What A Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) Does: Duties, Tips, And Advice


The position of Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) is recognized as Scouting’s highest youth leadership role. If you’re elected as your troop’s SPL, not only is it your duty to lead almost all of the activities your troop has planned, you must also to act as a liaison between the scouts and your adult leaders! 

According to Scouts BSA[An SPL] shoulders the responsibility for leading meetings of the troop and the patrol leaders’ council. [SPLs] provide valuable leadership in planning and carrying out the troop’s program of outdoor activities, service projects, and events.

Kevin and I understand this fact well, as we both have experience serving as our troop’s SPL and ASPL! In this article, we’ll be helping you to understand the role better, and going over some key tips for fulfilling your duties as a Senior Patrol Leader. That way, you’ll be prepared to succeed in the position and represent your troop well!

PS. This article is based on the experiences and research of Eagle Scouts, Kevin A, and Cole 🙂

As a new SPL, if you feel as though you’re not ready for the responsibility of the position, don’t worry. I felt the same way when I became my troop’s SPL! What I learned though, was that as long as you’re trying earnestly to put the needs of your troop first and foremost, your Scoutmaster, adult leaders, and fellow scouts will all support you. 

Even if times get tough (and there will be tough times — after all, this is your true test as a leader!) trust that you have it in you to be an exceptional SPL and leader for your troop. Remember, your fellow scouts elected you into this position because they truly believe that you’re the person who can help their troop the most! And they’re right, so have confidence. 😉

If you’ve been in leadership positions for some time, you’ve probably picked up on a few bad habits, unconsciously! These can really hold you back when acting as your troop’s SPL, so I’d highly recommend checking out my article on the 5 Most Crucial (and Common) Leadership Mistakes You’re Probably Making.

In the Leadership Mistakes article, I’ll give you some simple steps to actually fix these mistakes and become a better leader! Click the link above to open the post in a new tab. Then, come back to it once you’re done reading this one!

Now, with that all being said, you’re probably wondering what types of SPL duties you’ll be responsible for throughout your term! I applaud you for taking the initiative to learn this yourself instead of waiting for others to tell you what to do. So, without further ado, let’s begin with Senior Patrol Leader duty #1! 

1) Run All Troop Meetings, Events, Activities, and the Annual Program Planning Conference

Throughout your term as Senior Patrol Leader, you’ll be tasked with running all of your troop’s meetings, events, and activities. To do this, you’ll need to be decisive, stay organized, and communicate clearly (For help, check out my Ultimate Guide to the Communication Merit Badge).
Five of the main tasks you’ll be doing as SPL include:

  1. Deciding how troop meetings will be run
  2. Arriving early to set up and staying late to put things away
  3. Announcing updates on events that have been planned/announcing new events 
  4. Communicating with Patrol Leaders and Adult Leaders to keep everyone in the loop
  5. Delegating responsibilities that come up in order to resolve problems

I’d also recommend watching the following video (5:59) for 9 useful tips on how to gain your troop’s respect as a new SPL!

On top of the points I’ve listed, as well as what you’ve learned in the video, there will probably be a ton of other things your adult leaders will ask you to handle during troop functions. That’s why, a key part of being a great SPL is the ability to delegate! By understanding what’s being requested, choosing a capable scout, and then clearly communicating what you need them to do, you’ll be able to handle countless responsibilities!

You’ll also need to be prepared to make decisions that’ll answer questions thrown your way during Patrol Leaders’ Council (PLC) meetings. It’s your responsibility, as the Senior Patrol Leader, to provide answers for scouts and adult leaders alike, so that everyone’s kept in the loop.

While it’s not technically an official responsibility, as SPL you should really try your best to attend every troop meeting that you can possibly can. Although you likely have school and other commitments, your troop is depending on your leadership! If you absolutely must miss something, let your Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL) know, beforehand, so they can take over for you.

2) Run Monthly Patrol Leaders’ Council (PLC) Meetings 

As the Senior Patrol leader, one of your main duties is to run monthly Patrol Leaders’ Council (PLC) meetings, During PLC meetings, the SPL, ASPL, Patrol Leaders, Quartermaster, Scribe, and any other junior leaders go over the next month’s events. At this time, you’ll all discuss any comments or changes that need to be addressed before the activity happens! 

Before any PLC meeting, you should set a clear agenda that your Scribe can follow along with. In my experience, the best PLC meetings are short and to the point. As SPL, you’re responsible for 2 parts of a PLC meeting:

  1. Making sure the meeting is run in an organized fashion where everyone’s voice is heard.
  2. Following up with scouts to ensure that all the tasks are carried out according to plan.

That’s right, it’s also your job to hold scouts accountable so they complete the tasks they’ve committed to during the PLC meeting! Make sure to periodically ask for updates from your PLC members to ensure that everything gets taken care of. That’s really all there is to fulfilling your PLC meeting duties as SPL!

3) Assign Scouts as Junior Leaders With The Counsel of Your Scoutmaster

If there are any scouts you think would be great up-and-coming leaders in your troop, you can ask that they take on more responsibility as a Junior Leader. In this role, scouts are tasked with helping you in your duties. Junior Leaders also often get a closer look at various SPL functions, so delegating this role to scouts really helps to train the next generation of leaders!

