Teamwork in Scouting
"Scouting is a game." Year after year the Chief has had to emphasize, as he did in The Scouter for January, 1931, that "it is a jolly game in the out of doors, where boy-men and boys can go adventuring together as older and younger brother, picking up health and happiness, handicraft and helpfulness."
Moreover, it is a game in which all we Scouters take part voluntarily. No one has compelled us to play; we play because we have been attracted to the game, because we enjoy playing it. The fact that this is the game of our choice makes it all the more necessary for us to seek to play it aright, to learn its rules and abide by them, to contribute what we can to its welfare and advancement. Our voluntary acceptance makes this all the more, not less, incumbent on us - a point which a few of our fellow-players have sometimes failed to see in the past.
Every game - no matter what it is - requires certain qualities from its players. These qualities fall under two main headings, knowledge and efficiency.
KNOWLEDGE First of all the player has to understand the objects of the game, what its aims are, what its methods of scoring. As Scouters our first job is to secure a complete and sure knowledge of the Aims of Scouting which are summarized for us in Rule I of Policy, Organization and Rules. With that knowledge behind us there is some chance of our setting out to win; at least we know the direction in which we are playing and where the goal is; that is something to help us anyway,
The next requisite for the player is to study the Rules of the game, so that he may not offend or let down his side. The "Rules on how to play the game of Scouting for Boys" are set out in full in P.O. R.
But rules are the mere bones of a game built up as a result of the experience gathered in past play and altered from time to time to suit necessity and changed conditions. The methods of play are of more importance, and these the Scouter must learn thoroughly well before he can hope to play the game of Scouting with any chance of success. Whatever part the Scouter plays in Scouting he must gain a knowledge not only of the general Scout method but also of the method applied to the particular section in which he is a leader. Scouting for Boys and Aids to Scoutmastership form the bases of our method and are supplemented in different sections by The Wolf Cub's Handbook, Rovering to Success, Sea Scouting for Boys, and so on. It may take a little time for the player to obtain a complete grasp of the right method of play, but before he actually goes on to the field of play he should have some understanding of it, otherwise his game may be something quite different from real Scouting.
Last - for our present purposes - but by no means least the player must have some knowledge of his fellow players. Character study is essential to good Scouting, and knowledge of character, even one's own, is difficult to acquire. It is required of every Scouter that he studies the characters of those whom he is trying to lead; he cannot hope to play with them properly unless he does this; without this knowledge he cannot hope to secure success in his Scouting.
EFFICIENCY. Whether we are rabbits or hares we all try to make ourselves more efficient in any game we are playing. It is natural and right that we should seek to lower our handicap, to secure our place in the side; that desire makes for development and progress.
Efficiency in Scouting can only be obtained through hard work added to our natural abilities. We have one consolation, and that is that different people can do their Scouting equally well in totally different ways. Whatever our experience of life may be, whatever abilities we possess, we will find scope in the game of Scouting for the exercise of that experience and of those abilities. But we have to add something to that as well.
It is necessary for us to study the theory of the game, to read its literature if possible. The literature of Scouting is mounting up in bulk, but there are aids to help us in our choice of material.
An excellent way of acquiring more competence is to study the play of others. That is a way of acquiring efficiency that we do not utilize as fully as we might in Scouting. By watching others we can sometimes see where we have gone wrong, we can learn the finer points of the game, we can gain added experience.
Some kind of training is necessary to every game: there are many ways in which we can obtain training in Scoutcraft - some have already been mentioned. If we want to play the game well we must train ourselves for it purposely as best we can, and make use of all the means of making ourselves more efficient that come our way. We do not lose the fun of the game if we are properly trained for it; our enjoyment is increased as are our chances of success.
The very playing of the game must produce more efficiency, provided only we have set ourselves to acquire the necessary knowledge. So the actual practice of our Scouting should do more than anything else to produce efficiency in our play, but we will play our Scouting all the better if we have prepared ourselves for it.
There is a warning one might give: we should beware of over-training, of over-playing, both of which produce staleness and set back efficiency and progress. By overtraining I mean misusing training and making oneself dependent on it entirely for information as to how to play the game. Training is only of use so long as it stimulates the imagination of the individual Scouter and enables him to go on for himself with added experience and greater chances of success. If training kills the player's individuality then it can be positively harmful.
In the same way, if we play too much Scouting we are danger of harming ourselves and the progress of the game. The game of Scouting is a preparation for the game of life. All Scouters must play their part properly in the game of life; if they hope to make a success of their Scouting, they must have other interests than Scouting, they must associate Scouting with life as it actually is and not with some Utopia which is as yet far removed from life as it exists to-day.
TEAM WORK. There are divers kinds of games; in some we play singles, in others doubles, in others we play as members of a team. Scouting is pre-eminently a team game, and team games demand other qualities of their players.
