Friday, July 01, 2005


BSA rolls out a new product

The Boy Scouts of America, which has been experiencing membership declines and also has been plagued with membership fraud, has rolled out a new product: Soccer bundled with Cub Scouts. The idea is to attract Hispanic/Latino/Mexican boys to cub scouting by hooking them with a soccer program.

Setting aside management issues such as "Sticking to the knitting" and the question of whether this program would result in yet more membership inflation, the following
excerpt from the FAQ's is rather interesting:

Q: Besides schools, churches, and community-based organizations endorsed by BSA, can a youth-serving executive approach existing soccer leagues as prospective chartered organizations for new Soccer and Scouting units?
A: Though the idea of approaching already existing soccer leagues to charter new units would seem enticing to any membership-minded youth-serving executive, we don't recommend this approach for two reasons. First, youth soccer leagues are governed by their own rules and regulations set forth by their national soccer organizations. These rules and regulations may conflict with some of BSA's membership standards. Second, most soccer leagues focus their programs in the spring or fall and don't offer a year-round program. Soccer and Scouting offers a year-round character-building experience for young people.

I have bolded two items: (1) "membership-minded youth-serving executive". Wow! Jargon can be rather revealing about organizational culture. In this case, it shows the heavy emphasis on boosting membership numbers.

(2) BSA's membership standards ... well, seeing as the BSA has gone to court to protect its right to engage in religious discrimination against prospective cub scouts, and since many soccer leagues, including the one I am involved in, do not practice religious discrimination, I can see how that could be a problem.

As to the soccer program itself, after reviewing the FAQ's, even if there was no religious test for participation, I would not put my child in this program. The program that I currently work in, Fun Fair Positive Soccer, is constructed with particular care to balance the skill of the teams, there are specific rules as to parent behavior, the league is set up to have a set number of children on each team, and the children rotate using an equal substitution system that strives for each child to play each position. In short, a great deal of time and effort has been spent to design a superb soccer program. What is the BSA's approach to issues like this?

Unbalance in the skill level - "coaches are asked to move strong players to defense or rotate them out of the game for brief periods of time". This is patently unfair. Children should not be penalized for being good players. "The pack/league head coach has the authority to reassign a player to a different team if teams are significantly imbalanced with regard to talent.". The better plan would be to balance the teams from the beginning - but that would not necessarily promote the cub scout portion of the program.

Team size - "A: Not having enough volunteers, unfortunately, can affect the quality of the program offering. But here are the best ways to work around this issue. First, instead of one coach and two parent helpers per team, you could lower that to one volunteer per team. The only other option, which you would try to avoid, is to increase the size of the teams to reallocate the volunteers according to availability." Increase the size of the team? Seems a bit strange to me. How would you devise a fair rotation, and is it fair to the opposing team for one team to have more members (more time to rest).

Basically, it seems to me that this blended program would not deliver a superiour soccer experience. Whether the scouting experience is as good as joining a cub scout troop, I could not say.
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