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Issue 162 – February 22, 2009

Dear Andy,

On the Scout badge, what type of knot is represented that serves as the reminder to do a good turn daily? (Paul Bellavance, Webelos Den Leader, Bay Area Council, TX)

Believe it or not (no pun intended), you have to go all the way back to the 5th edition of the Handbook for Boys (1948-1960) to find that it’s “a simple overhand knot.” Every handbook since then simply refers to it as “a knot.”

Hey Andy,

As a way of retaining adult volunteer leadership and to recognize the Webelos Den Leaders throughout our district, we’re thinking about doing an adult “crossing-over” ceremony, where our WDLs cross-over from our Cub Scout leader-to-Boy Scout leader Roundtable. Do you know of any adult-oriented cross-over ceremonies that we could use as a guide? (Jody Harp, District Membership Chair, Tidewater Council, VA)

Nope, I sure don’t, but I love the concept! How about doing a very well-run and well-rehearsed youth cross-over, to set the example for what can be done at the pack level! I don’t mean overly elaborate; just well-executed.

Hi Andy,

I have a new Cub Scout who’s coming in completely new to Scouting in second grade, as a Wolf. We’re having a difficult time getting his parents to bring him to den and pack meetings. We leave phone messages and e-mail messages, but we get nothing back. Now the boy’s father does have a hectic construction job, with varying work hours and locations, and we’re not exactly sure about the boy’s mom. How should I handle this situation, now that we’re going into the last half of the year? (Eric Brannan, DL, Denver Area Council, CO)

If the den meeting location, time, etc., and the pack meeting location, time, etc. have been given to the boy’s parents, and you’ve followed up by both phone and e-mail, you’re not expected to do more than this. Parents are expected to at least get their sons to meetings. Ideally, they’re their son’s “Akela,” too. That said, your letter gives the impression that this may be a single-parent situation. If that’s the case, then maybe one more outreach might help… See if you can find out, maybe from another parent whose son is in this boy’s class, whether “car-pooling” for the boy is possible. If that doesn’t work, I think I’d be obliged to say you need to focus on the boys you have and not the one you don’t. It’s a tough call. Committed Scouters like you want to make things right for all our boys. But, sometimes, we do need to respect the greater good. Good luck.

Dear Andy,

Have you heard any rumblings about the BSA creating a new leadership position for Scouts: “Troop Webmaster”? With today’s technology, and the fact that just about every troop uses the Internet one way or another, it seems to me it would be a logical move. (Brian Sarant, ASM, Theodore Roosevelt Council, NY)

There’s already a ton o’ stuff “out there.” If you haven’t lately, just Google “unit webmaster” and/or “troop webmaster” and you’re gonna get a coupla jillion citations! As far as a “legal” leadership position’s concerned, my own thinking runs like this… Although “Webmaster” isn’t an “Eagle-approved” position, yet, “Scribe” is. So, since there’s no “rule” that says a troop must have only a single Scribe and the dictionary definition of the term seems broad enough to cover web-related work, I’d sure be tempted to create a webmaster position, provide direct adult oversight (security n’ all that), and call the position “Scribe,” so that it’s bona fide. If that’s too outside the box, just don’t do it. Otherwise, consider it a possible path that’s pretty harmless.

Hello Andy,

Our troop is planning on going on a five-day “winter” camp-out, in Death Valley. There will be several parents joining us on this camp-out. Do they need a Class III medical form, the same as required for our registered adult leaders? I know it’s generally a good idea, but at least one of the adults planning to go can’t get a doctor’s appointment before the trip date. (Suresh Kadiyala, ASM)

Double-check this with your own council’s risk management committee or, in the absence of such a committee, your Scout Executive: I believe you will find that the answer is a big YES: They must have a current medical exam report.

As the trip leader ultimately responsible for all participants (and therefore personally liable in the event of a judgment-related situation), I would not, personally, allow anyone—youth or adult!—along on a trip like this whose current medical form I didn’t have and, in the case of all youth, a signed “permit to treat” form (i.e., not a photocopy; the original!)

Howdy Andy!

