Physical Development




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By Gilcraft

The leading article in The Times for Saturday, November 24th, 1934, contained one of the greatest tributes ever paid to the Boy Scout Movement. In discussing the awakening of a national conscience to the importance of physical culture, the writer said:

The credit for this change belongs in very large measure to Lord Baden-Powell. It was said on one occasion about the Chief Scout that he had mobilized the natural badness of boys for their salvation. But that is a travesty of the truth, which is his recognition that the spirit of adventure in every boy had no means of expression. Mind was divorced from body - that is to say from action; nor could reunion, as a rule, be effected except at the cost of some breach of law. So unwholesome a state of affairs turned good human stuff into bad, and put a premium on the prig and the shirker. The Boy Scout Movement relies to-day on the will of boyhood to play the game as eagerly and splendidly as the game can be played. It relies on the team spirit, which is not mere gregariousness but the self-discipline of the individual for the sake of the common cause. This is the first lesson in citizenship and public service. It relies, again, on the natural pride of the craftsman in his craft, which is made up of a virtue of bodily action, controlled and directed, and of spiritual achievement. Thus the boy who has found, in his Scouting, in his games, and in his contests, the worth of training and the excellent strength of discipline, seeks of himself, and for himself, those higher forms of physical culture which, without such discovery, he would certainly have avoided. . . . It is necessary to have felt the delight of doing in order to wish ardently to do better. And without such ardor, as the Chief Scout realized long ago, all effort on behalf of boys is wasted. The boy must indeed be father to the man, the architect of his own maturity, its builder, and - in a sense - its keeper. This is an ideal of fitness which in process of time must transform the nation, seeing that men, and women too, will come to their life work endowed not only with energy and strength, but also with enthusiasm. Such enthusiasm is not for a day; it belongs to the warp and woof of character.

I have reproduced this tribute in full, not only because of its bearing on the question of the physical development of Scouts but also because of the lesson it conveys to all of us in the conduct of our Scouting as a whole.

Our Founder and Chief Scout thoroughly deserves this tribute; but does the movement as a whole deserve it? Does each Scout Group in the Movement provide its Scouts with this bodily action and with the opportunity to feel the delight of doing? Does every Scouter realize the force of this ardor to do better? Do we keep this ideal of fitness in front of our minds, so that we endow our Scouts with energy and strength and enthusiasm? These are questions which each of us must answer for himself.

The Chief Scout has raised the call to the spirit of adventure, to the will of boyhood to play the game as eagerly and splendidly as the game can be played. It is incumbent on each one of us, therefore, to examine the materials contained in Scouting for Boys, and ascertain if we are using them to the full in order to increase and encourage the physical development of our Scouts.

The general Scout program of games, outdoor activities and camping is the foundation on which energy, fitness and strength can be built. Our present trouble is that many a Scoutmaster is content with accepting this without thought. Too often he does not expend good, honest sweat in the energy of digging down so that the foundations of physical health in his Troop and in his Scouts are sufficiently deep and broad to carry the weight of the completed building when his Scouts grow to man's estate. In some cases the building does not go any higher than the foundations. No attempt is made to build on these general principles according to the needs of the individuals. Sometimes the foundations are continually being broken up and rebuilt, as when the Scoutmaster fails to recognize the vital value of continued progress and development.

This question of physical development is not solely a matter of physical exercises. We want every Scoutmaster to realize that there is something more that he can do than he is already doing to secure the physical development of his Scouts; that he has materials ready to hand in ordinary everyday Scouting. The teaching of physical exercises needs ability, experience, knowledge and patience. The teaching of Scouting needs ability, experience, knowledge and patience. It is realized that only a minority of Scouters - at present possess the qualities to teach the former. But by this time the majority should possess the qualities to teach the latter. It is to this majority-aged, infirm, feeble, stiff, and what not, so far as their own physique is concerned - that I make my present appeal. Let us turn, therefore, to our everyday Scout activities and practices, and consider how best we may use them for our present purpose.

The Tenderfoot Tests do not contain much what appears at first sight to aid physical development, but the Signs and the Staff offer considerable scope for outdoor practice, and the latter for contests and competitions of various kinds. The uses of the Scout staff as an aid to physical development have not been fully explored, and it is comparatively easy to invent games and relay races with the staff which do effectively exercise the body.