Success in team play is dependent not only on knowledge and efficiency, but also on cooperation, discipline and leadership.
CO-OPERATION. A team whose members play together, which is imbued with the team spirit, can more frequently than not succeed against a team whose individual members are better players, but who have not learned the art of playing together. If Scouting is to succeed, locally or nationally or internationally, all those of us who are leaders must learn to play together. There is room for individuality in our play, but that individuality must be governed by the needs of our fellow players; in Scouting no one can afford to play a lone hand; to attempt to do so offends against the Scout Law. Success can, again, only be achieved through co-operation.
Proper co-operation and team work can only be achieved if each player fits himself into his place in the team. That is where our different abilities come in. Some of us can deal best with Cubs, some with Scouts, some with Rover Scouts, some with other Scouters. False ambitions should not hinder us from finding out which place best suits us and from sticking to that place and continuing to make ourselves more fitted to it.
DISCIPLINE. Much has been written and said in regard to discipline in Scouting, but without it no game can be won, no work achieved. Like the Cub, we Scouters have to learn to give to others and not to give in to ourselves. We have to train ourselves so as to be an example to those we lead which brings me to the last quality in team work that there is space to mention.
LEADERSHIP. In a game a side can be so inspired by its captain that its members call upon all their reserves to respond to his inspiration and his encouragement. Personal leadership is the key to success in Scouting. The lead given by the Chief Scout has inspired us all in the past, and continues to encourage us in our play to-day. It is our job as Scouters to pass on that enthusiasm and encouragement. As Professor L. P. Jacks has suggested - and in doing so repeated the words and experience of others, "good fellowship is essential to good leadership." Before we can lead, we must first learn to serve, we must show that we ourselves can follow. But I have more to say on leadership in the next chapter.
THE TEAM. Whatever part we play in Scouting, whatever the unit that constitutes our team, all of us have to realize that the success of our Scouting depends on team work.
In the Pack the team is the Pack as a whole, the Scouters of the Pack, especially the Cubmaster, are its leaders. The whole Pack as we know, for we have been told it often enough, should be one happy family.
In the Troop the team is more properly the Patrol under its Patrol Leader. Patrols are associated together in the Troop under the Scouters, the Scoutmaster being the responsible leader. It is the Scouters' job to pass on the spirit of leadership to the P.L.'s, and to do all they can to foster the team spirit in each Patrol.
In the Crew all the Scouters and Rover Scouts constitute the team with the Rover Scout Leader as its captain. Leadership, discipline and co-operation should not decrease in importance just because the team is composed of older people. These qualities take on increasing importance as one grows older, and are still more necessary in the application of one's Scout training to life.
In the Group all the Scouters must work together under the leadership of the Group Scoutmaster if the continued success of the Group is to be achieved and the unity and continuity of Scouting preserved.
In the District all those concerned in the welfare of Scouting - Scouters and laymen - form the team which has entered the field to play and win the game of Scouting. Normally the District Commissioner is the leader of the side and as the team is large he is helped in his leadership by A.D.C.'s and District Scouters, and in management by the Chairman, Secretary, and others of the Local Association. Similarly the G.S.M. can obtain great help from the members of a Group Committee, and so free himself to devote more time to the actual training of his team and to leadership in the field. Group and District Old Scouts Branch will now act as a reserve from which to draw assistance, and will help to create a healthy public opinion in support of Scouting.
When considering the District team, it might be well to remind ourselves of the necessity to obtain some knowledge of our fellow players. When this was mentioned before it has special reference to those whom we Scouters are leading. We should also, however, try and obtain some knowledge of our fellow Scouters. This is a more difficult task perhaps, but one to which we must address ourselves if the local unity of Scouting is to be preserved and if co-operation is to exist throughout the district.
The Chief Scout is always adjuring us to look into the eye of the sun, to remember that there is at least five per cent of good in everyone. Our natural inclinations seem to be to pick holes in the people we meet, to criticize the work which others are doing and ignore the good points they possess and the success they have achieved. It is our duty as Scouters to recognize the good work that our fellows do, to approve their good qualities. This is true of others besides our fellow Scouters. If the members of our great team of Scouters can learn to appreciate each other better, the success of the game of Scouting will be doubly assured.
It would not be fitting to omit all reference to the County team of Scouting in which the County Commissioner collects all his assistants and all his District Commissioners. In County as in District "the whole success," as the Chief said many years ago, "just depends on the man at the head. It tells in every branch of life, but in none more than in Scouting."
Right through the game of Scouting we Scouters must remember that it is the Scouts themselves who are all important. It is our special privilege to be allowed to play the game with them. It is they especially who should reap all the Fun and Advantage that they possibly can from the game. It is our special privilege to help them in this fun and secure for them this advantage.
But that Fun and Advantage is ours, too, if we only play the Game of Scouting aright.
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.