I’m a Bear Den Leader and looking ahead at the Webelos program now, so that I’m prepared when our boys move up in a few months. I’ve been looking into what we’re going to need when we have a den campout and I’m a confused as to the parent/leader requirements. After reading over the GTSS a couple of times, I’ve concluded that we would need, as always, two-deep leadership with the appropriate YP and BALOO training, and to strongly encourage at least one parent to accompany each boy; but if there’s a boy whose parent couldn’t go, that boy could still participate if his parent(s) selected an adult “supervisor” among the adults who were going, and that chosen adult agreed, and the boy was comfortable sleeping alone in his own tent. In reading some of your columns, though, I’ve seen a couple of times something more along the lines of “Cub Scout camping is family camping—No boy is without one or both of his own parents, at all times.” I am just wondering if I misread the GTSS. I was looking at Part I (Youth Protection and Adult Leadership) and Part III (Camping).

I certainly wouldn’t want this to be the norm and I’d reschedule any outing if more than one boy was in this situation. But we have one boy who may have this situation, regardless of scheduling. Problem is, he’s already told me how much he wants to go camping with the den when he’s a Webelos. (Dirk Thayer, DL, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

How about we open this conversation by looking at the Webelos Handbook: Page 352 talks about Webelos Scouts and their adult partners (i.e., parent or guardian) camping out. It doesn’t say “or not.” All Webelos Scout camping experiences are one-to-one. The GTSS states clearly: “The Webelos Scout may participate… when supervised by an adult.” “Webelos Scout” is singular. “Adult” is singular. Had the meaning been other than one-to-one, it would have said, “Webelos Scouts may participate… when supervised by adults.” It doesn’t say that.

The “adult” may be (1) the boy’s parent, (2) the boy’s legal guardian, or (3) an adult specifically approved by the parent or guardian.

It’s, however, a huge mistake to expect a lone adult to be responsible for more than his or her own son. It’s burdensome, unfair to both parent and son, unfair to the additional boy, and potentially dangerous.

Bottom line: If a parent or guardian or specific assignee cannot accompany a Webelos Scout on a den overnight camping trip, and does not provide a satisfactory alternate family member, then the boy simply doesn’t get to go. And, when somebody starts muttering “unfair,” your response will have to be, “The unfair parties here are this boy’s own family; not Scouting and certainly not me.”

Dear Andy,

Back in the 70’s there was a series of slides called, I believe, “See and Do.” There’s a set for building a fire, a set for using a compass, and a set for sharpening an axe. I’d like to scan these slides and make a DVD out of them, using a recorded sound track. But I can’t find the script that goes with these. Also, is there a script for the presentation of the District Award of Merit? (Ron Nowaczyk, ACC-Training, Lake Huron Area Council, MI)

Readers, the first question’s for YOU! If you know of these “See and Do” slides, and know where a script might be, please write and let me know—I’ll pass it along to Ron.

About the District Award of Merit, the “script” is most often a bullet-point description of the recipient’s accomplishments, and community and Scouting contributions, followed by flowers for the spouse, and a congratulatory handshake and plaque for the recipient.

Hi Andy!

Hopefully, a simple question… All the units in our council have the same re-charter date: April 1. For the Cub Scout program (and, I suspect, the Boy Scout program as well), that’s a date I’d really like to see moved to, say, June 1st. Do all councils use the same re-charter date? What act of heaven, earth, or congress would be needed to change this? Why would I like this changed? Simple: We have a month or so left of our program for the traditional school year, so June 1 would coincide better with not only school but with recruiting for the fall and getting new leadership in place.

It’s not a huge problem, but it certainly something that would make things more straight-forward for the units (or at least for my unit). Thoughts? (Carl Sommer, CM, Occoneechee Council, VA)

Used to be that all units had their own “anniversary” dates and months, so that new chartering and registrations went on all the time. Among other consequences of this, every council usually had to have at least one full-time person (often more, in larger councils) devoted to handling re-registering units—on average two or more a day every working day of the year—including all sorts of accompanying financial transactions, communications back to the unit and out to the national office and so on, rather relentlessly. Another consequence was that is was difficult to tell, at any particular moment in time, just how Scouting was doing in the more than 300 service areas covered by each BSA council, because the numbers changed from one day to the next! Then there was the mass confusion that would happen when the 18-month Webelos program was put in place nationally some 20 years ago. Once that hit, and all of its good effects began happening, one thing that wasn’t much fun from a paperwork point-of-view was that we had massive numbers of youth members and often many adults as well transferring their registrations from packs to troops in February and March, but often one or the other of these two units didn’t re-charter for many months afterwards, or had re-chartered just before the cross-overs, making the numbers and all of the paperwork even more messy! Ouch! Double-Ouch!

