Scouting Forums

SPL elections

We are planning on holding our SPL election this week as well as reorganizing the patrols and having them elect their patrol leader. We currently have 17 scouts, is there a minimum number of scouts that are needed to hold the SPL election?
Thank you.

There is no national minimum. Have you considered asking the Patrol Leaders’ Council (PLC) what they think? Do they think there should be a minimum number of Scouts present to vote?

1 Like

Thanks Jennifer for the quick reply. I’ll get them together before the meeting starts and ask them what they think and want to do. I’m guessing that they will hold the vote with what ever number of scouts show up. We already postponed it once.
Thanks again.

The only thing I would be careful about is making sure you have enough Scouts there to fairly represent the Troop. Our PLC established the rule that we had to have at least half the registered Scouts plus one at a meeting for an election to be official.

Why reorganize patrols? Was there a mutiny in one of them?
Consider this: if only have two patrols, why do you need an SPL?

1 Like

Why wouldn’t you have an SPL? You may not need an ASPL, but I would think you need an SPL even with only 2 patrols.


Also I would remind the kids what they leadership spots they would need for rank advancement.

Two PLs can coordinate with one another without a middleman. One opens the meeting, the other closes. One provides the game, the other picks a topic/invites a guest speaker.
Between them and the two APL’s, they can pick who should hold significant troop-facing positions like QM, Instructor, Scribe, Librarian, Historian, etc …

In a small troop, pulling a scout away from those work-heavy positions for largely unnecessary bureaucracy leads to important work not getting done.

A more important job: recruiting more buddies to join your troop!

An SPL/ASPL start to become necessary when a troop exceeds 24 (enough for 3 patrols). Then the PLC itself is a “leadership patrol” of 8, and the need for some coordination becomes quite evident.

i’m just curious how you have enough leadership positions available for Eagle if you don’t have SPL/ASPL until you have 24 scouts in a troop. APL’s don’t count for leadership. Also curious who the quartermaster, scribe and other non-patrol leader leadership positions report to if there is no ASPL. Do you put all that work on your patrol leaders too? Who runs your PLC meetings?
Just interested to see if you are part of a troop that runs that way?



I don’t agree that you don’t need an SPL to manage a small troop. Two leaders really means no leaders…


Great questions. Here’s my operational rules based on what boys can learn from the PL handbook.

  1. NEVER assign a position based on need for rank advancement. Only assign positions because there’s a job that has to be done and there’s a youth willing and able to do it.

  2. The one who does the work holds the position – regardless of what’s worn on a sleeve. For those of you not comfortable with how that sounds: the corollary is, swiftly remove a scout from a position if they aren’t/can’t do the work.

  3. Being answerable for your PoR to the only two PLs in a small troop is the same as being answerable to an SPL and ASPL in a large troop. Given the opportunity, the under-performing scout will hide his sloppiness behind a bureaucracy.

There are currently 13 possible PoRs besides SPL/APL ( note that the small troop diagrammed on this page has an older scout patrol and younger scout patrol – very different groups for whom an SPL may indeed be a good go-between), and some of those (PL, Instructor, Guide, Den Chief, JASM) you might need multple of. Plus there are SM-assigned troop service projects. Youth who also are dual registered in a crew have access to other opportunities.

Two leaders means two leaders. Period. Do those two leaders need a third youth to manage them? Ask the SM who’s been working with the scouts.

All I’m saying is if you have two similarly aged patrols and couple of solid PLs. Foisting one more leader on your youth might not be the way to go when there are a lot of other jobs to do.

Interesting answer, which makes some sense. I’m still left wondering about a couple of things that were part of my original questions. In your scenario do the PL’s run not only their patrols but also the PLC and oversee all of the other positions. Alot of work for 2 guys in a troop up to 24 in size.
As far having other positions. If a troop needs mutiple instructors, guides or JASM’s to run the troop why would there not be a need for a senior patrol leader.

I agree that the boys should not be appointed by advancement need but sometimes an appointment to a position helps a scout to grow beyond what they may be now. If you only keep those who can do the job immediately to someones satisfaction what happens to that Scout? I don’t think it’s that cut and dried.
Will some scouts fail. Without a doubt. But you may not know if they aren’t given a second chance.
Thanks for the response.


So, our troop has about 14 scouts that are active. He just held our nominations. First we had nominations for SPL and PL’s. We have two patrols. If the scout is nominated for SPL or PL they could either accept or reject the nomination, their choice. Then the following week we will hold elections, All scouts nominated are required to give a speech to the troop for why they want to be elected to either SPL or PL. We have some that are nominated for both positions, so they need to have 2 seperate speeches prepared. We hold SPL elections first, Once the SPL has been elected then we have the elections for PL. Since we have 2 patrols, the top 2 vote getters are elected for patrol leader. Also for the troop to even hold elections the troop must have atleast a majority of scouts present (50% plus 1) to hold an election. And since we will more than likely have new first time patrol leaders, they have already informed me that they want to rename their patrols. We also have the newly elected SPL name his ASPL. Once the SPL, ASPL and PL’s have been named, the other scouts will coordinate with the SPL on what Positions of responsibilities they want.

