Trail Life USA: Raising Boys to be Men in the Age of Equality

By Nancy Flory Published on May 7, 2018

The Boy Scouts are not just for boys anymore. Girls are allowed to join the Cub Scouts and they’ll be allowed to join the Boy Scouts next year. Of course girls who identify as boys are allowed to join. We shouldn’t be surprised. Many people say that boys and girls are the same and that giving boys a separate space creates inequality.

But boys and girls aren’t the same, and boys need their own space, says the CEO of Trail Life USA. Mark Hancock explains how his organization offers a better way.

Trail Life USA

“Trail Life is a Christ-centered, boy-focused character leadership adventure organization for boys and young men,” Hancock told The Stream in an interview. It is “unapologetically Christian,” and tells the boys that the Bible is their compass that gives them their “true north.”

That’s what the Boy Scouts have lost. “When you lose your moral compass, everything falls into question, which is why we’re seeing what’s going on with the Boy Scouts of America. They have no idea who they are anymore. They totally cut loose from their moorings and no telling what they’re going to do next because they’ve lost their way.”

Hancock believes some influential people are waging an “ongoing war on boyhood.” It started years ago but really ramped up in the ’90s with the way in which boys and girls were educated. We stressed math and science for girls, but ignored the boys. “We felt like [girls] needed to get better in science so we kind of changed the way we educated kids in order to favor girls,” explains Hancock. “As a result, we’re seeing a severe impact on the boys. It’s wonderful that girls improved in science and technology, but we ignored the boys in the process.”

Boys and girls cannot be expected to perform the same because they are different in many ways. A “one size fits all” approach to educating kids doesn’t work. “We need take into account that … boys and girls are different. If we have the same expectations on either sex, we’re not necessarily going get the same results. Girls learn different than boys, they develop different than boys. There’s just a reality to that that political correctness tends to water down.” 

Boys’ Distinct Needs

Boys have distinct needs. They need good, solid leadership and clear boundaries. They want to know who is with them, who’s in charge and what their mission is. “And if you don’t get those things clear for boys, they’re going to create that structure in a way that looks like rebellion, or looks like resistance, or looks like apathy.” That’s why gangs are popular, Hancock explains. They provide that structure that boys need.

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Boys are failing to become “winning, determined, focused men because we’re not letting them be fully boys,” Hancock says. “We’re producing a generation of unproductive, narcissists. They’re unproductive because we don’t expect anything from them and they’re narcissists because we don’t let them fail. We have to give boys opportunities to get out, to stretch their legs a little bit, and to achieve and to compete and to win trophies for being faster, for being stronger, for being better rather than just for showing up.”

Trail Life USA gives each boy metaphoric tools to help him on his journey. A compass, which represents biblical values, a flashlight, which represents God’s Word, a guide, which represents his troop and mentors, a map, which represents a peer who’s been there before, and a mountain, which represents a challenge. “We think that the drive and daring of boys today that’s being suppressed is exactly what’s responsible for producing winning and determined, respectful, honoring men and we need to let boys take on challenges and lose and win. Lose and learn from it and try again and win and find out they can do difficult things.”

‘We’re Doing Something Right’

So far, Trail Life USA has been successful — and they’re growing. They have 27,000 members in 750 troops in 48 states. But the real wins are the stories from the field. From boys and men whose lives are changed to boys without dads, whose lives are being affected in a Christ-centered safe environment with father-like men to help them through the difficult times.

One young man from a broken home struggled until he found a Trail Life troop. He went on a backpacking hike and made it to the top of the mountain. He went home and told his mom, “I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I hung in there and I discovered if I worked really hard at something I can do it.” “That’s gold to a single mom,” Hancock says. “She sees her son take on something different and accomplish that. You’re not going to find that in many other places. So, we can point to those kinds of successes to say, ‘We’re doing something right here.'”

“Our social networking is around a fire with a hotdog on a stick,” he says. It’s not on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. It’s talking with people face-to-face. And that’s powerful. If you can get boys in that kind of place, where they’re discovering the wonder and the beauty of the outdoors and just simple fellowship, it’s a good thing.”


For information on local troops or to start a troop with Trail Life USA, click here.

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  • SkyGirl315

    The Salvation Army’s Adventure Corps is a good option as well.

  • tamkae

    From the 45 Communist Goals read into the Congressional Record in January 1963:
    24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

    25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography
    and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

    27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social”
    religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual
    maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”

    28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools
    on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church
    and state.”

