Competition Introduction

 

 

 

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By Rick Seymour

Traditional Patrol Competitions were based on point systems. The points were always translated into a graph of some sort to provide a visual representation of where each Patrol stood in relation to the other Patrols. These graphs could be a simple bar graph with a theme, such as those used by non-profit organizations to measure progress in fund raising towards a specific goal.

In the golden era of Scouting, more elaborate "graphs" were devised.  One example was the painting of a river landscape at the top of the walls of the Scout Room. Each Patrol was represented by a canoe, and the relative position of each Patrol was measured by their position in a "canoe race" around the tops of the walls of the Scout Room.

With point systems comes the temptation to subtract points for bad behavior.  This is not in the spirit of the Patrol Competitions which, since the very beginning of Scouting, has always been about what we now call "positive reinforcement".  As William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt wrote in 1936, 

Experience has definitely shown that it is unwise to include any demerits or penalties in a point contest of this kind. It is agreed that a positive stimulus is much better than a negative threat or punishment.

The point color chart is based on awarding ribbons rather than points. Attaching ribbons to the Patrol's Flag is better than keeping track through a point system because it reinforces the need for a Patrol Flag, and can provide a rich visual history of the Patrol's triumphs over the years.

The colors in the chart are based on the colors in the assortments of feathers available at craft stores.  This allows for more elaborate ribbon award designs, if desired.  

Sometimes we also attach an inexpensive small bell (also available at craft stores) to each ribbon earned at a monthly campout.  This is helpful if ribbons earned at campouts count more than those earned at weekly meetings.

A Patrol Competition should run for a limited length of time, say a season or less. To make it easier to distinguish one season's competition from the next while counting the ribbons, each season is indicated by the color of the yarn that attaches it to the flag staff, say: 
bullet Spring = Green
bullet Summer = Blue 
bullet Fall = Red
bullet Winter = White. 

In turn, the year is indicated by a different bead or combination of beads on each piece of yarn.

It is helpful to have a traditional Troop Opening, where the Patrol Leaders are asked to report their Patrol's activities. When the SPL always asks for this report, it encourages the Patrols to meet so as to have something to report! See: Troop Meeting Openings

The basic idea behind Patrol Competitions is to encourage the behavior that you want. The Scoutmaster should take an active role in helping the PLC design the competition the first time, unless the Patrol Method is already firmly established in your Troop. It is up to the Scoutmaster to explain how Scouting works, not to wait around until the Scouts discover the Patrol Method on their own through trial and error. 

The system below encourages two kinds of behavior. The first is Traditional Scouting skills, such as introducing new Skits, Songs, and real Scouting Games; teaching a Scoutcraft skill, orderly conduct, and so on.

The second is the actual Patrol Method. The best overview of the Patrol Method can be found in the requirements for the National Honor Patrol Award (formerly the Baden-Powell Award) found on Page 23 of the BSA Handbook.

In the past we have awarded the winning Patrol with a Patrol Campout in which only the winning Patrol goes camping. But it can be very hard to squeeze this into an already crowded calendar. I hope readers might contribute some ideas here for other rewards.

Color Chart for Patrol Competitions

 

 

   

 

 


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Last modified: October 15, 2016.