The Patrol Method is the foundation of every troop. Within a successful patrol, Scouts develop a camaraderie that can turn into lifelong friendships. What I’m about to share with you was my troop’s secret method of consistently forming award-winning patrols that stuck together.
When creating a new patrol, it’s best to include both older and younger Scouts. The younger scouts can learn from the older Scouts, and the older Scouts will be able to practice leadership. A patrol typically has between 6-12 members, but this can vary with the size of a troop. Scouts will plan camping meals and other activities as a patrol.
Since the main objective of any patrol should be to promote the growth of its members, there are a few factors to take into account when deciding the best way to set up a patrol. What we’ll be covering in this article are the most effective ways that I’ve found to create a successful patrol. If you follow along, you’ll have a great patrol in no time!
Elements Of An Exceptional Patrol
Every troop is different, which is why there is no one-size-fits-all to creating a great patrol. However, to create the best patrol possible, there are 4 elements that must be considered:
- The Number Of Scouts In The Patrol
- The Age Of Members In The Patrol
- The Leadership Style Of The Patrol
- The Meeting Plan Of The Patrol
A patrol is nothing but individual scouts working together. That’s why it’s so essential for leaders to create a positive environment that supports teamwork and bonding. Click here for my guide to becoming a great patrol leader! By making sure that each member will be able to learn and grow from the others, a scout patrol can reach its full potential.
The easiest thing to decide on is patrol size. Too many members and teamwork suffers. Too few and the patrol members are overworked. Depending on your troop size, I’ll give you the perfect way of determining how many scouts should be in a patrol.
Before we get into specific recommendations, watch this quick video (2:21) outlining the patrol method. It’ll give you a solid overview to better understand the rest of the article:
1) How Many Scouts Should Be In A Patrol?
The founder of Boy Scouts, Lord Baden-Powell, recommended patrols of 6-8 scouts. In my troop, which was on the larger end (typically around 30 active scouts per event), we had around 14 members in each patrol. However, because of absences, there were usually around 10 Scouts in attendance. Especially for scout camp activities, 10 members was the ideal patrol size for us.
In a larger troop, I’d say 12 is the magic number for a patrol. In most cases, 1/6 of a patrol is absent at any time. This means that with 10 members, both the patrol leader and assistant patrol leader can be responsible for 4 scouts each, or delegate responsibility to a third scout within the patrol. In larger troops, the scout per patrol count can be higher, but should never exceed 18 in total.
This patrol size will allow every scout to be heard and their opinions taken into account. It can create an atmosphere where every scout is comfortable providing input and feels valued. By then having the right mix of young and old scouts in a patrol, younger scouts can more effectively learn from older scouts, whereas older scouts can develop their leadership skills.
2) What Are The Types Of Patrols?
The ‘type of patrol’ in Boy Scouts refers to the ages of the scouts within the patrol. There are two types of patrols:
- Same-age Patrols: Patrol members are the same age
- Mixed-age Patrols: Older and younger scouts within patrol
Within same-age patrols there are three classifications:
- New-scout Patrols: Scouts below First Class or 1 year in the troop
- Regular Patrols: Mid-age scouts within a troop (most patrols)
- Older-scout Patrols: Scouts who are almost Eagle/high school
The issue with the same-age patrols is that they separate older and younger scouts. Older scouts aren’t able to practice leadership, and younger scouts aren’t able to learn from older ones. Mixed-age patrols, on the other hand, have older and younger scouts. I prefer mixed-age patrols because of a few advantages:
- Older members can practice leading younger members
- The patrols become more evenly matched and competitive
- Younger scouts can practice interacting with older scouts
- Entire patrols don’t age out of Scouting at the same time
In my troop, we had exclusively mixed-age patrols, with some patrols having a higher average age than others. A few patrols leaned more towards mainly older-scouts, while others mainly had younger scouts. This created a great balance of giving older scouts space, yet fostered an environment where the younger scouts felt included as well.
Depending on the size of your troop and ratio of young to old scouts, there are different ways of forming your patrols. A good rule of thumb is to have twice as many younger scouts to older scouts in a patrol. However, this does not need to be the case as scouts can be grouped in the same way based on leadership experience. The most important thing to keep in mind is to form patrols with the goal of creating a cooperative and supportive environment.
3) How Should A Patrol Be Lead?
A patrol is typically led by the patrol leader and assistant patrol leader. The patrol leader is often an older scout while the assistant patrol leader can be in the middle of the patrol’s age range. This gives the assistant patrol leader an opportunity to practice their leadership under a more experienced leader. Mixed patrols are often stronger and easier to lead than same-age patrols.
Because of an ideal patrol’s intimate size, every member should have the chance to add their own input. This will teach younger scouts to advocate for themselves as well as to make compromises for the sake of a group. Eventually, these scouts may become leaders in the same patrol, and use their experience to teach scouts who have joined after them.
When helping to run a patrol, you should also be aware of the 5 crucial leadership mistakes that most scouts make. These leadership blunders are so important to be aware of that I’ve created a full article that’ll not only teach you how to identify them — but how to fix these mistakes as well!
By creating an open environment with scouts of different age ranges, a patrol can be lead more effectively and with its member’s growth in mind. Having stronger patrols creates a more fun environment where friendly competitions can be held within the troop. The teamwork built during these challenges will be some of the most important and valuable skills and skill could learn.
4) How Should A Patrol Meet And Make Plans?
When planning a patrol activity, every member should be encouraged to share their input. The assistant patrol leader is typically the one who will work with younger scouts who are newly adjusting to Scouting. Scouts usually find they spend half of their time is as part of a patrol, and the other half as an entire troop. This creates a balance and allows them to appreciate the camaraderie of patrol life even more.
Patrols spend the most time together during camps, yet may also meet to work on patrol activities during troop meetings. It is the responsibility of the patrol leader to organize the patrol members. Oftentimes the patrol will meet during a meeting in preparation for a campout. The main tasks on a camp duty roster are:
- Fire & Water
These tasks assigned for each meal are intended to break up the work amongst a patrol during a campout. Tasks should typically be done in groups of 2, giving a few patrol members time off during at least one of the meals. Usually, scouts can select which roles they will fill, however, sometimes the patrol leader can assign roles.
Time within a patrol can be spent working on advancement requirements, playing games, or encouraging patrol spirit. By creating a patrol name, flag, and yell, you’ll create a tight-knit patrol that every member can be proud of. Patrols usually remain together for at least half a year, so it’s important to foster a great culture within your patrol.
If you’re currently a patrol leader or planning on becoming one, you need to check out my Eagle-approved guide on becoming a great leader here. Learning these lessons changed my life, and I expect they’ll change yours as well.
The quality of a troop is determined by the quality of its patrols. Creating a great patrol can be a challenge at first, but will be immensely rewarding later on. By using these four secrets, the patrol method can help new scouts learn more quickly and give older scouts a chance to build their leadership abilities.
Since having patrol spirit not only makes scouting more fun but also causes your troop to look better, it’s crucial to have an excellent patrol name, yell and flag. If you haven’t already, you can see how to take yours to the next level in my article here. Some of my best times in Scouting have come from belonging to a great patrol, and I want you to be able to experience the same thing.
Most importantly, Scouting should be about experiencing the outdoors and building friendships. Creating diverse patrols with this goal in mind will create more driven scouts and leaders. With a focus on how to create the best patrols possible, you’ll be able to make the most out of your Scouting experience!