The Second Class tests take the boy more out into the open, give him definite exercise in Scout's Pace, and teach him the general rules of health. The open-air side of these tests should be emphasized as strongly as possible. Scout's Pace should not be regarded as a fag and a nuisance: it is of real value in development - not only of body, but of character - since, like signaling, it is a bit of a grind and needs sticking to.

The First Class tests take him still more into the open air for swimming, signaling - the mental concentration and physical effort in this has its values these days - estimation, cooking, mapping, axemanship, and the journey. The two last tests should definitely involve physical exertion and exercise, as so obviously does swimming. I am full of praise for the work of our Scouters, but it is the slackness of some that is mainly to blame for the falling off in the numbers of First Class Scouts. When that slackness is coupled with a false sense of pity for the amount of work the boys have to do, it runs directly counter to the ideal of Scouting. All this talk of difficulties, and dangers, and modern conditions, and the changed outlook of the boy, is just arrant nonsense. What are we out for in Scouting? Is it not just to help our Scouts to develop health and strength and nerve and character and courage?

Has not the "badge-hog" become rather a bogy? We are not making half enough use of the badge system. A large number of our Proficiency badges can be used to further physical development. The Athlete, Camper, Climber, Explorer, Folk Dancer, Forester, Horseman, Master-at-Arms, Pathfinder, Pioneer, Rescuer, Signaler, Stalker, Swimmer, and Tracker - these are all badges which make obviously for physical fitness as well as for other attributes. I do not believe that there is a single Scout who does not want to explore at least one of the lines of progress and development provided by these badges. It is our job to see that each one has something of opportunity, training and encouragement. The Sea Scout badges are full of value in the training of physical well-being, and there is no reason why some of our older land Scouts should not have a shot at them.

The Healthyman badge - one of our soundest badges - develops the training the Second Class Scout has already received. Scouters do not lay sufficient emphasis on this question of health as promoting bodily fitness at the Second Class stage; he frequently forgets to go into it more fully and completely at the First Class stage, and he overlooks the Healthyman badge as useful material to use in carrying the subject still farther for the boy's benefit.

Scouting for Boys contains information and advice with regard to practically all the subjects that are dealt with in the tests and badges I have mentioned. In addition, the Chief suggests that some form of intensive physical exercise is necessary. The six Scout exercises - toe-touching, knee bending, body-twisting, breathing, etc. - have frequently been described as safe and foolproof. This means that, using the instructions in Scouting for Boys, even an inexperienced Scouter can put them over to his Troup without fear of damage being done.

The individual character of these exercises has been overstressed in the past, with the result that they are very seldom done. There is no real objection to them being given to the Troop as a whole, provided that only a few minutes, say up to five, are occupied. There is more chance of our Scouts benefiting in this way than by just being told to do them for themselves when they get out of bed. It is difficult to do this by oneself in the chill of a winter's morning, or amidst the jeers of the other occupants of the room. All honor to these many Scouts who have in the past persisted in developing their own health and strength undeterred by these difficulties. There is no Troop in the country where something more cannot be done along our own lines to promote the boys' physical development, but as I have said, more is needed.

In his annual report for 1933, The Health of the School Child, the Chief Medical Officer of the Board of Education writes:

In England we have travelled by a path rather different from that of our neighbors across the Channel We have come out of a longer past than some of them, and have been hindered as well as aided by great traditions. But in regard to personal health we have been inclined, perhaps, to place our reliance on individualism, voluntarism, independence, and personal intention.

We have prided ourselves on, as well as enjoyed, our sports and games; and indeed sometimes we must have appeared to others to assume that we are the best sportsmen on earth. Be that as it may, such casual and incidental methods of training the physique of a people are inherently liable to result in inequality of endeavor and achievement. For, first, games are unobtainable by those who cannot afford to provide for themselves; and, secondly, games are not enough. Physiological physical training is needed for health.

The italics are mine

Referring to boys over 14, Sir George Newman writes:

It is well known that since they left school they have passed out of reach of the medical services, the school meals, and the physical training provided by the local educational authorities, and therefore they may be in acute need of some substitutional medical supervision, supplementary nutrition, and organized physical exercise if we are to ensure them against physical and mental deterioration.

Well, is all this going to prove the last straw that breaks the camel's back, or is it going to prove the cinch that tightens the load and make it ride light without galling? I leave it to YOU.

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