The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook

March 8, 2009

All Scouters have been there.  You signed up for a Leadership position and dutifully attended training, right?  You were a little confused by Fast Start, but it was fast and it was just the start.  So on to New Leader Training you go.

If you are a Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster, you went to Scoutmaster Specific Training.  It was a bit more involved, but also fast paced and the trainer may have told you they would answer your more practical questions at Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills… My ODLS class was held in March.  It was so cold, the only thing I retained was the importance of dressing in layers and the benefit of putting mittens over gloves.

The official BSA Scoutmaster Handbook has been somewhat helpful, but it’s a big and bulky notebook, long on policy and short on practice.

Into the breach stepped Scouter and freelance writer Mark RayThe Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook is Ray’s 2003 offering of the essential elements in paperback.  He offers three reasons—the official handbook he feels is too simplistic, “the Scouting program and the world around it are changing rapidly”, and he wanted to share some good ideas.

The internet is full of interesting ideas (especially on JohnScout) and the web is free, so why pay for another Scouting book?  Well, this slim volume has some really good ideas.  However, the real value for me getting them all in one place, knowing each idea had been put to the test on the ground by real volunteers.

Here’s an example:  The Boy-Led Program.  The model troop run by and for the Scouts seems the holy grail of the Scouting Movement.  The SPL who runs a tight Patrol Leaders Council.  The Patrol Leaders who selflessly put the needs of their members before their own.  It seems like a distant chimera beyond all hope.  Ray offers a needed reality-check:

The first thing to remember about leadership development is that it’s a method of Scouting, not an aim… Work toward a boy-run troop, but don’t let it become a boy-run-in-the-ground one!

I found several other ideas that addressed clear and present issues, from patrol sizes to camping gear.  Scoutmaster, ASM, Troop Committee member, Merit Badge Counselor or Scout Parent, this book is a clear, concise and practical guide that deserves a place in your pocket.


  1. Introduction
  2. The Annual Troop Program
  3. Outings
  4. High Adventure
  5. Philmont
  6. Travel
  7. Troop Meetings
  8. Ceremonies
  9. Advancement
  10. Patrols
  11. Membership
  12. Adult Leaders
  13. Parents
  14. Youth Leaders
  15. Troop Administration
  16. Safety
  17. Equipment
  18. Money
  19. Communication
  20. Resources



One Response to “The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook”

  1. Good review John – this book has been on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time. I’ll have to bite the bullet and order it. Great quote on the boy-led troop.. thanks for sharing.

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