NABC: The principles and aims of the boy’s club movement

Stirling Boys' Club by Stéphane DAMOUR. Flickr ccbyncnd2Stirling Boys’ Club by Stéphane DAMOUR. Flickr ccbyncnd2

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This classic statement of the ethos and aims of the boys’ club movement was agreed in 1930. It highlights the distinctive contribution of club life when combined with a concern for play, fitness (or wholeness), comradeship and self-government.

contents: preface · foreword · the need for clubs · distinctiveness of the club method · play – as an appeal and a force · fitness · the spirit of comradeship · self-government · the call for leadership · summary · how to cite this piece

 The Principles and Aims of the Boys’ Club Movement was approved by the Annual Conference of the National Association of Boys’ Clubs, assembled in 7uly, 1930, at Queen’s College, Oxford, under the Presidency of H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester, .K.G. Since its formation in 1925 the National Association of Boys’ Clubs (NABC) had been largely occupied by programme, organizational and membership matters. There was a belief among a number of key people involved that the movement suffered from a the lack of an agreed statement of doctrine and first principles (see Eagar 1952: 414-420 and Dawes 1975: 115). Reference here was made to things like the Scout’s law and promise and the orientation provided by Baden-Powell’s writing for the Scout movement. While there was initial resistance to such a formulation through the efforts of Waldo McGillycuddy Eagar and others a decision was made to move forward. A small committee comprising Colonel Ronald Campbell and Lionel Ellis (the Joint Secretaries of the Association between 1925 and 1930), Basil Henriques (of the Oxford and St George’s Club and writer of the classic text Club Leadership [1933] and Eagar drafted the statement. However, the piece had its origins in some notes made by Eagar in 1917 whilst serving as a gunner in an observation post behind Bailleul (Eagar 1952: 415).

One of the reasons that the committee could agree on the direction and content of the statement was that three of the members – Campbell, Henriques and Eagar had been involved in the Oxford and Bermondsey Club founded by John Stansfeld. The document’s emphasis upon comradeship and self-government linked closely to the notion of ‘fratnes’ that informed the work of that club (and the efforts of some of the pioneers such as Russell). Much of the earlier ethos of the movement had permeated through to Eagar – but at that time he had only a rudimentary appreciation of the contribution of the previous generations of thinkers and practitioners.

Within the document there is a strong emphasis on ‘fitness’. This was not taken as narrowly concerned with the physical but was also to apply to the intellect and the spirit. Indeed, the document draws upon Aristotle when it states: ‘[T]he spirit of play may be used to spread a new conception of fitness, through which may be gained that happiness which consists in living the best life our powers command in the best way our circumstances permit’.

The document met with a surprising degree of approval – and it allowed the Movement in general to respond to developments in a more informed way. As Dawes (1975: 116) put it, the Movement ‘now had a firm statement of policy on which the future could be based’.


Dawes, F. (1975) A Cry from the Streets. The Boys’ Club movement in Britain from the 1850s to the present day, Hove: Wayland.

Eagar, W. McG (1953) Making Men. A history of boys clubs and related movements, London: University of London Press.


[page 3] The National Association of Boys’ Clubs was formed not to be the centre of a new movement, but to link together a number of existing bodies.

It is impossible to say who first adopted the Club Method, but it was certainly a recognised form of social service in the poorer districts of London and Manchester as far back as 1850. Before the Association came into being there were already Federations of Clubs in a few areas, notably Liverpool, London and Manchester; but most clubs continued to be organisations on their own, conscious of having some method and purpose in common with other clubs, but only in recent years realising that their method and purpose had to be thought out as a distinctive contribution to social welfare.

Other organisations for boys were more definite: Scoutmasters and Brigade Officers had manuals, handbooks and courses. Each Club Leader evolved his own system of management, partly by hearsay or imitation, largely out of his own theories of what boys like or ought to like, what was good for boys and what boys would stand. New Club Leaders were always starting afresh. They made experiments, succeeding or failing, but doing little or nothing to create a store of experience on which others might draw.

