Don’t Forget to Play the Game



Scouters often complain about youth sports. They say that sports are all consuming, that coaches only care about building character when they’re winning, and that sports just teach kids to win at games while Scouting teaches kids to win at life.

Be that as it may, there’s one thing coaches do better than Scouting. They remember to play the game.

What do I mean by that? After months of conditioning and drills and watching film and a host of other tasks, athletes eventually don their uniforms and head for the football field, the basketball court, or the baseball diamond. They never forget that all the preparation they’ve done is just that: preparation.

In Scouting, however, we sometimes confuse the preparation for the game itself. Consider pioneering, for example. Many troops spend so much time teaching the basics—how to tie knots and lashings—that they never get around to the main event—building a signal tower or a monkey bridge or a merry-go-round. The same thing happens with orienteering; we produce kids who know how to use a map and compass but who have never used them in a real orienteering competition. (Take a look at this video and think about how it compares with the orienteering your troop does.)

I encourage you to take a hard look at your troop program and make sure your Scouts are playing the game, not just getting ready. Nobody wins trophies just for practicing.


One thought on “Don’t Forget to Play the Game

  1. Ken

    Mark–this is a great insight.

    Boys don’t join Scouting for a program of tying knots and practicing bandaging in the basement of a church; those skills are building blocks for adventure. Take away the adventure, and the essence of Scouting is removed.

    The methods of Scouting are often confused with the purpose of Scouting….and a well-intended focus on mastering basic skills becomes a simply a program of mastering basic skills….simply to become more accomplished in those skills. There is no adventure in this; it is not Scouting.

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