Helping Pioneer the Varsity Scouting Program

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Kevin V. Hunt

Scouting Historian, Author, Scouting Veteran, Camp Director

DON’T LET HIM STOP YET!  Those are my words of challenge to all leaders of the older young men in Scouting.  The Boy Scout troop was (hopefully) a great experience for the Scout.  He had opportunity to try new things – to go camping and hiking and to learn many of the wonderful skills of the outdoors.  He had opportunity to advance in rank and experience.   There are some really exciting Scouting programs available for the 14-20 year old young men (and some ladies too).  It has my opportunity to be involved with Varsity Scouting, Exploring and Venturing.  And it was great fun for me as I had opportunity helping to pioneer the Varsity Scouting program.VARSITY SCOUTING LOGO

For many Scouters and parents the big challenge comes after Johnnie has been a Scout for a few years and begins to get bored with the regular Boy Scout program.  What do we do with him to keep him challenged enough to stay with Scouting and to keep him motivated to finish those last few requirements for that Eagle Scout Award?

By the time a boy reaches the age of fourteen or fifteen his world begins to change drastically.  He is ready for new horizons.  He’s ready for high adventure beyond that available in a Scout troop.  He starts to get interested in girls and begins to live for the day he’ll get his driver’s license  (beware of the “fumes” – perfume and car fumes!)  Generally, too, he’ll have a job by this time.  It is also a time of intense emotional and physical change for him.

With all of these changes in his life, it is no wonder that he wants a new challenge.  Well, there is such a challenge available to him through the Varsity Scouting, Exploring and Venturing programs of the Boy Scouts of America. These are all exciting programs that have much to offer him. Though often misunderstood, the programs when properly implemented, can be all a boy needs to keep his Scouting interest during those traumatic middle teen years.

VENTURING IMAGE

Venturing is now the main program used for older youth (age 16-20) and is the one used by the LDS Church.  Exploring is still a viable program but focuses on career oriented programs (like police, fire, emergency rescue, and more).  Youth can actually be a part of multiple units (i.e. Venturing and Exploring).  Varsity Scouting is for boys ages 14 and 15.

Having worked with all three programs I can testify of their greatness.  All of the programs – Varsity Scouting, Venturing and Exploring were developed with the older teenage boy in mind.  Each program has the potential for advanced high adventure activities, sports, career exploration, social and cultural activities, and growth opportunities in spiritual and personal development.

As the Varsity Scouting program came into existence, I was able to serve immediately as a Varsity Scout Coach.  I served on the council committee for Varsity Scouting.  For many years I was the district and council training chairman for Exploring.  Later I served as Young Men President for a few years and helped implement the new Venturing program – while also staging district and council training for the new program.

I know that these programs can be the viable link needed to keep our young men on the right track.  People who say that the programs do not work, have not really implemented them as designed. Many people are apt to brush these programs off saying that they don’t meet the needs of teenage youth.  I don’t believe this.  I know that they’ll work in the lives of boys when given as much attention as the other Scouting programs.  I see them as great programs with unlimited growth potential for the young men.

As a Professional Scouter, it was my special privilege to work very closely with the Varsity Scouting program almost from its inception.  In fact, I attended my first training program on Varsity Scouting while still a Senior at Brigham Young University.  At that point, I already had a contract to work with the Lake Bonneville Council (now the Trapper Trails Council) in Ogden, Utah so they invited me to attend the Area kickoff for the new Varsity Scouting pilot program.

I was elated as I learned more of Varsity Scouting.  They made a believer out of me the day of that course.  I came away excited and happy to be a part of this grand new opportunity for fourteen and fifteen year old boys.  Talk about potential!  This program was packed with it.

The day that I started my professional Scouting career was also the day that Varsity Scouting was implemented as a designated “pre-pilot program” within the nine Scouting councils within the Mountain West Area.  It was great fun to be a part of that special program right from the beginning.  (And later after the Mountain West Area saw results of the program, it became a National BSA pilot program and ultimately became a full program of the Boy Scouts of America.)