The wastefulness of this became more and more obvious, and in recent years the need for a central body had been often felt and sometimes voiced. The formation during the War of the Juvenile Organisations Committee, which desired to be put in touch with a body representing Boys’ Clubs, as the Scout Association and the Brigade Headquarters represented Scout Troops and Brigade Companies throughout the country, helped to bring matters to a head, and the National Association was formed with the object, not only of representing Boys’ Clubs, but of developing work among boys through clubs in all parts of the country. [page 4]

As soon as it was formed, the Association had to decide what organisations were eligible for membership, that is, it had to define what a Boys’ Club is, and what organisation of boys is not a club.

At that stage it was possible to agree only on the elementary definition that a Boys’ Club is one that

(i)   Has headquarters.

(ii)  Charges a membership subscription.

(iii) Has a membership which comprises at least fifteen boys between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.

(iv) Has a responsible head.

(v)  Meets at least twice a week.

(vi) Has been in existence for at least three months.

The experience which has now been gained makes possible what has been made necessary in any case by the growth of the movement. The N.A.B.C. has now to explain not only that clubs are needed but why they are needed, what they are trying to do, and how they are trying to do it.

The N.A.B.C. has to indicate the difference, as well as the resemblance, between clubs and other “juvenile organisations.” It has to prove that the clubs have a purpose worthy of support. It has also to show why a National Association has been formed, and what practical results it hopes to achieve. It has, in fact, to produce a programme, a policy and a philosophy; a programme of what is to be done, a policy of how to do it, and a philosophy in answer to the most important question of all: ”Why are you doing anything, and why form clubs to do it?” [page 5]

The need for clubs

Boy’s Clubs have almost invariably been created to meet the needs of adolescent boys in places where they are denied opportunities for full development.

The boy joins a club about the time when he is being released by the educational machine. He is ceasing to be a child but is still far from being a man. The school has done all it can for him in the time at its disposal. It has taught him to read and write and calculate; it has watched over his health and developed his body; it has trained his observation, quickened his imagination and instilled the rudiments of personal responsibility, honour and loyalty.

The change from school to industry is ruthlessly complete. From a sheltered world, adapted to his immaturity, he emerges abruptly into the open. His working hours go up with a jump from five-and-a-half to eight, nine or more. From work graded to his capacity and intelligence he passes to tasks regulated by adult standards, in which he may be subject to rushes of work or spells of idleness, to severe physical strain or the stupefying monotony of tending automatic machines. He may work in an atmosphere of perpetual noise, heat or smell, and be governed by a discipline which, whether it be strict or lax, nearly always seems arbitrary and capricious.

This abrupt change of circumstance occurs just when the most profound change of human life is beginning in the boy himself. His physical development is rapid and often irregular. A flood of new emotions and ambitions threaten standards of conduct and conceptions of truth which he accepted unquestioningly as a child. The lingering impressions of a school life, which ends at 14, or even 15, are less effective in [page 6] forming the character and outlook of manhood than the influences brought to bear and the opportunities provided in the critical, decisive years of adolescence.

Working boys have essentially the same qualities and needs as other boys. Given the right guidance and environment, boy nature in all classes can rise to heights of generosity and loyalty; deprived of incentives and exposed to incitements it can sink to almost any depths of worthlessness and depravity. No social ideal is more generally accepted than that of equality of opportunity. But in no period of life is inequality of opportunity so marked under present-day conditions as in adolescence. For the minority of boys, for one in every ten, there is the chance of continuing whole-time education with all the inspirations and opportunities which a spacious home and a good school can offer. Physically and mentally, morally and religiously, this one boy is helped to realise his full development. For the other nine there is employment, often uneducative and exhausting, and, to cater for their leisure hours or to carry them through the demoralising misfortune of unemployment, only the help which philanthropic, educational or religious agencies can offer to the few whom they can reach.

For half the boys in our land the street gang is the one possible club and the street corner the one practical continuation school—both are well attended.

