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New Troop without SPL

Hello. I have another newbie question here. We are a new troop with 16 Scouts (started last September 2020). We have two founding patrols. One is composed of our den of AOL 5th graders who crossed over from our Pack. And another one composed of older kids (ranging from 6th to 10th grade). My son is the oldest at age 15. He is the 10th grader. He just needs a BOR to get the Tenderfoot rank. He has taken the ILST training. He is one of the Patrol Leaders.

Here are my questions:

  1. What age and rank requirements should we set for SPL, ASPL, PL and APL?
  2. Can we have an annual planning conference without an SPL?
  3. Coming from Pack experience, our Patrols meet on their own weekly. Then we have an end of the month Troop meeting. Are we supposed to do Troop meetings weekly even without SPL?

Thank you in advance for your advice.

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Has your unit been assigned a unit commissioner? Your UC should be able to help y’all get things rolling, or hook you up with professional or volunteer staff who can answer a lot of your questions, most importantly with local experience of things that have worked and things that have gone very badly.

Our troop doesn’t have age or rank requirements for our youth leaders. Generally, the SPL and ASPLs end up being more experienced scouts, but every troop started somewhere, so they can’t always be “experienced”. The patrol elects their own PL, and we don’t restrict them. I would hold off on implementing any such restrictions until the unit is really large and experienced enough to offer enough scouts who meet the requirements, if you ever implement them.

I would strongly recommend having the scouts select a senior patrol leader since you have more than one patrol in your troop, based on who they think will serve the troop the best, rather than necessarily the most senior scout in terms of rank. The major difference between a troop and a pack is that the youth run the troop and the adults run the pack. The SPL is the most senior youth leader, and serves primarily to coordinate between the patrols and serve as an overall leader. The SPL provides both guidance for the overall troop goals and vision, and serves as chief cheerleader to help the scouts stay motivated when things go sideways. That said, with only two patrols, you could operate without an SPL for a while, but it will require having the SM be relatively hands-off and serving only for coordination rather than direction, to avoid being too close to a pack in terms of being adult led vs youth led. I think that practicing (while small) the structure that might ultimately be used when the unit is larger lets the scouts get used to the process before it’s critical that it work “right”.

There are a lot of good resources, particularly for newer troops, at https://troopleader.scouting.org/. They have “canned” meeting plans, information about the responsibilities of youth and adult leaders in the troop, resources for PLCs, planning,…It’s really extensive. Although they’re not perfect, the printed Patrol Leader Handbook and Senior Patrol Leader Handbook are also good resources.

Look around to see if your district or council is running Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops (ILST) again, and get as many of your scouts as you can to take the training. I find that having the “followers” trained, too, makes the leaders’ lives easier. You can get the syllabus from the BSA’s training website (https://www.scouting.org/training/youth/) since it’s intended to be run at the unit level. At the same time, particularly for new scouts and units, it could be very helpful to attend one put on by experienced scouts. Your son can probably look through the curriculum and compare it to his experience attending the training to make some assessment as to whether or not your unit is ready to put it on in-house. I’m also a big proponent of in-person training for adult leaders where possible. It gives new leaders in particular the chance to talk to other leaders about ideas and methods so that they can ask questions specifically relevant to their situation.

As to the frequency with which the troop meets vs patrols, there are a wide variety of ways to skin that cat. Some units meet weekly and have activities primarily as a troop, with occasional patrol activities. Some troops have a troop meeting weekly, but dedicate a portion of the time to the patrols meeting. Some troops meet primarily as patrols and come together as a troop for inter-patrol activities. Personally, I favor the middle of the road, with weekly troop meetings and a portion of the meeting time dedicated to patrol meetings. That’s largely driven by my experience as a youth, since it’s the way my troop operated at the time.


I don’t even think we have one in our council. Last time we sent an email about requirement completion and virtual campout questions to our District Executive, he didn’t respond. We got a response from the Business Manager, instead.

That’s odd. What council and district are you in?

