Over the weekend, I had the privilege of teaching Basic Training to a group of Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters from my District…15 of them with experience that ranged from being brand spanking new in a troop just being formed to a few that have been in for 3 & 4 years. Great group of guys! I was glad they saw the value in attending this training enough to spend a Saturday morning going through this with me.
We covered a lot of material and talked through many good questions. I didn’t even get through all the official material but felt like we talked about everything this group needed from a fellow SM going into my 6th year. So for me, that was the most important aspect of this session since the training was for them at this time in their budding adult Scouting career (I did tell them this was like a second job that could be more rewarding than their primary one in many ways).
Afterwards, one of the participants asked for my opinion on the Top 10 things to get a brand new troop up and running with and effective scouting program. I wrote a similar blog post around this time last year when my brother-in-law was called as a brand new Scoutmaster. While his troop wasn’t new, I took this question as an opportunity to recheck my perspective after another year and to make sure it’s relevant to starting a new troop as well. Here’s my list:
- Get the new Scoutmaster’s handbook called the Troop Leader Guidebook – it just came out in December.
- Absolutely read Working the Patrol Method, written by four Eagle scouts
- Also read Trails To Testimony – specifically for LDS troops
- Teach your Patrol Leaders Council/Deacon’s Quorum Presidency about their roles and responsibilities. The official BSA training for this is called Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops (ILST) – this is Basic Training for youth leaders.
- Support your youth leaders in getting Journey to Excellence started in your troop – now is a great time to be setting goals for 2015!
- Start working on the Unit Leader’s Award of Merit – this is an adult recognition that puts you on the path towards showing your boys how to lead by example.
- Learn about how rank advancement works
- Have your youth leaders conduct a brainstorming session with the whole troop about activities the group wants to do this year (let the boys facilitate this discussion, not you – use JTE as the roadmap. Here’s an example of what came out of our troop’s brainstorm session in 2013 and 2014.)
- Help the PLC/quorum presidency put together an annual calendar
- start with the big items like combined activities, monthly camp-outs and Courts of Honor dates for 2015
- then let your PLC/DQP fill in the blanks on Mutual nights with the things the group came up with during the brainstorming session
- GO TO WOOD BADGE!
Oh, and as a brand new troop, you will also need 1 more:
- Get your troop registered for a week-long scout camp this summer! Registration opened up on October 1st and finding an open spot might be tough now but not unrealistic. Maybe this should be #1 on your list. There are a lot of choices in our council, but my personal favorites are:
And if I could squeeze in one final suggestion, that would be:
- HAVE FUN! This could be a great experience for both you and your scouts if you approach this like a professional with the right attitude.