Do you want to know what one of the most feared things is by a new Den leader? It’s nine pairs of expectant, eager, young eyes looking up at them at that first Den meeting wondering what they are going to be doing for the next hour. Some new Den leaders, if they had been given the choice, may wish they had chosen oral surgery or back-hair removal instead of a leadership position for a Cub Scout Den. I know the feeling well. One day I asked if there was anything I could do to help with my son’s new Tiger Cub Scout Den and the next I was the newly minted Den leader. I didn’t even know what the Cub Scout Motto was at that point. With a little bit of planning and a lot of laughter I was able to get through those first few meetings and provide a quality program for nine amazing young boys. Here are my top three secrets to becoming a great Cub Scout Den leader:
Learn the Requirements for Rank Advancement
Tiger Scouts will need to advance to Wolf Scouts and Wolf Scouts will need to advance to Bear Scouts and so on and so on. Learn what the requirements are for your boys to achieve rank advancement and develop a plan early in the Scouting year on how to achieve it. Plan your Den meetings around one or two of the requirements each week. In my mind, rank advancement is the top responsibility of the Den leader. You can find all of the details about ranks, requirements and electives at the official website of the Boy Scouts of America.
Communicate Early and Often
Parents and Scouts like to know what’s coming up sooner rather than later. I like to communicate to my Den the planned activities that will be coming up for the next month or so as well as which uniform should be worn to which event. I’ve found that the sooner you can get on people’s calendars, the better the participation.
Patience and Laughter
A Cub Scout is anywhere from six to eleven years old. Multiply that by nine and that’s a lot of young boys with a cumulative energy quotient much, much higher than yours. Understand this and be able to roll with it. Some Den meetings we might only get halfway through our activity or project before the boys get too squirrely to sit or focus any longer. Don’t force it. Get them outside playing tag or running races (I keep an ’emergency’ soccer ball in my car). Get them engaged or talking about something that they are interested in at the moment (I now know more about HALO than I ever thought possible).
Most of all laugh with the boys and make the Cub Scout experience a fun one for them. In later years they’ll more easily remember that they had a good, positive program rather than what badge they earned. Remember too that they can teach you much in return. This above all has helped me to know and live the Cub Scout Motto: “Do Your Best”.