Category Archives: General

A boy helping carry wood

A Strong Mission Equals Strong Youth

A boy washing the carI don’t think that this news will surprise any of us. A recent study conducted at Tufts University found that Scouting had a significantly positive impact on character of the youth. In the three year study of 2,200 youth, researchers found that there were significant increases in trustworthiness, helpfulness, kindness, obedience, and cheerfulness among the 1,800 boys in scouting versus the 400 non-scouts. That is 5 of the 12 points in the scout law. Not bad when you consider that all the scouts in the study were 12 years old or younger and only in cub scouts.

IBoy at drinking fountainn addition the study found that the scouts also expressed a more positive future hope. Of course. When you have character attributes such as helpfulness, kindness, and cheerfulness and you know that you can make a difference, why would you not think that the difference you make will be positive?

The study went on to share that the more time that a child spent in scouting, the greater benefit they received.

A helping handI have to confess that I do not necessarily think that Scouting is alone in the ability to have a positive influence on our youth. Many organizations, with a strong mission for their youth program will achieve similar results. There are many good programs that focus on character, rather than win at all costs, that we need to make sure we are encouraging our children to participate in the right program. The program that is going to benefit them in the long run.

If your child is in scouts, Well Done!

A Born Leader

The Do’s and Don’ts of Recruiting Volunteers

A Born LeaderWe have all been there. That fateful day when a key leader in the group announces that they are stepping down from the position, and a new person needs to be found to take over. Often this results in panic among the group, and a dramatic search for a new person to fill the role begins. Unfortunately, this is the wrong time to be looking for a person. Finding the replacement for this position should have happened months before. Even before you knew you were going to need to recruit a new volunteer.

Recruiting adult leadership is often one of the hardest activities for a youth organization. There are many reasons for this, but often the approach to seeking and nurturing volunteers is at the heart of the difficulty. To help groups over their recruiting problems I have developed a list of Do’s and Don’ts.

DO – Start Early

Look for recruits for a position before they are needed. Having someone already prepared to take over a position when it is not needed is a blessing for those times when the leadership transition occurs. Identify potential candidates early and get them trained and ready to take over before the need arises.

I read a story recently about a leader who made her pregnant daughters promise to be volunteer leaders once their children were old enough to join the group. While this might be extreme, you do want to plant the seed of leadership in all of the adults in the group early on.

DO – Start Small

Game coordinatorAsking someone to take on a major role in the group when their child has first joined can be intimidating to a new member. Instead, ask the new adults to assist someone else in their duties. Start small, perhaps assisting with a single event. Allowing someone to participate without the fear of responsibility provides a venue for success. A true leader can grow out of these small roles.

DON’T – Broadcast Your Need

Standing up in front of a large crowd and asking for ‘someone to do something’ is never very effective. Occasionally you will find a volunteer who will step forward, but often human nature leads us all to believe that there is someone else in the room more qualified or more enthusiastic about a role than us. So we let them step up rather than volunteer ourselves.

I have done this enough times to know that it is not very effective. Me: “Can someone with financial experience please help us out by being our group treasurer?” Group: [Sound of crickets chirping in the still night.] Sigh.

 DO – Identify the Right Roles for the Right People

Get to know the adults who participate at the meetings. Talk to them about their interests, hobbies, and skills. Discover the characteristics of each person and begin thinking about how they would best contribute to the group. Some people thrive on public exposure; others are better suited for behind-the-scenes work. Understanding who will fit where can help you build your volunteer team recruiting list.

Big KidLooking for the right spark in people can often be a challenge. I had one dad in our group who was very reluctant to participate. Especially in anything that involved getting out in front of people. But this person had a great sense of humor and an ability to laugh at himself. Even though he could not see it, I knew that this person would be great working with the children. Eventually he agreed, starting with small supporting tasks and adding additional capabilities as he went along. Now, he is a key leader in two different groups and they are benefiting from his enthusiasm and skills. I found out much later that he was terrified of anything where he had to speak out in front of people, but he was not only able to overcome this through his role in the group, it also helped him in his personal and professional lives.
The success of another leader I know was summed up by what his wife said. “I raise four children in my home. Three of them are my sons and the other one is my husband who is really just an 8-year-old in a bigger body.”

DO – Ask Privately

The most effective method of recruiting volunteers that I have found is to approach them along with one other leader. Before approaching the recruit, discuss with your colleague which role would be a good fit for the person and what skills they possess that validate your decision. Sit down with the recruit in a neutral, quiet place and share what you know about their skills and how those would help them be successful at the role. Don’t stop asking until you get agreement to participate or a satisfying answer why they are not actually right for the job. If you do get a satisfying denial, ask what job that they think they can do to help the group move forward.

  Don’t – Stick with the Conventional Choices

Look beyond the obvious leadership recruits. Besides parents, you could look for volunteers from other groups of people like grandparents, college-aged adults, and people already engaged in the community.

