Trainer Righteousness and Our Role in Supporting Units
- Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a debate over the virtues of
delegation of training responsibilities to the unit versus the district
training teams. Many have argued that:
- ONLY the "blessed" training staff can deliver the training program
- Certainly, the lowly, non-TDC exposed people in the units can't be
"trusted" to train their peers.
- They might get something wrong.
- Attendance at training courses is the sole solution to "fix" poorly
Well, my friends, the good people in the units are the ones, for better or
worse, who deliver the program on a daily basis. They do it with or without
the benefit of training, and for many youth, they do a decent job. Scouting
even encourages adaptations from the "norm" to meet the needs of the
Just like many of our units, training teams are not perfect. For example,
training teams all over the country have "adapted" the national syllabus to
meet the specific needs of their districts. Some of these adaptations have
taken on lives of their own and we have forgotten when and why they were
started. From a national council perspective, rebaselining the program every
few years has the nice effect of pressing "restart" on the district training
programs and bringing everyone back to the core.
Further on the downside, training teams have also caused misinformation to
propagate when a trainer accidentally answers a question incorrectly or
turns a best practice idea into a mandatory requirement by using the word
"must" instead of "should" (misinformation examples recently discussed on
this list: The idea that two-deep is a "requirement" for meetings or that
holding a youth that needs comfort in your lap is a YPP violation).
But what benefits can training offer to a volunteer? I can think of three
1) a good leader can be made aware of the resources available to them to
conduct the best and safest program possible for the youth they serve.
2) an awareness that others share the same questions about how to be an
effective leader (reduces fear)
3) the motivation that comes from the awareness that we are part of a bigger
What will training not do?
Training will not make a poor leader better, or cause an evil leader to do
good (e.g. YPT does not fix child abusers). Training will not make a leader
bent on running their own program comply with the national standards.
My experience as a District Commissioner tells me that a good program starts
with selecting quality leaders. Training helps these quality leaders fulfill
their pre-existing good intentions. Quality leaders are best selected by a
deliberate process by their chartered organizations. And don't forget
(despite the actions and words of many professionals) that districts and
councils are really cooperative endeavors of our chartered organizations. We
exist to serve our units, not the other way around.
I fully support the objective of having 100% trained leaders, rather than
just well attended training courses. To achieve this objective, we need to
be thinking anew about what is the essential magic that training provides
and how we might be able to offer this magic to people who are reluctant or
unable to give up a Saturday. Where there is distrust of the
district/council in a unit, perhaps they might just trust someone in their
unit to provide the training. And while this may not be the best training
available, it can still provide the core benefits. After all, in Boy
Scouts, we're all about facilitating the transfer of knowledge from boy to
boy, and we KNOW that its not done in completion or perfection. But it sure
Have faith in your fellow volunteers. And thanks for your service to
Bob Knudson, Vice Chairman
Gateway District, Denver Area Council BSA
Our Vision: "A Cohesive Community Living the Ideals of Scouting"
- Bob Knudson outlined some of the advantages and disadvantages of group
training vs training within the unit. He stated that "Many have argued
that: - ONLY the "blessed" training staff can deliver the training
program correctly." <snip>
First let me state that I have a problem with delegating training to
someone within the unit and it has nothing to do with the "blessed"
It has been my experience that often times in units there are more hats
than people to wear them, so there are a few people who, out of
necessity, wear more than one hat. Then sometimes, because of lack of
time, some "requirements" are shorted or just plain overlooked. Things
kind of get skewed out of shape. As the leadership turns over,
especially on the Cub level where turnover is more rapid, but also on
the Boy Scout level, the new leaders seem to learn by example, the
skewed method that has evolved through no negative intent, but through
time and necessity. It is really interesting as a trainer to see the
"lights" come on when these new leaders come through training. Just
within the past week I did some personal coaching with a Pack CC who was
totally confused about leader responsbilities and how to get her Pack
On the Troop level, the prime example around here is the way that Boards
of Review are conducted. When new leaders come to BS Basic, some of
them have already been "trained" in their units and will actually argue
that the mateials as presented in the syllabus are not correct.
<snip> Have faith in your fellow volunteers. And thanks for your
service to scouting. <snip>
I do have faith in my fellow volunteers, but do not feel that every unit
has two or three people who will give the time it takes to be a good
trainer and keep abreast of the latest information that is available.
This feeling is supported monthly when I do Youth Protection training
and ask how many people know about the Youth Protection materials
available for our youth members. It is obvious that this part of the
program is not widely utilized in our District.
On the other side of the coin, training within the unit in some areas
might be the only way to get people trained. However, in a densely
populated area like ours, it just is not the optimum choice.
Of course, your mileage may vary.