All over America, students are trying to navigate new hallways, remember their locker combinations and find the lunchroom. As a new Scouter, you know how they feel.
Don’t worry; we know how you feel, too. We at Scouting magazine have been where you are and understand how intimidating the job can be, so we created this handy guide to help you through the first months of your Scouting career. Half of the tips stem from our own experience; the other half come from Scouters across the country who responded to survey questions on our Facebook page. We appreciate their input and look forward to the day that you, too, start sharing your wisdom with Scouting’s next crop of rookie leaders.
- Go on a Mission. The BSA is a sprawling organization with lots going on. If your head is spinning, remember we have a simple (but profoundly important) goal: “The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
- Start Your Journey. Journey to Excellence is the BSA’s performance recognition program for units, districts and councils. By reviewing the specific goals for your type of unit, you’ll know what defines success. After visiting scouting.org/jte, ask your unit leader or commissioner about your unit’s progress toward Bronze, Silver or Gold status.
- Tap Here to Start. My.Scouting (my.scouting.org) is the entry point on the BSA website for all sorts of web-based activities, including training, service-hour reporting and registration for national events. By adding your member ID to your profile, you’ll get credit for online training.
- Shop Like a Boss. The Scout Shop is your destination for books, uniforms, outdoor gear and more. Visit a location in your local council service area — probably at your council’s main office or shop online at scoutshop.org
- You Are Here. As a volunteer, you can earn all sorts of awards. Most of these are represented by those knots you see on veteran leaders’ uniforms. Find out which awards are available for your position and start tracking your progress. Learn more in the Guide to Awards and Insignia (go.scoutingmagazine.org/insigniaguide) and on the Awards Central web page (go.scoutingmagazine.org/awards).
- Go to Roundtable. Here’s where you’ll find a bunch of Scouters who’ve been in your shoes and are eager to help you succeed. Some of the best discussions happen during downtime before and after the formal meeting. Check with your unit leader or council service center for dates and locations.
- Catch Up on Some Reading. Read the appropriate youth and adult handbooks that relate to your position. If you’re a Wolf den leader, get the Cub Scout Wolf Handbook and Cub Scouts Leader Handbook. If you’re an assistant Scoutmaster, get The Boy Scout Handbook and Troop Leader Guidebook. If you’re a Venturing Advisor, get the Handbook for Venturers and the Venturing Advisor Guidebook. If you’re a … well, you get the idea. Pick up your copies at the Scout Shop or online.
- And Read Some More. For veteran Scouters, two must-read resources are the Guide to Safe Scouting (scouting.org/health-and-safety) and the Guide to Advancement (scouting.org/guide-to-advancement). These two resources cover everything from A (the Able rank in Sea Scouts) to Z (tips for avoiding the Zika virus).
- Scout Your Commute. CubCast and ScoutCast, the BSA’s official podcasts, dive deep into topics like engaging parents or managing screen time. Visit podcast.scouting.org to listen, download or review the archives.
- Get Social. The BSA and Scouting magazine are on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. If you use one or more of those platforms, look us up.
- Find What Clicks. Scouting information abounds online. Our website, scoutingmagazine.org, collects decades of stories and tips. Our daily blog, blog.scoutingmagazine.org, keeps you up to speed. Ask people in your unit or district for other discussion groups, blogs and podcasts they like.
- Get Trained. Every Scout deserves a trained leader. As a registered leader, you’ve already completed Youth Protection Training (our child-abuse prevention and detection course at scouting.org/youthprotection). Next, complete the basic-training course(s) for your position. Visit scouting.org/training to learn what your position requires.
- Know, Then Sew. Set a good example for your Scouts by sewing your patches in the proper places. Review with the Guide to Awards and Insignia (go.scoutingmagazine.org/insigniaguide).
- Get Your Mail. Boys’ Life magazine content is a core curriculum of pack and troop programs, and the jokes are always good for a laugh during your Cubmaster’s/Scoutmaster’s minute. For a quick game, create a scavenger hunt in which Scouts look for specific words or pictures in the current issue. Get a yearly subscription at boyslife.org/subscribe
Elevate Your Training. Each of the BSA’s four national high-adventure bases offers training for adult volunteers:
Philmont Training Center (New Mexico)
Northern Tier Training Center (Minnesota)
Sea Base Conference and Retreat Center (Florida)
Find Direction. What do you want to accomplish during this Scouting year? Write down your goals and paste them in your leader book to help you stay on track.
- Become an Alum. You don’t have to be an Eagle Scout to join our alumni group, Scouting Alumni and Friends (scoutingalumni.org). Anyone who is a fan of Scouting qualifies, and there are two tiers: free and $35. Why sign up? Discounts, access to the latest BSA news and — our favorite — free bugle-call ringtones.
- If you don’t know NOAC from NESA, bookmark the Language of Scouting website (go.scoutingmagazine.org/los). You’ll never be at a loss when veteran Scouters start tossing jargon around. A note to veteran Scouters: Try to limit your use of obscure acronyms so new Scouters feel welcome.
- Embrace the Adventure. The Scouting program is available to more youth, parents and families than ever before, making this an exciting time to be a Scout leader.
- Plant Your Flag. Have you visited beascout.org? This useful unit locator uses mapping technology to help prospective Scouts find you. Although some veterans don’t realize it, you can customize your unit’s “pin” with contact info, your unit website and a logo. Learn how and be a hero in your unit.
All in the Timing. Get all your Scouting dates on your family calendar and fix any conflicts. Nothing’s worse than having to cancel a den meeting on your wedding anniversary (except, that is, not canceling a den meeting on your wedding anniversary).