scout version of the den. It’s the place where boys learn skills together, take on leadership responsibilities (perhaps for the first time) and develop friendships that will last over a lifetime.
What are the three types of patrols?
- New Scout patrol. That might be a patrol of brand new Scouts who just moved up from a Webelos den, or it might be a group from a recruiting night that all joined together where they learn some basic skills as they join the troop.
- Traditional patrols. These are Scouts in that middle age group that are about the same age, have some similar interests and they work together to do things and learn advancement together.
- Older scout patrol. These are Scouts, say 14 years and older, who have been in the patrol for a while and have moved up into troop leadership positions.
How are patrol meetings different from troop meetings?
Some troops hold patrol meetings during their regular troop meetings. Others encourage patrols to meet on their own time, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon at the patrol leader’s home.
Here are some ideas patrols do during patrol meetings:
- Have the patrol leader report on what happened at the latest patrol leaders’ council meeting
- Plan upcoming outings, including food menus
- Design patrol flag
- Outfit and clean patrol box
- Work on advancement requirements
- Play a game or have fun in some way
Can patrols do activities outside of the troop, other than meet?
Patrols may have their own day activities, such as a service project, or working on advancement, or merit badges, or things like that. If they go overnight, they need to have adult supervision, but they can do lots of things on their own. Service projects are a great thing for patrols to do.
What’s patrol spirit?
Patrol spirit is the glue that holds the patrol together and keeps it going. Building patrol spirit takes time, because it is shaped by a patrol’s experiences—good and bad. Often misadventures such as enduring a thunderstorm or getting lost in the woods will contribute much in pulling a patrol together. Many other elements also will help build patrol spirit. Creating a patrol identity and traditions will help build each patrol member’s sense of belonging.
Every patrol needs a good name. Usually, the patrol chooses its name from nature, a plant or animal, or something that makes the patrol unique. A patrol might choose an object for its outstanding quality. For example, sharks are strong swimmers and buffaloes love to roam. The patrol may want to add an adjective to spice up the patrol name, such as the Soaring Hawks or the Rambunctious Raccoons.
A patrol flag is the patrol’s trademark, and it should be a good one. Have a competition to see who comes up with the best design and who is the best artist. Make the flag out of a heavy canvas and use permanent markers to decorate it. In addition to the patrol name, the patrol flag should have the troop number on it as well as the names of all the patrol members. Mount the flag on a pole, which also can be decorated. Remember, the patrol flag should go wherever the patrol goes.
Every patrol has a patrol yell, which should be short and snappy. Choose words that fit the patrol’s goals. Use the yell to announce to other patrols that your patrol is ready to eat or has won a patrol competition. Some patrols also have a patrol song.
Other patrol traditions include printing the patrol logo on the chuck box and other patrol property. Many troops designate patrol corners somewhere in the troop meeting room; patrols may decorate their corner in their own special way. Some patrols like to specialize in doing something extremely well, such as cooking peach cobbler or hobo stew
What does the patrol leader do?
When you accepted the position of patrol leader, you agreed to provide service and leadership to your patrol and troop. No doubt you will take this responsibility seriously, but you will also find it fun and rewarding. As a patrol leader, you are expected to do the following:
- Plan and lead patrol meetings and activities.
- Keep patrol members informed.
- Assign each patrol member a specific duty.
- Represent your patrol at all patrol leaders’ council meetings and the annual program planning conference.
- Prepare the patrol to participate in all troop activities.
- Work with other troop leaders to make the troop run well.
- Know the abilities of each patrol member.
- Set a good example.
- Wear the Scout uniform correctly.
- Live by the Scout Oath and Law.
- Show and develop patrol spirit
Ten Tips for Being a Good Patrol Leader
- Keep Your Word. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Be Fair to All. A good leader shows no favorites. Don’t allow friendships to keep you from being fair to all members of your patrol. Know who likes to do what, and assign duties to patrol members by what they like to do.
- Be a Good Communicator. You don’t need a commanding voice to be a good leader, but you must be willing to step out front with an effective “Let’s go.” A good leader knows how to get and give information so that everyone understands what’s going on.
- Be Flexible. Everything doesn’t always go as planned. Be prepared to shift to “plan B” when “plan A” doesn’t work.
- Be Organized. The time you spend planning will be repaid many times over. At patrol meetings, record who agrees to do each task, and fill out the duty roster before going camping.
- Delegate. Some leaders assume that the job will not get done unless they do it themselves. Most people like to be challenged with a task. Empower your patrol members to do things they have never tried.
- Set an Example. The most important thing you can do is lead by example. Whatever you do, your patrol members are likely to do the same. A cheerful attitude can keep everyone’s spirits up.
- Be Consistent. Nothing is more confusing than a leader who is one way one moment and another way a short time later. If your patrol knows what to expect from you, they will more likely respond positively to your leadership.
- Give Praise. The best way to get credit is to give it away. Often a “Nice job” is all the praise necessary to make a Scout feel he is contributing to the efforts of the patrol.
- Ask for Help. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. You have many resources at your disposal. When confronted with a situation you don’t know how to handle, ask someone with more experience for some advice and direction