Volume 1 of the BSA’s top resource for Scoutmasters, assistant Scoutmasters, committee members and involved parents is now available for $13 at ScoutStuff.org and your local Scout Shops. I first previewed these books back in 2013.
The Troop Leader Guidebook replaces the Scoutmaster Handbook. The latter contained great content, but its title was always a little misleading.
“We changed the name because surveys indicated that many assistant Scoutmasters thought the Scoutmaster Handbook wasn’t for them,” says Mark Ray, an Eagle Scout and award-winning author who has written for the BSA since 2005.
Ray’s Troop Leader Guidebook is, in fact, for everyone. That includes a leader crossing over from Cub Scouting to Boy Scouting, a new-to-Scouting Boy Scout leader, a Scouting veteran, a troop committee member and a parent who isn’t currently registered but wants more information about his or her son’s troop.
Ray, who writes for Scouting, Boys’ Life and Eagles’ Call magazines, says the Troop Leader Guidebook really shines for that person who is new to Boy Scouting.
“We assume that you know nothing,” he says. “And we try really hard not to use any jargon.”
That’s good news for those who don’t know an ASPL from a JASM. The Troop Leader Guidebook offers a plain-English guide to better Boy Scout troops (and a glossary!).
Let’s go inside the new Troop Leader Guidebook.
Helping you make the transition from Cub Scouting to Boy Scouting
When writing the Troop Leader Guidebook, Ray knew most of its readers would be crossing over from a Cub Scout pack.
At first glance, a Boy Scout troop looks kind of like a Cub Scout pack, and a Boy Scout patrol looks kind of like a Boy Scout den. Heck, if you change the shoulder loops from blue to green, a second-year Webelos looks kind of like a first-year Boy Scout.
But when you read the Troop Leader Guidebook, “you realize this is a completely different program,” Ray says. “There are some similarities, but obviously there are important differences.”
Helpful call-out boxes, like this one on Page 18, teach you the basics.
Helping you work with 11-year-olds, 17-year-olds and everyone in between
A boy may join Boy Scouting as a fifth-grader and leave as a college freshman. By understanding that an 11-year-old boy won’t act like a 17-year-old boy, you’ll be a more successful Scout leader and have a better troop.
For that reason, Ray says he’s most proud of Chapter 12: “Understanding and Working With Youth.”
This chapter explains the stages of early adolescence (11 to 13), middle adolescence (14 and 15) and late adolescence (16 to 18) so you understand the sometimes head-scratching ways a boy grows up.
“You may have an 11-year-old son of your own,” he says, “but you might not understand 14-year-olds and 16-year-olds because you haven’t yet been there as a parent.”
Helping you with the little things
All throughout the book, quick-hitting boxes offer practical advice for running a troop on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis.
This isn’t “just how it’s supposed to work,” Ray says, “but how it really works in the real world.”
Example: This box on Page 114 that tells you how to get people to read your troop newsletter.
See? Bribery works in Boy Scouting as well as it worked in Cub Scouting.
Helping you have better troop meetings
Of course, the boys plan and run the troop meetings. The Troop Leader Guidebook offers plenty of reminders that Boy Scouting is (and should be) boy-led.
But adult leaders will want to read and absorb every bit of Chapter 8: “Troop Meetings.”
Ray uses a sports analogy to emphasize the importance of troop meetings. Coaches often talk about “trap games.” These are games that look easy to win on paper but wind up being frustratingly difficult.
“Troop meetings are our trap games,” Ray says. “Giving them more focus is really important.”
Chapter 8 is your playbook. Plan better troop meetings, and Scouts will be excited about showing up for meetings and not just campouts.
Helping you understand all of the awards
Compiling every award a boy or adult can earn in Boy Scouting seems like an impossible task; there are so many cool awards out there.
But Ray did it, on Page 102.
There you’ll find everything in one place — from Boardsailing BSA to the World Conservation Award.
There’s even a reminder the there’s a BSA award for everyone.
What’s inside the Troop Leader Guidebook, Volume 1?
Ray recommends reading Sections 1 to 6 in their entirety. Section 7 includes reference material that you can access on an as-needed basis.
- Section 1: Boy Scout Basics. An introduction to Boy Scouting, including aims, methods, ideals, troop structure, and membership and leadership requirements.
- Section 2: The Boy Scout Program. An introduction to the elements of the troop program and program planning, including camping and other outings.
- Section 3: All About Youth. Working with every Scout from the new recruit to the senior patrol leader.
- Section 4: All About Adults. Working with every adult from the new parent to the troop committee chairperson.
- Section 5: Advancement and Awards. An introduction to the youth advancement program and the array of awards Scouts, adults, and units can earn.
- Section 6: Troop Administration. An introduction to troop administration from a Scoutmaster corps perspective, including financing the troop, chartered organization relationships, and communications.
- Section 7: Health and Safety. A comprehensive overview of the BSA’s safety and risk-management policies.
- Appendix: Resources, Scouting websites, and glossary.
What about Volume 2?
Volume 2, expected this winter, is targeted more at the experienced leader.
It includes concepts like visioning, assessing where you are, high adventure, problem solving and other “stuff that you don’t have time to worry about when you’re just starting out,” Ray says.
Where to buy
Get the Troop Leader Guidebook, Volume 1, at your local Scout Shop or at ScoutStuff.org.