Speak with your unit Commissioner. Also, an overwhelming majority of your questions are covered in Scoutmaster specific training, available online.

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I couldn’t agree more. It’s obvious that the Troop is running more like a Cub Scout den which I’m sure is orderly. Scout led Troop is going to be chaotic at times to the point of insanity, but that is how Scouts learn to become leaders. I would make having Troop elections and forming a PLC top priority. They are the ones that should be doing the planning for Troop activities with the SM/ASM serving as facilitators and mentors to help them learn to be leaders.


To reiterate what others have said

  1. Take the Scoutmaster position training at training.scouting.org (Learning Plan 1194: Scouts BSA - Scoutmaster Position Specific Training). This is going to answer a lot of these questions.

  2. This is a Scouts, BSA troop. Not a Cub Scout pack. That means scout-led.

  3. No, you cannot have an Annual Planning conference without an SPL. The troop Annual Planning process is NOT the pack process. The pack process involves the adults (committee and adult leaders) deciding what the youth are going to do and then telling the scouts and their parents. The troop process is the exact opposite. The SCOUTS (led by the SPL) decide what they going to do and then tell the adults (with some degree of oversight) what the plan is. The adults then review it to be sure it meets health/safety/welfare standards and they then try to get adult support (e.g. we need two registered adult leaders for the camping trip on August 21).

  1. The basic unit of Scouts, BSA is the patrol. The patrol method is the key to all that scouting is (or should be) at this level. So yes, it is possible and arguably preferable the patrols meet as patrols as much as possible. That said, yes you will absolutely find units where it is the opposite (troop meetings every week, patrol meetings never).

This is covered in Scoutmater position training and specifically course number SCO_478: Patrol Method



Well, one could argue the basic unit is the buddy system but yes, your observations are spot on.

That was an excellent response. Thanks for providing this guidance. :sunny:

It’s really easy for new Scout parents to fall back into the Cub Scout model; that’s comfortable for them, and it’s comfortable for the Scouts as well.

With Scouts BSA, the challenge for new Scout parents is to STOP and let their kids learn by failing – and that can be a real challenge for the parents as well as the kids. I remember my son’s first camp out with the troop, and the older Scouts were teaching all the new Scouts how to make a camp fire. My hands were itching to get involved – tell them the tinder was too big, or that they were holding the firestarter wrong… As I’ve matured as a ScoutDad, my hands don’t itch as much any more.

  1. “The basic unit for teaching boys to be good citizens and to feel good about themselves is the patrol method.” -Baden-Powell

  2. “The formation of the boys into Patrols of from six to eight and training them as separate units each under its own responsible leader is the key to a good Troop." -Baden-Powell

  3. “The patrol system is not one method in which Scouting for boys can be carried on. It is the only method.” -Baden-Powell

  4. The patrol is listed as one of the 8 methods of scouting.

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As I said one could argue but yes your observations remain to be spot on.

You really should give him a Gold Star! :sunny:

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You should set no age and rank requirements for leadership positions. My rule #1: Don’t ask for a rule, you’ll live to regret it. Obviously patrols work better when their more mature leader is elected, but sometimes maturity defies rank and age. Ideally, the scouts should segregate into patrols on their own (“a patrol is a group of friends”) and elect their own PL, and the PL should select an ASPL.
JMHO, (and many have disagreed with me before, and will no doubt post their detractions below) the SPL position only becomes essential when troops have about 24 scouts (three patrols). So in regards to your annual planning meeting, your two existing PLs, their two APLs, and your troop Scribe should be able to manage. If you have not elected an SPL, I don’t think it will help to try and do so now.
It looks like you will continue growing, so SPL elections are on the horizon. Our troop usually holds elections halfway through the year. This gives a new SPL an existing plan to implement while learning how to run a PLC and develop new plans.

Yes troops meet and camp without their SPL. That’s what assistants are for. Part of the leadership development process is letting an assistant know when you won’t be available so that you duties will be carried out in your absence. That’s probably the hardest part of being an SM, counting on your youth leaders to communicate with each other.

