As I look back over a seven-year period during which I twice served as either a Varsity Team Coach or an assistant Varsity Team Coach, I can reflect on many of the wonderful experiences and accomplishments of the young men in our team. These included many Eagle Scout awards, a robust emphasis on having youth-chosen quarterly activities, outstanding high adventure activities (often related to the quarterly activities), a dedicated focus on training the youth in their responsibilities, and a consistent effort to shadow the youth as they served and led the team.
We truly had an abundance of riches in our ward. Those riches included dedicated Bishops who believed in the Scouting program, long tenures of trained, dedicated Young Men adult leaders (some serving more than four years in their callings), often three, if not four, adult leaders in each Scouting unit/Aaronic Priesthood quorum, a fully-staffed, functioning Scout committee, and, most importantly, lots of youth.
However, given all that, we still did not fully implement the Varsity Scout program. If I had only read the manuals more carefully and sought out some specific training.
Here are three things that I wish I had known:
The power of the Program Managers and their relationship to and service opportunity in each of the quarterly activities:
We worked hard as leaders to encourage the young men to choose which quarterly activities they wanted to pursue. We had some great quarterly activities, such as horsemanship, boat safety and maintenance, rock climbing and rappelling, shotgun and rifle shooting, and even boxing, among others. We also had other great special activities such as campouts, service projects and interaction with the young women in our ward. As adult leaders, we encouraged the Team Captain and his Co-Captains to assign each quarterly activity to the one Program Manager to which that activity seemed to logically correspond. That Program Manager would then be responsible for organizing the carrying out the quarterly activity, with the guidance of the team youth leadership and the adult advisors.
Effectively what we were doing was only using one Program Manager at a time, leaving the others on the sideline. What we should have done was to help the team leadership utilize the Program Managers for all of the five Program Areas of Emphasis to have a role in planning and directing activities related to the quarterly activity. How much more effective could our quarterly activities have been if the activity had incorporated elements of Service, Personal Development, High Adventure/Sports, Advancement, and Special Programs and Events. This way, each of the Program Managers would have been responsible to carry out a portion of the quarterly activity emphasis, which in turn would provide a more well-rounded experience for the youth during that activity.
Lesson Learned: ensure that any chosen quarterly activity incorporates activities from each of the five Program Areas as part of the planning and implementation.
The power of each Squad having Program Managers for each of the five Program Areas:
Imagine how much more effective our youth could have been in achieving what was discussed above if we had a Program Manager for each Program Area in each squad. Since we had three squads, with six to seven members in each squad, we could have had three Service Program Managers working together to develop the service activities related to each quarterly activity emphasis. Those Program Managers would have formed a small committee to plan and carry out the activities, thereby increasing the opportunities for leadership and participation for more of the youth. Instead of having only one Program Manager assigned to a quarterly activity, we could have included 15 youth to develop and carry out all of the activities related to the quarterly activity emphasis. That would have been powerful!
Lesson Learned: Program Managers should be appointed for each Program Area in each squad that is organized.
The Importance of the Program Advisors:
We missed one really important part of the Varsity Team organization: the need for and the role of the Program Advisor. As part of the Team committee, adult leaders should be asked to be specific advisors to the Program Managers for each of the five Program Areas. In doing so, each group of Program Managers could have a specific adult to help them in the planning and implementation of their activities. The committee of the Service Program Managers could benefit from an adult who would advise, mentor, and encourage the youth in their duties and assignments. The level of experience and learning the youth could receive from a Program Advisor would strengthen the youth and foster an opportunity for a more well-rounded Varsity Team program.
Lesson Learned: Program Advisors bring knowledge and assistance to the youth that serve and function as Program Managers.
Knowing what I know now, I hope this will help you understand more fully as you seek to implement this wonderful program!
Contributed by: John P. Romney, Colleyville Texas Stake, Stake YM 1st Counselor