Keeping your boys excited about attending Scouts each week should be part of your planning. Understanding the characteristics of eleven-year-old boys will help you design meetings with your eleven-year-old (EYO) Scout patrol leader that has all your EYO Scouts eager to attend each week. My approach as an EYO Scout leader was that the boys would come for the games, but walk away with intangibles such as: a greater sense of camaraderie, improved patrol unity, and increased desire to return for the next meeting.
I learned early in my Scouting career the importance of using games as part of every patrol meeting or outing to teach Scouting values and skills. Weekly I would meet with the EYO patrol leader and use the Troop Meeting Plan (34425). Part five of a troop meeting is the interpatrol activity. Here, with the patrol leader, we would insert games that the EYO Scouts grew to love.
Most Scouting games are lessons without teachers. Games strengthen fitness, stretch mental ability, build friendship, and develop group unity. But most of all, games are fun.
I use games because through games Scouts learn new skills and develop new interests. As they learn to follow the rules, they experience fair play. Games help boys learn to wait their turn and to respect the rights of others (basic citizenship).
“Scouts like games in which there is a sizable element of luck. They do not require prizes, nor do they seem to worry if the game is not finished. Boys like games which restart almost automatically, so that everyone is given a new chance. Scouts like games whereby they gain the reassurance that comes with repetition.” (Gary Hendra and Gary Yerkes, The MacScouter’s Big Book of Games—Volume I, for Younger Scouts January 1997, 1)
There are many categories of games so you should be able to choose one that fits your meeting. Categories include: informal games, stalking games, outdoor games, line games, circle games, relay games of tag, games of strength, quiet games, stunts, and those requiring Scouting skills. Most games can be found online at websites such as the US Scouting Service Project (http://www.usscouts.org/), but I found the active games in the Den Chief Handbook to be very useful with EYO Scouts.
A few remarks on conducting games. Know the game well and the area needed before teaching it. Have all the necessary equipment on hand. Be sure to remove all possible hazards from the game area. Have the full attention of the group before trying to explain the rules of the game (easily done with the Scout sign and saying, “Let’s play a game.”). Use the EDGE method (explain, demonstrate, guide, and enable): introduce the game, name it, demonstrate it, ask for questions, and then start it. Always insist on fair play. If a game is going badly, stop it, explain it again, and then try the game once more.
Most importantly stop the game while still having fun; don’t overplay a game. A successful game will be more in demand if it is stopped while it is still being enjoyed.
Many of the feelings a young man develops about attending church and going to Scouts is directly related to how much fun and joy he experiences attending meetings. Consistent meetings that incorporate games and deliver the fun and joy of Scouting leave lasting and strong impressions that, “This is the right place for me.” Through games, young men develop a strong sense of belonging and positive association with their fellow patrol members, the Church, and the priesthood. It deepens their desire for regular and consistent attendance. They come to know that they are loved and that there is a place for them.
So as you plan your EYO patrol meetings, do not forget to include games. Make games a regular part of every patrol meeting and outing. If you do this, your young men will dash into your meetings filled with excitement and anticipation—anticipation that will last all week exuberant for the next meeting.
-Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. His current positions include district roundtable commissioner, district Cub Scout training chairman, and assistant Scoutmaster for a new Scout troop. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.