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Kevin Hunt and Varsity Scouting in Ogden, Utah

I took an immediate interest in the Varsity Scouting program and soon found that I could play a vital role in helping to mold and shape the new program.  There were still some gaps in the program and this left room for creative work and thinking to get the program off and running.  I found that many of my ideas could find their way permanently into the program.  In fact, I feel that I was able to put my fingerprints on the finished Varsity Scouting program that eventually became a full program of the Boy Scouts of America.

Not to brag or anything but it was my district that held the first ever, Varsity Scouting Youth Leadership Course.  We took the course outline and had some real fun with it.  With Richard Moyle, my fabulous Varsity Scouting Chairman, we staged that first youth leadership course with just five boys.  While conducting the course for just a small group presented some additional challenges, it worked well enough to prove that the concept would work.

I didn’t realize until a few months later that my district had held the first ever Varsity youth leadership course.  I went to an area meeting to hear more about Varsity Scouting and the subject turned to the youth leadership course.  They asked who had used the course and I was the only one in the room that had.  My comments and evaluation became the base for future development of the course content.  When I returned to my district I made sure that I complemented Dick and his team for a job well done.  [And incidentally, Richard Moyle was one of the all-time great geology/geoscience professors at Weber State College … and you can read of him here:  Richard Moyle at Weber State College]

Since it was a brand new program we were often a little frustrated that we didn’t have all the Varsity Scouting resources we needed or wanted from the National Office.  We didn’t lament for too long, however.  If it didn’t exist we went to work to create it.  One example was the badge of office for the uniforms of Varsity Scouting leaders.  Once the new redesigned Scout uniform (with orange epaulets for Varsity Scouts and Scouters) came into vogue there was a need for shoulder patches for the leadership positions of the program.

In reviewing available materials from National we found no patches for Varsity Coach, Captain, Squad Leader or any of the Program Managers.  We quickly designed our own patches for use just in our Council.  I worked with the Council Varsity Scouting Committee in the development of the much needed patches.  We drafted a number of ideas and finally settled on one that we thought looked attractive.  One of the volunteers created the basic patch and did a great job on it.

VARSITY SCOUT PATCH

Varsity Scouting patches created by Scouter in the Mt. Ogden District – and later marketed by the BSA

It then became my task to get the patch design into a final form that would work for each of the various Varsity Scouting team positions. We decided to use a uniform format on all the badges.  The Varsity Scouting emblem was put in the center of the badge and then the specific position title circled the emblem.

I took our finished design to a patch making place in nearby Salt Lake City.  Through their special air-brush technique the place soon had a beautiful and colorful patch which we sold or gave to our Varsity Scouting leaders.  I retained for myself, the very first Varsity Scout Coach patch as it came off the press since at that time I was serving as a Varsity Scout Coach.

Somehow, copies of our new patches found their way to the creators of Varsity Scouting and then eventually to the National Office.  I was delighted a couple of years later to see that the patch designed by the National Office was the exact design which we had created.  The air-brush technique was no longer used but was instead an embroidered version of our design.

It was a neat feeling to know that I had helped mold the national Varsity Scouting program.  It is not often that one gets to be a pioneer of something new and exciting like Varsity Scouting.

Another way in which I was able to be a modern pioneer was through the Varsity Games, a series of games and competitions designed specifically for the fourteen and fifteen year old boy.  That first year that Varsity Scouting started we decided that we needed a big event to help provide some program for the boys.  We felt that the Varsity Games could be the impetus for great things in the lives of the boys of our council.

Again, at that time I served as one of two Council Advisors to the Varsity Scouting program – with Tom Bird – and the Council Varsity Scouting chairman – Gerald TayloVARSITY GAMESr. So, it became our task to create and implement the Varsity Games.

That first year, our Varsity Games were somewhat small and featured only a few events.  We did have competition in about ten areas, however.  The games were held on two Saturdays in different locations throughout our large council.  We had only forty four boys participating but those who did participate had a great time and the word passed around quickly.  We used those first games as the springboard of even better competition in the years to come.