That is the problem which Boys’ Clubs exist to face. The street corner is a place not of choice, but of necessity; what has to be done is to find an alternative. The gang on the other hand is a natural social unit what has to be done is to direct the spirit of the gang towards a constructive and socially useful end. The gang spirit repressed is often a nuisance and a danger. Expressed it may become a social force of the first importance. In a good Boys’ Club it is expressed in a perfectly natural form and so may the more easily be directed towards the good of society. [page 7]

Distinctiveness of the club method

Scoutmasters, Brigade Officers and Club Leaders are all trying to meet the same need, and are all working ultimately for the same end. As boys differ in tastes and inclinations, so do each of these organisations differ in the appeal they make to boys. The special appeal of the Brigades is to the martial spirit in a boy, and of Scouting to the pioneer or backwoodsman spirit. Both make full use of the child’s delight in make-believe. The club appeal is more direct. It is first to the instinct of play, which is Nature’s way of preparing youngsters for the struggles of adult life, and secondly to the instinctive sense of comradeship or companionship which is the germ of citizenship.

The club benefits peculiarly by making its double appeal so simply and directly to the boy’s most natural instincts. Any boy can respond without an atom of pretence or trace of self-consciousness. But there is always on the other hand the danger of formlessness and lack of purpose, and every club leader has to ask himself whether his club is not only attractive but effective for the purpose which he ought to have in view.

For the purpose of the club is positive. It exists to produce good, not to be a negative preventive of evil. It has not only to give its members scope for spontaneous expression, but to make a constant demand on their abilities and to provide a constant incentive to their ambitions. It has a definitely educational function. The conception of a club as a mere refuge from the streets, an alternative to the pictures or the street corner, where leisure may be whiled away in innocuous amusements designed to keep boys out of mischief, is more than inadequate; it is deadly.

It is indeed not of boys’ nature to while away their time. It is of their nature to do things which produce tangible results; to be strenuous or studious; to strive for mastery, to succeed by using sharp wits and physical [page 8] strength; to ally themselves with their fellows and to pit their joint efforts against the best output of some other group. The club must have some of the dynamic energy of boyhood itself.

As the club has a distinctive appeal and a positive purpose, so it has a distinctive and positive method, a discipline of its own and an influence derived from that discipline. In the nature of club discipline and of club influence lies the distinctiveness of the club method.

The discipline of a club is not very obvious either to its members or to outsiders. But it is real, and it is what a boy wants. The adolescent boy is no longer amenable to the dogmatic, externally imposed discipline of the school, and of arbitrary discipline he has all he wants at work. But he will not “stand for” a club if it is a series of rough houses. He wants as much order and regularity as will enable him, unhindered and unmolested, to use the opportunities which the club offers, and he is willing to play his part in securing that order and regularity. He wants, that is, both to enjoy and to allow the privileges of the club.

The special quality of club discipline is, in fact, that it is the ordinary discipline of social life. It rests on the sanction of common consent. It is not imposed by authority; it comes from within rather than from without. It is democratic in essence because only by discipline of a democratic kind can the club convince its members that the club is their club, existing for them and demanding a loyalty to itself and to all their fellow members.

There is no need to emphasise the peculiar value to-day of such a training in responsibility for the privileges and duties of manhood, but stress must be laid on the fact that the greatest influence in a club is that of the club itself as a corporate body. A club leader who thinks about what he is doing soon realises that, while there is immense scope in the club for the play of personality on personality and for “good personal [page 9] influence,” the club must stand for something, and on something, much bigger than himself. He has to resist the temptation to make himself indispensable, in order that he may create of the boys themselves an organisation which will go on living after he has gone. Moreover, he has to provoke an active response from the club members by means of which the club itself will create an influence and a collective personality of its own. This club personality has first to be created. It has afterwards to be perpetuated. It becomes in time the club spirit and tradition, which, more than any individual personality, must be the real influence for good in the club. The club leader himself embodies it. But so do the boys who, as they come in their turn to share the responsibility of leadership, make the maintenance of the club spirit their special duty and pride.

Play – as an appeal and a force

A Boys’ Club takes its particular form because it appeals directly to the instincts of play and comradeship while meeting the desire of many boys to put “make believe“ and formal discipline behind them when they leave school.

The instinct of play is not only one of the strongest instincts of boyhood but perhaps the most forceful and creative of all instincts. It is at once Nature’s means of developing physique and a boy’s own means of self-expression. In appealing to it the club uses a sure means of reaching almost every boy in every class. But in the simplicity and naturalness of the appeal to this instinct lies both strength and weakness. A new member joins a club expecting amusement and enjoyment and seeking personal success. The club has to give him more than he expects. It must not inculcate a Peter Pan attitude towards life. The boy has to grow up and the club’s first duty is to help him to grow up [page 10] well. Play is preparation for life, not the end of a boy’s being.

