11/4/2010: Assistant Scoutmasters (ASM's)

posted Nov 4, 2010, 8:03 PM by Paul Diming

What is an ASM? What is a really good ASM? 

There's no mystery here. Assistant Scout Masters fill a key role by supporting our scouts and keeping our program in tip top shape. ASMs do many jobs but there's a difference between an ASM and a helpful parent. 

You wear the uniform and hopefully have participated in BSA training. This puts you in a leadership role for the scouts. Your understanding of the BSA program, the patrol method, and how a boy lead troop is designed to function is critical to knowing how to support the scouts. 

So what makes a really good ASM? What would be the most help to me as SM? 

Here are a few suggestions: 

Safety - without out a doubt, safety falls on the adult leadership shoulders. All ASMs should have a roving eye towards what is safe, not safe, and what is just boys being boys. We all have different tolerances here but common sense is called for with the error of caution being the bottom line. 

Information - have a current list of merit badge councilors, troop member names, phone numbers, addresses, troop schedule, etc… It would really help me to not be the only one in the room with troop info. If you had a binder with pertinent troop info, that would be great. We ask the boys to keep binders. It would help me if ASMs have one also. 

Blue Cards - know the blue card procedure and how to fill one out. On our web site there is helpful info about blue cards. Look for the .pdf file at the bottom for help on how to fill one out. http://sites.google.com/a/troop860.org/public/Home/advancement <http://sites.google.com/a/troop860.org/public/Home/advancement> 

Spend more time with scouts than adults - If you go to a meeting wearing the BSA uniform and don't work with a scout, something may not be quite right. Fellowship with adults is an important aspect of adult scouting. But as a leader in uniform, you are there primarily to help the scouts. This takes time and persistence to develop a working relationship between you and the boys. Boys are generally weary of adults so this takes time to build trust. Doing so with little things like saying hello, talking to them briefly, asking if they need anything signed off or have any questions that you can help with, all helps them to know you. Being consistent with attending and being open to helping the boys are key. Try to learn all of their names. That’s some of the first advice I give the Den Chiefs and it holds true for ASMs also. 

Say hello to all the parents in attendance. T860 has a culture of being open and friendly. We all have the commonality of having son's in scouting and a shared view of principles we'd like our son's to embrace. Most importantly, we all want to participate in something important and have lasting friendships. Every person in scouting, parent and scout alike, are primarily seeking friendship and fellowship. By simply saying hello and greeting people warmly, you may help to do much more for someone than you realize. 

Keep your eye on me and the senior scout leaders. If I look frazzled, it's because I am frazzled. Ask if there is something that needs done. Help parents with general questions so I can focus on the boys. Keep your eye on the senior scout leaders and be near anything that looks like it's going out of control. Your presence may be all it takes to calm a rowdy situation. 

If you have sons who are older scouts, talk with them about their key role in the troop. They must make the transition from "this is fun" to "this is important" and they have an important job of bringing scouting to the younger scouts in addition to completing their highest scouting goals. 

Have realistic expectations. The boys mostly just want to have fun. Along the way, we sneak in lessons, offer many chances to practice leadership, and help them take initiative about their scouting. Each scout has a wavering scout valve of either full open to mostly shut. You never know where they are. One thing is certain, the more a scout is involved in his troop, the further immersed he becomes in the ideals of scouting. 

Be enthusiastic – Let your scouting passion run wild. It’s contagious to everyone. It’s ok to be a scout geek. Your dedication is infectious to your son. Try not to overshadow him (unlike my own involvement). It’s THEIR troop, we just help support it. 

I hope this helps a little. While I know WE as adults could run a stellar troop, it’s not ours to run. But it is our job; mine in particular, to guide the troop. I’ll work with the senior scout leadership, scout officers, the ASMs, many helpful adults, and the troop adult committee to help guide the troop’s course. Dean specializes as Life to Eagle coordinator and does many tasks with the scout officers and the OA. Many of you have specific jobs on the committee or otherwise. Collectively, we are the force that moves our program forward. The boys tell us what they want to do and we wrangle resources to allow them to execute. Along the way we teach the most valuable lessons we will ever offer our sons. 

By example we demonstrate being a good person, a father, a citizen, a leader, and all we want for them to be. They are watching you and me and searching for who they are. 

Let’s do our best. 


Mark Wheeler