I will say this regarding patrol vs. troop meetings: the ideal meeting place is one with a central hall for the troop to gather, and separate rooms where each patrol can meet. We don’t have that, but the patrols take tables on the opposite corners of the hall. A typical night for us would open with the troop together, break out into patrols for a half hour, and return to close the meeting. The SPL will then meet with the PLC afterwards for after action review.

Patrols meeting on separate nights or mornings would be nice, but modern YPT requirements demand a lot of time on adults to make that happen.

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@Qwazse, I agree with your comments and would like to add a few thoughts:

Since this Troop is being built essentially from scratch, I would try to implement the 3 patrol types as outlined in the BSA Troop Leader Resources:

  1. New-Scout patrols
  2. Regular patrols
  3. Older-Scout patrols

I think using this method is a subtle way of dealing with the age issues without having an arbitrary age requirement.

As for the first election and really any election I think the SM should discuss the important of taking elections seriously. Tell the Scouts that elections should not be a popularity contest but rather really thinking about the people running and what type of people they are. The older Scouts need to be told that if a much younger Scout is elected SPL, they are expected to follow, support and help any SPL. Sometimes older Scouts might not take a younger leader as serious and such an attitude will rub off on his or her peers and then you have problems.


@WilliamC, If a pack will be sending over more than 4 crossovers, the New Scout Patrol will come in handy. We have not gotten that many, so our older scouts were keen to just integrate them into the existing patrols. (Our boys tend to reconfigure patrols every year anyway.) Nobody knows what crossovers will come our way as parents are rightly pandemic-addled. So, I’m suggesting that patrols get in the habit of welcoming one or two new scouts at a time throughout the year.
The “seasoned scout” patrol makes sense if a half dozen boys have already served as PL/SPL earned First Class rank, and are interested in really “going deep” mastering skills. Our older boys are almost there, but bless them, they also love mentoring their new scouts. So rather than a separate patrol, we’re offering them additional challenges. Again, the pandemic has interfered with that. But, I think we’ll be back on track after this wave subsides.
The bottom line: be flexible, be flexible, be flexible.

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Thank you all so much for your input. I have taken the necessary trainings for my position online. But it really helps to hear from experienced Scouters.

We direct our questions to our new District Executive but he just forwards it to the Business Manager. I know they are doing their best but our council is understaffed so we just have to be resourceful and try to find the answers on our own instead of waiting. That’s why I really appreciate your time here.

Our Troop has 16 scouts in two patrols. They both fall in the New Scout category. We put together the den that crossed over from our Pack. And then all other recruits went to the other. I’m currently the Webelos Den Leader of 12 scouts that will likely be ready to cross over to the Troop by February of March. We are growing.

So, in putting together our troop election guidelines, my main take away from this thread is that we don’t need to set age and rank requirements.

Another next step is to get the two patrol leaders (APLs and scribes) together so that they can coordinate their patrol meeting plans and activities together. They can have the PLC meeting without an SPL. Then they can plan on when they want to do their SPL election. Once my Webelos scouts cross over that puts our troop with more than 24 scouts.

Thank you!

This really shouldn’t be delayed. The troop needs to start having functioning PLC meetings with the 2 PLs, the SPL, the ASPL, Scribe, and Quartermaster.


So, in normal circumstances a new scout patrol becomes a regular patrol (or they get adopted by the troop’s regular patrol) a matter of months. Therefore, in a normal year, your current patrols would be considered regular.
With such a large influx of crossovers, it is probably best that your current scouts elect their SPL before the crossovers arrive.
Your current scouts are going to have their work cut out for them. One of them should become a troop guide. Another one or two should become instructors.
It’s gonna be a wild ride!
Enjoy it.

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It seems like you are assuming they’ll all join your troop. But as their den leader you should be encouraging them to look at other troops in the area too. If you have, perfect! I know some may have siblings in your troop and therefore parents won’t be giving them much choice. And then, others may choose to go with their friends. So, you may end up with all of them, anyway.

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