By Annaleis Smith
Aug 30, 2016

Knot Motivated?

Are you Knot motivated? I was in a meeting recently when a fellow Cub Scout leader (Naomi) made a comment about being “not motivated”.  Huh?  She pointed to her chest – you know above the left pocket where those square knots patches go.  That’s when I realized she didn’t mean NOT motivated but KNOT motivated.  Maybe you have heard someone use that before but I hadn’t. I thought it would make a great title for an article talking about leader training awards – Leader Knots.

Why be Knot Motivated?

Or maybe that should read why knot be motivated – I don’t know… Unfortunately, I have found that many leaders are not even aware that there are awards that they can earn.  And some of those that do know about the awards don’t care to earn them.  So, before we talk about WHO can earn then and HOW, let’s talk about WHY.

Boys in Scouting are all trying to earn different something, an adventure loop, a merit badge, a rank.  The requirements for these awards are usually detailed and clear. This list of requirements gives them direction and helps them set goals towards earning whatever it is they are trying to earn.  Leader awards can do those same things for leaders – give direction and help us set goals.  Our end result is not really that little square knot patch but the better leader we become in the process.

And just like the boys’ awards that are displayed on their uniforms, these leader awards are also displayed on a leader’s uniform.  When you look at a boy who has earned a lot of awards you know he has been in scouting a while.  A lot can be learned by just looking at a uniform.  The same is true for a leader’s uniform. Personally, I like to see a leader’s uniform with the “trained” emblem on it.  That tells me how seriously they take their responsibility.  And leader’s with lots of knots… that shows me a lot about how long they have been a leader, how seriously they take their responsibility and a whole lot more.

The boys and their parents need to see you, their leader, receive awards too.  They need to know that you can take a list of requirements and work towards a goal. When you are working towards something you are setting an example. Then when you proudly display that award on your uniform you are setting an example there as well.

Did you know?

Leader Training Awards

Much like Boy Scout merit badges the leader awards are revised, updated and even discontinued over the years. You can always find the newest requirements at (The national council’s website) on the adult training page.  You will find them listed under “Training Awards” towards the very end – just keep scrolling.  And while there are actually quite a few knots that a Cub Scout leader could earn I am going to highlight the four most common.

Den Leader Training Award


Den Leader Training Award

If you are a den leader for either a Tiger, Wolf, Bear or Webelos den there is an award specific to you. (They used to be three separate knots but they were combined in 2012.)

The basic requirements are to be a den leader for 1 year, complete your training and attend roundtable or university of scouting. The final requirements are to complete 5 of the 10 listed options during that year. You can download the requirements and a tracking sheet here.

Training Award

If you are a Pack Committee Chair, Pack Committee Member, Pack Trainer or didn’t quite meet the full tenure requirements for den leader or cubmaster – you could earn the Scouter’s Training Award for Cub Scouting.

training award

Scouter’s Training Award

There are Training Awards available for Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Venturing, and Sea Scouting.  Each one has their own set of requirements but some elements are the same for all.  All of the training awards have 3 basic sections. You can find the specific requirements and a tracking sheet here.

Tenure – how long you have been a registered leader. All Training Awards require 2 years of tenure as a registered leader

Training – which trainings are required for this award. , Basic training for your position, This is Scouting and attendance at University of Scouting (each year) or Roundtable (4 times per year).

Performance – this is where it differs the most between the awards but each one involves helping the unit achieve at least a bronze JTE level, annual planning and supplemental training.

Leader Keys

If you are a cubmaster you can earn the Scouter’s Key

Scouters Key

Scouter’s Key

This knot is awarded specifically for the unit leader to earn.  The Cubmaster’s Key, Scoutmaster’s Key, Coache’s Key, Advisor’s Key and Skipper’s Key.  They have the same 3 areas – Tenure, Training & Performance with the biggest difference being that they require 3 years of tenure.

Adult Religious Emblem


Adult Religious Knot

Cub Scout Leaders can also earn the adult religious emblem for their Faith.  For leaders in LDS chartered units, you would be awarded this knot once you have completed the requirements for the On My Honor Adult Recognition .  For more details and to find out how to earn it for other religions you find more info here.

On a District Committee?

If your scouting happens at the district level, there are also separate requirements for the Training Award and Key if you are a member of your district committee.  You can find the requirements on the adult training page of

Committee Key

Screen shot from

Commissioner Awards

There are knots and specific awards for those registered as commissioners too.  The commissioner awards were recently (May 2016) updated so look for them in a separate blog article soon.

I was NOT motivated but I guess I am… Now.

Years ago I had completed the requirements for a few knot but had never bothered to fill out the paperwork and turn them in to be recognized.  I didn’t see the need for it but once it was explained to me like I explained above, why adults should earn awards in Scouting I finally filled out and turned in my paperwork for my first 3 knots.  Since then I have earned a few more. I guess it’s fair to say that now I am Knot motivated.  How about you?

Changes for the better

Changes have been made over the years and you may see knots on a uniform that are not available today.  Sometimes knots are retired and sometimes the knot colors change (as with many of the Cub Scout knots with the most recent changes in 2012.)  One good change is in regards to tenure.  The award requirements used to specifically say that tenure for one award could not be counted towards another.  However, that requirement has been dropped as they recognize the fact that many of us have multiple positions and can be working towards multiple awards.

There was a good article about BSA knots in the January-February issue of Scouting Magazine 2008 which includes the 2012 changes.  You should also know that there actually is a right and wrong way to these square knots when sewing them on your uniform. You can find a great article called A guide to BSA square knots, and how to wear them.


Annaleis Smith

Annaleis Smith – is a “stay at home” mother of 5 children. She has been a Cub Scout leader for the past 13 years in various positions and is currently a Cubmaster, Unit Commissioner, and the VP of Membership for the Utah National Parks Council (heading up the Lion and Tiger initiative in the UNPC) Cub Scouting is for every boy!

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3 thoughts on “Knot Motivated?

  1. Darryl AlderDarryl Alder

    I think I have 15 so far, but I think you can only display three rows. So the question is, which nine do you sport? 😎

    1. Annaleis SmithAnnaleis Smith Post author

      Actually, you can put as many as you want on your uniform. But yes, the recommendation is 9 (3 rows of 3) and that really is a good recommendation because most shirts won’t hold more than that anyway. Unless if you move the World Crest (purple) patch all the way up to the shoulder seam. Especially if you have a 100 year or Messengers of Peace patch around the World Crest.. That probably isn’t the best option.

      So, yes for those that have earned more than 9 you may need to choose which ones you want to display. I have heard a few different ways to decide. For me, it’s the first 9 I earned because I don’t like removing patches if I don’t have to.

  2. Anonymous

    For those of us die-hard Scouters in LDS chartered units whose units/wards do not value or emphasize training beyond the minimal requirement of YPT and who do not know about or implement annual program planning, the JTE and planning requirements can be a nearly insurmountable roadblock. The individual performance doesn’t get recognized even if the tenure and individual training are in place. Luckily the Adult Religious Knot is not dependent on others’ performance.


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