I was asked to be the Scoutmaster of the 2019 Wood Badge course in the Greater Alabama Council. What an honor. When I sat back and looked at all the candidates that could have been asked I was humbled. So many people.

Step one as Scoutmaster was putting together my senior staff. I started with my advisor, and then I needed ASM’s for program, logistics and troop guide. Next, I picked my Senior, the person I thought who could best present my vision. I finished with my Venture Crew advisors. Two people who I have worked with many times and respect beyond belief. Done. I have an excellent senior staff.

I completed my senior staff before I was announced as the next Scoutmaster. It was important for me to do that because as soon as I was announced I knew I would have a flood of people asking me to serve. I don’t say this as a negative. How awesome is it that so many people want to serve on staff, in any position.

If you have not served on staff, let me fill you in on what they give up for that privilege. First off, staffers pay $150 to serve. Let me repeat that, they pay to serve. Next, they train for their position and come to staff development weekends. This is roughly seven days and six nights over four weekends that start five months out from the course. The upside is they get to do this with some of their best friends.

But back to my staff. In a way, I have dreaded this moment. Some people will get to serve and some won’t. It’s a numbers game. A third of my staff will be first time staffers. There are a lot of candidates. That only leaves so many former staffers the opportunity to serve on this course. There are many of my friends, people I love and respect, that won’t be able to serve on my course. So many people.

Then I sat back and thought about the situation. I was worried about the reaction of people who were not asked to serve. Would they get their feelings hurt? Would they feel this was a slight against them? Many would be disappointed. Then I looked at it from the other side. People are coming to me because they want to serve and they are passionate about it. Instead of feeling bad for not having an open position for them, I feel honored that they asked.

If you want to serve on a course and don’t know who to ask or where to start, here are some suggestions that will help you.

1. Ask to serve. Find out who the Scoutmaster is, or an ASM, or Senior, or whoever is currently on staff. Ask them to consider you as a staffer. You can even ask them again a few weeks later. Don’t be a pest but you can be persistent. I had to beg to be on my first three courses. I like to think that I didn’t annoy anyone. My first time staffing was S9-1-12-1. I happened to ask the SA-TG of that course to throw my name into the basket if they needed help. I didn’t even know he was the SA-TG and unknown to me he had just lost a Troop Guide. The council approved me, and I was asked to serve.

2. If you don’t get asked, don’t take it personally. You will probably be awesome on staff, but the numbers don’t work in your favor. It’s as simple as that. Ask the next Scoutmaster and keep asking. Out of sight, out of mind.

3. There are no small jobs. If you get asked to do a job, and you wanted another job, do what you were asked to do and do it like it’s the only time you will serve. It just might be. If you have been asked to do a job you are not comfortable doing, politely decline and ask to be considered for another position or on another course. From time to time staffers do have to resign leading up to the course so make sure you are on the radar to fill in.

4. If you do get asked, DON’T DROP OUT. Also, make sure you can be present for all staff development weekends and both weekends of the course. You are making a commitment to a lot of people. Sure, life gets in the way and things happen, but you are being depended on. If you committed, follow through with it unless something big happens. I don’t think I need to define what that big thing is, you will know.

So there you have it. Four easy tips to help you as you look to serve on a Wood Badge course. But wait, there’s more!

There is a way to serve and still not be an official staffer. You can be a Wood Badge Evangelist. Someone who will go out and preach the gospel of Wood Badge. Someone who will share with others how it helped them in their unit, their job and life in general. People want to know how Wood Badge will help them and you can share your experience. Talk to scouters in other units, email your friends, pass out brochures, speak up at Roundtable and then don’t forget to ask them to sign up for the next course which is April 2019.

Shawn Wright
Wood Badge Course S9-119