Archive for the ‘games’ Category


It was game time during the troop meeting and the Boy Scouts were ready to play. It was a beautiful evening in the city park. The Scouts needed to burn off some calories. Unfortunately, the boys in charge of the game forgot to bring the gear needed to play it. One requirement of being a scoutmaster (though it really not listed anywhere) is the ability to think fast and create a plan B on the spot. That trait was about to come in handy.

The troop meets at the city’s Jaycee Park during the summer months. We would gather in the back of the park near the outdoor hockey rink. The tall pine trees provided us with shade. A small clearing gave us a spot to play various games.

I walked to the back of my car and opened the trunk looking for something that could be used by a couple dozen boys to play a game. There was not much to chose from, just a tennis racket, some tennis balls, and a few frisbees. As I stood there and looked at the hockey rink I had a moment of inspiration. I grabbed the racket, a tennis ball, and the frisbees. An idea was forming in my head. It was time to play Tennis Baseball.

The game would be played inside the hockey rink with its four foot tall wooden sidewalls. The frisbees became the four bases, with home plate located toward one end of the rink, and second base near the center. The rink would serve as our ball field. The tennis racket would be our bat. The tennis ball would be our baseball.

The game would be based on the rules of one-pitch softball, a game our Boy Scouts were already familiar with playing, but there would be a couple of rules changes. First, the ball had to stay inside of the hockey rink. If a player hit the ball hard enough to fly or bounce out of the rink before a field player touched it, then the batter would be out. Second, the ball was in play anywhere within the rink. There would not be any foul balls. If the ball hit a hitter’s teammate standing on the sidelines then the batter would be out.

The Scouts loved playing the game and it was added to the list of games to be played when we met in the park. Ten years later the boys would still be playing Tennis Baseball. Amazing what a little quick thinking and inginuity can do, isn’t it?

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    There are some people in our society that think children should play games in which there are no clear winners. They think everyone should be a winner so that nobody’s feelings get hurt. There are some people in Boy Scouting that share these same thoughts. Everyone wins, no one loses.

    Sorry, but I do not share that sentiment. Life is made up of winners and losers. Just ask the guy that got the job that the other guy really wanted. Or the high school basketball player who missed the winning shot. Or the Cub Scout who won the Pinewood Derby.

    Having winners and losers is not the problem. How we act when we win or lose is more important. Or, as parents and adult leaders, how we treat the winners or losers is the most important thing.

    Professional sports is all about winning or losing. I can understand this since these sports are actually an entertainment business. Millions of dollars are on the line. But the players, coaches, and team owners do not always set a good example of graceful winning or losing.

    I do not like that same attitude used at the high school level. I am not a fan of parents, coaches, and schools applying a “win or nothing” attitude on their teenage players. Get rid of that “only winners count” attitude. It can be extremely stressful to the players. Yes, there should be competition, and yes, there needs to be a winner and a loser, but how we adults treat the two will demonstrate whether we provide a harmful environment or a growing environment for the students and players.

    In the Scouting program we try to provide a growing and learning environment. We do not want to provide an atmosphere where winners mock the losers. Ideally, we want the winners to help the others to do a better job the next time. We want the winners to help the losers become winners also! We want everyone to “do their best”.

    We play a lot of games in our troop, both by team and individually. Each team and Scout tries hard to win. He does his best to win. Yes, we do have winners and losers. The difference is that we do not let the winners gloat over the losers. Oh, there might be a minute of high fives, or a couple of comments, but the boys do it in the spirit of fun, not out of spite. In three minutes they don’t even care anymore because they have moved on to the next activity. To tell the truth, there have been many times when the Scouts are playing a game when they do not even try hard to keep a score. They are more concerned about having fun than they are about a scorecard.

    I guess you could say the boys have learned the lesson. Winning or losing is not as important as having fun and being with your friends is. And as adults we need to remember that how we treat the winners and losers is the the most important thing of all. Our attitudes can make winners out of the losers too.

