Being a well-meaning BSA adult volunteer in support of a unit’s outdoor program presents many challenges. The challenges presented are, for the most part, different than those normally faced by adults. Indeed, the challenges which must be faced, and successfully addressed in the conduct of the outdoor program from a risk management standpoint, are both program-specific, as well as people (youth and adult) specific:
What risk management challenges does the BSA program present?
- Wide range of ages for youth
- Wide ranges of outdoor experience for youth
- Volunteer leader inexperience
- Leader turnover (short 1/2 life of knowledge)
- A variety of activity-specific technical skills are required
- A variety of outdoor activities (land and water), including day-long activities (hikes), weekend-long activities (campouts), week-long activities (summer camp), and high adventure activities (BSA-sponsored, troop-sponsored, council-sponsored)
What risk management challenges do the Scouts present?
- A range of ages in the same unit (“ages and stages”)
- Youth may have little experience in the outdoors
- Youth may have little familiarity with each other
- Youth may have varied behavioral traits
- Youth are raised in a variety of ways
- Youth may have little familiarity with the adult volunteers
- Youth may not have the necessary activity-specific technical skills
What risk management challenges do the adult leaders present?
- Adults may have little experience in the outdoors
- Adults may have little experience supervising youth
- Adults may have little first aid background
- Adults may have little experience planning and conducting outdoor activities
- Adults may have unreasonable opinions of their experience, skill level, and fitness level
- Adults may have little familiarity with the youth and other adults in the unit
- Adults may have little familiarity with BSA policies and procedures
- Adults may have little familiarity with industry-wide activity “best practices”
- Adults may not have the necessary activity-specific technical skills
- Adults may not participate on a regular basis
- Adults may only have a brief tenure as a leader (high degree of inexperience)
The real challenge for adult leaders is accordingly . . .
- Spending extended periods of time in the outdoors with other parents’ youth,
- as well as with other well-meaning adult volunteers,
- some or many of whom may not have the necessary training, maturity, experience, humility, team skills, fitness, or technical skill level, or predictability of action,
- while exercising the appropriate judgment,
- required by the participants, the activity, the venue, and the environment.
How can well-meaning adult volunteers meet the challenge? By training and experience, while attaining the necessary knowledge! Get some!