This has certainly been an interesting and unprecedented summer for Scouting and Sea Scouting in particular.
It would be surprising if you have not heard about BSA’s Churchill Plan and the proposals that would have affected Sea Scouts, but at this point, that is behind us and we need not worry about either being moved to Exploring or having the upper age dropped to 18. More on all that at Scouting Wire.
I want to thank everyone who spoke up on behalf of Sea Scouts – especially the youth. Their stories of what this program means to them have certainly renewed my belief in Sea Scouts, and more importantly, have helped many across BSA, including the National Key 3, better understand the significance of what we do.
Now that potentially harmful program changes are off the table, it is time to turn our attention toward growth and retention. Moving us to Exploring probably wouldn’t have even been considered if we weren’t so small, so, it’s time to fix that and stop being small! I know this has been a really difficult year, yet most of you have stuck it out and many ships are thriving. A number of Skippers have told me that this has been their best recruiting year ever – in large part because they are still running some sort of program, while many of our traditional competitors for the attention of young people (sports, band, etc.) remain shut down. Inviting a friend to come to a Scout meeting works just as well for virtual meetings as physical ones – especially if that friend is at home, bored, with no social activities. Our National Boatswain has challenged everyone to recruit a friend – please ask your Scouts to support her in that.
Recharter time is coming up soon – please make sure your unit is good to go. Last year we had way too many recharter failures (many due to Council shutdowns and thus not our fault), and these take time and energy to track and correct better spent on starting ships. Please let your Council or Area Commodore know if you need any help with this. We need to retain all our ships!
Going forward, we must find a way to start a lot more ships. Sea Scouts has to get back to growth again, or we risk our future. We have developed a growth plan which I would encourage each of you to read, and to help execute. If we can harness the energy and unity of purpose that brought us together to fight the Churchill plan, growth is well within our grasp.
Friedrich Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” and I think that is true of Sea Scouts after the recent challenges. We are in many ways stronger than we have been in years – we just need to harness that strength to generate growth. Consider these strengths:
- Better visibility to the National Key 3, National Executive Committee and Board than we have had in years and an explicit decision by them for Sea Scouts to continue with current structure for now
- Youth leaders thinking and writing and speaking about what our program means to them
- Sea Scouts leaders across the country pulling together like never before
- Better communication channels than ever before
- Solidarity and support from other programs in the BSA who also spoke out for us
- Good success in virtual operations from ship level to National events like Seabadge
- Broader program opportunities than ever before with the addition of paddlecraft and SCUBA
- Solid Sea Scout leadership team at the Area and Regional levels.
- Councils so desperate for members that they’ll try anything, even Ships!
When you really think about it, we’ve got a lot to build upon there. We want another 108 years, and if we all pull together, we’ll get them!
T.W. Cook – National Commodore
P.S. – Just a couple of quick bonuses
The 2020 update to the Sea Scout manual adds options for SCUBA that will better enable ships whose primary focus is on SCUBA to pursue Sea Scout advancement. Details at advancement central and as always, you can track any changes of any kind to the Sea Scout program by watching the program updates page.
We have now conducted two virtual Seabadge courses with good success. If you’ve avoided Seabadge because of time, distance or cost, you may want to reconsider and look for a Virtual Seabadge course this fall or winter. New courses should appear on the Seabadge page, but you’ll need to be quick as they’ve been filling within a day or two of opening for registration – more are in development and will be published soon.