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      One afternoon, many years ago at Many Point Scout Camp, the Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68 had some free time. Raymond, a Scout from Alaska who was a cousin of one of our troop members, was staying with us for the week. Raymond asked if they would like to play a game his home troop played called Magic Eskimo Counting Sticks. The Scouts thought it sounded interesting so they gathered around the picnic table.

      Raymond quickly gathered five sticks of various length and thickness. He then would lay them in different patterns. The rest of the boys tried to guess what number from zero to ten the “magic sticks” represented. Of course, it was not as easy as it sounds.

      I was sitting across the camp’s clearing from the picnic table were the game was being played. My lawn chair was comfortable and the book was good, but soon the commotion at the table caught my interest so I had to check it out. As I joined the boys, Raymond explained the game to me. I tried it several times but did not have any success in figuring out the patterns so I returned to my lawn chair. I sat down, picked up my book, but did not start reading. The game was still on my mind. I sat back and looked into the treetops above the table where they boys were playing.

      After a minute or two an idea came to me. I walked back to the group to test it out. After a few times of being correct I realized I had discovered the secret to the Magic Eskimo Counting Sticks.

      Of course, the boys started pestering me on how it was done. They had not figured it out yet, and Raymond was not telling anyone. I told the Scouts that the answer had come to me when I had been looking in the treetops. There was a sudden rush of Scouts to my lawn chair to look at the same trees that I had been looking at to see if they could find the answer. Of course, they did not find anything, but they had to check it out anyway.

      I suspect that to the Scouts that day their scoutmaster seemed to be really smart. I promised Raymond that I would never reveal the secret to the Magic Eskimo Counting Sticks, that the Scouts would have to solve it on their own. However, I would give one clue to the boys. That clue was, “Think outside of the box.” Yeah, I know, it is a pretty vague clue, but it does make a lot of sense if you know the trick.

      Over the years we have played the game many times. Some Scouts were able to solve the puzzle, but many more never did. And even after all these years I have never told any Scouts how to solve the game. After all, I made a promise, and a good Scout always keeps in promises.

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        I bought the “Boy Scout” version of the Monopoly board game a few years ago. I enjoy playing Monopoly. It is one of my favorite board games. Granted, the Boy Scout version was a bit pricey, but I thought it would be fun to play with the Scouts. It would be similar to the “Lord of the Rings” Risk board game that they like to play.

        The first time we played the Monopoly game we discovered that a few of the boys had earned one of the awards listed on the board. One boy landed on a piece of yellow property called “World Conservation Award”. He asked what a Scout needed to do to earn the award. I knew it involved earning three merit badges, but I was not sure which ones were needed, so I pulled out a requirement book. We discovered the Scout had completed the merit badges needed for this award. I discovered that two other troop members had also earned the World Conservation Award.

        It was a little ironic that it took a board game to discover that bit of information, I thought.

        In the late 1980′s, I bought a game called Scout Trivia. It included a book that contained one hundred questions in each of six different “Scout Knowledge” areas. We would use the book for patrol competitions during troop meetings. We also used it a couple times during courts of honor in which a team of Scouts challenged a team of parents.

        Somewhere, somehow, over the years I lost the trivia book. Although I wish I still had it, I am not worrying about it much. Many of the questions found in the book would be outdated in today’s Scouting program. For example, we do not use skill awards as part of the advancement program any longer.

        Recently, in one of the Scouting forums found online, there was a discussion about what should be included in a video game with a Scouting theme. Several of us had fun adding suggestions to the list. A few were very “tounge in cheek”.

        It got me thinking though. There are virtually no Scouting related toys or games widely available on the market today. A quick search on the internet did show that in the early days of the BSA there were several toys available.

