First look: Troop Leader Guidebooks, set to replace Scoutmaster Handbook

scoutmaster-handbookUpdate, Feb. 28. 2014: These books are still being reviewed, and Vol. 1 should be available in the coming months. Vol. 2 is expected later this year.

If you judge the Scoutmaster Handbook by its cover, you might assume it’s solely meant for, well, Scoutmasters.

Assistant Scoutmasters, it seemed, were to look elsewhere for Scouting wisdom.

That’s about to change. Later this year, the two-volume Troop Leader Guidebook will debut, replacing the Scoutmaster Handbook and offering helpful checklists, quick tips and fresh ideas for both new troop leaders and veteran Scouters.

Scouting magazine contributor Mark Ray wrote Volume 1, while Bob Birkby, author of the latest Boy Scout Handbook, penned Volume 2.

You can see the covers of the new Troop Leader Guidebooks after the jump. I’ve also got a sneak peek at what’s inside the books and what makes them better tools for Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters. 

Vol. 1: For new troop leaders

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Click to enlarge

Mark Ray’s Vol. 1 focuses primarily on the needs of the new or relatively inexperienced Boy Scout leader.

These Scouters will have been volunteers for up to three years, are likely assistant Scoutmasters and probably recently crossed over from serving as a Webelos leader or parent.

As such, Volume 1 assumes little or no prior knowledge of the Boy Scout program on the part of the reader. It presents a somewhat simplified picture of Boy Scouting that focuses on the short term — getting through this week’s troop meeting, this month’s outing and this year’s planning conference — rather than the long term, such as planning for growth, establishing a troop vision, and measuring personal and troop success.

In other words, it leaves advanced topics to Volume 2.

Given that its readers are mostly newcomers, this volume’s tone is similar to that used in a book for new parents. It reassures readers that everything is really going to be okay. Really.

Vol. 2: Advanced guidance for veteran Scouters

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Click to enlarge

Bob Birkby’s Volume 2 assumes its readers are ready for the next level.

Here you’ll find info like high-adventure planning, working with Scouts with disabilities, conflict resolution, visioning and more.

This volume is for more-seasoned leaders who need fresh ideas. It’s an advanced guidebook that will help leaders take their troop’s program and operations to a higher level. It will also help leaders keep an established program fresh and exciting so that troops don’t fall into the trap of doing the same things year after year.

Look at it this way: Volume 1 replaces the current Scoutmaster Handbook, while Volume 2 offers advanced guidance that’s been missing from several editions of the Scoutmaster Handbook.

Behind the scenes

“By the way,” Mark tells me, “we changed the name because surveys indicated that many assistant Scoutmasters thought the Scoutmaster Handbook wasn’t for them!”

But more than just a new name, the Troop Leader Guidebook represents a new approach to serving all troop leaders. And it happened, as it should, with the input of Scouters like you.

“We held focus groups in the spring of 2012 in the D.C. area (Northeast and Southern Regions), the St. Louis area (Central Region), and the Bay Area (Western Region) to get input on the current handbook and what Scouters wanted to see in the new handbooks,” Mark says.

So the two-volume Troop Leader Guidebook is truly designed by Scouters for Scouters. Look for both volumes to be released together some time around March or April 2014 later this year.

90 thoughts on “First look: Troop Leader Guidebooks, set to replace Scoutmaster Handbook

      • Please remember (or remind the appropriate folks) that not everyone has an iPhone or iPad, but every platform can read PDF files.

      • These publications cost money to produce whether they’re eventually published digitally or on paper. Even if they’re handed out online like some other guides, the money comes from somewhere.

    • Well we needed a new updated SM manual but lets hope the cost is not real high. Many of my scouters are out of work and we have to share it. The cover look great.

  1. Oh man, I always loved the “Scoutmaster Handbook”. :-(

    I never felt it wasn’t for me even though I was only an ASM.

    • From what I see, this will be everything you love about the Scoutmaster Handbook, only more of it and better organized by audience (new leaders and experienced ones).

    • Never “ONLY” ASM! The Troop can’t make it without trained and active Scouters in the ASM role-or no Troop I’ve seen can.

  2. I hope that the subliminal message of the Volume 1 cover photo is “Take the plunge – you won’t drown” rather than “Abandon ship!” Good choice in putting the figure in the Volume 2 cover photo in silhouette — it could be a man or a woman, young or old, any race or ethnicity.

    • Seriously, I look forward to seeing these. I always thought the Scoutmaster Handbook was way too textbook-like, to the point of being intimidating to a new leader, and not nearly concrete enough. What I always wished for as a troop leader was a set of checklists and timelines covering every common aspect of troop operations. I think one of Boy Scouting’s biggest challenges is the vast range of skill, ability, and time in our volunteer leaders, which creates wide differences in program quality among different troops, and within the same troop over time as leaders change. Anything we can do to to make it easier for troop leaders to ‘learn to drive’ the Boy Scouting program is a step toward raising program quality.

