Playing the gameSome long-time Scouters have made Scouting a science. They know which “buttons” to push to get what they want out of the program. However, it is clear from the earliest days Baden Powell felt that boys having fun with a purpose was the best way to do Scouting.

Remember that the boy, on joining, wants to begin scouting right away; so don’t dull his keenness by too much preliminary explanation at first. Meet his wants by games and Scouting practices, and instill elementary details bit by bit afterwards as you go.

Aids to Scoutmastership p. 11

As early as 1910 he had this to say to Scoutmasters: “In making our young citizens, therefore, it is essential to try to get into them the habit of cheery co-operation, of forgetting their personal wishes and feelings in bringing about the good of the whole business in which they are engaged — whether it be work or play. One can teach the boy that it is exactly as in football. You must play in your place and play the game;

“…It is laid down in our handbook that a Scoutmaster should go through a period of three months’ probation before getting finally appointed.

The object of this is to enable him to find out whether Scouting really suits him after all,…whether he can, in a word, play in his place and play the game for the good of the whole. If he can do this he will be doing the most valuable work that a man can do, viz. teach his younger brothers the great virtues of endurance and discipline, pluck and unselfishness.”

By the term “Scouting” is meant the work and attributes of backwoodsmen, explorers, hunters, seamen, airmen, pioneers and frontiersmen.

In giving the elements of these to boys we supply a system of games and practices which meets their desires and instincts, -and is at the same time educative. From the boys’ point of view

Scouting puts them into fraternity-gangs which is their natural Organization, whether for games, mischief, or loafing; it gives them a smart dress and equipment; it appeals to their imagination and romance; and it engages them in an active, open-air life.

Aids to Scoutmastership p. 19

In Aids to Scoutmastership, BP mentions the the word game 38 times, beginning with the forward, where he states: Scouting is not an abstruse or difficult science: rather it is a jolly game if you take it in the right light. At the same time it is educative, and (like Mercy) it is apt to benefit him that giveth as well as him that receiveth. The term “Scouting” has come to mean a system of training in citizenship, through games, for boys or girls,” a few pages later he refers to the Scouting movement as “a jolly fraternity, all the jollier because in the game of Scouting you are doing a big thing for others, you are combating the breeding of selfishness.”

As his instructions to Scoutmasters continues, he reminds Scouters: “Our aim in making boys into good citizens is partly for the benefit of the country, that it may have a virile trusty race of citizens whose amity and sense of ‘playing the game’ will keep it united internally and at peace with its neighbors abroad.

“…Theirs is to teach their boys to ‘play the game,’ each in his place like bricks in a wall, by doing the same themselves. Each has his allotted sphere of work, and the better he devotes himself to that, the better his Scouts will respond to his training. Then it is only by looking to the higher aims of the Movement, or to the effects of measures ten years hence that one can see details of to-day in their proper proportion.”

Scouting is a jolly game in the out of doors, where boy-men and boys can go adventuring together as older and younger brothers, picking up health and happiness, handicraft and helpfulness.

Aids to Scoutmastership p. 20

For me the most quotable of all his writing is this: “Vigorous outdoor living is the key to the spirit of Scouting. Scouting is a game for boys, under the leadership of boys, in which elder brothers can give their younger brothers healthy environment and encourage them to healthy activities such as will help them to develop citizenship.” My own Scoutmaster drilled this maxim into all our training. In turn as district as a Junior Leader Trainer, I taught it to other Scouts. As a grown Scouter I still teach this because it works—it works every time!

Many other times in this original Scoutmaster training guide, BP talks about playing and organizing games and this because he knew to get character, citizenship and fitness into Scouts, things would have to be great fun.  In a section of the book where he outlines the branches of training (character, health and strength, handicraft and skill, and service to others), BP explains that to help a Scout grow in character we use . . . the Patrol System, the Scout Law, Scout lore, woodcraft, responsibility of the Patrol Leader, team games and the resourcefulness involved in camp work.” And naturally, he suggests boys gain health and strength with inter-patrol games.

In the closing pages of this book, BP combines his thoughts with several other men with these words: “The best workers, like the happiest livers, look upon their work as a kind of game: the harder they play the more enjoyable it becomes. H. G. Wells has said: ‘I have noticed that so called great men are really boys at heart, that is, they are boys in the eagerness of their enjoyment of their task. They work because they like to work, and thus their work is really play to them. The boy is not only father to the man, but he is the man and does not disappear at all.’

“Ralph Parlette says truly: ‘PLAY is Loving to do things, and WORK is Having to do things.’ In Scouting we try to help the boys acquire this attitude, by making them personally enthused in subjects that appeal to them individually, and that will be helpful to them later on.”

That was Scouting me growing up, a full fifty years after BP began his great experiment on Brownsea Island. Then, 75 years after his ideas were penned, they worked perfectly in my first troop and Scout group I led after that. I commend the idea of playing the game today with your Scouts.

Baden Powell closes the book with these words: “If each, then, plays in its place, and “plays the game,” there will be greater prosperity and happiness throughout the world, there will be brought about at last that condition which has so long been looked for—of Peace and Goodwill among men.”

How do you play the game?

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