There is no doubt that manly outdoor games, such as football, hockey and cricket, are very good for growing boys. They provide physical exercise, so necessary for health, in an interesting form. Moreover such games, by training boys to work together in a team, teach corporate discipline, and so promote what is called esprit de corps.
All this will be agreed to by everyone. But the question is whether the playing of such games should be compulsory. Some argue that it should be voluntary. They say that most boys will join in the school games from choice. As for those who do not like games, why should they be made to play against their wish? Playing games under compulsion will do boys no good, and it may do harm to delicate boys. Besides, games often interfere with serious study. As a rule, the boys who shine on the playing fields do not shine in the class-room. A studious boy would rather give his time to getting on with his work.
What can be said on the opposite side, in favour of making games compulsory? For one thing, it is often the delicate boys who most need healthy open-air exercise. Many a lad of poor general health would be all the better for more physical exercise. Such boys as cannot stand strenuous games could be given gentler exercise, or excused on medical certificate.
As to naturally studious pupils, they certainly need all the outdoor exercise they can get. Continuous indoor study will soon undermine the health, and so interfere with further study. As such pupils will not voluntarily take part in games, they must, for their own sake, be compelled to do so
Further, no game can be played without strict obedience to its own rules. Boys understand this kind of discipline and uphold it. This voluntary discipline learnt on the playing-fields makes the compulsory discipline of the school appear more reasonable to schoolboys. In this way compulsory school games strengthen school discipline.
Finally, games form a part, and a valuable part, of school education. They help in the moral training of boys. They teach certain necessary moral lessons, and in a way boys can understand; for the playing of them promote co-operation, the sense of fair-play, the sporting spirit, obedience to rules, self-control, pluck, and the sacrifice of self for the good of the whole. There is truth in the saying that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton.
For these reasons games should be compulsory.
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