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.