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Should we bring back in person basic leader training?

On line training was hailed as being the answer to getting people properly trained for their positions. However, that does not allow for discussion, and exchange of ideas and experiences and suggestions on how to deal with various issues, utilize local resources and fellowship with other volunteers/leaders. I think that districts/councils that still provide in person training benefit from having volunteers interact and that those volunteers can and will provide a better program experience for their scouts. Some councils still do PowWows and University of Scouting training and that is a plus. Let me know what you think?

There is no silver bullet here.

The online training, I think, was developed to provide adults with busy schedules the opportunity to get trained on their own schedule. One of the major problems with the online training is the reliability of the platform. Seems like there is an endless stream of threads here that they cannot complete their online training. After awhile people just give up.

I have canceled many trainings because not enough people signed up for it. I held a BALOO last year with only 2 people. I did a YPT 2 months ago and of the 9 people in my district expired only 1 showed up.

I just don’t think that they see the benefit of the training to drive them to take it. I’m not sure how else to communicate that.



I used to teach Cub Leader training before the online courses were available. I still help teach BALOO, the only cub-level leader training that still has an in-person requirement.

The difference between on-line and in-person training is stark. Yes, on-line is convenient. But the understanding, retention depth of knowledge gained are nowhere near the levels that can be achieved through in-person training. More importantly, in-person trainees have an opportunity to internalize the values of Scouting. They are revitalized and re-energized to bring better program to their units.

That said, there were a lot of ‘powerpoint trainers’ out there who would literally read off the slides during the old in-person classes. That was just awful. Not only was it a waste of time (I can read the slides faster than you can recite them), it’s demoralizing and runs counter to our values.In my opinion, National forced the online training in order to drive out those bad old compliance-focused, read-the-slide trainings. We can’t go back to those.

Note that that doesn’t happen to BALOO because the nature of the training is different. It’s a lot less ‘sit there and get talked at’ and a lot more ‘get up and practice’.

Online does work for some content. Rather than go all one way or the other, I’d like to see National (and Councils) work to break the training up. Make the right parts of the training on-line but find the more experiential lessons and training objectives and move those into in-person sessions. Then, like the Scoutmaster training, you’re not fully trained until you’ve done both.


Actually they went to the online training so that they could make sure that all of the leaders were getting the same information. The Scouts BSA in person training is now literally play the video modules from the online training. True, with in person you still have the opportunity to have discussions in between videos, but they want to make sure that at a minimum every adult has seen the information they want them to. That is actually closer to the “PowerPoint Trainers” you spoke of than otherwise.

The best training I have ever received personally or professionally is on the job hands on training. Scouting is no different. You can talk and practice all day long, but the best laid plan never survives the first encounter with real life. All you can do is offer them the tools to succeed, whether they use them or not is out of your control.

The training we provide is only the E and possibly the D of EDGE. It takes mentors and other volunteers in the field to accomplish the G and E. It cannot be done in a classroom or online setting.


In a time when remote and learn-on-demand was increasing (pre-COVID) and that has accelerated during COVID, I see no chance of going back to the days of in-person training. It is hard to ask people to take a half day or more to do it.

Moreover, as more and more councils move to mandate that leaders be position trained (mine does) we are asking people to take 3-4 hours of training before they even come into position (YPT = 72 minutes, Den Leader 2 hours).

I find no real chance of going back to in-person training being the primary means of leader training.


In-person certainly isn’t the cure-all, but we have to improve the current training paradigm. It would be nice if we took the same approach to training adults as we did with developing youth.

I’d really like to see more of a cohort model of training… that could include some required videos and readings to make sure everyone “gets” the same basics, but it should be followed up by discussions and mentoring throughout the year. That would also alleviate the “up front” time cost of training, and actually help people as they realize they need it.

In theory, this is supposed to happen at Roundtables and unit committee meetings (according to the guides, as if they didn’t have enough to do). In reality, it doesn’t. The current training awards kind of hint at this, but it would be a lot better if the entire continuum was streamlined to what really works in encouraging personal learning, growth and development.

It doesn’t have to be in-person, but it does have to involve real people.


I appreciate all of the responses, thank you! I had the honor of advising and staffing two Pow Wow’s for Cub leader supplemental training. We had 200 volunteers sign up. (an increase of 100 over what had been done in the past) And we had workshops on various aspects of the program from recruiting parents for committee positions to ceremonies and crafts. It was fun and the evaluations showed that the learners found it very valuable. Many of them repeated the next year to take sessions that they had missed or just for the fun and fellowship of the event. Perhaps a Pow Wow type session as a requirement would be a good supplement to the on line training. Just a thought.


I think we need a hybrid model. The online training “gets it done”, but then something like one of these Pow-Wows to help fletch out the hazy parts of the online training as a follow up. What about district/council doing a round robin through all packs/troops and conducting some mentoring? Like a mobile Pow-Wow?

The reality of it all is we’re never going to have perfect, but I sure would like to strive.


My last council hosted an annual program launch kickoff in June and gave out the next years calendars along with holding sessions for leaders that were a mini training on program with a Cub and a Scout breakout. They had tables with the various committees for Training, Outdoor activities, membership and such prior to and following the sessions that volunteers could visit as needed. It was a generally well attended event. Not formal training but a supplement, sort of a mini pow wow.