Most if not all councils have worked hard, over the past two decades, to get re-chartering done all in one month. Some councils have chosen December, others chose March, some choose April, some choose other months, depending on their situations, manpower availability, etc. This has enormously streamlined and simplified the process, nationwide.

However, none of this actually helps you… Here’s the deal: You’re supposed to be graduating your Webelos II Scouts in February, or March at the latest, and they should all be in Boy Scout troops by March, or April at the latest. So, in accordance with this, your council wisely picked April 1st as the re-charter date, so that the boys and adults who have moved from packs to troops get properly registered in their new units right at the time this actually happens. In short, your Webelos II Scouts should not be in the pack after April 1st! Simple as that!

As far as “school year” is concerned, you need to remind yourself that Scouting isn’t a “school year” program; it’s a year-round program, even Cub Scouts! In fact, lots of packs do their “fall recruiting” in the spring—They sign up all their current boys and families AND they recruit the incoming Tiger Cubs and parent-partners before the end of the school year in June, so that they can get up and running fast, in September (or even August, in some locales).

I hope this is of some help. I’d sooner try to change heaven or earth than congress, by the way.

Dear Andy,

I’m a Cub Scout mom in charge of our pack’s Blue & Gold Banquet committee. I’d like to know the official colors of each Cub Scout rank so we can make cakes—one for each rank—for the banquet. I’m not sure if I go by the slide or badge color, or the neckerchief color, or maybe something else. (Barb Kish, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

What a great idea! But I can see where you could drive yourself a little nuts over this… Tiger and Bear are no problem; one is orange n’ orange and the other’s blue n’ blue. But the Wolf badge is red while the neckerchief is yellow, and the Webelos colors are plaid on the neckerchief and yellow-and-blue on the badge! If I were in your shoes, I think I’d use the badge colors, if for no other reason so that I don’t have to deal with plaid!

Hi Andy,

Do you have any “scripts” for pack meeting flag ceremonies? Like, Color Guard, Attention; Color Guard, Advance; and so on? (JuLane Holland, Great Salt Lake Council, UT)

If you Google “flag ceremony” and then go to any Girl Scout citation, you’ll find just about everything you’ll need! They do an excellent job with this! (Much better than the Boy Scouts, at least online, IMHO.)

Dear Andy,

For Pinewood Derby patches, do we sew these on the uniform, or do they go somewhere else? I haven’t found on any of the websites, or in the handbook, anything that talks about these patches in particular. (Dianne Field)

One patch like this can be worn on the right pocket of the Cub uniform, but more usually they’re considered “souvenir” patches and sewn on the red patch vest or placed in an album or collector’s box.

Hello Andy,

Our Webelos den is about to cross over to Boy Scouts at our March Blue & Gold Dinner. One of our boys has never missed a den or pack meeting or event, and I’m wondering if there is a Cub Scout award to recognize perfect attendance like this. (Roy Romano, ADL, Hudson Valley Council, PA-NY)

There’s a very nice attendance pin that’s available at your Scout Shop or–I bet it’ll fill the bill! If you want something a bit grander, make up a special certificate for him and put it in an inexpensive but sturdy frame.

Dear Andy,

As a parent-and-Den Leader, I have some concerns about our new Cubmaster. He says his “job” is limited to dealing with the pack’s program and stops there, and “program” means only what happens at monthly pack meetings. He will have nothing to do with Cub Day Camp or our annual Pinewood Derby or popcorn sales, because “they’re not program.” Because of this attitude, responsibility for just about every event or activity gets tossed to our new Committee Chair or to us Den Leaders.

