Pre-Pilot Program (January 1978-January 1980)

The Task Force sought the endorsement of both the LDS Church and the BSA. On October 3rd, 1977, the Church’s General Scouting Committee decided to recommend the Varsity Scouting program “with some reservations”. While the decision was made, there was a lack of unanimity. The Presidency of the Young Men grew increasingly uneasy and asked for a delay in implementation. New materials developed by the Church to support the Aaronic Priesthood Quorums had been developed and were about to be released. They felt that a simultaneous introduction of the Varsity Scouting program and the Aaronic Priesthood materials would “muscle the quorum program into the background” and that “the expectations made of the local leaders will become complicated beyond their capacity”. They went on to put forth an alternative plan that did not involve Varsity Scouting.

Eventually, approval was obtained from the Church to move forward with the program on a trial basis. The BSA was unwilling to embrace the program and offered no support of any kind for it, but they agreed to allow it to be piloted on a limited basis and approved the program design.

Materials to support the program, the first Varsity Scout Handbook for the boys and a Leader Guidebook for the adults, were released.

The pre-pilot program was conducted within Area 2 of the Western Region. The participating Councils were:
• Cache Valley, Logan, UT
• Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, UT
• Lake Bonneville, Ogden, UT
• Snake River, Twin Falls, ID
• Tendoy Area, Pocatello, ID
• Teton Peaks, Idaho Falls, ID
• Utah National Parks, Provo, UT

The unit leaders of any new Team had to complete training before the Team was allowed a charter. This was an important measure, one that did much to ensure at least a minimum level of competency within each unit. The increased enthusiasm that this created among the adult leadership was sensed by the boys in the program.

In partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Doctoral Degree in Education from Brigham Young University, Thomas S. Catherall conducted research and wrote a dissertation titled “Varsity Scouting: An Evaluation Of Its Potential As An Alternative For 14- and 15-Year-Old Boys”.

In his dissertation, he wrote:
“This dissertation is an evaluation of the pre-pilot Varsity Scout program used in Area 2 of the Western Region of the Boy Scouts of America.

Varsity Scouting was developed by a committee of volunteer Scouters as an alternative program for 14- and 15-year-old boys and consisted of traditional Scouting methods with added emphasis on high adventure, service, and the application of Scoutings’ [sic] programs.

After its development, the Varsity Scout program was introduced in a pre-pilot program that lasted from January 1978 until January 1980.

Before the Varsity Scouting program was launched, boys 14- and 15-years-of age in the Boy Scouts of America were either members of Scout troops or Explorer posts and had no opportunity to participate in a program specifically designed for their own age group. In the absence of a program model and without substantial current research into the needs of 14- and 15-year-old boys, a committee of concerned volunteer Scouters developed a foundation for Varsity Scouting based on their observations of the Scouting preferences of boys.

The general research plan initially developed in 1977 for studying the Varsity Scouting program, during its two year pre-test, made provision for the program’s evaluation after one year of implementation with another evaluation to be conducted at the end of the two year pre- ilot. In addition to the two evaluations mentioned, a third evaluation was conducted, mid-way through the pre-pilot in order to probe the assumptions upon which the program was developed: questions needed to be answered with regards to the needs, interests and preferences of 14- and 15-year-old boys in order to determine what exactly would attract and hold them in a program specifically designed for their age group.

The three studies required by the general research plan for the Varsity Scouting pre-pilot program were conducted and evaluated as part of this author’s doctoral program and the results thereof are reported in this dissertation. The initial research data was gathered by collecting and evaluating responses from participants in Varsity Scouting programs, by means of surveys made on random samples of populations of 14- and 15-year-old boys located in Utah and Idaho, the two states comprising the pre-pilot area.

The data collected were used to answer the two questions posed by the Varsity Scouting program: (1) are 14- and 15-year-old boys attracted to the traditional Scouting methods, and (2) would the implementation of the Varsity Scouting program trigger a resurgence of interest in the traditional Scouting methods in all Scouting groups serving 14- and 15-year-old boys (i.e. Exploring, Leadership Corps and Varsity Scouting).”

Scouting methods really do not change, but they have been described in different ways in different times. For the purposes of his study, Catherall defined them as:
• Scouting Ideals
• Advancement
• Adult Male Association
• Outdoor Programs
• Leadership Development and Patrol Method

Catherall conducted his studies through the local High Schools. He worked through a Professional Scouter in each of the Councils to serve as liaisons and verified his survey instrument in August of 1977.

Catherall’s three studies verified that Varsity Scouting was indeed a success. The data he gathered showed that after being exposed to Varsity Scouting, 14- and 15-year-old boys wanted more outdoor activities and that they preferred Varsity Scouting over Exploring. Varsity Scouting activities were reported to be more fun and plentiful than Exploring. The study documented small increases in membership and more favorable attitudes towards uniforms. It also showed that Varsity Scouting offered an increase in advancement and leadership positions.

Institutional leaders reported a 95% compatibility with the programs and ideals of their institutions. Exploring rated 85%.

The first Varsity Scout Team to be officially chartered was the Lehi 14th Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lehi, Utah. The Institution Head was Bishop Carl J. Mellor. The Varsity Team Coach was Merlin Russon.

Pilot Program (January 1980-January 1984)

After a successful pre-pilot program, both the Varsity Scout Handbook for the boys and the Leader Guidebook were revised, creating second editions of each volume.

The Task Force again met with Professional Scouters from the National Council. They persuaded the National Council to begin piloting the program on a broader scale. Twenty-eight councils were selected for this round of testing and National piloted the program for the next 4 years. The twenty-eight councils that participated in this second pilot program were:
• Aloha, Honolulu, HI
• Anthony Wayne Area, Fort Wayne, IN
• Baltimore Area, Baltimore, MD
• Bay-Lakes, Menosha, WI
• Cache Valley, Logan, UT
• Chief Seattle, Seattle, WA
• Del-Mar-Va, Wilmington, DE
• Evergreen, Everett, WA
• Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, UT
• Great Western, Van Nuys, CA
• Jim Bridger, Rock Springs, WY
• Lake Bonneville, Ogden, UT
• Longhorn, Fort Worth, TX
• Los Angeles Area, Los Angeles, CA
• Minsi Trails, Lehigh Valley, PA
• Mount Rainer, Tacoma, WA
• National Capital Area, Washington, D.C.
• Ore-Ida, Boise, ID
• Otetiana, Rochester, NY
• Quivira, Wichita, KS
• San Gabriel Valley, Pasadena, CA
• Snake River Area, Twin Falls, ID
• Tendoy Area, Pocatello, ID
• Teton Peaks, Idaho Falls, ID
• Utah National Parks, Provo, UT
• Verdugo Hills, Glendale, CA
• Winnebago, Waterloo, IA

Piloting brought with it change to the uniform. The original polo shirt with the brown collar was modified, changing the shirt to a single-color, all-tan version. The Varsity Scout Emblem originally used was changed to a stitched logo using orange thread.

Later still, when the new Boy Scout uniform designed by Oscar De Larenta was introduced, Varsity Scouting adopted the new uniform design, substituting the red shoulder loops designated for Boy Scouting with blaze orange shoulder loops for Varsity Scouting.

 

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