I like the hybrid approach. Classroom training and in person evaluation by the UC in my mind would be the ideal situation.


With only online training, you also don’t get the meeting of other leaders and the sharing of the excitement of the program with each others. There are several I met when I took Cub leader or scoutmaster specific, I still see 25 years later. The other problem is that when you only do training on the computer, you are less likely to go to a round-table, send someone to the district meeting, Go to a University of Scouting. No relationship to keep up outside the unit where you and your child are. We have started to have hybrid meetings from just Zoom meetings over the previous year, to try and get people involved at the district level, but the bad habits of the past continue. No new or younger faces. I suggest a district meeting at a district event, such as a cubaree, webelos woods or even a camporee. The problem is that it can’t happen at a cub scout event. And even if you did it at at Scouts BSA event, some units only bring 2 leaders


Being a coach and counselor is right in the UC’s job description. But I’m not sure how often they get around to mentoring DLs or ASMs. They generally support the Key 2 (assuming of course you even have a UC).

I’d love to see us develop (and encourage) new leaders to take part in some sort of peer-group professional development. For example, councils could establish cohorts of a dozen or so new CMs, SMs, CCs or DLs and work with them together throughout the course of a year.

And I wouldn’t call it training (even though it is), but rather it’s a peer resource sharing group, which might be more motivating to participants. To some extent, RTs, Pow Wows and Tradeshows accomplish this, but they tend to attract volunteers who are several years in. Challenges abound of course, including identifying leaders far enough in advance to get them into decent sized cohorts, as well as motivating and encouraging leaders to join and participate throughout the course of the program.

We often emphasize how important training is for developing quality leaders and effective programs, and yet we don’t really require any of it. The end result shouldn’t be a surprise.


I suspect that one-on-one mentoring of new leaders by existing leaders is likely the most effective way of getting new people on board, whether at the adult or youth levels. “Here are things that worked for me” is a lot more convincing, at least to me, than “here is a standardized training program”. How can we, as existing leaders, better tie the “standard” training curriculum back to the “in the dirt” implementation so that new leaders, and even as-yet-untrained existing leaders can see the value of the training?

For example, most folks get the importance of being CPR/first aid trained. Many don’t see the value of biennial recertification. Giving folks a chance at the front end of the recertification course to demonstrate to themselves how much they’ve forgotten by not having to use those skills might help drive that home.

Similarly, challenging scouts and scouters with real-world scenarios they might not have faced, then tying the training content back to those scenarios as you go through it that day would (again, for me) help anchor the value of the training to it’s application. That’s a lot better motivation in my mind than “It’s time to work on math. I know we all think math is boring, but we have to learn it anyway,” which is a pretty close paraphrasing of what one of my kids elementary school teachers actually said in class. Substitute “training” for “math” in the preceding sentences, and I suspect that’s what most folks think about the BSA training. It’s something we “have to get through” to be able to do “the fun part” (aka recess).

I’m not sure precisely how to treat this problem — or even if it’s is the actual problem or just a symptom of some underlying issue — but I think making the applicability of our training clearer wouldn’t hurt.


This is a mistake made at the National Level. By reducing the need for in person training we have a very watered down training experience. This has resulted in smaller or non-existent training teams in districts and a loss of a major part of the adult fellowship that was such a positive element.

Thank for the input Charley… I have heard over the years, so many times… ‘Scouts don’t learn to tie knots from a lecture’ and education should be more hands on. Mike Rowe “Dirty Jobs” would agree. The same is true of Leaders. You don’t really learn leadership from a 60 minute on line tutorial. Woodbadge is a great course but there are fewer available because of the decline in key leaders or leaders that meet the prerequisites.

I find the scheduling is the biggest issue.
Minimally, no training should be scheduled for Saturday mornings. Sorry, every other activity is then. Yes, that includes every other thing I also volunteer for.
Also, scheduling so much of it in the Fall is a terrible idea (may be more of an issue for my council). I know scouting should be year round, but if we are recruiting and fund raising (popcorn…), there’s no extra time for multi-hour training.
Of course, if the training isn’t offered at all (BALOO), then well I guess no camping for packs.

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I get the concept that it conflicts with activities (including unit activities), but having training scheduled exclusively during the week (for example) would kill training. Too many of us have conflicts (long commutes, shift work, other activities) to make that practical. Similarly, there are many folks who have religious conflicts on Fridays, Saturdays and/or Sundays. I think “Don’t exclusively schedule training at only one day/time” might be a better rule.

Back when in person training was the norm I actually had the training committee (yes, the district had a fully staffed training committee) come to my house and put on training when we were able to schedule it. They met our needs and our schedule. They asked permission to invite a couple of ‘extra’ folks that wanted trained. We did 3 breakouts, one in the kitchen, one in the dining room and one in the living room. It worked out great. We weren’t going to wait 6 or 7 months for the next scheduled training. They call that ‘Training on Demand’… Should never have gotten away from it.

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Fair and I mostly mean schedule stuff for Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I wish Sunday morning, but I get why that often won’t work either.

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Isnt that what Roundtable is for? In-person leader training. I did all the in-person cub training before it went online… in every case, it was either stuff i already knew or boring outdated horribly acted videos.

If it isn’t hands-on, it’s useless as in-person adult training.

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