The Cub Scout Leader Book says the Cubmaster’s job is to “conduct a pack program according to the policies of the BSA.” So the question becomes: What does the BSA mean when it talks about “program”? That is, is “program” limited to only pack meetings? Is our CM doing this the right way? Or should something else be happening? (Name & Council Withheld)

Your pack needs a bit of help. Nothing major…Just a bit of fine-tuning.

Yes, Pinewood Derbies and Cub Day Camp and such are part of the overall pack program. And I suppose one might decide to “enforce” this by “insisting” that the Cubmaster run these, too. But what will that accomplish? My guess is that you’ll soon be hunting for a new Cubmaster, and nobody will want the job because it got too big. So, let’s look for another solution…

First off, if you have a happy Cubmaster, you’re way ahead of a lot of packs out there! Let’s leave him alone. But, let’s also not overburden the Den Leaders—You all have to be happy, too! You all have specific jobs to do and running Pinewood Derbies and organizing Cub Day Camp and Cub Family Weekends isn’t on that list! This is where your Committee Chair, pack committee members, and Den Leaders, too, have a meeting of all non-”involved” parents and you re-acquaint them with the model of a parent-run and parent-supported pack. You then describe program needs, such as a chair and coordinator for the Pinewood Derby (including the explanation that the CM and DLs don’t do this—other parents roll up their sleeves) and you ask for volunteers from the committee or the parents-at-large. Same thing with Cub Camping or Weekend—get volunteers. No volunteers? OK, no Pinewood Derby. Simple as that. Parents need to understand that, if they don’t step up and do the job, it doesn’t automatically fall to the CM and DLs to do what they won’t do!

I’m not just blowin’ smoke here—As a “working Commissioner,” I’ve helped with several packs in which the DLs and CM did everything (and, obviously, approached “burn-out” at a faster rate of speed than is healthy!) and we turned it around in one meeting—Once the parents realized we were serious! (Oh, and did I mention we locked the meeting room door till we got the volunteers we needed? <wink>)

Dear Andy,

I’m trying to clarify conflicting interpretations of a requirement for the Commissioner’s Key. The second requirement under “Training” says: “Complete personal coaching orientation including orientation project.” Some Scouters in my council are saying that that’s an official course to be taken while others are saying it’s an orientation session with the District Commissioner. I can’t find anything written anywhere that describes this requirement. Can you help? (Kurt Ballantyne, District Commissioner, Denver Area Council, CO)

If “personal coaching orientation” were an official course, it would have been listed with quote marks around it in the section immediately above it on the progress record. Absent those quotation marks, it’s exactly what it says: One-on-one coaching.

That said, there’s an opportunity here… How about you and your fellow District Commissioners meet with your Council Commissioner and come to an agreement amongst yourselves as to what that means and how it will be carried out; for example, if a new UC, then might this be done by an ADC; if a new ADC, then by the DC, and so on? This might be a great way to build consensus and get some team spirit going, to boot!

Dear Andy,

I use form 33847 to report den advancements, but I can’t find any official form for reporting Webelos Academic & Sports belt loops and pins. Our pack advancement chair is very particular about using the right form, but we don’t seem to have one for this. Does such a form actually exist? (Tom Carignan, Tukabatchee Area Council, AL)

If your advancement chair is “very particular” about using the right form, how about simply asking him or her what form to use? That way, you’re both on the same wavelength and there’s no more wondering.

Hi Andy,

I’ve just volunteered to lead a Whittlin’ Chip training session at our council’s University of Scouting. I took Whittlin’ Chip in 2006. It was mostly the same presentation that we’d do with the Cubs, with some basic planning advice. Since then, I’ve received a lot of information from experienced leaders and also read articles Do you have any additional advice that we can pass on to other Cub Leaders? I want to give our participants confidence in planning and leading this activity with their dens and packs. (Heidi Collier, DL, Blue Ridge Mountains Council, VA)

About the only thing I can confirm is that using tongue depressors and soap bars to learn how to apply knife-to-wood works like a charm! Have fun with this, keeping in mind that we’re not trying to turn out edged tool experts here! This is Cub Scouts and the Whittlin’ Chip’s aimed at 9 year olds!

