By Ken Cluff
Jun 25, 2014

Varsity Scouting

Ken Cluff, Editor Varsity Vision Newsletter

Ken Cluff, Editor
Varsity Vision Newsletter

I got involved in Varsity Scouting during the spring of 1980 while it was in the testing phase. I was the Executive Secretary to Bishop Cramer in my ward. I had two Sons ages 15 and 13 in Boy Scouting and saw first hand the problems in Scouting with that age group.   Bishop Cramer asks me if I would take over the new Varsity Scout Program for Teacher age boys, and I jumped at the opportunity.

About that same time we had a training seminar at the Timpanogas High School and a Scouter by the name of Doug Brewer from the Salt Lake Council was the instructor.   He

Doug Brewer Scouter and Cowboy Poet

Doug Brewer Scouter and Cowboy Poet

introduced me and others to Varsity Scouting for the first time. His enthusiasm totally inspired me and from that time on my blood was altered to Orange. Doug Brewer has been my idol ever since.

At this time I had 14 young men in my Varsity Scout team and we were excited to get the new Scouting program going. I purchased every book on Varsity Scouting I could get my hands on.   We got the new Varsity Scout uniform and we wore it to every scouting activity. I attended every Huddle and absorbed every bit of information and ideas that Lawrence Benson and his Huddle committee were presenting.   After about three months, Lawrence asked me if I would like to help on the Huddle Committee as the High Adventure person and I jumped at the opportunity.

rendezvousMy most helpful professional resource Scouter at the Scout Office was and still is Darryl Alder.   He had so many ideas for High Adventure that I could plan for our Squaw Peak District from Cross country ski races at Wasatch State Park, to Mountain Man Rendezvous up Diamond Fork canyon.   We held Olympics at the Orem Recreation Center and Triathlons out of Provo Canyon to end up at the Orem outdoor swimming pool. Turkey shoots using shotguns, black powder rifles and 22 caliber rifles is another one of my favorites. I had Varsity Scouting really rocking in the Squaw Peak District which included all of Orem in the 80’s.

Soon I was asked to be the Squaw Peak Huddle Commissioner and take over Lawrence’s position and was then invited to go to Wood Badge.   Doug Brewer was Course Director and Lawrence was his side kick.   Wood Badge was definitely a life changing experience; one I will never forget.

hatVarsity Scouting was officially adopted by the BSA in 1984. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially endorsed the program about that same time. The following announcement appeared in the January 1984 issue of the Ensign:

President Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve, instructed the Brethren to implement the Varsity Scouting program, he said: “Varsity Scouting is a program developed by the Boy Scouts of America for young men age 14–15. Certain councils conducted a ‘pilot’ program and as a result of the positive success, Varsity Scouting has become an official program of the Boy Scouts of America. It has now been determined by the Church that Varsity Scouting will be the Scouting program for our teacher-age young men. Varsity Scouting will replace Venturing Scouting which has been the program for these young men. Following the implementation schedule correlated with Boy Scouts of America, all wards will be expected to sponsor a Varsity team for teacher-age young men

pinPresident Ezra Taft Benson went on to say the purposes and objectives of the Varsity program have the same strong traditional principles of the past. These include spirituality, self-reliance, love of family, service in the community, and loyalty to country. These principles are reaffirmed in the Scout oath, Scout law, Scout motto, and Scout slogan. Varsity Scouting is a great new resource to strengthen the young men of the teacher quorum age. It is intended that as our young men participate in Varsity Scouting they would continue toward achievement of the rank of Eagle Scout and master leadership skills.   Boy Scouts of America plans to complete training and implementation across the country by September 1984.

VSonTargetIn 1985 I was invited to be the Operation “ON TARGET” Chairman for all the Utah National Parks Council. I was excited to make contact with Varsity Scout leaders in each of the other districts. We didn’t have the internet so communications was by “snail mail” and long distance phone calls. This activity caught on; mainly do to the leadership of Doug Brewer, the father of Operation ON TARGET. I fell in love with this activity from the first time my 14 young men took me to the top of Cascade Mountain in 1981. I have been out on a mountain peak some place in Utah every year since then.

