Sports for All

Cambridge District Scout Archives

Scouting encourages all Scouts to participate in the activities and challenges.  Whilst in many competitions winners emerge an emphasis is placed on enabling everyone to be involved and push their own limits. 

The Special Tests or Handicapped sections made scouting accessible for all.  Modified tests and activities created specific challenges for those who could not enter general competitions.

The following examples illustrate the attempts to find room in each sport for all Scouts.  The final example attempts to throttle back the dispiriting excesses of sport.


1912 The first Annual Sports for the District was held on 11th May 1912, judged by Col Ulrich de Burgh. Events were in Junior and Senior sections and included the following mentioned in a report from the 1st Cambridge

  • Flat Races 100yds
  • Staff jump (high jump?)
  • Tug of War
  • Trail of strength
  • Cooking for the Silver Bugle
  • Relay Race for the Silver Bugle
  • Tent pitching
  • Hut building
  • Ambulance Race
  • Signaling

An interesting variation comes from the Leys magazine of 1918 reporting on their Prep school sports (Caldicott School in Hitchin) in which the Scouts Relay was held in uniform and boots, presumably including the knapsack.

1926                In this year, for which we have a full programme, many Sports Day events were not standard athletic activities.  These new events gave all Scouts the opportunity to participate.

Events included

  • Running           Distances between 100 yds to 1 mile
  • Stalking           Junior, Middle and Senior classes (stalk to a low hedge or barrier, first to reach it without being seen wins)
  • Obstacle Race Senior and Super Senior classes
  • Troop relay     One junior, one middle and one senior running 100, 220 and 440 yards
  • Scout Pace       4 x 440 yards (1 mile) nearest team to 12 minutes wins
  • Boat Race        Team of 5 Middles to race 100 yards on a staff 5’6’’
  • Cock Fight       Two seniors, two juniors, juniors to be mounted on seniors backs

1950’s              The prohibition on spikes, like the ban on tumble turns in swimming sports, encouraged a wide participation as does the balancing of straight racing with non standard races.  These activities were not part of the senior races.

Events included

  • 75 yds              Sack                             Junior  Middle
  • 50 yds              Wheelbarrow              Junior  Middle
  • 50 yds              Three legged               Junior  Middle

Some such sports are labelled ‘fun’ Olympics or the like to distinguish them from standard events.


  • 1926    A separate category is for ‘Novices across the River’, those who could not cross the distance last year.  They were not allowed to enter any other competition.
  • 1932    ‘Plunge’ appeared alongside diving in the list of events.  ‘Plunge for distance’ was diving but not using a stroke. An Olympic sport in 1904 it was ridiculed as “slowest thing in the way of athletic competition”,  “the stylish-stout chaps who go in for this strenuous event merely throw themselves heavily into the water and float along like icebergs in the ship lanes.”  
  • 1944    Novices no longer gained a point a swimmer but were given a certificate. 

(somewhere between 1944 and 1954 this may have altered again)

  • 1954    ’This year as an experiment the Novice Width is being swam as a race’. It appears from the scores given that previously each successful width swum by a Novice earned one point.  This gave a strong incentive to get as many scouts as possible to swim.
  • 1967    ‘Corks should be held in the shallow end’

The nature of swimming renders it less open to fun activities for the less able swimmers but the ban on tumble turns, use of flippers, the collecting of corks and later plastic cups in the shallow end are all attempts to open it up to as many as possible. Flippers later became a race in its own right.

The earlier Novices event, which only became a race in the 1950’s, fighting on a spar, undressing in the water and swimming on the back with no hands all contrived to achieve the same wider participation.


Concern has been shown about the very competitive nature of football overwhelming a Scouting attitude to competition.  A partisan spirit is a discouragement to a significant portion of Scouts, and the matching approach on the field is not inclusive.  Not everyone, however willing to do their best, considers bruised ankles and shins part of the game.

1970 A three legged football competition is recorded with about 12 teams.

1977                The CC wrote  ‘I hear occasionally of some activities run on a District basis, which by their very nature arouse particular enthusiasm (football competitions are an example) but with it partisanship which has sometimes –perhaps through ignorance (in all innocence) of the Spirit of the Promise and Law on the part of some supporters – “run amok”…

1979                County six a side         CC reminded Scouters ‘this is not hard competition’

It is perhaps this over involvement in winning as much as the difficulties of finding pitches and transport that limits the playing of football in Scouts.  The observation above was as much about the spectators (parents) as the players.

JWR Archivist Feb 2019