Saying “Life-changing” is honestly an understatement when talking about the positive impact Scouting has on young people — myself included. Aside from learning essential outdoor skills like how to safely wield a hatchet, tie a bowline, or de-capsize a canoe, being a scout also taught me countless core values on my path to becoming a mature adult (or at least semi-mature 😛 ).
However, the Scouting program is not without its controversies or criticisms. And, with more academics and extracurriculars that compete for a scout’s time, troop membership has been on the recent decline. Could this mean that Scouting doesn’t matter anymore in this day and age?
As an Eagle Scout and newly-minted adult, I’d answer that question with a “HECK NO.” Scouting literally changed my life! In this article, I’ll be sharing my own experiences to tell you 10 unexpected reasons why the Scouting program matters now to young people, even more than ever.
1. The Experiences: Adventures, Merit Badges, Survival Skills, And More
By the time you’re 18 years old, would you rather have gone on countless adventures and learned how to be self-sufficient in the wilderness, or have done some extra SAT prep and played video games on the weekends? Personally, I’d have to go with option A!
That’s why, one of the best aspects of Scouting is that it exposes young people to amazing activities, friends, skills, and hobbies which they’d never have the chance to experience otherwise. Whether you’re canoeing across the great lakes or scuba diving in the tropics, being a scout creates so many opportunities to experience our natural world!
2. Meeting Cool People And Building Long-Term Friendships
Friendships are often forged through shared experiences, and Scouting will give you a whole lot of those! That’s why, one of my favorite parts of being a scout were the people around me. Not just my fellow scouts, but also their families, my Scoutmasters, my Eagle project beneficiary, and many others.
Because families from all walks of life tend to join Scouting, you’ll often find yourself in a pretty diverse troop, which is a great thing! Hearing new ideas and seeing the world through different perspectives will help any young person to become more well-rounded and comfortable in social settings. 🙂
3. Learning Skills To Become Capable And Dependable
I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but before I was a scout I wasn’t really good at anything. It was like I didn’t even know how to try because I was always afraid I’d mess up. Yet, after all the growing up I did through 6 years in Scouting, I gained competence and am extremely grateful for the person I’ve become.
That’s what happens when you have your fellow scouts relying on you. You keep each other accountable and learn as a unit! Whether you’re earning merit badges, setting up a campsite, or building your Eagle Project, continually learning and overcoming challenges will help any kid become a dependable adult.
4. Gaining Confidence Through Competence
Once you’ve seen, firsthand, how you’re capable of accomplishing anything you set your mind to, the world stops seeming like such a huge, scary place. Instead, you can trust that within yourself lies the strength and skills to overcome anything. With competence comes confidence!
That’s the kind of confidence that Scouting teaches. Seeing how my confidence grew while a part of Scouting was like night and day — and I saw the same thing in my troop buddies as well. And, unlike a lot of my classmates, Scouting trained me to always stay composed and confident during presentations, exams, and even job interviews!
5. Building A Moral Compass — And Honing It As You Get Older
I’m not here to tell you that Scouting has all the answers, but it definitely gives young people a great head-start! Taking to heart the Scout Oath and Scout Law will help scouts to identify their foundational values and develop strong morals. Nowhere else can you build character like in a great troop.
Even now, at 23 years old, I’m still learning and growing thanks to the values that I was introduced to in Scouting. Trying to always be my best self, going out of my way to serve others, and starting ScoutSmarts to help other scouts make the most of their time are all examples of the moral direction Scouting gave to my life. 😀
Why Scouting Especially Matters For Older Scouts
As you learn and grow throughout your Scouting journey, new opportunities will surely present themselves to you! Maybe that’s attending an awesome high-adventure activity, stepping up as a troop leader, or getting elected into the Order of the Arrow.
In the next 5 reasons why Scouting matters more than ever, I’ll be sharing with you some of the benefits scouts often see as they grow older in their troops. The following lessons were what helped me the most throughout my life, so I truly hope they’ll be of use to you too. 🙂
6. Learning How To Be Prepared, Make Plans, and Get Stuff Done
To earn your Eagle Scout rank, you’ll need to complete 100’s of requirements, earn at least 21 merit badges, finish your Eagle Scout service project, and so much else. Obviously, this isn’t easy for any young person! However, scouts quickly learn that they’re more capable than they might think…
By starting off with simple planning tasks like preparing for campouts, scouts learn to apply this knowledge to the rest of their lives! Whether it’s advancing to Eagle, getting organized for school, or juggling a work-life balance, Scouting teaches us how to effectively make plans and get the hard tasks done. 😀
7. Developing Leadership Skills Through No-Risk Practice
It’s no secret that Scouts BSA builds effective leaders who are well-equipped to succeed in the real world. But, do you know why that is? Well, from what I’ve seen in my troops, scouts get tons of hands-on practice in a safe, risk-free environment, which really helps their leadership to flourish!
Also, the Scouting program in general puts a ton of emphasis on developing your leadership skills. (Btw, link is my full guide to being a great scout leader!) I’ve definitely had an easier time at school and during internships from all the previous leadership experience I’d gained as a scout!
8. Seeing The Joy In Paying It Forward And Serving Others
Competence isn’t even the best part of becoming a leader! For me, the most rewarding parts of leadership were my fellow scouts whom I was able to help. One of my favorite quotes I’ve heard that sums this up perfectly is, “The secret to living is giving.” -Tony Robbins.
This is actually one of the main reasons I created ScoutSmarts in the first place! I knew how much being a scout helped me, and wanted to do my part to support future generations of scouts. I feel truly blessed to have been able to serve you and many others on this mission to pay Scouting forward.
9. Scouting Sets Young People Up For A Bright Future
I remember being a teenager, looking out into the precipice of the rest of my life, and having no idea of what the future would hold. As someone with ADHD, and being a pretty hyperactive problem student for much of my childhood, I remember often hearing that I wouldn’t succeed if I continued being myself.
Scouting taught me differently. There, I was able to express myself and be weird without worry, because my fellow scouts were doing the same — and we accepted each other unconditionally. In Scouting, we learned to drop the popularity games from school and to feel more than enough, just by being ourselves.
Aside from the many real-world benefits of earning Eagle that scouts may gain (scholarships, job acceptances, higher base military pay, etc), Scouting also teaches something much deeper: an understanding and trust in oneself. All of these factors help set scouts up for continued success in life!
10. Earning Eagle Is The Hardest Thing Most Young People Have Accomplished Up To That Point –And It’s 100% Worth It
The final reason why Scouting matters is that it teaches young people that they’re capable of doing hard things. It doesn’t matter if your troop is hiking 20 miles in one go, or remodeling an elementary school’s grounds (my Eagle project, btw!), in Scouting we learn we can accomplish anything!
This belief that we can become the change we want to see in the world is what inspires me to take on the big challenges. Without having seen, firsthand, what persistence and dedication are capable of, I never would’ve dreamt of starting a website that today helps millions of scouts across our nation.
When you embark on your path to Eagle and commit to making progress one day after the other, you’ll come to realize that you’re capable of more than you can possibly imagine too. So, now I have a challenge for you: Make the most of your time in Scouting, and make our world a better place. 🙂
I know you’ve got this.
Yours in Scouting,