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.

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

  1. Do any of these 2 volumes tell scout leaders about establishing a relationship with and utilizing one of the greatest resources they have? Namely their unit commissioner!

  2. My question is why did they get input from only three cities? Two of these are the most politically correct of the entire country. What the heck happened to the rest of us. It seems like Scouts is going to be just another politically Correct group that will slowly die out., just like Girl Scouts is slowly dying out. Too bad it was such a good organization. My time in the organization is now going to be phased out as the once stalwart organization it once was is just another youth program with no difference between them and any other camping club.

    • I also question why the need for 2 books, unless it is a marketing gimmick to raise money, for the complete info you need to buy both. I hope for the sake of the program there are no PC changes coming.

      The existing book could have stayed the same, with the same title but underneath the title It could have said “For Scoutmasters, Asst. Scoutmasters and other Troop Leaders” then just add a couple of chapters for the additional information.

      I hope we aren’t reinventing the wheel, and revisiting 1972….we don’t have a Bill HIllcourt these days.

    • That is the current edition cover shown above (with red loops).
      The 2 other pictures are the two new volume covers.

  3. Hmmm… Maybe keep the Scoutmasters Handbook and another for Troop Leaders instead of 2 volumes… The Scoutmasters Handbook is a time honored resource that served Scoutmasters well.

  4. Wait, did I read this right ““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!”

    When i was a patrol leader I would read the Scout Masters handbook for ideas and to gain knowledge. Am I to seriously believe that Assistant Scoutmasters thought they couldn’t read the book or that it wasn’t for them? I wonder if the same people never picked up the Scouts Handbook to read it? I am so grateful for my scouting past and how it has helped shaped me as a man, but i am concerned with the direction and pressure that Scouting is getting to be more and more mainstream and less adherence to the basic principals of scouting.

  5. Bryan … only 18 more days left in this year. Seems they’re cutting this publishing “later this year” kind of close. They still going to get it out? Would have made a great x-mas present.

  6. BSA originally said this would be available some months ago, then ‘later this year’ (2013). Now they’re totally mum. It would be nice to know both the reason for the substantial delay and an estimate of the first new leader guidebook in 15 years.

  7. The fact that national supply has an overabundance of the old SM hand books has anything to do with the fact that they didn’t release it as promised as they have had the old print “on sale” for 6 months? Everyone knows the new is coming, the old is good for making camp fires by now and delaying the new ones is not serving the scouts.

    • Shrek, I hope you will be correct in anticipating that it’s the old SM handbook, and not the new ones, that will be suitable for campfires. I share your cynicism: It is not rational to keep the soon-to-be-obsolete SM handbooks on the Scout Shops’ shelves, unless they are heavily discounted.

  8. Bryan – seems like we’re due for an update. Please check with Mark and Robert, and see if the new handbooks will be published soon.


    • Bryan, This blog is now really dated. I’d like to know why BSA has quietly delayed this new handbook, and is silent on when it will be released. Makes me think they’ve decided to wait until 2015 when the next program/advancement updates are due.

  9. Bryan, is something going on with the folks that design or write the literature for Scouting? First the new program features never materialized, and then this new handbook quietly drops off the radar. I hope they aren’t delayed because of the 2016 changes to Boy Scouting, since those changes don’t seem to affect the material aspects of the program.

  10. I am concerned about the separation of scoutmaster knowledge into material for novices and for veterans. Of course, I haven’t read the new volumes yet (and these horses have already bolted from the barn), but in my current Scouting roles of parent, leader, and trainer, I have all too often seen veterans dismiss Scouting’s aims and methods (and even Scouting’s rules), for all the reasons you can imagine. I have also been fortunate enough to see a few veterans who will say, I should go back to the basic materials, because I may learn something that will benefit the youth whom I lead. All veterans need to refresh themselves on the basics–we owe that to our youth and to the Scouting Movement–and it is not helpful to have separated the basics from the whole body of knowledge that servant-leaders need for successful Scoutmastering.

  11. Any clue as to when these are actually going to be available? Been waiting impatiently for the release so I can update my training library.

  12. From a comment above….

    “I also question why the need for 2 books, unless it is a marketing gimmick to raise money, for the complete info you need to buy both….

    I hope we aren’t reinventing the wheel, and revisiting 1972….we don’t have a Bill HIllcourt these days.”

    Note that a Green Bar Bill-authored (late 1930s – early 1940s) version of the SM handbook was a two volume publication. There is much to know…it’s good to see that a rich resource is being developed. As a published author, I can empathize with Mr. Ray and Mr. Birkby; delays are inevitable, and no one enjoys experiencing them.

    • Is there a link to a public PDF of Hillcourt’s two-volume SM handbook? Do you know whether Green Bar Bill divided that handbook because of the volume of information or because he separated SM knowledge into what he considered to be basic and advanced topics? My concern is that there are adult leaders who cast aside the foundation of Scouting–our mission, vision, aims, methods, and values–as “fluff,” as I once heard an SMLST course director call it. We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by stranding the basics (which should be woven into everything we do) in a separate volume that could well be ignored by leaders who want to focus on “how Scouting really works” (which typically means bending the program to focus on activities and push boys, deserving or not, through advancement).

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