The N.A.B.C. recognises that at present some clubs begin and end with games, ousting all formal education and failing to develop any constructive social sense in their members. The policy to be aimed at must be something quite different from this. Games rightly take a large place in the club programme, but that programme must include other activities, and games themselves must be so organised that they will teach boys to “play the game“ — at home, and in the workshop, as well as in the club.

“Playing the game” involves a great deal. A boy who has learnt to play the game for the game’s sake, to play for his side rather than for himself, to be a good loser and a good winner—generous in defeat and modest in victory—to accept a decision in the right spirit, to be chivalrous and unselfish, and ready to serve others — such a boy has indeed a good start on the road of life. To help boys to learn how to play the game in this sense is the club’s task, and club sport must be organised to this end.

The policy of the Association with regard to play must therefore be vigorously to oppose the influence of commercialised sport, which subordinates the game to the reward and character to material success. Games must be used not to encourage mere success, but to draw out the best that is in a boy, and to foster the growth of the team spirit that will shape not only his play, but his whole life. Through the team spirit, new moral and social values may be given to every “recreational” activity in a club. The club itself will teach that the result of any game is as nothing to the opportunity which the game offers to a boy to do his best and, in doing his best, to be at his best, and that the fitness for which all who play games strive must mean to club members all-round fitness for life. [page 11]

Thus the spirit of play may be used to spread a new conception of fitness, through which may be gained that happiness which consists in living the best life our powers command in the best way our circumstances permit. The circumstances of club boys are often unfavourable, but they cannot beat a boy who trains himself to be fit for the adventure of life.


The word “Fitness” embodies most tersely what a club aims at producing and developing in all its members. To every boy with an inclination towards athletics it stands for a high physical ideal. To the club it must mean the fitness of the whole boy for complete manhood.

The club cannot leave any part of a boy’s nature out of account. His mind is no less important than his body, his spirit no less important than his mind. It must provide for his intellectual needs, and it must aim at opening to him and placing at his disposal the opportunities of attaining culture by developing appreciation of literature, art, music and beauty. By broadening his sympathies and widening his interests, the club must help the boy to get for himself that understanding heart which fits him to take his place in society.

A club is not treating its members fairly if it fails to recognise their spiritual needs. Whatever its religious atmosphere or background may be, it must teach that man’s mind and spirit dwell in his body, and that man — and we would say God — must be served in the beauty of that Holiness which is wholeness, that is the harmonious development of all a man’s faculties.

The boy instinctively reverences Truth and Justice and Love. The club must help him to identify these with Him who is their source. [page 12]

“Fitness,” then, in the sense of all-round fitness for the duties and pleasures of life, becomes an epitome of the teaching which all the activities of a club must convey. Boys themselves will interpret it according to their needs and opportunities. Club leaders will develop it along the lines most natural to themselves. It can be applied simply to any of the objectives which any club with a purpose has in view. With equal simplicity it lends itself to interpretation in its physical, mental and moral aspects. A note at the end of this section shows how full are the contents of the term. Other developments of the idea will readily suggest themselves.

If it is possible to crystallise the practice and ideals of the clubs into a single word, that word is Fitness. But it must be fully interpreted. So interpreted and so understood it might be gloriously inscribed on the banner under which every club-boy would fight the battles of adolescence and win his way to manhood.

The following is a simple scheme showing how the term ”Fitness” in its physical, mental and moral significance can be applied to some of the objects of club life.

1. Physical — Healthy habits and interest in questions of public health.

2. Mental — Fairmindedness, tolerance, independence of mind.

3. Moral — Team Spirit, brotherliness and patriotism.


1. Physical — Self-control.

2. Mental — Sympathy and fairness.

3. Moral — Understanding of true love and false.


1. Physical — Energy.

2. Mental — Skill and enterprise.

3. Moral — Conscientiousness.

In a similar way the term “Fitness” can be applied to other phases of life, e.g., Fitness for home, for play, for service, for leadership, etc., etc.