I must have impressed somebody because in 1986, I was asked to Chairman the Western Region of the United States which is basically everything west of the Rocky Mountains. All of the sudden I was way over my head.   I was totally overwhelmed to find some kind of a game plan.   My Hero, Doug Brewer had a list of names of Varsity Scouters interested in Operation ON TARGET throughout the west.   From that list I was able to put together a Western Region committee to help me coordinate our plans.   I made a large fold up map and put all the contact people, phone numbers and addresses on it.   I encouraged the contact Scouters to communicate with their neighboring states and send me any new contact Scouter they find. “BINGO”, everything just fell into place.   Early in the planning I decided we needed a new flashy On Target Pincolorful Operation ON TARGET pin so I designed one and worked with a company in Thailand to build 3500 pins. It was a huge success and even today people are asking me if I have any pins left.

In 1987 I did it all again but this time I hit the road with my wheels turning. It was a banner year for Operation ON TARGET and for the first time we made a signal leapfrog from Canada to Mexico.

Wood Badge for the 21st Century was introduced in conjunction with a newly revised training curriculum.   I was again invited to be on a Varsity Wood Badge staff for the fourth time and was asked to write a syllabus incorporating the 21st Century Wood Badge material. I spent a couple months reviewing both syllabuses to complete my assignment. When we turned my syllabus into our council Wood Badge committee for approval, I was flatly turned down and told we needed to follow the new 21st Century syllabus exactly.   The Wood Badge committee didn’t even read any of my ideas. The new 21st Century Wood Badge didn’t have anything on Varsity Scouting in it and displaced Varsity Scouting’s unique version of Wood Badge training. The loss of Varsity Wood Badge severely subdued the development of my district Varsity Scout staffers.   I argued my point to deaf ears.   The only thing it got me was to be “black balled” and put on the “do not call list”, so I was never invited to serve on a Wood Badge course again.

I think Varsity Scouting has survived in name only, but not in spirit. Many of its essential qualities are now gone, and its effectiveness dramatically reduced. Without doubt,its importance to today’s young men is in question.Although as an officially approved BSA program in 1984, I saw Varsity Scouting continued to face opposition from the national and local levels. The soundness of the program continues to be questioned even today. It is not hard to imagine a day in the not too distant future when Varsity Scouting will be eliminated altogether.

Let me move ahead now to today, it is June 2014 and things are getting interesting for Varsity Scouting. We have more support at upper levels than we have ever seen before. Gary Dollar has been asked to Chair the Varsity Program Committee for the Western Region. Andy Gibbons is going to work with him there. The policy will be that there is a Varsity Program Committee at each of the 5 Region Areas and council levels.

I have been involved continuously in Varsity Scouting since 1980 when I was first called to be a Varsity Scout Coach over 14 young men. I have seen these young men grow and go on missions, get married in the temples, and have families of their own.   Just last week in our ward we had a young return Missionary talk to us and soon I realized he was the son of one of my original 14 Varsity Scouts.


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I am now the Varsity Vision newsletter Editor and have been since January 2007, (Front page below for July 2014).   My experience in Varsity Scouting over these many years has provided me with many pictures, ideas and suggestions.

I have designed the Varsity Vision Newsletter to provide Scouting leadership motivation and inspiration as well as a dialogue on needs, direction and policies in Varsity Scouting throughout the United States. I assemble and distribute useful new ideas, practical tips, enthusiasm and the vision of Stand-Alone Varsity Scouting. Opinions and ideas expressed are mostly mine.

A multitude of dedicated Scouters have sacrificed greatly to develop, preserve, and deliver Varsity Scouting. If not in honor of their efforts, then for the good of the young men that can benefit from Scouting, a concerted effort is being made at this time to revitalized, enabling it to “deliver the promise” once again as it did for me and my 14 young men 39 years ago.

Ken Cluff, Editor Varsity Vision Newsletter  Author: Ken Cluff | Editor, The Varsity Vision Newsletter




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