A Scout Leader or Scouter generally refers to the trained adult leader of a Scout unit. The terms used vary from country to country, over time, and with the type of unit.
There are many different roles a leader can fulfill depending on the type of unit. Positions are usually voluntary and are often divided between 'uniform' and 'lay' roles. For many, this volunteerism is an avocation.
Uniformed Scout Leaders are primarily responsible for organizing the activities of the group, and training the youth members through the Scout program. Other roles include liaison with parents, districts, or other parties such as the unit's sponsoring (chartered) organization.
Lay supporters are not always termed Scout Leaders; although they may assist with activities and training, they do not always hold a formal position and may not have received training. Beyond the Scout programme, lay supporters may take responsibility for administrative tasks such as budgets, managing properties, recruitment, equipment, transport, and many other roles.
The roles of leaders in senior units like Venture Scout, Explorer Scout and Rover Scout sections tend to be consultative, with much of the administration and activity planning in the hand of older Scouts, while in junior units like Cub Scout and Scout sections, the adult leaders need to take a more central role.
Beyond the group are further uniformed positions (sometimes called Commissioners) at levels such as district, county, council or province, depending on the structure of the national organisation. They also work along with lay teams and professionals. Training teams and other related functions are often formed at these levels. Some countries appoint a Chief Scout or Chief Commissioner as the most senior uniformed member.
Training, screening and appointment of leaders
Scout Leaders participate in a series of training courses, typically aiming for the Wood Badge as the main qualification of an adult leader in Scouting. In most countries, Wood Badge holders can wear a Gilwell scarf, Turk's head knot woggle, and Wood Badge beads.
Scout Leaders are given a formal appointment (called a warrant in many countries). Before appointing an adult leader, most associations perform background checks on candidates to ensure their suitability for working with children.
Robert Baden-Powell initially used the terms Scoutmaster and Cubmaster for adult leaders (coming from the English usage of the word as a synonym for "teacher"), and these terms are still used in some countries and units, including the United States. As the word master picked up old-fashioned connotations, it was replaced by other terms such as Scout Leader or Scouter in many Commonwealth countries, following The Scout Association in the United Kingdom.
In Scouts Australia, all five sections have a Leader, although a Joey Leader has a much more driving role than a Venturer Leader, who should be standing back and assisting the elected Unit Chair. Rover Leaders stepped back during the 1970s, becoming Rover Advisors, the responsibility for the Crew passing to the elected Crew Leader.
There are several different types of Leader in Australia, all of them (and all members of the Rover Section) have the opportunity to complete the Wood Badge training scheme
- Sectional Leaders
Run a Troop, Pack, Unit or Mob each week. They are the ones who go away every weekend with the Scouts, sign off badgework each week and have great fun.
- Group Leaders
Run the Group as a whole, liaising between the Committee, who see to the needs of the Group, hall, power, gear, etc. and the Sectional Leaders.
- Activity Leaders
Have qualifications in activities from Water Activities to Abseilling to Radio and Four Wheel Driving and First Aid, who put these skills at the disposal of a Region or Branch. These leaders often have another role in Scouting at the same time.
- Leader Trainers
Provide the Training to other Leaders and usually have been in Scouting for several years. Training is not usually their only role in Scouting.
- District Leaders
are responsible for the management of an aspect of Scouting and/or the leadership of other adults, as opposed to sectional leaders who run the youth program.
- The Scout Fellowship
Is a group of former Leaders who no longer have the time or desire to be a part of Scouting every week. They have the opportunity to help out occasionally when leaders are needed temporarily because of hospital or travel, at large camps such as Jamborees and are still covered by Scout Insurance.
