Scoutreach

The combination of soccer and Cub Scouting has already had plenty of successes around the country, but perhaps none greater than the impact it had on the Mount Diablo Silverado Council in California.

The council was reaching less than 1 percent of the area's Hispanic/Latino population through conventional outreach programs, estimated Kevin Kilduff, director of field service. That's when Tony Perez, a district executive, approached the local Hispanic chamber of commerce about starting two soccer leagues—one rural, one urban—that would combine the sport with Scout programs.

The result was almost 1,000 new Scouts in a month and the complete demolition of a cultural barrier. "They want their children in soccer, but they were also looking for something that would build character," Kilduff said.

The next challenge for the suddenly booming council: training leaders quickly and thoroughly enough to preserve the momentum.

"We tried hard to recruit for years in the Hispanic community, and this has been very positive."

Gabriel Esquivel, training chair for Soccer and
Scouting, Mount Diablo Silverado Council

"It is a success story, but it also is an opportunity that needs to be carefully massaged," said Gabriel Esquivel, the council's training chair for Soccer and Scouting. "When you have this many boys come to the program by nontraditional means, keeping them is going to be difficult."

"I feel very positive about this," Esquivel said. "We tried hard to recruit for years in the Hispanic community, and this has been very positive."

Although its number of participants is not as high, the Northeast Georgia Council also has credited the Soccer and Scouting program with a good portion of its success in Scoutreach. Some 500 youth are involved in the program, many of whom come from the area's fast-growing Hispanic/Latino population.

Though the program is presented in both English and Spanish, it seems to have more of an impact among Hispanics/Latinos, leaders from both councils said. One reason is that English-speaking families were already familiar with Cub Scouting; an obvious area for growth was in the Hispanic/Latino population.

Launched in the summer of 2004, Soccer and Scouting provides a vehicle to help children learn skills in both activities. The year is divided into four seasons, which feature weekly practices (combined with den meetings and Scout skill lessons) and games. Each season culminates with a combination tournament/graduation.

The program has been a success in terms of reaching youngsters, so much so that in the Northeast Georgia Council, for example, there has been a need for skilled soccer coaches to make sure the Cub Scouts' growth in the sport keeps up with their advancement in Scouting.

The hope is that after a successful stint as a soccer-playing Cub Scout, the natural progression will lead more boys into the Boy Scouts.

The hope is that after a successful stint as a soccer-playing Cub Scout, the natural progression will lead more boys into the Boy Scouts.

"It gives the parents a good taste for what Scouting is," Scout Executive Trip Selman said.

Selman's council also works with local agencies to try to reach potential members where they live—in some cases, literally. The council has established some relationships with housing authorities in urban areas, as well as with a local Boys Club.