Hi Andy,

My Webelos son is crossing over this year, and we’re blessed to have five troops in our area. We’ve visited them, and my son’s chosen the one he’d most like to join. But I do, as a parent, have some questions about how this troop does things, and I’m hoping you have some insights. There they are…

The troop is asking for a $40 annual fee to be paid upon joining the troop in March. As I understand it, one pays an annual fee once a year, so in our situation, our Cub pack collects the fee in the fall and then pays it in January when it re-charters, which should mean that my son shouldn’t need to pay a fee until it’s collected for January 2010—Is this correct? I checked with both the Cubmaster and District Executive, and they both agree, but they added that the council doesn’t have jurisdiction over how the fee is collected, except that it’s paid annually with the unit’s re-charter. But then, in speaking with the troop’s Committee Chair and Scoutmaster, they say, “Well, that’s how we do it…end of story.” Now $40 is certainly not exorbitant, but it just seems inconsistent with how Scouting is supposed to work. Do you have any comments on what I could present to them to consider changing their ways? Our Cubmaster has a son in this same troop, and he tried about two years ago, but he got the same response I did.

My second concern is that, in this troop, there’s a man who was the Scoutmaster about ten years back who’s regarded as an ultimate authority on all things Scouting. (I’ve not met him yet, so this is all hearsay.) He doesn’t attend troop meetings regularly; he just has the Scouts over to his place for an archery shoot each year. But, when it comes to major troop decisions, I’m told, everyone says, Let’s check with so-and-so and see what he says,” or, if son-and-so is involved in the conversation, he’ll say, “That’s not the way we did it when I was Scoutmaster.” Is there any way to lessen the pull this man has in the troop, without disrespecting his contribution (which was considerable and commendable at the time)?

Last, the woman who’s Committee Chair has held that position for about ten years and enjoys the control she has. She’s very friendly, but seems to be the one who’s kept change from occurring. For instance, this troop just started The Patrol Method two years ago, and it’s “coming along” (but not quite there, yet). Do you have any comments on ways to replace her or lessen her influence? (Name & Council Withheld)

Bottom line: Unless you, personally, immediately become the Chartered Organization Representative for this troop, or become the Committee Chair, or you’re already the head of the Chartered Organization (aka sponsor), you will not be in a position to change anything at all. If you try to “change things from within,” you will, instead, create disharmony, animosity, and rancor, and you will fight fruitless skirmishes that will only bring you pain and wonder as to “how did all this go so badly when I meant so well?”

If this is the troop your son has chosen, and it’s delivering the Boy Scout program as described in the first chapter or two of the Boy Scout Handbook (most importantly, patrol method, youth leaders by election, advancement at will, no re-testing in boards of review, Scout-run meetings, and Scout-planned outings), then relax and tolerate the troop’s “personality quirks.” If, however, it’s not delivering on the six specific points I’ve mentioned, then it’s not delivering the Boy Scout program, and you, as Dad, may need to tell your son to pick another troop or he’s gonna be real disappointed. Or, you can leave it alone. But be absolutely assured: You’re not going to fix anything from the outside or from within. Your call.

Yes, if everything your saying is true, this troop definitely needs course-correction to get back to the True North of Scouting. This happens from the top-down and no other way, successfully. Ever.

Dear Andy,

In one of the troops I serve, an Assistant Scoutmaster wants to teach the Scouts how to make a sheath knife. Our council absolutely forbids sheath knives, and he and I have discussed this many times. Is there any documentation about how the BSA feels about sheath knives or the making of them? I’d appreciate any help you can give me. (Kim Stanton, Unit Commissioner, Finger Lakes Council, NY)

This controversy is for your council’s risk management committee to deal with, since the “no sheath knife” rule is likely theirs. This way, you don’t have to be the “council cop”—that’s the last place we Commissioners want to find ourselves!

Here’s the deal: The BSA itself doesn’t forbid sheath knives. Check the GTSS and you’ll note that they’re not recommended, but not flat-out prohibited. So that committee can’t fall back on “well, national says so.” But that’s OK, it’s absolutely permissible for council policy to supersede national is when the council policy is more safe than a national policy! But this is not your fight. Don’t be a Council Cop! Or District Detective. Or Policy Police.