    • GPS Daddy

      Of the official government records that I can find I cannot find these. Do you have a link to the official records that shows this?

      • AndRebecca

        Here’s a search close to what you are asking: congressional record-appendix pp. a34-a35 january 10 1963

  • Tim Pan

    “10See that you do not look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” … Matthew 18: 10

  • Nick Stuart

    I am an Eagle Scout. Two of my sons are Eagle Scouts. 20 years ago another man & I founded a troop which is still going and has produced in excess of 50 Eagle Scouts. This isn’t the organization I signed up for. It isn’t the organization for which I lobbied my church board to be a troop chartering organization. If I were still on the church board today, I would speak against chartering a troop.

    While the BSA is claiming that there will be separate girls and boys troops, I do not expect that will last very long for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are the logistics involved in running a successful scout troop. I give it five years, I expects the plans are already in place. Even before they authorize co-ed troops, there are going to be problems because so many non-troop specific activities will be co-ed at least in the sense of having both kinds of troops present at the same time (summer camp, camporees, Order of the Arrow). There’ll be a lot of “he was looking at my chest” stuff to deal with. I remember the COPE course (‘ropes” course, think “obstacle course”) where my team had to grab my butt and push/pull me over the climbing wall. Things like that will end up being a problem: “he touched my butt.” There are a lot of activities where direct physical contact is a unavoidable (lifesaving for example).

    I believe the main problem is that the National Council, driven by the big city councils, has no value or principle they won’t abandon, no tradition they won’t break with, just to go after numbers, and be politically correct. The duplicitous nature of the way they have rolled out changes like this, and allowing homosexuals to be adult leaders violate the first part of the Scout Law: Trustworthy. Trustworthy they are not.

    A major effect is going to be that “Scouting, B.S.A.” isn’t going to be a place where boys can be boys. Just like in school, and church, they’ll be expected to act like little girls. Just like in school and church, when the girls want something, the boys will be expected to let them have it. When the girls insult the boys and talk them down, the boys will be expected to shut up and wear it. Like in school and church it will all run one way. [Yes, I know, people think I’m awful when I speak and write this, but it is my experience and observation after 67 years of life. If your experience has been different you can be thankful].

    Trail Life may be a good alternative. It’s looking better all the time. Problem is there is no way it can replicate the millions of hours that have been spent over the last 100+ years developing a program that, at one time although no longer, occupied a “cultural sweet spot” that alternative programs just couldn’t touch. Quick – what’s the top Trail Life award (I looked it up, it’s the “Freedom” award). Hard to justify pressing a boy to spend 6 years or so earning an award nobody’s ever heard of and which will elicit a “humph” reaction. That may be what is necessary though.

    Since Trail Life has a BSA to Trail Life “transfer” program where requirements met in BSA can be transferred to Trail Life I’m giving serious thought to talking with the current troop leadership about making the switch.

  • Mr. Covfefe

    Assemblies of God has the Royal Rangers. I’m sorry the BoA succumbed to the PC filth. They put up a good fight for many years. The good news is there are other options that don’t embrace the godless philosophy.

  • Death to the UNIParty

    This is just a publicity stunt do to dropping numbers….fools, it’s going to get worse now when families see TBSOA is a JOKE

  • Joe Walker

    I donate $ to Trail Life, the Boy Scouts are dead to me.

  • Surfinnonreality

    I have my old copies of the Boy Scout Manual and the Boy Scout Field manual. They were written long before the alphabet people messed up the Boy Scouts. They are still worth reading the values the Boy Scouts once stood for are spelled out.

    Boy Scout Oath or Promise
    On my honor, I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

    Boy Scout Law
    A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
    Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

    Boy Scout Motto
    Be Prepared!

    Boy Scout Slogan
    Do a Good Turn Daily!
    The leftwing has destroyed the opportunity for young men to learn and live those concepts. None of them say rely on the government.

    • Royce E. Van Blaricome

      Thank you for posting that. As a once proud Eagle I would like everyone to see that the BSA has made a mockery of all those and I don’t see how anyone could recite those with a straight face today.

  • Royce E. Van Blaricome

    God Bless Trail Life, their Leadership, their efforts, & the investment they’re pouring in to these boys and young men!!

    This is exactly the kind of thing we need to see in other areas of Society. We need to see Christian alternatives to Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, etc.

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