What’s the definition of the perfect OA (Order of the Arrow) election at a unit? I’ve seen a lot of them. I’ve seen them go super quick and super long. They can be confusing for the first timers in the troop. They can be a pretty cool thing if given right. It can be very meaningful or it simply be a popularity contest. As a former OA chapter chief, lodge chief and election training chair I can attest there is a proper protocol on how to do an election and here are some considerations you, as an adult leader in your unit, may want to leverage in your troop to be prepared for when the election team comes in to do your unit election.
#1. Have the right leadership roles filled and trained: Talk to your ASPL and ensure you have an OA Representative in your troop. This must be a scout role. It reports up to the ASPL. The OA rep has the duty to promote OA all year long by announcing what’s going on with events, projects, and service oriented news. This is the OA cheerleader for the lodge to generate interest in the organization from within the unit. This person should be able to answer questions about OA like…. What is OA? What is Ordeal? What is with the red arrow on the sash? The OA rep should assist the elections team when they arrive on site. You should also have an ASM for OA as well to mentor the OA rep on how to communicate out information.
#2. Drive awareness: “Remind” the PLC (Patrol Leader’s Council) that OA elections usually start after the first of the year and to give the OA rep time on the meeting agenda a few times before the election date. The scoutmaster will be getting notified by the elections team to start scheduling for their unit OA elections. This gives the scouts some time to digest information slowly so they can fully understand what they are going to be doing during the election. Remember this organization’s members are voted on by non-members and members alike. That means the little 11 year old that joined a month ago has just as much right to vote on the eligible scout(s) as the 17 year old that’s been there for a while. It’s important that they understand what the vote represents.
#3. Add in qualities and characteristics of an ideal OA candidate to scoutmaster conferences and scoutmaster minutes: This can be a driving force for some scouts who are trying to get 1st class before the next unit election. It is also another data point for the scouts to start framing the overall picture of an “ideal OA candidate”.
#4. Work with the election team: Try to get an advanced copy of the election evaluation form so you can go over it with the SPL. Schedule early. Make sure there is communication going on between the election team and your PLC. There shouldn’t be any surprises election night. Follow up with feedback as soon as possible. If there was an issue it’s best to make the election team aware so the same issues don’t pop up at the next unit’s election. The team that comes has been trained on exactly what needs to happen and the order of events to make it successful. They should be putting their best foot forward as OA representatives so please allow them the time needed without rushing anything.
#5. Be involved in OA events: In general… if the adult leadership is involved with OA, the troop/unit is involved in OA. People want to be involved in a fun time. As a scoutmaster as well as doing other things scouting I have a hard time trying to fit in OA events into my schedule… so I get it if you don’t have the time. I have one ASM that loves OA and tries to make the events and that is a start.
#6. Don’t leak election results: When the election is over the scoutmaster and a backup should know the results and hold them secret until summer camp. Leaking the results early will spoil some of the effect and mystery of the whole Call Out ceremony. It’s like knowing what’s in your Christmas gift 4 months before you get it. It’s nice but the magic is gone. You may leak it to some parents the week before summer camp so they (and maybe even more family) can make sure to attend the Call Out ceremony. As a scout it is always super cool to be recognized in front of your peers and family.
When I was a youth I absolutely loved OA. I was more involved with my lodge than I was in my troop there towards the end of my youth career in scouting. It taught me an even deeper understanding of leadership, delegation and determination. Election night may be the very first impression your scouts have of OA so maximize on the opportunity. There are so many great opportunities within OA to strengthen the scout’s bond in the scouting world as a whole… another reason to stay in 1 more year. Make it count and your unit will be the better for it. It kept me in scouting all through college.
Good luck out there scouters!
#ScoutsBSA #OA #OA Elections
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The author, Tony Zizak, is a long time scouter, Eagle Scout, and the scoutmaster of Troop 119 Ellettsville, IN. He has been to scout camps across the country and was a certified Program Director, Aquatics Director and a Scoutcraft Director. As a youth Tony received his Vigil Honor and served as a Lodge Chief for Tseyedin Lodge #65. Reach out to him for any questions you may have on this article.