Outdoor leadership is different. Good administrative skills go just so far when leading a group in an extended outdoor experience. What works at a Troop meeting or in the boardroom does not always translate well on a week-long backpacking or canoeing trip. Scouting offers great administrative training and valuable supplemental training in outdoor skills and safety. What we don’t have is a comprehensive training course in the group dynamics of long-term outdoor trips.
Author Alex Kosseff has assembled what I would call a college level course for leaders in the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) Guide to Outdoor Leadership. It is notoriously difficult for most of us to find, let alone attend, a course in outdoor leadership; they are few and far between. Simply reading the AMC Guide is not a substitute for more experiential training, but it goes a long way towards developing some useful skills.
I attribute the success of our annual extended canoe trips with studying the first edition of the guide. The practical, effective approach to the challenges we faced vastly expanded my skills and confidence in guiding my Scouts .
The Guide explains how groups function in the outdoors, how to develop good expedition behavior and how to guide group development towards a shared goal. Kosseff has added a great deal of information about working with teens to the second edition that Scout leaders will find particularly valuable.
Kosseff also includes an excellent section on risk management and building risk management plans. It explains how to preserve the challenge and adventure of a trip while assuring the safety of the participants. Kosseff is the founder of the Outdoor Safety Institute and does extensive work in the field of risk management – his writing on the subject is authoritative and enlightening.
I recommended the Guide to anyone contemplating leading extended wilderness trips but the skills are equally valuable on our weekend camp outs.