[page 13]

The spirit of comradeship

Boys as they grow up want to form societies of their own for the expression of like tastes or the pursuit of some agreed end – a team, gang, or “click.” Such a society evokes loyalty. A member of it accepts leadership, and will obey rules agreed upon for safety or success.

Gangs are, in fact, rudimentary social units, the members of which are unconsciously learning the first lessons of citizenship. Though not intrinsically antisocial, they are as a rule useless to society at large, because the loyalty they evoke is not directed to any larger end than the immediate pleasure or interest of their members.

A club, on the other hand, must have in view the good of society as a whole. If only because it saves some future members of the adult community from deterioration, it raises the level of the community of which it is part. All the clubs of the country working together in a national association must aim at raising the level of national life. Their opportunity of doing so lies in their ability to develop fitness for good citizenship first from the team spirit in play and secondly from the social instinct which in boyhood shows itself as the spirit of comradeship or companionship.

The strength of the appeal to comradeship lies in its being absolutely natural and almost universal; it brings vast numbers of boys into the clubs, unselfconscious and ready to be their natural selves. Its weakness lies in the danger that it may end where it begins, leading nowhere and getting nothing done.

Just as clubs must not regard games as the end of a boy’s being, so the leader of a club must not accept the friendship which boys so readily give and shirk the responsibility which it entails. That danger is obvious and is fairly widely recognised. The more subtle danger is that he may be content, and teach his boys to be content, with purely internal success, say success in [page 14] games, a high percentage of average attendance or merely an elaborate programme of activities.

The club movement must then adopt a definitely patriotic, national aim. That, however, must not exclude interest in international affairs. Up to the present any international interchange of ideas in, the methods and objects of Boys’ Club work has been spasmodic and accidental. The National Association of Boys’ Clubs will, we hope, be a means by which members of Boys’ Clubs will be brought into contact with boys of countries other than our own, broadening their sympathies, enlarging their understanding, and carrying far and wide the gospel of “Fitness.”


A club is a club not so much for boys, as of boys, who are willing to be led by an adult but so that they develop qualities of leadership themselves. Citizenship is club-membership writ large; leadership needs exercise for its development: a discipline expressed from within is one which the boys themselves can make and voice.

The fewer rules there are in a club the better. Ultimately indeed there need be only two : to pay your subs., and do everything you can to make the club a good place for everyone in it. The real rules of a club lie in an unwritten tradition formed by the club and preserved by its members.

The new boy who enters an established club should find a wholly congenial freedom from being ordered about. The club is open to him at certain times. A variety of occupations, athletic, recreational, or educational, are at his command. But with all this freedom it soon becomes evident that some things are “done” and other things are not “not in this club,” say his fellow members with decision and pride. He has freedom, but he must not “take liberties.” He may “try it on,” only to find that the club as a whole won’t [page 15] stand it. There is no need for a leader to lay down a rule against bad language. Nor need he define the qualities which the club requires in its members. Keenness, sportsmanship, fair play, friendship — all these are inherent in British boys; reliability, unselfishness, persistence, and many other qualities which come of nurture rather than nature, have to be inculcated by practice when the club has given the natural qualities of boyhood freedom of expression and encouragement.

No set rules can manufacture character. Character grows by opportunity and influence. The club is what its members are, because the tone of the club in course of time is set by boys who have grown up in it. The natural expression of boy nature, given decent guidance and adequate freedom, produces something at least as high as anything which adult wisdom can devise.

Even in a new club, boys with natural qualities of leadership can soon be found It is for the head of the club to draw out these qualities for the service of the club, imposing duties first, conferring responsibility later. As the club becomes firmly established with a tradition of its own, such boys may be made officers, or boys may be retained as officers after the normal age limit of membership has been reached. Officers may be selected by the club leader; they may be elected by the club members themselves. Almost any system can be made to work by a leader who has the wisdom to subordinate his own “will to dominate,” and to deny himself the pleasure of having everything his own way. The vital thing to remember is that the club exists to train its members, who soon as citizens in a democracy will be both governing and governed. Some risks ought to be faced. If at any time the self-government practised in the club interferes with the training which the club exists to give, then the control of the leader has to be exercised. Up to that point officers must be given their heads, if anything like the full potentialities of the self-governing method are to be realised. [page 16]

Without some measure of self-government a club is always in danger of losing boys of character and initiative, and keeping only the pallid personalities who reflect faithfully the leader’s optimism, but have no energy or vital force of their own. The greater the measure of self-government the greater the opportunity of teaching the normal boy how to rule himself and (if he has any innate capacity for leadership) to govern others.