Remember, as they get close to 24 scouts, someone’s probably going to spin off a patrol naturally … e.g. The six guys who are always going to the gun club and football games are going to have their own schedule and make and plan their camp outs accordingly. Up until that point, the QM’s job is easy, either his patrol turned in the wet tent or the other one did. There are one of two patrol leaders to ask to rectify the situation. Same for scribe or librarian. If this budding “patrol” is off doing their own thing, there is no new work. If they need troop resources or everyone feels that the troop is working around them, it might be time to expand the PLC. If they are getting the troop into their activities, then they might be your new leadership pool. Until then, an SPL is not doing much for anyone.

If the troop needs multiple instructors, it’s usually because two scouts have mastered different skills (e.g., land navigation vs. pioneering) and they balance each other nicely. The two PLs then schedule them at different times. Again, we’re talking about two scouts coordinating assistance from two other scouts. Asking a third to be their go-between is a drag on that process.

Regarding holding positions, let’s make a distinction between a scout who is trying and sometimes fumbling, and the scout who won’t lift a finger. The former needs encouragement, and I’d encourage the PLs to stay positive with the kid. My suggestion for the total slacker is to suspend a scout from a position that he/she’s not doing and either provide a service project or offer to conference in a couple weeks to discuss if he/she ready to put some serious work (which in reality is often about an hour a month) into their job.

In our experience, the smaller the troop roster, it is better to have a higher percentage of scouts present. That ‘usually’ ensures that the biggest cross-section of scouts is represented. However, we don’t have a set # or quorum to meet.
Often, it’s the SM and SPL evaluating that day if attendance happens to be low and deciding if it’s the right time to hold the election. But there can be a number of different ways to handle it.

Just some thoughts to ponder…

  • As a point of information, in the scenario where troops with 24+ get an SPL, our troop would never have had an SPL in the last 7 years.
  • Every troop may have variations that need specific alternatives, but we regard the position of SPL as an opportunity to learn how to work one on one with the Scoutmaster, then learn to work with and delegate to the PL’s and ASPL. 2 PL’s never really puts the burden on 1 scout teaching them how to deal with being in a position of responsibility all by themselves. They always have the other PL to lean on (or in a bad situation blame?) and neither learns about the ‘buck stops here’ mind set.
  • While many SM’s may have the time to work 1:1 with two different scouts, with 2 sharing leadership, it would almost always be a 1:2 relationship on learning how to lead and manage if you want to maintain a good flow of communication. * I agree with SteveCagigas. Not many organizations I can think of that have 2 ‘leaders’ - (1 CEO, 1 President, 1 Chairman, etc…).
  • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recommendation, suggestion or guidance from BSA saying that an SPL isn’t needed.
  • We tried an experiment a few years ago with 2 “co-SPL’s” (similar to having 2 PL’s share the job). It did not work very well.
    I guess I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to have an SPL and utilize an Org structure you linked to above history shows has usually worked out well. It appears there are so many more potential pitfalls and cons this the PL leadership model you have laid out.
1 Like

I thought long and hard on this when starting our new girl troop. I knew others starting with PLs but I thought about my experiences in adult training and Wood Badge- how those participants were organized and grown into dens and patrols from a central Troop/Pack core identity.

Even though we only had enough youth for 1 patrol at the beginning, we started with the SPL/ASPL. As a whole, we decided which other troop leadership positions were necessary- scribe, quartermaster, etc. and elected those

The girls understood as we grew, we would split into 2 patrols with Patrol Leaders- which we have done pretty seamlessly- having the stability of the SPL/ASPL to oversee the process. It’s also allowed the youth to be the ones truly creating and managing the larger Troop structure, instead of the adults. As a result, our Scouts feel we’re much better organized than other units and they feel they are truly the ones running the program.


I think many comments here are strong indicators of adult led troops.

Now my troop started as adult led as it started with my Webelos den with an average age of 10.7 years. They had no idea about anything. We had 7 scouts and they elected an SPL and a PL. And I would highly recommend EVERY troop have an SPL.

First, it splits up the duties. The SPL leads “troop” activities and PL patrol things. It also helps them gain understanding of where things split.

Moving past that, it is the scouts who should decide how patrols are organized. And they should decide on any reorganization. As we split, there were some minor realignments that the scouts decided. I was an advisor.


From some publications I have read in the past, it said even if you have only two scouts you should have two patrols and an SPL. This will create competition and teamwork. Definitely, have an SPL no matter how big or small your troop is. As for elections I agree have your patrol council vote how many would need be there but, I wouldn’t keep rescheduling it.

First you need 5 scouts to start or maintain a troop by BSA rules. (There is a temporary exception for female troops allowing for four to help the program get off the ground.)

There is a point at which a patrol ceases to actually function as a patrol. My (very real) experience is that patrols become iffy at 4 and not real at 3.

But… for the most part the adults should be providing guidance and trust the scouts to do the right thing. If you are pushing principles my experience the scouts will often follow close or exactly what the SM suggests. (But please give room for them to meander and find exactly what works. They are good at it.)