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A Scout Leader’s Duty- Protect and Challenge

In a post on the Scout Forum, I asked about 12 words that best described a Scout. I received a couple of posts and added my suggestion. There are several words that describe our responsibility as Scout leaders. Two of them, Protect and Challenge, are discussed here.

We all understand our responsibility to protect our youth. We used to use the term “safe haven,” but we learned that no matter how hard we try, we cannot guarantee this safe zone. We use youth protection, two-deep leadership, the buddy system, the Guide to Safe Scouting and other methods to help protect our Scouts from harm.

If Scouting is to be successful and interesting and fun for our youngsters, then we must challenge them to go beyond the borders where they feel safe and comfortable. Going to the first Den meeting at someone else’s home stretches the comfort boundary. A first over night hike. The first 100-yard swim at summer camp and staying at camp for a week. All these activities expand and challenge our Scouts to explore new ground. As our Scouts mature the activities need to get more difficult or strenuous or more challenging to keep their interest. The older they get the more danger they need to feel to make it a challenge. Our job is to provide safe activities that seem dangerous.

One of the best activities that fulfills this need is a ROPES course. This is geared to the older Scout but it demonstrates how a complete challenge can work. I took our Venture crew to a ROPES course on two different occasions. They loved it and would probably have gone every month if we let them. A good course has low level activities to help build team work skills, some thought provoking challenges that teaches participants to “think outside the box,” and some high level activities to press the boundaries and reinforce the team work skills learned earlier.

Our crew was three boys and three girls. They ranged in age from eighth grade to high school seniors. This was a very diverse group. On both visits we spent the first several hours on the low level, team building activities. On the first trip the high level activity was the “pamper pole”- a 35 foot climb up a telephone pole. First they set a team goal. Each member then set a personal goal. The ultimate goal was to stand atop the pole, jump off the pole and try to grab a suspended trapeze while one of the other crew members supported the jumper on a belay line.

No one had climbed the pamper pole before and several were afraid of heights. I was interested in seeing how the dynamics played out. The team goal was to sit on top of the pole. When we completed the activity each crew member had achieved the team goal. As it turned out, everyone also jumped for the trapeze.

The second time we went down a zip line- great fun. We had some time remaining so the crew wanted to ascend the climbing wall. The instructor said that there were six sections of wall and six climbers. At one point per section of wall, out of a possible 36 points, he asked how many points the crew thought they would get. The response was- 36. He asked if they were willing to back that up by doing a pushup for each point they were short of 36. My son said he would do 10 pushups for each point they were short, but he said the instructor had to agree to do 36 pushups if they attained their goal. After trying to get out of a commitment, the instructor agreed, but only if the crew completed the climb in 30 minutes. All six members had completed the climb in 17 minutes. As we walked back to the main area, the somewhat exhausted instructor commented on how well the crew communicated and respected everyone’s opinion.

By facing the unknown and accomplishing something they didn’t know they could, our Scouts learn to face adversity. The unknown becomes less fearful. Can anything be more daunting than jumping off the pamper pole? Well, maybe asking a girl out for the first time.

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