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B.P.’s Blog – Playing the Game

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During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.

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; don’t try to be referee when you are playing half-back; don’t stop playing because you have had enough of the game, but shove along, cheerily and hopefully, with an eye on the goal in order that your side may win, even though you may yourself get a kick on the shins or a muddy fall in helping it.

But the best form of instruction of all for a Scoutmaster to give is by the force of example. It is essential if he is going to succeed in putting the right character into his boys that he should himself practise what he preaches. Boys are imitative, and what the Scoutmaster gives off, that they pick up and reflect. Instructions, and especially orders, are apt to have different and even opposite effects with boys — order a boy not to smoke and he is at once tempted to try it as an adventure; but give him the example, show him that any fool can smoke but a wise Scout doesn’t, and it is another matter.

Therefore, it is of first importance that every Scout-master, with this great responsibility on his shoulders, should examine himself very closely, suppress any of the minor faults which he may — in fact, is bound to — possess, and train himself to practise what he preaches, so as to give the right example to his lads for the shaping of their lives, characters, and careers. 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 is capable of treading down little personal worries and pinpricks, can endure the many preliminary difficulties and disappointments, can fit himself into the place assigned to him, and loyally carry out instructions, though they may not be exactly what he would like; 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. If, on the other hand, he cannot, his only honourable course is to resign in preference to the unmanly one — typical, by the way, of men who fail in whatever line of life — of whining about his so-called rights, complaining of his bad luck.

July, 1910.

From B.P.’s Outlook