While Patrol Leaders can be thought of as Junior Leaders in their own right, what I mean when I use this term are newer scouts in positions of less responsibility.

This could be an ambitious APL, your Chaplain Aide, or really anyone who shows leadership potential! As SPL, you’re in a great position to mentor these scouts so that they can gain guided experience as troop leaders!

Although as SPL you can appoint Junior Leaders, remember that the scout doesn’t have to accept the appointment if they don’t want the position. It’s not your job to force a scout into a role; instead, you should simply recommend to the scout that they’d be a great fit. Most scouts will be proud that you wanted them to take on more responsibility and, if they’re qualified, they’ll surely do a great job!

4) Delegate Duties and Responsibilities to Junior Leaders

As an SPL, a major part of your job will be delegating tasks and responsibilities to your Junior Leaders. Not only will you be the one responsible for delegating these tasks, you’ll also need to hold your Junior Leaders accountable for completing everything. In my experience, the tasks that are best to delegate to Junior Leaders include:

  • Event-related sign-ins and briefings
  • Equipment checks
  • Small group tasks like food setup or trash cleanup
  • Running a small team of scouts to complete some type of mission
  • Coming up with future activities for the troop

While delegating leadership work might not be the most glamorous part of the SPL position, it’s one of the most important things you can do! By trusting your Junior Leaders to complete exciting but manageable tasks, they’ll build skills while lessening your workload. It’s a win-win! 🙂

5) Assist Your Scoutmaster in Training Your Junior Leaders

As SPL, you’re in a great position to work with your Scoutmasters to help train the Junior Leaders into capable troop members. Having gained a ton of leadership experience serving as SPL, part of your duty to the troop is to impart your wisdom onto the next generation of scouts so that they can become successful leaders as well!

Assisting with Junior Leader training could be anything from talking about your own experiences as an SPL to holding a workshop that focuses on leadership development. Here are a few other leadership-building activities you could use to train your Junior leaders:

  • Delegate small projects (like dining-fly setup, flag ceremony, etc) to groups of your Junior Leaders. Let them try things out on their own before offering your help.
  • So they can practice their public speaking, encourage your Junior Leaders to run in your next election and deliver an SPL Election Speech. This will help them build confidence when speaking before your troop!
  • Assign them to mentor a “difficult scout” for a few outings. By giving your junior leaders the opportunity to work one-on-one with an unenthusiastic troop member, they’ll develop useful skills for problem-solving and motivating others.
  • Encourage them to run a scout-led merit badge seminar where they teach one of the Three Easiest Merit Badges to Earn In a Day

Your Scoutmaster can also assist you in helping train the Junior Leaders, so don’t hesitate to ask them for help. Help from a Scoutmaster is especially useful when there are a lot of scouts to manage and you don’t have the time to train your Junior Leaders directly. However, Junior Leaders will most likely pay more attention to what you have to say since you’re a peer whom they respect! 

6) Wear the Scout Uniform Properly and Set a Good Example For Your Troop

It goes without saying that as the SPL, you’ll need to act as a good role model for your fellow scouts — especially since they’ll be looking up to you even more throughout your term! As you’re often the main representative of your troop when it comes to Summer and Winter camps, it’s crucial that you wear your uniform properly and set a great example for the other scouts.

One thing that my Scoutmaster would say which really stuck out to me was, “Leadership is about doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching.”

He’d always tell this story of how one time he went to some national scout event with the highest Scouting officials. In the middle of the night, he woke up and needed to use the bathroom. When he went in, surprisingly, there was another guy there cleaning up the place!

Turns out, that other guy cleaning the bathroom was the one in charge of running the entire camp — the head honcho! He obviously didn’t need to be cleaning at 4 AM, no one even knew he was there, but it was something he did every day because he felt it was the right thing to do. Now that’s leadership!

Wearing your scout uniform correctly and setting a good example for your fellow scouts is sort of the same: doing the right thing, even when you don’t need to. By choosing to set a good example and representing your troop well, you’ll be a great leader that your troop can be proud to have!

7) Demonstrate Scout Spirit by Following the Scout Oath and Law

You and every other scout in your troop should already be doing this, but as SPL it’s especially important that you show Scout Spirit by living the Scout Oath and Law. It all comes back to your position as the top role model of your troop!

If you don’t live by the Scout Oath and Law, this may influence your fellow scouts to think that it may not be a very important thing to do. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Always make sure that you’re remembering the tenants of Scouting so that those who look up to you will follow in your stead. 🙂

Conclusion 

By keeping these 7 core duties of an SPL in mind, I’m sure you’ll be able to represent your troop well and make your term a huge success! I’d also encourage you to reach out to former SPLs of your troop and get their input on how to best perform and fulfill these duties. It’s always a good idea to gain knowledge from those with experience!

To help your other troop leaders develop their skills, I’d also recommend sharing my article on How to be a Great Patrol Leader (And Their Responsibilities) with your Junior Leaders and Patrol Leaders! Having a clear idea of what’s needed is always one’s first step towards success.

Congratulations on making it to the end of the article! If you’re a prospective or current SPL, I applaud your initiative and wish you all the best on your leadership journey. That’s it for now! Until next time, be the best individual you can be! 

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making this world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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