Fitness Fun for Cub Scouts

A council’s autumn championship gets boys excited about exercise and provides packs with an early program activity.

On a cool and windy October Saturday morning, a host of eager Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, and Webelos Scouts descended upon the community college gymnasium in Mason City, Iowa. Accompanied by parents and leaders, teams of five boys each—a pack’s top athletes in grades one through five—prepared to do their best in the Winnebago Council’s annual Cub Scout Physical Fitness Championship.

The tradition began in the 1970s, when Cub Scouts from two councils (since merged) held competitions at their respective Scout camps in the summer. Initially, all Cub Scouts were invited to participate as individuals in one grand competition. In recent years, however, the council has focused on participation by packs.

“Obviously, a major purpose of the event is physical fitness,” said Bob Blaeuer, past Winnebago Council program director. “But it’s also an activity geared to membership, to help packs get organized early in the school year.”

For the 1999 event, 52 of the council’s 119 packs participated. “Out of 4,000 to 5,000 Cub Scouts in the council, about 2,500 boys have participated on the pack level,” Blaeuer noted. “And that’s where I think the activity really shines.”

Boys participate in five events: standing long jump, overhand softball throw, push-ups, situps, and 50-yard dash. Separate competitions for each grade, from first through fifth, help to stimulate participation.

“We encourage the whole Cub Scout family to participate by allowing each boy to compete with boys on his own level,” said Blaeuer.

Basing the council championship on the combined score of a five-boy team also rewards total pack involvement, Blaeuer explained. The champion team usually has five members who have excelled in their pack’s own competition, he noted, while a team of less than five “might have a couple of boys that are great all-around athletes; but if all five grades aren’t represented, it’s hard for two boys alone to score enough points for their pack to come in first.”

Mason City’s North Iowa Area Community College is one of two sites for the annual championship; a separate competition is held in early November at Wartburg College in Waverly, about 50 miles away. The Winnebago Council, headquartered in Waterloo, covers 17 counties, so the two locations give packs shorter distances to travel.

Having dual sites also boosts participation, Blaeuer said. In 1999, the third year with two locations, 208 boys participated, 81 at Mason City and 127 more in Waverly.

All events are held inside at Waverly, but because the gym is small at Mason City, the 50-yard dash and softball throw are staged outdoors.

“We need about 18 people to help out, three with each of the five athletic events and three at registration,” said Bruce McKee, chairman of the Mason City competition. “Three weeks before the event, I pass around a sign-up sheet at roundtable for people to help with events or assist their pack’s team. The last week, I phone all the volunteers and remind them what time they need to be there. Also, I’ll ask parents I know are coming if they can help out in some way while they are there.”

Finding helpers for pack competitions is not as challenging. “We try to get as much family participation as possible—parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters,” said Carol Meyer, a Cub Scout leader and manager of the council’s Mason City satellite service center.

Buildings are reserved eight to nine months in advance. Mats for situps and push-ups are borrowed from the Boy Scout camp; softballs, stopwatches, and a 100-foot tape from a community recreation department. “Softballs should all be the same size,” advised McKee.

Registration begins at 8 a.m., with competition 30 minutes after volunteers have set up the event stations. Competitors pay a registration fee of $5 and receive five scorecards, one for each station, and a rules sheet.

After filling out the scorecards with his name, town, pack number, and school grade, a Cub Scout competes in the events in any order. (Depending on the length of the lines, some boys can finish in about half an hour.) He hands in his five cards at the registration area and picks up a “I Did My Best” participation ribbon.

Final scores, tallied using computer spreadsheet software, are sent to Cubmasters and packs in early December.

At Mason City, two or three boys at a time competed in timed push-ups and situps. Judges explained the guidelines to them before starting. As the boys did their best, a den leader judge offered words of encouragement and announced when only 10 seconds remained.

Waiting in line gave Cub Scouts some rest, as well as a chance to see how others were doing.

The 50-yard dash was held on a road outside the gymnasium, the crack between lanes dividing two runners.

By Thanksgiving, the scores had been calculated. The best for first-grade were 56 inches in the long jump, 69 feet for the softball throw, and 8.26 seconds in the 50-yard dash. In comparison, the top fifth-grade scores were 74 inches in the long jump, 129 feet for the softball throw, and 7.24 seconds for the 50-yard dash.

The American Heart Association notes that physically active children enjoy benefits such as weight control, lower blood pressure, improved psychological well-being, and a tendency to be physically active as adults.

And the Winnebago Council’s Cub Scout Physical Fitness Championship, with its all-inclusive participation, promotes a healthy, active lifestyle in a way that’s fun for everyone.

Freelance writer Anne Hattes lives in Hartland, Wis.

Conducting a Pack Competition

The Winnebago Council’s Physical Fitness Championship begins at the pack and den level, where all boys participate to determine which five will represent the pack at the council event. Packs follows these steps in their preparation:

  • Schedule the fitness championship in September or October as the pack’s monthly program theme or as a special event to supplement the regular theme. Select time and location.
  • Boys practice the events at den meetings.
  • Secure officials (scorers and judges) and equipment needed (regulation 12-inch inseam rubber or leather-covered softballs, tape lines, tape measures, and stopwatches or watches with a sweep second hand).
  • Boys compete only against boys from their own grade in all events. The members of the pack team competing in the council championship in October or November are the boys in each grade level with the highest total scores in all five physical fitness events.

Each Tiger Cub, Cub Scout, or Webelos Scout participates in five events. Points are given to each participant as follows:

Standing Long Jump: 1 point for each inch jumped; Softball Throw: 1 point for each foot from throwing line to where ball lands; Push-ups: 2 points for each push-up in one minute;Situps: 2 points for each situp in one minute. 50-yard Dash: Fastest times—first, 100 points; second, 90 points; third, 80 points; f ourth, 70 points; fifth, 60 points; all others, 50 points for participation.

Bonus Points: Ten bonus points added to the score of the winner of each grade-level (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th) event.


  1. Great idea, but the events are not as fair for boy that age as they might be. Some events favor bigger boys and boys that are reaching puberty earlier than other Cub Scouts. A softball is too big for most Cub’s hands, and so boys with bigger hands have an advantage. Boys who are entering puberty will have an advantage with push-ups because their upper body development will be accelerated by increased testosterone. Alternative events to consider might be an agility drill with a soccer ball down a row of cones, a baseball throw for accuracy, and a pole climb. If the event were conducted regularly, boys could be rewarded for personal improvement over time, in addition to the boy vs. boy competition which could be then be emphasized less than personal improvement. Bigger and more athletic boys will get enough recognition on the playground and in sports. Cub Scouts should create a more level playing field for all boys grow and progress.

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