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Baloo's Bugle

May 2007 Cub Scout Roundtable Issue

Volume 13, Issue 10
June 2007 Theme

Theme: Wheel Into Summer
Webelos: Traveler & Handyman
Tiger Cub


Reprise: Seven Things I Learned
Bill Smith, the Roundtable Guy

Back in those early days when I was the Cubmaster of Pack 28 in Jackson, NJ, I took every Cub leader training available. I learned a lot about what I was supposed to do but there were some important subjects that were never covered in those training courses or covered so lightly and so quickly that I never really noticed how important they were.

These I learned by experience, sometimes by making mistakes but, more often, by heeding the advice of others, adding those things to my repertoire, and then seeing that their recommendations were valid.

Here is the first and, I think, the most important one.

Protect and Retain Den Leaders.

The program runs on Den Leaders. Very quickly, I discovered that most of the real work in our pack was done in the dens. A lot of the advancement, the communication with parents, the den spirit, the building of self esteem, and living the ideals of Scouting take place in the den.

Our job running pack meetings and pack activities was mostly to support and encourage the stuff that was going on in the dens and, through the dens, in the homes. Without the work done in the dens and the boys’ homes, we were nothing more than a monthly entertainment show. Only when our show supported and glorified the den achievements, did we became part of Cub Scouting.

Do anything to keep your DL happy and productive. Keeping den leaders is the most important responsibility of all those who support the Cub Scout program. I began to realize this when I was a new Cubmaster but it really struck home when I was given responsibility for membership of a large metropolitan council. When a den or a den leader fails, Scouting stops for those boys.  

A good den leader is precious. To keep good den leaders happy and productive, it’s vital that they are, and feel that they are, valuable and successful. Dens and, in reflection their leaders, must shine at pack meetings and pack activities. Den flags, den cheers and den presentations must be the high lights of pack programs.

There are two classes of Cub Scouters: den leaders and those who help them. If you’re not one or the other, you probably aren’t helping the program much.

Get the best DL. Think of your recruiting like the NFL draft or your fantasy ball team. Den leaders should potentially be the stars of your team. Who has the rapport with the boys? Who seems to be imaginative and creative? Who is organized and goal directed? Who might get the cooperation and support of other parents? Who can bring fun and excitement to this den? Choose the best.

Support your DL..  Make sure they get trained. Sit with them through Fast Start and take them to training so you can be there to answer their questions and give encouragement. The Pack Trainer, the Cubmaster and the Pack Chair, all should be responsible for making sure this happens.

Help them getting assistance. Some den leaders like one or more assistant den leaders who are always there and others seem to prefer a continuation of what went on with Tigers and like a rotation of parental help. In any case, those who help at den meetings should at least go through Fast Start and as much other training as is practicable for your pack.

If at all possible, get them Den Chiefs (but more on that in months to come.)

Supply resource material. Your pack budget should cover the costs of at least Program Helps and a copy of the How-To Book for each den. If your leaders have access to the internet, provide them with the url of best resources. Build a good back library of Pow Wow books, back issues of Program Helps, other literature and CDs. Above all, get den leaders to your local Roundtable. If you feel your Roundtable needs improvement, rise up and make it better. Remember it’s your boys that benefit.

Don't let anyone pile extra duties on your DL. They are not someone's personal messenger or delivery boy and especially they are not your wait staff at the Blue and Gold Banquet.

When some new opportunity shows up in a Cub Pack that requires some organizing or record keeping it is customary to say, “Oh, the den leaders can do that.” That is courting disaster. There must be someone in every pack who stands firm and protects the dens.

Provide dens with star opportunities. Schedule regular spots at pack meetings for dens to perform. Leading ceremonies, acting out skits, leading songs, doing run-ons should make up a lot of your pack meetings. Expect displays of big projects and reports of special activities and go-see-its.

The opportunity to share the spotlight at the monthly pack extravaganza gives dens the incentive to prepare. Without this, dens often resort to mostly advancement work and den meetings resemble school more than Cub Scouting adventure.

DL’s only job is to lead the den. Leading a den is a long and tough job. Those Tuesday (or whenever) meeting times inexorably roll around every week, ready or not. The DL has to be ready with games, ceremonies, encouragement, materials, and all the other magic in his/her bag of tricks as the gang in blue burst through the door.

There is a strange belief that anyone can lead a den. People who run round-ups are fond of using that myth so they can collect the applications and go home. Yes, it’s easy to run one den meeting for any reasonably able adult who has taken Fast Start and has a copy of Program Helps firmly in hand. I have done it on occasion so I can imagine that most people can. However it’s not just one meeting. It’s years of meetings.

There will be days when thing go badly. There will be the boy who had a bad day at school,  the boy being picked by an older sibling, one whose pet gerbil died, or the one whose parent are fighting. There will be times when the big game just doesn’t work and day when the material for that fabulous project is just plain wrong. When boys don’t bring their books; when parents forget their promises. It only takes a few of these –say the four in November – to make a DL question why on earth are we doing this anyway.

Yet, the best den leaders I have met (and I have met hundreds) revel in what they have accomplished. They have indelibly shaped the minds and spirits of each one of that gang in blue. I think that Julie Erickson described it best in her wonderful poem I Am A Den Leader.

I do wish that the only time den leaders quit before their boys cross over to troops is when they have won the lottery jack pot and have retired to Tahiti to bask in the sun and sip cold drinks. They deserve it.

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