        I hate to say it, but I think the reason we do not see Scouting related toys today is that there would be little interest in them. It is just not the same today as it was ninety years ago. A well designed video game could be a success, but it would have to be designed to interest boys outside of Scouting, which may not be a bad thing. It could introduce them to the fun Scouting offers.

        Maybe they were onto something with a Scouting version of Monopoly. Maybe more established games could have a Scouting version. How about a Scouting version of Scrabble? Or maybe a World of Scoutcraft multi-player online game?

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          I read a news article on Yahoo News that saddened me, and I am sure that many Troop 68 Boy Scouts and alumni will also take note of the news. Gary Gygax has died.

          What? You say you do not know who Gary Gygax is? Why, he is the co-creator of a little game called Dungeons and Dragons.

          I began playing D&D when I was in college in 1979. When I became the scoutmaster in the early 1980′s I introduced the Scouts to the game, and it became an instant hit with them. I have been the troop’s unofficial game master for over twenty five years. The boys enjoy playing the game as much today as they did twenty years ago. In fact, it is the number one activity that the Scouts ask for outside of regular troop activities. Many former troop members still come over a couple times a year to get in a game.

          I have thought about writing a few articles for this blog about how the game of Dungeons and Dragons has affected the Scouts of Troop 68 for quite awhile now, but just never got around to it. I may have to give that subject some serious thought.

          The guys are already leaving messages on the troop’s forum that we need to play a game in honor of Gary Gygax’s passing, so I guess I better start thinking about some game scenarios.

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            Game Time

            on October 13, 2007 in games No Comments »

            Boys love to play games. They want to be physical. They live for competition. “Rough and tumble” is their middle name. I am the first to admit that now that I am in my forties I am not quite as active playing the physical games with the Boy Scouts as I was when I was in my twenties. It seems as each year passes I am a little more content to stand on the sidelines and watch or referee.

            Our troop has moved its weekly meetings into the local Catholic school’s gym for the winter months. This means the Scouts can start playing their favorite games again, bombardment and “Wizards and Warriors”. Both games involve bursts of running, ducking, dodging, a bit of strategy, and a lot of trying to hit the opponents by throwing balls at them. The boys play to win. They play hard. And they have a lot of fun.

            The best thing about watching the Scouts play games and sports during the troop meetings and activities is that although they play hard and competitively they do not keep track of the score very well. Many times, if you ask them what the score is during a basketball game they may know who is winning, but they may not know what the point totals are. They do not care about the points. They are there to have fun and be with their friends.

            Here is another example of the Scouts gameplay. Monday night, during the troop meeting, the nine boys played Wizards and Warriors. As I got the balls from the storage room I expected the boys to be choosing teams. I thought they would divide the older and younger Scouts into teams with equal skill levels. I was surprised to see the younger Nighthawk patrol on one side of the gym and the older Wolves patrol on the other side. This should not take too long, I thought to myself.

            The first game lasted much longer then I thought it would. The younger boys did a great job of holding their own against the older boys. My assistant and I, watching from the sidelines, were having fun just watching the Scouts. I am always amazed at how fast and nimble they are. The game finally ended with the Wolves as the winners.

            As the second game began I noticed the younger boys were playing a little different. They had learned a couple things from the older boys during the first game. Both teams were still playing hard but the Nighthawks had added some new strategy into their game. When the last ball was thrown it was the Nighthawks who won the second game.

            Well, of course we now had to have a tie breaker. One more game. Once again they boys played to win. This time the older Wolves had to adapt their game to go beyond the Nighthawks. Although the Wolves were victorious in the end I got the feeling that no one really cared. True, the Wolves had proven they were still the dominant patrol, but the Nighthawks had proven they were a patrol that could win games also. I got the feeling that the only thing that really mattered is that all the boys had fun.

            That spirit of fun is missing in so many things that our youth participate in these days. Take high school sports, for example. There is so much emphasis on winning that the spirit of fun has been lost. I have been a part of both worlds, and to tell you the truth, I think boys learn more from the fun of Scouting.

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