All Leader positions are appointments for three years, when the appointment is reviewed and the Leader is renewed, reassigned or resigns. When a new Probationary Leader begins, they are presented with a Certificate of Adult Membership and complete a three hour seminar called Intro to Scouting (or Rovering) which outlines the basic structure and procedures. After this comes the Basic Sectional Techniques course, which gives the Leader the right to wear the two-strand Turks Head or "Gilwell" Woggle. After the 2007 review of the Venturer Section, Venturer Scouts will soon be allowed to complete Venturer Basic. Leaders are then presented with a Certificate of Adult Leadership, and this is where most people stop their training, but after at least six months, Leaders then are eligible to complete the Advanced Sectional Techniques Course, which allows them to conduct more advanced activities, network with other experienced Leaders and then after successful completion of the Course be presented with the Wood Badge.
Scouts Australia is now a Registered Training Provider and Leaders can apply to be granted a Certificate III in Leadership and also Business (Frontline Management) after completing the Basic Course, and a Certificate IV after the Advanced Course. Later they can also complete a Diploma through the Scouts Australia National Institute of Training
In the Boy Scouts of America, in all Scouting units above the Cub Scout pack, units serving adolescent Scouts, leadership of the unit comprises both adult leaders (Scouters) and youth leaders (Scouts). In fact, this is a critical component of the program. In order to learn leadership, the youth must actually serve in leadership roles. Adult leaders may be either men or women in all positions.
A properly run Boy Scout troop is run by the Senior Patrol Leader, who is elected by the troop, and his assistant, who may either be elected or appointed. These and the other youth leaders are advised and supported by the adult leaders.
- Adult leaders
Among the volunteers who provide troop level adult leadership and support (in the United States, collectively called Scouters), there are Scoutmasters and their uniformed adult leadership (including assistant Scoutmasters and unit chaplain), and committee members. All positions require adults to join the troop by registration. The registration process for adult leaders includes a personal reference and criminal background check, nomination by the committee chairman, followed by appointment by the chartering organization and concluding with acceptance by the district executive (a professional Scouter who is an employee of the local Scout council). A Scouter may be a registered member of more than one unit. Example: a Webelos den leader in a Cub Scout pack also volunteers as an advancement committee member in an older son's Boy Scout troop.
Both Scoutmasters and committee members are encouraged at specific events to wear their uniforms. Scoutmasters are normally required to be at least twenty-one years of age, although there have been some notable exceptions. E. Urner Goodman (the founder of the Order of the Arrow) was appointed as a Scoutmaster when he was still nineteen. Assistant Scoutmasters are often older Scouts who have turned 18 and can no longer serve in a youth capacity.
There is a training continuum for both Scoutmasters and committee members. The training continuum for both positions includes "Youth Protection", "Fast Start" and "New Leader's Essentials". At this point the two continuums divide. In order to be "trained" (and entitled to wear the "Trained" patch on their uniform) Committee Members must complete a fourth course "The Troop Committee Challenge." In order for Scoutmasters/Assistant Scoutmasters to wear the "Trained" patch they must complete "Scoutmaster/Assistant Scoutmaster Leader Specific Training" and "Introduction to Outdoor Leadership." Within 12–18 months of obtaining the status of "Trained", both Committee Members and Scoutmasters are encouraged to enroll in "21st Century Wood Badge" training.
Scoutmasters are responsible for developing and delivering the "program" or the training of youth leadership in how to plan and run a Scout troop's activities. The members of the committee are responsible for "service" or provisioning the troop with the necessary goods and services that allow the Scoutmasters to focus solely on the program.
Committee members may interact with Scouts. For example, they may be assisted by youth leaders (see quartermaster) or they may provide technical training to the Scouts as merit badge counselors. Committee members most important direct interaction with Scouts occurs during boards of review. Committee members assemble in groups of 3 to 6 in order to constitute boards of review. After a Scoutmaster has conducted a Scoutmaster conference with the Scout and determined he is ready for advancement, a Scout must meet with a board of review. An important function of the board of review is to allow the committee to collect data from the individual scouts about the success of the Program and deliver that feedback to the Scoutmasters. In this role, a board of review may also meet with a Scout whose advancement progress has stalled.
The Scoutmaster for a troop is first nominated by the committee, then appointed by the chartering organization and then finally accepted by the district executive. The committee members elect a committee chairman. In the event that the Scoutmaster is unavailable, the committee chairman steps in until a new Scoutmaster is obtained. The committee also accepts the troop schedule and budget as developed each year by the patrol leader's council advised by the Scoutmaster.
