In our September issue, G.P. said he wanted to start a Boy Scout troop and that he had taken the first phase of Scoutmaster training. “Besides continuing training, what else can I do to ready myself for becoming a Scoutmaster?” he asked.
You have a wonderful opportunity to start your troop the right way. If you’re careful, you won’t have to un-learn mistakes or bad practices that creep into even good programs.
First, learn what the “right way” is by continuing training, from leader specific training through Wood Badge for the 21st Century. Attend roundtables and pick the brains of experienced Scouters.
Second, create a vision for your troop and include fun and adventure. Third, recruit other volunteers who share your vision and passion for excellence.
Lastly, do what all great Scoutmasters do—train the boy leaders, give them plenty of opportunities to succeed or fail, and guide them. When your Scouts feel that they’re running the show and are having fun doing it, you’ll know you’re on the right track.
Having never been a Boy Scout as a youth, I found basic leader training and Wood Badge very helpful. But the following are some other things that have helped me the most: (1) reading and becoming familiar with The Scoutmaster Handbook [BSA No. 33009B], (2) reading Baden-Powell’s Aids to Scoutmastership [Stevens Pub. Co., 1992], and (3) doing just what you are doing—seeking advice and ideas from those who have been through the fire.
New Palestine, Ind.
(Editor’s note: The current Scoutmaster Handbook was written for the new Scoutmaster with little or no previous Scouting experience.)
As a former Scoutmaster, I highly recommend that you imitate the best leaders in your district. I learned a lot by attending roundtables, Scouting “universities,” and other events. I think I learned most by watching and asking seasoned Scouters what worked. Simple questions taught me so much and kept me from reinventing the wheel.
Make friends of such veterans. Don’t be too proud to admit your mistakes and be quick to ask for help. Most Scouters love to share their stories and help others.
I hope you have someone in mind for troop committee chairman. A great chairman can go a long way toward forming a backbone of support by finding assistant Scoutmasters and other hands.
Above all, remember that Scouting is about boys. Treat them with respect and be fair and positive in your dealings with them.
You already have a main ingredient to being a great Scoutmaster—the desire. Relax and enjoy the experience.
G.P. gets a gold star for starting Scoutmaster training early. Now he needs to climb higher up the ladder. Few Scoutmasters start a troop and their own Scoutmastership at the same time. That would be a tall order for anyone, however talented.
Most Scoutmasters have been assistant Scoutmasters or heavily involved committee members and developed some practical knowledge and skills. G.P. doesn’t have that foundation and—based on his insightful question—probably guesses that he isn’t going to get it in a classroom setting.
Neighboring troops make excellent schools for Scoutmaster training. G.P. should consider visiting to see how each operates. Once he has found a “model” unit, he should serve an apprenticeship as an assistant Scoutmaster in that troop.
Work closely with the Scoutmaster to learn the nuts and bolts of how things work and, more importantly, what doesn’t work.
G.P. also needs to consider that his proposed troop needs more than just a Scoutmaster. Starting out alone is begging for burnout.
At the very least, he should recruit one assistant Scoutmaster and his troop committee chairman right now and try to get them trained, both with classroom instruction and in his “trainer troop.”
That way, they can all hit the ground running.
I would arrange to visit other troops in the area, meet their Scoutmasters, and see how they function. Seeing how units in the area deal with problems will probably be of more use than any training you can find.
Make sure to visit several units, not just one or two.
Assistant Scoutmaster T.H.
Scout leaders have various training opportunities in their local council, but I’ve found that one of the best ways to gather information is by going to summer camp.
The leaders there always have a story to tell and information and ideas to share. Talking to adults and older Scouts at camp is always a big plus because you learn about their problems and how they solved them.
Assistant Scoutmaster L.W.V.
Pleasant Grove, Ala.
Web Exclusive Responses
The following responses do not appear in the print edition …
I would first ask G.P. why he wants to start a new troop. The pack-to-troop association is sometimes a loose one, and we encourage our boys to find a troop that best fits their personality and does things they like to do.
There are likely several existing troops in the area that would welcome G.P.’s participation. Joining an existing troop has several benefits. Such a troop has several assets in place to support programs, and it has older boys in leadership positions.
It will also have a Scoutmaster from whom he can learn. Start as an assistant Scoutmaster and go from there. If he has not done so, he should take outdoor leader skills training and possibly Wood Badge.