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Issue 491 – June 14, 2016

Last week’s column (June 9th – No. 490) about “earned awards” versus “participant recognitions” sparked a whole bunch of responses. Here are a few, to give you all a perspective on not only how boys feel about this issue, but how their parents feel as well…

Hi Andy,

I’m a regular reader and I LOVED your June 9th column. It reminded me of when my son was in the community baseball league, which allowed all comers regardless of talent. His team had two wins and 20 losses for the year (tied for last in the league). After the last game, their coach said they’d had “a great year” and gave out participation trophies to all the boys. My son (a 3rd grader at the time) said their team sucked and didn’t deserve a trophy for anything that year. He totally ignored the coach’s attempt to tell him that all the boys deserved a trophy. Grabbing his gear, he said, “Let’s go, Dad,” and threw his trophy in the trash can at the end of the bench as he walked past it. I mentioned to him later that he might have considered throwing it away at home, so there would be less of a fuss, but he was right in calling the spade a spade (although he might have used better language in the process). Most of those boys skipped baseball the next year, waiting for 5th grade (“travelling baseball”), for which there were actual try-outs and they had to actually qualify to “participate.” (Bob Elliott, Northern Star Council, MN-WI)

Hi Andy,

I think you hit the nail on the head! Every year my son (now a Life Scout) would take that participation trophy from baseball or soccer and throw it in the trash. (His mother would retrieve it and has hidden them in a closet.) My son wants nothing to do with them. He was lucky enough to play on one championship Little League baseball team and recently a championship Lacrosse team. He wore those jerseys around for weeks! The kids know! Don’t take away from their accomplishments. (Lee Murray, Reno, NV)

Thank you for this Andy!

I’ll be sharing your response and perspective on this subject with other Scouting leaders. It’s exactly what I’ve been trying to instill in my pack! Boys should be proud of their achievements and they can’t be proud of a recognition they know they haven’t earned, or an award that’s been weakened because it was given to even those who hadn’t earned it. (Carrie Setzkorn)


For this week, we have a true story about life and how it’s often about connections. Here’s a letter I recently received, and what happened as a result…

Dear Andy,

I’m Committee Chair for a troop in the Headwaters District of the Greater Western Reserve Council, and we need help.

On March 2nd we submitted an Eagle Rank Application to our council service center for a Life Scout in our troop. This young man is graduating from high school today (June 2nd) and plans to join the U.S. Army. He was hoping to sign his agreement with the Army following a successful Eagle board of review, but, after three months of waiting, there’s no review in sight. This is the reason I’m writing to you.

The original Eagle Rank Application was reviewed internally by three separate adult volunteers with the troop prior to submitting it to our council, and in all respects it appeared complete and correct to us at that time. Now, three full months later, no one at the service center can determine its status or location. We could really use some help here, because there’s simply been no response to our inquiries from anyone at our council service center.

May I respectfully ask for any assistance you can provide, as repeated requests for information on our part have received no response from individuals responsible for this application, and three months is way too long to get this completed. (Ken Armstrong, CC, Greater Western Reserve Council, OH)

Now I don’t happen to live anywhere near this council—not even in the State of Ohio. So here’s the “connection” part…

Back in 2013 I was a featured speaker and session facilitator at The Baden-Powell Institute of the Greater Cleveland Council and, as one of many happy consequences, I got to meet a great bunch of Scouters there. This council borders the GWR Council, so I took a chance and contacted Patrick O’Leary, a long-time Scouter in the Cleveland area. I forwarded Ken’s letter to Patrick and asked if he knew anyone who might help break through this apparent logjam. Patrick went into action right away, and I received this message from him almost immediately:

Hi Andy,

WOW! Did I get quick action, thanks to Carl Boyles, Director of Support Services in the Greater Cleveland Council, who immediately sent an email to our council neighbor. Shortly, Jackie Bell, Administrative Assistant & Office Manager at the Greater Western Reserve Council personally called me personally. She told me that not only is this Scout’s application not lost but that a board of review has been scheduled early next week for him. She further assured me that the paperwork and board of review approval was personally delivered to a member of the troop’s committee. Jackie emphasized that their service center is, in fact, very quick in responding to any issue like this (as shown by her phone call to me within 22 minutes of Carl Boyles’s email to them). My conversation with her was professional and pleasant—an epitome of good customer service. I hope all goes well from here, and thanks for reaching out. (Patrick O’Leary, GCC)

The big “happy ending” here is that, shortly after that successful board of review, Ken Armstrong let me know that this Scout is onto the next phase of his busy life—thanks to Scouters helping Scouters and council staff pitching in to make it happen!

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 491 – 6/14/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]


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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