While it is true that in some troops, the Scoutmaster may be the person with the most tenure and committee membership may be transitory and in other cases the opposite may be true, effective troops work to ensure there is balance of experienced adults working together as a team to deliver both the best possible service and program to the troop.
There are similar service and program splits for adult leadership in Cub Scouts, Venturing and Varsity. While there is only limited opportunity for youth leadership in Cub Scouting (see den chief), youth leadership takes an even stronger role in providing both service and program in Venturing.
The leader of a Cub Scout pack is referred to as Cubmaster and he or she may be assisted by assistant Cubmasters. Since almost all program leadership at the Cub Scouting level is adult, the Cubmaster is also assisted by any number of den leaders.
Varsity Scout teams have a Coach, Venturing crews have an Advisor, and Sea Scouting ships have a Skipper. All of these terms are used for the men or women who fill the role as the adults responsible for maintaining the program by advising the unit's youth leaders on how to plan and lead the unit's activities.
- Youth leaders
In the Boy Scout troop, youth leaders include Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, Senior Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leaders, Assistant Patrol Leaders, scribe, quartermaster, librarian, chaplain aide, bugler, historian, den chief, Troop Guide, Order of the Arrow representative and instructor or animator. There have even been cases of co Senior Patrol Leaders in the case of a tie during an election, or on purpose to manage a large troop. In an ideal setting, the Scoutmaster will give a command to the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, or the Senior Patrol Leader(s). The Senior Patrol Leader gives the command then to Assistant Senior Patrol Leaders, who give it to the Troop Guides. The Troop Guides in turn go to the Patrol Leaders, who finally give the command to their patrols. The Senior Patrol Leader can serve a half to full year term, depending on the troop.
The Scout Association
The Scout Association used the term Scoutmaster originally, but the term Scout Leader is now used. Other adult leaders in the Scout Troop are called Assistant Scout Leaders. Terms used in other sections are Cub Scout Leader, Assistant Cub Scout Leader, Explorer Scout Leader, Assistant Explorer Scout Leader, and so on. The Scout Group is led by a Group Scout Leader. When Rover Scouts existed, there were Rover Scout Leaders and Assistant Rover Scout Leaders. Collectively all adult leaders are called Scouters. One of the leaders may take on the role of Quartermaster, although this role can also be taken on by a parent or other member of the Group Committee.
Baden-Powell Scouts' Association
- Adult leaders
The Baden-Powell Scouts' Association continue to use the traditional title of Scoutmaster. Other adult leaders in the Scout Troop are called Assistant Scout Masters. Other titles include Cub Scout Master, Assistant Cub Scout Master and so on. The Group is led by a Group Scout Master. In common with The Scout Association, adult leaders are sometimes referred to as Scouters.
- Youth leaders
In the Scout and Senior Scout sections, youth leaders include Senior Troop Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leaders, Assistant Patrol Leaders, Quartermaster, and Instructor.
The South African Scout Association decided in the early 90s to change the name of a Scoutmaster to Scouter. The reason for this change was due to negative connotations of the word master. The terms Troop Scouter and Pack Scouter are used for adult leaders of Scout Troops and Cub Packs. Rover Crews are led by a Crew Leader.
In other countries, Scouter refers to any adult leader, professional Scout employee, or any Scout alumnus.
- B-PSA Ireland: Leader Training
- Policy, Organisation and Rules (POR): Adult Leader Training. The South African Scout Association. rev.2008. p. 19.
- Policy, Organisation and Rules (POR): The Appointment Process. The Scout Association. rev.2008.
- BPSA British Columbia: Leader Screening
- Policy, Organisation and Rules (POR). The Scout Association. rev.2008.
- Policy, Association & Rules (PAR). Baden-Powell Scouts' Association. rev.2007.
- Introduction to Adult Leadership. Cape Town: South African Scout Association. 1995.
- "The Rover Handbook". South African Scout Association. 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-30.