After more than a Decade, My Wood Badge Adventure Comes to an End
A couple of years back, in 2019, I shared how I was named the Course Director for a special training program within Scouting. I’ve been an adult leader in Scouting since 2005 and went through the training program myself as a participant in 2010. That program coupled together with Scouting in general, along with numerous roles that I’ve had within the movement has definitely helped me break out of my shell more than anything I’ve ever done in my life, and has served me well as a business owner, too. For the extremely shy little boy in preschool who would hide under the table, many who knew me then wouldn’t recognize who I’ve become, pretty much thanks to Scouting. I’m still introverted, yes, but absolutely know how to “turn it on” and become an outgoing “quasi-extrovert” when I need to be...so much so that several people in Scouting have been shocked to learn that I really am an introvert and nowhere as outgoing as I portray in those settings.
After several times of being on staff, in 2017 I was asked and given the opportunity to serve in the backup role for 2018 and then for 2019 as the Course Director for the Fall Wood Badge course in my Scouting council. For my friends and family who have never been part of Scouting or perhaps have but have never been through the course, Wood Badge is the highest level of adult leadership training available. The course’s roots go back over 100 years to 1919 when the founder of Scouting, Lord Robert Baden-Powel determined that youth need adult leaders to be trained to better help mentor and guide them in their journey. The course has gone on through time to be the premier training course in Scouting the world over, with it taking place in each country where Scouting can be found.
The course I led was scheduled during the actual 100th anniversary of the program, with our 2nd day taking place on what was the 1st day of that original course in England back in 1919, which was a thrill to be leading a true Centennial course, and not just one during the 100th anniversary year.
The course itself is a highly respected program that many industries and employers, including the military, often emulate, but ours is much more interactive, engaging, and fun as we move throughout the course timeline between indoor and outdoor activities. The session that I would oversee was a 6-day development program filled with classroom-style, small group breakouts, and plenty of outdoor situations where our participants would immerse themselves in topics such as “Living the Values”, “Bringing the Vision to Life”, “Models for Success”, “Tools of the Trade”, and “Leading to Make a Difference”. Each of the assorted modules that make up these central themes are so much more than just Scouting related – we teach and impart LEADERSHIP, in a Scouting setting drawing the history and tradition of the movement, but the skills taught and received transcend Scouting and are very applicable in their jobs, homes, families, and other volunteer settings they are involved with. (All of these skills have made me a better business person through the years, so I'm grateful professionally for the experience as well!)
When asked to serve as a Course Director you are given one opportunity to make it successful. No less than 30 days prior to the start of the course you must achieve a minimum attendance of 30 participants, with a maximum of 48 unless by necessity you are granted an extension waiver for 56. The staff rallied to the full course goal that I had set, and by golly, we sold out the course needing that extension waiver. It was granted and we sold out again…with a waiting list! That was so exciting. But as things always happen, we had some cancelations prior to the start, but thanks to that waiting list, we still ended up having a full course by Day 1. 48 participants.
During the course itself, we’re actively together for 6-days over two 3-day weekends, and then at the end of the 6 days, we send the participants away back into the world, with “homework”. They have to create a “Ticket” of 5 Goals that they write during the 6-days and then are given 18 months to complete those goals. As with anything in life, some are quicker than others, but in the end, our goal was for all of them to complete what they started in writing those goals. Over the 18 months which just ended a few days ago, some made some slight revisions to their goals due to covid realities, and some revised a goal or two entirely as their situation in Scouting evolved from when they were on course. But at the end of the 18-months, these amazing individuals gave me an incredible gift, in that ALL 48 of them successfully completed their Tickets.
Much like the rank of Eagle for the youth in the Scouting program, adults who participate in Wood Badge don’t always complete. For the youth, there’s something like 8% of the youth who actually achieve the rank of Eagle. For the adults in Wood Badge, it’s a comparable number but probably less as once they leave the “safety” of the course environment…life gets back in the way and often hits hard. Time management can be a detriment for many participants as they often put off the necessary work to get their goals accomplished. Sometimes their life situation faces upheaval through death in the family, divorce, job loss, or other things. Sometimes people’s priorities change and they just don’t see the need or benefit of finishing.