Dear Andy,

Our troop has an Eagle Scout candidate who wants to do his project for our chartered organization. The Project Workbook says that “The project should benefit an organization other than the BSA.” Does that policy include chartered organizations? I’ve tried to find the answer online but have come up with conflicting information. (Name & Council Withheld)

There’s no problem here at all! In fact, it’s absolutely appropriate to carry out a service project for a troop’s chartered organization! (Doesn’t your troop as a whole do this on an annual basis, anyway?) A chartered organization (aka “sponsor”) isn’t the BSA, simple as that!

Good day Andy,

My son, currently working on his Boy Scout Life rank, is a member of a Venturing crew and a Boy Scout troop. Is it possible for him to earn Eagle just through the Venturing crew? (M. Runyon)

Absolutely! In fact, he can earn Life rank and could have earned Star as a member only of the Venturing crew. Once First Class rank, further membership in a Boy Scout troop is no longer necessary for advancement. This is described in detail in the Venturing Manuals.

Dear Andy,

Have you ever come across a troop that permitted only men to serve on boards of review for First Class rank and higher? I don’t agree with this policy and, as Troop Advancement Chair, will be discussing it in committee. However, before doing so, I’m wondering if anyone else had ever heard of this sort of practice. In our troop, the irony is that there are women who are always willing serve on reviews, and sometimes we get a man, but there are generally problems getting men to serve on reviews. The plan I have in mind is to have the troop committee vote, after I present them with what the BSA national council has written in Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, and also my own input on the lack of male participation. Should I do anything else? (Debra Giles, Lewis & Clark Council, OH)

I sure hope you can set these folks straight! By BSA Policy, to be a member of a board of review for all ranks from Tenderfoot through Life rank, and Eagle Palms, one must be a registered member of the troop committee. As for whether one is male or female, this is irrelevant to the BSA, and policies are silent in this regard on the basis, I suspect, of “what sort of genius would purposefully exclude a legitimately qualified person from sitting on a board of review?” Oh, another BSA policy: A board of review shall include no less than three and no more than six.

As for myself, personally, I’ve never, ever heard of the kind of restriction you describe… But that’s just in the past 20 years.

Maybe an Ask Andy reader has heard of a troop that has self-developed “restrictions” on who can and can’t sit on a board of review? If so, please write and tell me about it! (Yes, I’ll keep you “anonymous” if you like!)

Dear Andy,

My son, a Cub Scout, needs to earn his religious emblem in the general Protestant faith. What does he need to do, to do that? The book and the website aren’t clear. (John H. Fairbanks, CC, Hoosier Trails Council, IN)

The best web resource for religious awards

Also check with your local council’s Scout Shop—They very often carry the workbooks needed. Then, have a conversation with your son’s pastor, to see of he or she is familiar or not with this program and to obtain a commitment to work with your son through completion. If you hit another dead end, or need further information, please write again.

Dear Andy,

Is it proper for an Eagle rank board of review to ask a Scout about God? (Adrian Fortier, ASM)

Certainly, in any Scoutmaster’s conference or any board of review, whether for Eagle rank or Tenderfoot, or anywhere in between or beyond, it’s not inappropriate at all to ask a Scout about what “…I will do my best to do my duty to God…” means to him, and how he carries this out in his daily (which does not mean “every single day”) life. Of course, the purpose of questions along this line are intended to open up conversation about a whole bunch of things, including life in general, one’s God by any name, personal ethical and citizenship responsibilities, and so on; they’re absolutely not meant to “test” or “quiz” the Scout.


How about space heaters in tents? My favorite hardware store has a propane space heater—“Tough Buddy”—advertised as safe in tents. I know the BSA policy on fire in a tent. Is this acceptable in a canvas tent? This is a discussion in our troop. (John Shurig)

Does ole “Buddy” have a flame? If so, then no go! No flames in tents, no way! If you’re still wondering, double-check with your home council’s risk management committee. On something like this, it never hurts to ask… twice!

Dear Andy,

My grandson is working toward his Eagle rank and I’m wondering what’s the best way to display his Cub Scout belt loops. I’ve made his badges into a quilt (he had enough to cover a double quilt) and I’m going to make a shadow box to show his pins. But I need a good way to show those belt loops. Any suggestions? (Darlene Brooks)

Congratulations to your grandson, and what a wonderful thing you’re doing for him! Cub Scout belt loops fit only on the blue web Cub Scout belt, which your grandson is unlikely to be wearing again anytime soon. So, let’s cut a length of that belt, stitching off the ends, and then mount the belt-with-loops inside that shadowbox. I think that should work.