None the less, the leadership of a “self-governing” club is no sinecure. Boy officers and committee boys may take a good deal of detailed work off the leader’s hands, but they leave him plenty to do, and, indeed, create new problems for him to solve. The case for self-government is not that it is a labour-saving device, but that it is the best means of making the club effective in its task. The leader cannot step aside, or go away and leave the boys to look after themselves altogether; their capacity for self-government is qualified by the fact that they are boys and not men. Self-government must be real. It cannot be complete. There should be just enough emphasis on the word “boys” to make it clear that self-government in a Boys’ Club is self-government under control and always with inspiration. The leader who believes that the club must envisage its members as the voters and workers of a few years hence, as citizens in training for their responsibilities, will never go far wrong.

With the largest measure of self-government that can be allowed must go the fullest measure of self-support, for this is an essential ingredient of self-respect. It is hard to imagine a good club which does not require its members to pay what they can towards its cost, but just as there is a limit to their powers of self-government, so the amount they can contribute is never enough to cover club expenses. If they do what they can, they will neither feel that they depend on charity nor assume that all the club’s needs can be met without effort on their part. [page 17]

It is a commonplace of experience that what is not paid for is not valued. A club which provides everything free loses rather than gains members by so doing. Club members must not form the habit of expecting a beneficent sky to rain benefits upon them. That is bad for the character of any boy; it is fatal to the purpose of a club which exists to create good citizenship, and to prepare boys to play their part as workers and voters under the democratic conditions of today.

That club boys should get many things which they cannot pay for is obviously necessary. But the will to give must be developed rather than the willingness to get. Club members can give something in money. They can give more in effort, loyalty and service, and, in so giving, will create in and for themselves the conviction that the club is their own concern, a sample of the nation which also is their own concern, not subject to the laws of the jungle but making laws and observing them for the freedom and happiness of all.

The call for leadership

The citizenship for which club members are being prepared is not something abstract and remote, but the practical business of a few years hence. Before they attain manhood all boys should feel that their club is part of that whole which is the nation and unites each individual member of it in a common brotherhood.

Class feeling becomes absurd in boys’ clubs where Public School and University men come not merely to “run” or manage them, but to enter fully into their life, regardless of class, wealth or education. Clubs are not places where the rich and highly educated satisfy their conscience by good works. They are places where fullness of life can be found by sharing interests and occupations.

Any adolescent boy is willing to be led by those whom he respects, and for whom he cares. He respects and [page 18] cares for those who respect and care for him. He is quick at recognising the natural leader, and will follow his leadership so long as it is given in a spirit of cooperation and not of condescension.

Something more, however, is required for the leader of a Boys’ Club than natural sympathy with boys. He must have a clear understanding of the aim of the movement, and must study how to make his own club not merely a group of boys attached to himself but a self-governing body with a character of its own, able to foster the independent characters of each of its members. The right kind of leader in a Boys’ Club is a man who remembers that he himself as a boy gladly followed the lead of men he liked and admired, and that the finest influences in his own life have been those which taught him to judge things for himself, to be critical of catch words, and to resist mass suggestion.

It is the duty of the National Association of Boys’ Clubs to attract to the movement a far larger number of the right type of leaders, and to help to train them. The men who are wanted to lead the clubs are the men whom this country, happily, produces in some number and in all classes, men who are willing to give time and energy and talents to a job which seems worth doing, even if it is difficult, by means which are within their power and commend themselves to their common sense.

The N.A.B.C. can, we believe, win their help for clubs throughout the country, inspiring them with the idea of working, in a spirit of comradeship which transcends class barriers, for the achievement of national fitness. [page 19]


The future welfare of any nation depends upon its youth, yet thousands of boys of this country, who have untold possibilities and potentialities, are unable to develop them through lack of opportunity and through no fault of their own. Thus the strength of the manhood of the nation is being unnecessarily wasted.