Leaders are EverywhereOne of the best leaders I have ever met was a reluctant grandmother volunteer of two boys. Her daughter had volunteered to be the adult leader for her son’s group and then abruptly broke both her arms in an accident. While she was out of commission the group floundered for a while until the leader’s mother stepped in to help out. At first she was going to participate for 6 months and turn the reins back over to her daughter. When the end of the 6 months approached, she decided that she would continue to the end of the year. Before the next session started, she agreed to be the leader for the group for another year. “But, you will need to find a new leader for the next year,” she said. Before that year’s session ended, she was already planning what she would be doing with the group for the following year. After that, leaders were expected to camp with the group. She was not up for that activity and started looking for a replacement leader. I had recommended several potential candidates, but she was not sure if any of them could do the job to her satisfaction. Finally she came to me and asked, “How much camping is required?” I explained that two weekend campouts were expected. Her response: “Okay, I can do that.” She ended up following those boys all the way through their time in the group, becoming the fundraising chairperson, and promising to start again with a new group of children the next year even though she wouldn’t have any more grandchildren participating. Full of ideas and enthusiasm, she was a great asset to our team.

Do – Support and Encourage

Your job as a recruiter is not done once you find someone willing to take on the role. Make sure that you continue to support them in their new role so that they can be successful. Be sure to publicly acknowledge their contribution to the group and privately congratulate them on their successes, no matter how small. Remember, just stepping forward to lend a hand is a success. A kind word and some genuine encouragement can go a long way in converting a reluctant assistant into a confident leader.

DO – Look for Your Replacement Right Away

children playingAsk each leader, once they are comfortable with their position, to begin to find the next person who could take over for them. Identifying the next recruit and sharing the job responsibilities with others establishes a precedent for an ongoing leadership transition.

As a leader I often tried to identify whether I was doing a good job. Although the size of the group, whether the group is achieving its mission, and if every one is enjoying participating are the obvious examples of success, I realized that there is another very important criterion. Will the group continue to work well together if I am no longer part of the equation? Building a team and knowing that your role will be taken care of going forward even if you are not there is very rewarding. It provides a degree of continuity that helps you to know that you are leaving a legacy.

DON’T – Toss Out A Title and Leave

Once you get a volunteer, make sure that they are successful. Give them the proper training and support needed in order to help them be great at the role. Too often we forget how difficult it was when we first started in a role and neglect to help others with the learning curve. If there is no formal training available for your group, create some. Make a list of things that a leader should know and provide information for each of those.

 DO – Consider Alternative Solutions

Leading from BehindWhen my son first joined one group in mid-year they had not found someone who was willing to lead the group. Instead, all the parents of that particular group of children decided to share in the responsibility. Every month a different parent would be the host for the group meetings. It worked. They coordinated the different activities for the year in advance and the children did not notice any difference from the other groups. When it came my turn to host the meetings, I had so much fun doing it that I offered to take over the entire responsibility for the next year. Sometimes letting everyone have a taste of what the role entails is enough to allow one person to step forward and accept the job.


I hope you and your group are helped by these tactics that have enabled the recruitment of great leadership teams. Bringing on adults who know nothing about the program but have a willingness to learn on the job can be a rewarding experience. Be sure to acknowledge and encourage their successes, no matter how small, and look for the next incremental opportunity to increase their involvement.


neckerchief slide with wings

The Cure for the Fly Away Slide

neckerchief slide with wingsYouth groups that feature uniforms have some great attributes. A sense of belonging, the recognition that you are part of something special, a chance to be someone else for a short while. Young people love to get dressed up in uniforms. Don’t believe me? Just check out any picture of a brand new scout with their new uniform and see the excitement on their face. I once commented to a Cub Scout how good he looked in his new uniform. His response: “I know!”

BSA has a great selection of uniforms, and just this year (2015) they adopted a change in the uniform code that encourages wearing a neckerchief at Scout activities even when not in the dress uniform. This change better aligns the U.S. with the rest of the scouting world.

One of the drawbacks to the BSA uniform is the official neckerchief slide. These slides look great, and when you want your den or troop to look like a team, a common slide helps. But one downside to these slides is that they are a loose fit and often fly away during any robust activity. Anytime we had a game during a pack meeting that involved running, jumping, or similar high energy activities, I could be certain to find at least one wayward slide somewhere on the ground.

To help fix the problem of the Fly Away Neckerchief Slide, I’ve created a device that is simple to tie and attaches to the slide to help hold it in place. The instructions for how to tie your own are below.

Happy days!


Two lengths of paracord. One about 14", the other 20"

Two lengths of paracord. One about 14″, the other 20″

 We will start with two lengths of paracord. The smaller one will be about 14″ and will form the loop that will hold the slide in place. The other, longer cord, should be approximately 20″ or more. You will be cutting some of this longer piece of paracord away at the end of the project, but it makes tying the knot much easier. If you make your long piece long enough, you can use the left over scrap to create the ten cent youth awards.

Paracord is actually a little too thick for this project, but it does work. If you have a thinner cord, you might give it a try.

Fuse the ends of the cords to prevent unraveling.

Fuse the ends of the cords to prevent unraveling.

 If you have a nylon cord, fuse the ends to prevent the cord from unraveling.

