What to do when … Boys physically fight during a competitive game

View a list of all the problems covered in this series.

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Competition is a tricky element in ministry to boys. On the one hand, games require some element of competition to attract and motivate boys (although a case can be made for the value of non-competitive games), while on the other hand, competition can lead to explosive situations in which people get hurt and offended. Used wisely, it can be helpful; used unwisely, it can be destructive.

A leader will be called upon to act decisively if two or more boys lose control and begin fighting during a game. Here are some ways to handle the situation:

  1. Pull the boys apart and remove them from the game. One leader should deal with the boys involved, another should supervise the group. If the game has become too hostile or rough, end it and move on to another. If not, continue the game.

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This story about a boy who couldn’t keep his cool might help give you a few more ideas

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  1. Give the boys who were fighting a moment to cool off. Decide if they should be talked to together or separately (the latter is recommended if boys do not know each other well or do not get along). Avoid lecturing or haranguing them. Rather focus on their feeling with questions. Find out if there are other things bothering them. Help them see the consequences of their actions and ask them what they think they should do to correct the situation. Forcing them to say they were sorry is usually counterproductive (if they are not genuinely sorry), but let them know they have acted in an unacceptable way. Invite boys to be reconciled to each other. A “penalty” for fighting could be exclusion from the remaining game period.
  1. Evaluate the game that was being played. Does it lead to angry, hostile feeling when played? Is it too rough to be supervised and controlled by the leaders? Is it the only game being played so that boys harbor hard feelings from the previous week? Units that play basketball or floor hockey every meeting often develop a highly competitive atmosphere that promotes rivalry within the group. A mixture of games and teams counteracts this negative influence.
  1. Evaluate the attitude of the leaders on the importance of winning. Ask: do we emphasize “playing our best” or the final score? Do we display an enjoyment of the game for its own sake? Do winners receive too much attention and credit causing the losers to feel hurt?

Points 3 and 4 should be discussed during your leaders huddle at the end of the meeting.

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Why should we even do games? Check this article out

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This series was adapted from a resource that has been used by Brigade leaders for decades.

View a list of all the problems covered in this series.

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