How do you best serve a troop with many leaders?

An assistant Scoutmaster says he feels unneeded in a troop with many adult leaders. Readers urge him to get plenty of training and use his skills and interests to find leadership opportunities.

One of the most important things that an ASM can do, if he hasn’t already, is take advantage of training opportunities, including Wood Badge. In the interim, he might consider whether he has the expertise to serve as counselor for some merit badge.

The troop may have plenty of opportunities on its committees for training, advancement, camping, and activities. The ASM might also serve as leader for the “Trail to First Class” or head a money-earning effort.

Mesquite, Tex.

Boy Scouting is very different from Cub Scouting in that the boys run their troop. For new volunteer leaders, this can be hard to accept because it’s easy to feel you are not needed. Our troop encourages parents to attend training to help them see what the program really is.

One of the keys to a well-run troop is that there are enough adults, whether they are advisers, or skill teachers, or drivers, so that the Scouts feel they can plan any kind of program they want.

Troop Committee Chair L.J.
Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Most Cub Scout packs suffer from lack of adult leadership when the fathers of graduating Webelos Scouts follow their sons into a troop. Nothing in the books says that a Webelos Scout graduate’s dad cannot remain in the pack as a leader. Quite the contrary, the pack’s leaders will surely welcome his expertise—and he can still go camping with his sons in their new troop.

It’s a win-win situation.

Coral Gables, Fla.

We have a large troop and a large number of registered adults. Even so, most of the work falls to a few adults, and new leaders like ASM don’t always feel useful.

My advice to new leaders is: (1) attend troop committee meetings so you can find out where help is needed; (2) take all the training you can (in our troop an adult leader must complete Scoutmastership Fundamentals or equivalent to register as an assistant Scoutmaster); and (3) look for a busy leader and volunteer to help him or her.

Former Troop Committee Chair L.S.,
Friendswood, Tex.

First, ASM should let the Scoutmaster know of his frustration. I’m sure the troop does not want to lose a volunteer leader, no matter how many there are.

My troop has 20-plus adult leaders. To even the workload, make everyone feel productive, and take advantage of everyone’s expertise, we have reorganized adult leadership. To handle administrative affairs, the Scoutmaster is aided by a first- and second-assistant Scoutmaster. He also has an executive officer.

Other ASMs are assigned to work groups, with one serving as the Lead ASM. Separate work groups are assigned to Scouts working on Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks, and merit badges. At each troop meeting, one of the four work groups conducts interpatrol competitions and activities.

The system has been very successful. Leaders know what their responsibilities are, and we have some flexibility when some leaders are not available.

Assistant Scoutmaster M.C.
Greenwood, S.C.

What are the ASM’s special talents? He might be able to add a new dimension to the troop if he has a talent for cooking, climbing, or teaching a merit badge.

We all have our special talents to teach others.

Scoutmaster M.D.
Pomfret Center, Conn.

The transition from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts can be as tough on the parents as on the Scout. On my first troop camp-out, a parent told me to relax and enjoy the experience. Since Boy Scouts are capable of most campsite activities and work, they do not need adults to do the physical work. They do need your wisdom and willingness to provide insight into problems or perhaps to drive them to the campsite.

Read a merit badge booklet on a topic you are interested in. Scouts can always use merit badge counselors. Find out what challenges Scouts in your troop face and work with other parents to identify potential solutions.

Palatine, Ill.

Our troop encourages new volunteer leaders to go through the Scoutmastership Fundamentals training as well as Wood Badge. Trained adult leaders are essential to the longevity of the troop.

ASM should look around to see what needs to be done and then offer assistance. Being proactive means being productive. The success of any troop is dependent on new leaders coming in and being active. It’s a great thing for Scouts to see, and the fellowship and friendship offered by other Scouters are lifelong gifts.

Training is what will open ASM’s eyes to see what is needed.

Assistant Scoutmaster D.B.
Bedford, Tex.

Boys like to tell adult leaders what they have been playing, doing, watching, reading, and so on. Sit with them during meetings and listen and be available to them, then pitch in when you see a need. Don’t wait for a leader to give you some duties. Ask a leader whether you could bring snacks to a meeting or supplies for an activity. Being interested in the boys’ lives and their stories means a lot to them.

Webelos Den Leader P.F.
Muskogee, Okla.

ASM should find his niche by volunteering to lead or co-lead an activity that interests him.

My troop also has a large number of active leaders, but when it comes to responsibility for organizing an event, the number of volunteers can shrink. It is often the same people—those with experience—who take charge of events.

Remember that the present experienced adult leaders will not always be there. If ASM offers to co-lead an event, the leader will appreciate the assistance, and I think he will find himself fitting right in.

Poway, Calif.

Web Exclusive Responses

The following responses do not appear in the print edition …

When my son crossed over into a troop, I felt the same way as ASM. I had served as assistant Cubmaster, Cubmaster, and Webelos den leader and was used to being very active in the pack.

In the troop I was responsible for advancement, but I felt I had more to offer. I volunteered as district chairman for our annual food drive, then as a staffer for the council camporee, and spokesman for the council’s Friends of Scouting program. I was then asked to serve as roundtable commissioner and then as Order of the Arrow chapter adviser. I also became active with the religious emblems program and as a merit badge counselor.

I have a great sense of satisfaction of having served Scouts from my son’s troop as well as those in other troops.

OA Chapter Adviser W.O.
Marion, Ill.

The key to being included is to tell the Scoutmaster (or, in a pack, Cubmaster) how you feel. Every Scouting unit is in need of willing volunteers. Identify a need and volunteer to fill it. Try a novel leadership position like song-skitmaster or historian-photographer.

Den Leader P.S.
Pittsburgh, Pa.

What a great opportunity for ASM! On camping trips, Scouts could learn much from watching him hone his skills. Let them drool over scrumptious meals he has prepared and sample them. Let them be envious of his campsite, the table he lashed together, and other comforts he made using Scout skills.

Teaching by doing is a useful skill. Just be handy when the Scouts need you.

Cheltenham, Pa.

1 Comment

  1. The Scoutmaster and Assistants are by nature a mentoring role rather than an active instructor role. When not actually called on for specific duties, the ASM to be an example – one more golden example is always needed – but also to be there to hear the boy in need or trouble, to spot conflicts, and to be the “safety man”. Metaphorically and literally speaking, the SM and ASM must never be lost, even when the Scouts wander.

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