Dear Andy,

I’m interested in what the requirements are for earning the adult religious award. Do you know where I can find them? (Bryon Alford, CM, South Texas Council)

This particular recognition is by nomination; not through completing specific requirements, as with a “progress card” or such. Typical nominators are pastors, priests, rabbis, and the ordained or designated leaders of one’s faith or the faith of the religious institution to which a Scouting unit is chartered to. Typical nominees are those who have performed exemplary volunteer work with youth—usually a lot in a relatively short period of time, or a more normal amount but over a considerably longer period of time.

Many heads of religious organizations don’t know that these recognitions are available for them to recognize their volunteers. Go to find your particular faith or denomination and then dig a little deeper for the adult recognitions and their procedures (there are often actual forms that can be used), and then don’t be shy about sitting down with your religious head and determining whether or not he or she is even aware of this opportunity. These recognitions are not limited to Scouting. Yes, the BSA recognizes them, which is wonderful, but if someone’s made a significant contribution (I don’t mean money, BTW) to youth that’s not necessarily Scouting-related, he or she is still absolutely nomination-worthy!

Hi Andy,

Our pack just had our Pinewood Derby, and an argument about the rules came into play between the Cubmaster and the boys. What’s the BSA rule for how many wheels of the car must rest on the track? Some cars ran with one wheel elevated off the track, creating an advantage over those who had all four wheels touching the track. (Johanna Young, DL, Central New Jersey Council)

Interesting… Well, first off, tell me this: What happened? Did every “trike” win? Did some win and some not? Did any cars with all four wheels down win? Also, does the pack do a “weigh-in” and overall car check of every car before the cars are actually brought in to race?

The Bear Den Leaders were the judges, and had made sure that all cars entered were built so that all four wheels touched the track. But many cars had been clearly built to only run on three wheels, including the Cubmaster’s own son’s car, and they were disqualified.

We used a digital scale that was properly calibrated and, all cars were weighed. Also, their wheels were checked to verify that they were BSA “kit” wheels and that they weren’t reshaped. However, is it a BSA rule that all four wheels are to make contact with the track at all times? Thank you for your help. (Johanna)

It’s pretty straightforward that any car not built in accordance with the Pinewood Derby specifications (e.g., weight, height, width, distance between axles, number of wheels touching, etc.) and directions that come in the box should, as you all did, be disqualified before the race ever starts.

I’m guessing that you have some folks more invested in finding loopholes than in having Cub Scout fun. What a shame! Maybe somebody needs to mention to them that this ain’t the Indy 500?

After arguments between the adults, the decision was left up to the Bear den and Den Leader in charge of the race. Their ruling was that deliberate three-wheelers aren’t allowed to race—all cars had to run on all four wheels, and that was how the heats were run. But the Cubmaster, who tried to enter his two sons’ “three-wheeled” cars, argued that he had been to over 25 races and three-wheelers were allowed. We responded, after confirming with another pack, that it’s a BSA rule that all cars must run on all four wheels.

Ultimately, the race ran with only four-wheeled cars, but there were many angry fathers (and, of course, our Cubmaster) because they had to change the wheels on their cars in order to enter the race. Now, we’re quite unpopular, along with the other parents in our den, because our son—a Wolf—won first place and another Wolf from our den won second place. I’m proud that they won honestly—their cars were built and ran on all four wheels—they had a lot of fun and left happy, but we’re still taking some flack.

So for the record, we’re trying to find the BSA rule that says that the cars must run on all four wheels. It certainly seems like a “no brainer” as far as Scouting is concerned, but to confirm this we’d like to give the official rules to whoever runs next year’s Derby, to avoid this sort of at-the-event controversy. (Johanna_

Here’s the deal: The BSA itself has no Pinewood Derby rules. This is a fun event and there are no BSA “policies” at all (thank goodness)! Now there are lots of basic rules “out there” and each pack may make up its own, following some fundamental guidelines, but here’s what’s really, really important: THE PINEWOOD DERBY IS A FUN EVENT FOR BOYS, WITH THEIR DADS ASSISTING ONLY AS NECESSARY, AND “WINNING” ISN’T WHAT THIS EVENT IS ABOUT!