      • The idea of Leader Specific Training is to introduce new leaders to the handbook so they could then use it as a reference.

  3. I have Scoutmaster Handbooks from the WW II era and before that were two volume. And they had a lot more text than these did.

  4. All of the adults who manage Scouting groups are in the same “boat” – including the parents. Any platform that gets useful management information to leaders is a good one. I hope that the new “Troop Leader Guidebooks” will be successful. We’ll always have our old “Scoutmaster Handbooks” for solid historical reference!

      • Probably not. If you ask me most of the people working in national don’t have a clue about how a troop runs anymore. They are more looking for a way to increase cash flow. Jose hit the nail on the head, I follow him on twitter he seems to know his stuff very well!

      • A Scouter is considered to be any adult who is still involved with Scouting, but a “Unit Leader” is one who has undertaken the Scoutermaster role-see how the terms are used in the 2011 Guide to Advancement. Therefore, while all Unit Leaders are Scouters, not all Scouters are Unit Leaders. Some Scouters are Committee Members, or Merit Badge Counsellors, etc, etc.

    • Dead on Jose! I was thinking the same thing. But now they have 2 new books to sell rather than 1. again, National is merely thinking about revenue if you ask me.

      • Ok, then the name should be more specific. We have a similar case in NYLT courses where the Adult leader is called “Course Director” and the youth leader is called “Course Leader”. Then “Troop Adult Leader Handbook is more reasonable. The SPL is still the “Troop Youth Leader. BTW, it is not the first time we have discussions about proper names. Join our NYLT LinkedIn group. :-)

    • Based on above definition of Scouter, then the suggestion should be “Troop Adult Leader Handbook”. BTW, the Senior Patrol Leader Handbook is also used by ASPLs. At the end, all SMs and ASMs are also Scoutmasters. I think the book will always the “Scoutmasters Handbook”. The name is not important, the content and our use are the important things. Bring the books. :-)

  5. OK, why am I the only one going “yes it needed an update, but c’mon, there’s really one ASM someplace who thought they couldn’t use this?” for that matter, is there ANY manual for adults omeone else can’t use?

  6. It is important to be engaged in this digital revolution we are in the midst of. Programs like Cubtracker and Scoutmode are embracing this and will be successful in the end because they are looking at how leaders want to use the tools today. While nothing will ever replace the feel of reading a book, reference material such as this will be important to have at a moments notice. Ideally we see this as an app or at the very least in PDF format. Please embrace the revolution and help the tech savvy to better serve our Troop.

    • You can flip to the index and then to a page in a binder as fast as you can look anything up on your phone. Motion and progress are not the same. A PDF is convenient, but that’s it: it’s just a convenience.

      • Books are a whole lot bulkier and heavier than apps or PDF’s, and our smart phone or tablet is right there in our pocket or backpack.

        • Also – I don’t mind paying for the material. It is worth it!

        • Apps are not fail safe. Your book is only as good as your batteries. All of my leaders will take the tangible material over electronic any day.

  7. I’m really sorry that I didn’t hear about the focus groups, because I had lots of ideas about problems with the Scoutmaster Handbook and ways it could be better.

    National really needs to get the word out earlier.

  8. I have most of the Scout Handbooks going back to the thirties. I love the art work in
    the old ones. I look forward to checking out the new TLG so I can add it to my collection. Bring it on!

  9. I think it’s time to drop the physical books and have a wiki that is dynamic and updateable. It wouldn’t be difficult for those without internet/skills to get printed copies made available – and I’d be pretty surprised to find an entire unit with no one with access.

    For those asking about LST Level I and II – it exists already. Level I is the LST course, and Level II is Roundtable (Woodbadge, other supplemental trainings)

    • The purpose of a book is to bring it to the field. The woods is no place for a Kindle or iPod, iPad , iPed , iPid or iPud.

      • My phone goes backpacking with me (usually on airplane mode since I don’t need signal and want to preserve battery) because it is my alarm clock, camera, etc. I also have an app which lists all rank and merit badge requirements so I can look up exact requirements that we may be working on without the bulk of handbooks or merit badge pamphlets.

        I would much sooner pack my kindle with something like this loaded on it than I would the actual paper manual!

  10. Why two volumes? Just make one large book that covers everything. Why make Scouters buy two books? A majority of us will buy both, so why not just make them into a single book so it’s cheaper?

    I have never understood why the program features book is in three volumes. Does anyone out there only have one or two volumes? I bet a vast majority of everyone has all three. Just make one book so it’s cheaper.

    • I don’t know for sure, but from the descriptions above, I would imagine that having 2 volumes makes it easier for a more experienced leader to pass on the first one to a new leader (or even several new leaders) while he is still using the second volume for reference.

