By Andy Gibbons
Sep 03, 2015

A Report on: “Leading Varsity Scouting in LDS Teams”

This course was held at Philmont Training Center (PTC) 12-18 July 2015

PTC V Room

Marsha Gibbons’ “V” quilt made it clear who we were.

After months of preparation, the conference “Leading Varsity Scouting in LDS Teams” launched in the Miranda meeting room. Every faculty member contributed to displays that lined the walls: everything from Rendezvous gear to posters showing the relationship between the Scouting programs and Priesthood quorums.

Ours was the second largest course during Week 6 at PTC. Cubs had 39, and we had 28 participants. Our conference members came from all of the western states except Nevada and Oregon. Five councils outside the Western Region were represented: three Texas councils, and one each from Illinois and Indiana.

PTC VS ASSEEMBLY HALLThe peerless PTC staff made it a great experience right from the opening conference and throughout the week. Their attitude of service and their animated spirit of playfulness added a lot of fun to the week.

VS CLASS ROOMAt the very beginning of the course, participants were organized into Squads, where they held elections for a Squad Leader and five Program Managers—one for each field of emphasis. Squads were described as watch-care units responsible to look out for squad members and report back to the Team Captain on the welfare of participants and their families.

VS CLASS ROOM2Next, those elected to a position (including everyone in the conference) met in their respective Program Manager Groups, where they learned that they had a course event to plan, just as youth would do in a regular Varsity team.

vs PROJECTEveryone fit into the organization chart somewhere, as a squad member, and as a Program Manager or Squad Leader.

VS ON THE ROADSometimes Program Manager planning meetings took place on the bus while travelling to one of the outposts. We visited the C.O.P.E. course, Rocky Mountain Scout Camp, and the Zastrow outpost.

VS CLASSROOM 3Instruction was given in the form of short sessions, each focused on a specific topic. Topics chosen included standard Varsity organization and team operation, but the background theme was always how the elements of the Varsity program enhanced the work of the Teachers Quorum. Areas we were able to cover not usually found in Varsity training included the relationship between the Teachers Quorum and the team, Commissioner service, and new record-keeping software from BSA. Interestingly, on the day we taught about this new software, BSA announced that it was de-activating the old software and switching over to the new system. Perhaps we were the first course anywhere in BSA to give this go-live announcement.

VS OUTDOORInstruction was conducted out of doors on two of the days. Methods included discussion, demonstrations, problem solving, group work, and simulation. Lecturing was kept to a minimum.


vs CLASSROOM 4An important source of instruction took place among peers. Networking was encouraged, and an Internet site was set up by one of the participants for continued communication after the conference.

Participants represented literally all of the church leadership positions connected with Varsity Scouting: being evenly distributed among Bishops and Bishop’s Counselors, Stake and Ward Young Men Presidency counselors, Varsity Coaches, and Committee Members.

VS OUTDOOR5Russ Hunsaker (back to camera) and his wife Rose provided support for all Week 6 conferences, but Russ was especially helpful to the Varsity conference. At the end of the conference week, we told Russ we would double conference attendance next year. He asked why that could not be tripled. That gives us a good goal to shoot for.

VS OUTDOOR2Emphasis was placed on hands-on instruction. One of the events during the week was mirror making as an illustration of the traditional yearly On-Target Varsity Scouting event. At the end of the week, we exchanged signals with mirrors placed on a bluff located on a ridge outside the PTC. The sun wasn’t as cooperative as we wished, but the point of the exercise was made.


Faculty for the course included: (back row, l to r) Gavin Christen, Bry Davis, Steve Baugh, Andy Gibbons, Kevin Collier, Reed Tanner; (front row, r to l) Gary Dollar, Laura Dollar, Linda Brewer, and Doug Brewer.

The spiritual tie-in of On-Target with the priesthood theme is that prophets have always gone to the mountain top to ponder and to seek inspiration and enlightenment. This year President Thomas S. Monson wrote the annual greetings letter for the On-Target event. This letter is read by the boys each year during the On-Target event.

In addition to the On-Target event, the participant Program Managers planned and executed other events, including an orienteering course, a low C.O.P.E. experience, Varsity games, an advancement program that resulted in earning a Varsity Letter award, and a conservation service project. In addition, participants fulfilled a major requirement for the BSA “Trained” award (the other two being Youth Protection training and Outdoor Leadership Skills training).

Author: Andy Gibbons | Vice-Chair, Western Region Varsity Scout Program Committee Program Chair

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One thought on “A Report on: “Leading Varsity Scouting in LDS Teams”

  1. AvatarRyan Davis

    Brother Gibbons,

    The day I returned from Philmont I was called as bishop of my ward. Brett is my 1st Councilor and Tyler is our 2nd Councilor in the YM presidency, acting as Varsity Coach now. If they can make the time this summer, I’ll make sure that they have every opportunity to participate in the Varsity training.

    We’re implementing Varsity as it ought to be done and also scouting at the deacon and priest levels. I’d love to speak with someone who has had a lot of experience with Venturing and paint a vision for me of things that successful programs have done. I’m in process of going through the materials, but as you know, a solid experienced voice always helps.
    Thank you for all you do. If you wanted to incorporate any training this coming year that has more to do with the connection between preparing young men for missions and how the skills that they get in Varsity Scouting directly apply to their mission and later their life experience, I am willing to help with that. I taught mission prep through CES in Arizona for several years and then in every ward and stake that I’ve been in as well, adding to about 10 years and hundreds of young men. I has become so clear to me that there is a necessary connection between a young man possessing the life skills that are taught in scouting and his success as a missionary, and that the reason we have so many returning home is due to the failure or lack of faith in scouting as the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. Just yesterday I called every adult adviser and Sunday school teacher into a meeting and we spoke about how these principles, and one that stood out is how the skill that you young men gain in planning activities at the varsity and venture level is so necessary to give a young man or young woman confidence to do the daily planning on a mission that will yield success. These principles are inspired, and I appreciate the training you all did to help expand these principles in my mind. I’d be happy to help with whatever you thought you might be helpful as you prepare for next year and beyond.
    Thank you,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.