If you’ve got some genius parents in the pack who haven’t figured this out, shame on them! You guys were right, so stick to your guns because this isn’t about finding loopholes and “rigging” cars to win—this is about having fun and some cars will be faster than others and that’s OK but it’s not what the event is for! Shame on any parent who tried to cheat—that’s not the kind of lesson we’re trying to teach in Scouting. If a car has four wheels, it’s obviously supposed to run on four wheels. Duh. Thank goodness you all had the brains and the guts to boot those cheating cars out of the race before it started.

Now, for next year, how about a special “Dad’s Race,” and except for maintaining weight, there are no other rules? Keep the boys’ cars “legal,” but the dads who want to get into a “measuring contest” can push the envelope as far as they’d like—with their own cars. Or not.

Dear Andy,

I’m with you 100% when it comes to wrongheaded troop attendance policies. When a troop and its patrols have an engaging, challenging program of activities, there’s no real problem attracting Scouts to attend. But what about a reluctant son? Any advice for parents who want to keep a reluctant son involved? My wife and I had to compel our son to stay in Scouts for several months, when he was in middle school. He’s in his mid-twenties now, and appreciated our decision to keep him involved. In my experience, many parents encounter this impasse and agonize over deciding to keep their sons involved or not. What advice do you have for parents who find themselves in this situation, and how can a troop or patrol support their actions? (Clarke Green, SM, Chester County Council, PA)

When, his patrol and troop are magnets for fun, fellowship, and adventures, he’ll likely show up. If he has a set of specific friends in the troop or patrol, and they show up, he’ll show up. If he’s getting somethin g out of Scouts that he likes and can’t get anywhere else, he’ll show up.

Or not.

Can be a thousand reasons to fall away. Sometimes, he’s just not with the program, so to speak. His head’s somewhere else. Maybe girls or gas or the gridiron. Maybe x-box thumb exercises. Maybe just low energy. Maybe Internet sites he’d prefer you not know about. His uniform’s too tight any more. Somebody as school ribbed him for being a Boy Scout. He got it in his head that it’s un-cool. His buddy dropped out, or just stopped coming for a while. And the list goes on and on and on… It happens.

The best we can do is have a quiet, person-to-person conversation with him, to get whatever’s going on out on the table, so it’s at least not a mystery—if he even knows, himself, what’s going on! But, as a parent, go for it. It’s a special moment, because this is where your son finds out if his feelings have any true value to his parents of not. For instance, if he tells you whey he’s not interested in Scouts just now, and you negate or argue with or repudiate or ignore feelings that are certainly very real to him, or you pull the old “parent-as-shrink” baloney of “what’s the real reason…” he’s gonna check out. So, let him chill for a while if he likes—it’s his life, after all, and “this is for your own good” usually doesn’t endear parents to their kids too well. Let him alone. But keep a watchful eye.

Meanwhile, his Patrol Leader and his Scoutmaster might stay in touch: “Are you OK?” and “You’re not sick, are you?” are fine initial approaches, because this could be what’s going on. Maybe even a personal visit by the PL, SM, or another good buddy or two from his patrol might spark some interest—especially if they can talk about an event on the horizon that this guy is known to particularly like or is great at!

Otherwise, I’d say back-burner it. His life’s not going to be ruined forever if he replaces Scouts with something else he enjoys doing with friends! Like a new sport, or band or a choral group or glee club, forensics, chess club, church group, and so on. The only thing that I, as a parent, would try hard to steer him away from is the trade-off between Scouts and videogames or other solitary, sedentary activities of the couch potato genre.

Now other folks might have different ways of approaching this, and that’s fine by me. There’s no “silver bullet” here, and what I’ve just described is what I’ve found to work, pretty much with a bunch of different young men only some of whom were my own offspring.

Happy Scouting!


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(February 22, 2009 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2009)<=”” McCommish=”” Andy=”” ©=”” Copyright=”” –=”” 2009=”” 4,=”” (January=””>

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About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

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