      • Perhaps in theory, but I think the reality of the situation is that a vast majority of Scouters will purchase, keep, and use both books.

    what was old is now new again (1945-ish SM Handbook came in 2 Volumes)
    Imitation —Flattery…….
    Scouting has way to much literature and too few Scoutmaster (of the right sort)
    Modern Scouting (BP scouting at al) has currently been highjacked by the wekll meaning but misguided.
    Scoutmasters and Commissioners take back your turf

    • Your right. I have that set. I have a collection of old scout books and Guide books. I really love the old field book from 1967, I have purchased several copies of it off ebay to give others so they can have something that puts OUTING in Scouting.

      • I like the old Fieldbook, too, but it should NOT be used now. It has suggestions that are dangerous, like the snakebite first aid and the advice to only drink a little water while hiking.

        On the other hand, a page-by-page update of that book would probably be better than the current Fieldbook.

        • True, sorta, it does also say to shower once a week.. haha. But still, there are a lot of good ideas in there, like making tent stakes out of sticks, setting up a tent with a broken pole. If they did a page by page update it would be terrible. the would go in and add a mess of diversity, make everything “sensitive” and just ruin it. They’d probably throw in a few rainbows while they were at it. Look at the new guide, the first 10 pages are advertisements to the high adventure bases. there is very few recipies, very few outdoor tricks, or whatevers.. I love the old book. the cooking in orange peels and eggs with a stick is a HIT with my boys.

  12. Does this mean that Mark Ray has to rename his current book “The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook” to become: “Even Another Troop Leader Guidebook” :-)

  13. Any Troop Committee that allowed the scoutmaster to be a dictator is not much of a committee or a scoutmaster. NO scoutmaster alone can properly assist the BOY RUN troop. There are too many duties and responsibilities at the troop level. I hope this new handbook, regardless of how many volumes, does not specify duties to assistants that cause them to be out of the direct line of authority to the scoutmaster. I fear, however, even without having the book, that national is causing a rift in the troop. January 1 is a few months away.

  14. I’ve seen plenty of long-time Scouters who don’t know anything about “getting through this week’s troop meeting, this month’s outing and this year’s planning conference” so I’m glad that the covers of these books don’t say “beginners” or “advanced” on them; I would hope the insides don’t say so, either. Longevity is longevity, nothing more.

  15. That’s terrific news. Like many, I assumed the SM Handbook was soley for SMs, so never looked inside. As an ASM the past 5 years (OMG has it been that long already?), I could really use a reference book or two.
    These will compliment my first Wood Badge training that I start in 10 days!
    Thanks for the news.

    • For those ASMs (and SMs) who never read the soon-to-be-obsolete Scoutmaster’s Handbook, I recommend reading the SPL handbook instead. It is one of the best written and most useful publications from the BSA and covers a number of things that the Scoutmaster’s Handbook misses.

      And of course, you’ve already given your SPL an SPL Handbook, right?

  16. I just hope they make these in a smaller size, unlike the last edition.. PDF would be perfect.. and i hope they put back in the outing in scouting part..

  17. Could we get a look at either the Table of Contents or the Index as a better tease of what to expect?

    Will the new book come in line with the updated Troop Planning Resources (Program Planning)?

    What “major” changes can we expect?

  18. Bryan, any word on when training materials will be updated? I train SM Specific and have been supplementing with my own materials. I would love to have an updated training manual from National.

  19. A long time ago, before everyone was uber sensitive – the Scoutmaster handbook gave you suggestions to help boys with things that were happening to their body and to their mind in the period of puberty. It had very helpful information in it as to explaining to boys that no matter what they were feeling, it was perfectly normal.

    Today, the PC want to make it so no one tells a boy that the thoughts he has is normal and that the Troop is a family that they can use to help them get through the process.

    Our boys are failing school and committing suicide. We need to change so that we can foster change in society.

    • Yes. It even touched on the personal things in the boys book as well until the late 70′s. Its sad to see them take so much out of the book. They used to have a lot more about flag etiquette as well. It had side stories about being proud to be a scout. Now it’s all nonsense. It even used to youth on personal hygiene. Such as showering and trimming your toenails. Now that’s taboo because talking about showering is just soooooooow sexual right?

  20. Two Volumes… that’s going to be interesting. What will it cover? I mean will show more of the up to date Youth Protection, plans in it or could have some Travel Plans, or even more ideas on for recipie planning for units with e.g. alergies to nuts, gluten, or even diabetic, and seizure disorders.

    The scouts, and leaders are out there with these plus hundreds of other ailments, and disabilities, we just need a refresher to remind us of what is going on around us.

    I also hope that you get more into more links so we can find councils and summer camps, and High Adventure Camps.

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