The Boys’ Clubs are one of the means which endeavour to provide the needed opportunities. Distinctive in their appeal and their method, they have a valuable contribution to make to the national life. But they can only make this contribution if together they become a movement in a true sense, and in order to become a movement base their work upon agreed principles and accept a common aim. Uniformity of method is not desired, but the movement, if it is to be a movement, must express an ideal which will become progressively clear to boys, to club leaders and to the public alike. A club is not an institution to keep boys off the streets by providing them with indoor amusements and outdoor athletics. It has a very positive end in view, and its amusements and athletics are only the means by which that end can be achieved. Its aims are two-fold, to raise the standard of fitness for life and to create good citizenship.

Similarly, club membership does not simply afford a boy opportunities for relaxation and recreation. It entails the acceptance of a certain faith, and it demands a real loyalty and devotion not only to the individual club, but through the National Club movement to the aspirations and ideals of youth throughout the world. All “Juvenile Organisations” appeal to some instinct in boys to secure their membership. The club as an organisation appeals quite simply and directly to two natural instincts which are peculiarly strong in the adolescent. These are the instinct for play and the instinct for comradeship. The combination of these two instincts calls forth a corporate activity for the [page 20] commonweal; and the boy is taught to use them in the club so in manhood he can put them to the service of the nation.

Furthermore, club leadership or management does not consist merely in looking after boys and in keeping them occupied in their leisure hours. It consists in using a method which is distinctive of the movement and for which men of personality and character are essential. That method, determined both by the twofold appeal the club makes to the boy, and by the twofold purpose of its existence, is that of self-government under a leadership be real but self-effacing. With self-government must go the fullest measure of self-support.

The unaffected desire of every boy to be “fit” can be made an educational force of the highest value. “Fitness” to the clubs means fitness for citizenship, for boys will soon be men and the future depends on the kind of men they will be. The fitness which is inculcated and provided for is an all-round fitness of body, mind and spirit, presenting itself to the boy as an inspiration and a challenge, to the club Leader as both an object and a means, and to the public as an incentive to provide more and better clubs in order to build up a finer race, a nation of fit men, fit to play its part in the Empire and the world.

[inside rear cover]


Every Boys’ Club which fulfils the simple conditions set out below should be affiliated to the National Association of Boys’ Clubs. Thus only can the work of individual leaders be linked together into one national movement and gain added strength from a unity of purpose. Nearly 900 clubs are affiliated either directly or through Local Federations, and there is thus available a fund of experience accumulated over many years in all parts of the country. The many functions which the National Association fulfils include negotiation and co-operation with Government Departments, the promotion of new clubs, the organisation of Local Federations, the stimulation of public interest in the Boys’ Club Movement, the publication of handbooks and literature, and the provision of facilities for the emigration of suitable boys.

CONDITIONS OF AFFILIATION — Application for affiliation will be considered from any club which:

(a) Has Headquarters; (b) Charges a membership subscription; (c) Has a membership which comprises at least 15 boys between the ages of 14 and 18; (d) Has a responsible Head; (e) Meets at least twice a week; (f) Has been in existence at least three months.

“THE BOY,” the journal of the National Association of Boys’ Clubs, is the medium for the discussion of all matters affecting Boys’ Clubs. It is published quarterly, price 6d., or 1s. 6d. a year post free.

LIBRARY GRANTS. The National Association has been entrusted by the Carnegie Trustees with the recommendation of suitable clubs for Library Grants. Full particulars may be obtained from the Secretary, N.A.B.C.

CONFERENCES are held annually in the summer for the consideration of practical problems of club management, and for discussion on matters of national importance concerning boys and their clubs.

EMIGRATION. In co-operation with the Overseas Settlement Department and the Canadian Government an emigration scheme for club boys has recently been put into practice. This scheme has especial value because the National Association owns its own hostel and farm in Canada, and is able to provide for the most efficient supervision and after-care of boys emigrating under its auspices.

Club Leaders desiring further information are invited to write to:—


How to cite this piece:  National Association of Boys Clubs (1930) Principles and Aims of the Boys’ Club Movement, London: National Association of Boys’ Clubs. Available in the informal education archives:

This piece has been reproduced here on the understanding that it is not subject  to any copyright restrictions, and that it is, and will remain, in the public domain. First placed in the archives: January 2005