Another great adventure for our Varsity Scouts was our council’s annual Mountain Man Rendezvous.  This Rendezvous also began in the Lake Bonneville Council and it generated some really great enthusiasm for Varsity Scouts and their leaders.  The first Rendezvous was held at the Fort Buenaventura in Ogden.  But, we soon outgrew that great place and moved on to other sites.  Each summer we gathered our Varsity Scouts to the beautiful Bug Lake in northern Utah.  Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of the place.  None of us in the council had ever heard of it either until we had the Rendezvous there.

And in recent years it has been my privilege – usually as a Dutch oven chef

MOUNTAIN MAN RENDEZVOUS CHEF KEVIN

Dutch Oven Mountain Man Chef Kevin Hunt serving his banana chocolate chip cookies

– to be a part of the Mongollon Mountain Man Rendezvous held every other year in the Mesa District of the Grand Canyon Council.  From those early Utah beginnings, the Rendezvous has become a major program feature for Varsity Scouts everywhere.  And what a great program it has become!

The Varsity Scouts came to the Rendezvous prepared to rough it to the hilt.  Where possible the boys dressed the part of mountain men.  MOUNTAIN MAN RENDEZVOUS TEAM ATTIREThe Chief Mountain Man was a member of our council’s Varsity Scouting committee and he and his team planned some great activities for the boys.  (And dressing in the greatest of Mountain Man regalia is still a big part of the Rendezvous tradition.)

As Northern Utah Scouts arrived, they were treated to large bowls of hot venison stew which had been cooking over a fire.  The Friday evening campfire programs featured tales of the Old West and the many real mountain men who had held their own rendezvous near the same area over a hundred years previously.

DUTCH OVEN STEW

Dutch Oven Stew

Saturday’s events featured canoe races on Bug Lake. I think that they had to portage their canoes since the lake was not deep enough for paddling.  They also had a mountain man relay, fire building using primitive methods only, axe throwing (done under very controlled circumstances) and many other exciting events.

One year the Rendezvous was held while our camp was in session.  It was on a Friday and Saturday night and I sent all of our fourteen and fifteen year old boys from my staff down to the big event at Bug Lake.

They were of course, elated that they were able to attend.  All of the staff who were too old for the experience came over to my cabin for games and home make ice cream.

It was a real pleasure to work with Ernie and Gerald, of the Council Varsity Scouting Committee, as together we worked to make the Varsity program more successful each succeeding year.  Those were great days.

In talking about those who helped pioneer the Varsity Scouting program I must make mention again of Richard Moyle, Paul Warner and others who worked overtime in our district to make it happen.  Their energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the program was felt by all of the Varsity Coaches in our district.

As a professional Scouter, I often had occasion to be with Dick in the promotion of Varsity Scouting.  Together we trained many people in the mechanics of the Varsity Scouting program.  I met informally with several Varsity Coaches, Scouting Coordinators and others.  In addition, I served on staff for formal training courses on the subject.

It really was an exciting and wonderful time helping pioneer the wonderful Varsity Scouting program.   And as the pioneers, it was exciting to see our efforts take shape – and to become the catalyst for even great Varsity Scouting adventure.  I can honestly say that the Varsity Scouting program – WHEN PROPERLY IMPLEMENTED – can become one of the greatest adventures of his/their Scouting career for our young men.  I recommend the program highly to all.  Just jump in and go for it.  Use the program as it has been designed and you (and certainly the Varsity Scouts in your program) will have some exciting adventures, will grow in the Priesthood and in the Scouting program – and wonderful benefits will come of your dedicated efforts.  The boys deserve so much more than just a basketball program!  I challenge you to learn the program and to implement it fully.

Best wishes along your Scouting Trails …  Kevin

 

Excerpts taken from Kevin’s many Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership” and others at his Scoutingtrails website.  Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy ScoutThe Scouting Trail and The Voice of Scouting.  Feel free to comment on anything you read!

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