Add an overhand knot to each end of the small piece of cord.

Add an overhand knot to each end of the small piece of cord.

 Tie an overhand knot into each end of the small piece of cord. This is going to help the cord from becoming undone as well as provide small handles to use for tightening the loop.

With both ends knotted, middle the cord.

With both ends knotted, middle the cord.

 After you have tied the knots in each end of the smaller cord, find the middle of the cord and then pull the two ends together to make a U shape. The part of the cord that bends to make the U is known as a bight in the world of knots.

Tie an overhand knot in the middle of the long cord and around the top in of the bight in the short cord.

Tie an overhand knot in the middle of the long cord and around the top  of the bight in the short cord.

 Take your longer cord and tie an overhand knot in the middle. Slip the longer cord’s knot over the bight you made in the shorter cord and cinch it down until it is snug. Not too tight because you will eventually want the smaller cord to be able to slide back and forth within the knots of the larger cord.

Now we start the series of knots that will hold the slide in place.

Now we start the series of knots that will hold the slide in place.

 Now we are gong to tie a short series of knots that will hold the cords onto the slide. Tying these knots together creates a Portuguese sennit (aka Solomon Bar) and is the basis for tying survival bracelets.

Start by taking the end of the cord on the right and crossing it back over the shorter cord as shown.

Complete the square knot .

Complete the square knot .

 Take the other end of the cord and bring it over the cord you just crossed in front of the smaller cord. Then pass it behind the smaller cord and up through opening made by the first cord and the smaller cord. It should look like the picture.

Cinch the knot down snug, but not too tight.

Cinch the knot down snug, but not too tight.

Pull on the two ends of the longer cord to snug the knot against the smaller cord. Remember, not too tight because we want the loop to be able to slide. You might recognize that we just tied a square knot over the smaller cord. That is just what we want, a series of square knots to fasten the cord to the neckerchief slide.

Make another knot like the last one. To keep tying square knots you need to always use the same end that you pass in front of the small cord. This end will alternate from side to side each time. So for this knot we will start with the end of the longer cord that is to the left and cross it over the smaller cord. The easiest way that I have seen to make sure I am starting with the right end is to always keep the longer cord ends aligned to the same side of the smaller cord. If you look you will notice that each longer cord end zig zags back and forth over the shorter cord. If you always keep the cord that passes above the smaller cord in front then you will end up with a good knot.

If you make a mistake and alternate where the cords pass, then the knot will twist. If you keep doing this you will make a spiral. We don’t want a spiral here, so if you start to get a twist, untie the cords and retie them in the correct orientation.

Make another knot similar to the first but switching direction.

Make another knot similar to the first but switching direction.

We complete the knot by snugging it down on to the cord.

Now we will add the slide to the knot by putting the short cord ends into the slide.

Now we will add the slide to the knot by putting the short cord ends into the slide.

Insert the ends of the smaller cord into the slide so that the loop is positioned at the top of the slide. We are going to continue our knot tying around the slide, so that the cord is attached to it.

Here is the first knot over the slide.

Here is the first knot over the slide.

 With the slide in place, tie your next knot just like you have been doing (make sure to use the correct leading cord in front). Snug the knot as shown. You cannot pull too tight here or the knot will want to slip behind the slide bar, so tighten just enough to create a nice knot shape. This is a little tricky, but you can do it.

Secure the cord to the slide by tying the next knot and thus completing the square knot.

Secure the cord to the slide by tying the next knot and thus completing the square knot.

 Make another knot, alternating the starting cord, and complete a square knot below the slide bar.

Add an additional knot to help shape the knot.

Add an additional knot to help shape the knot.

 Take one more pass at a knot over the smaller cord. This will establish the nice flat shape for the locking cord.

Trim and fuse the ends of the longer cord.

Trim and fuse the ends of the longer cord.

 Once you have all the knots in place, cut off the ends of the longer cord close to the knot and fuse them to keep them from unraveling. A little super glue can help hold the ends of the cord in place.

We now have a much more secure neckerchief slide.

Attach the neckerchief by first passing the ends through the loop from back to front.

Attach the neckerchief by first passing the ends through the loop from back to front.

 To use our new slide, first pass the neckerchief ends through the cord loop from back to front.

Next pass the neckerchief ends through the slide loop.

Next pass the neckerchief ends through the slide loop.

 Next pass the neckerchief through the back of the slide. This is now a tighter fit and helps hold the neckerchief in place.

Position the slide where you want it and tighten down the cord.

Position the slide where you want it and tighten down the cord.

 Move the slide up the neckerchief to where you want it to stay.

While holding the slide with one hand, pull on the knotted ends of the short cord with the other hand to tighten the loop at the top of the slide.

Your finished slide is going to do a much better job staying in position.

Your finished slide is going to do a much better job staying in position.

 Once you have tightened down the loop, the slide is on very securely. If you want to loosen it, just hold the slide with one and and pull on the cord loop with the other.

Many scouts just wear their neckerchiefs with the slide always locked in place. They just pull the neckerchief on and off over their heads.