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Sports Merit Badge Guide

sports merit badge guide

Sports Merit Badge – Millions of people participate in sports every year. For some, the appeal is the close friendships that come with being part of a team. Some revel in the joy of victory and lessons of defeat.

For some, personal fitness is so important that exercise becomes a daily need. And still, others desire the feeling of achievement, that feeling of measurable improvement that comes with a dedication to a sport.

Regardless of the reasons you play, sports are a fun way to get the exercise your body needs. Athletics becomes a sport when it is organized into a competition. Running through your neighborhood is athletics, great exercise.

But running in a cross-country championship, competing against other runners with an official to enforce the rules, is a sport: Swimming to cool off for the afternoon is exercise.

Swimming at an organized swim meet for your team, competing against another team, is a sport.

Sports Merit Badge Requirements

  1. Do the following:
    • Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while playing sports, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
    • Show that you know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while participating in sports, including sprains, strains, contusions, abrasions, fractures, blisters, muscle cramps, injured teeth, dehydration, heat and cold reactions, and concussions or other suspected injuries to the head, neck, and back.
  2. Explain the importance of the following:
    • The importance of the physical exam.
    • The importance of maintaining good health habits for life (such as exercising regularly), and how they use of tobacco products, alcohol, and other harmful substances can negatively affect your health and your performance in sports activities.
    • The importance of maintaining a healthy diet.
  3. Discuss the following:
    • The importance of warming up and cooling down.
    • The importance of weight training.
    • What an amateur athlete is and the differences between an amateur and a professional athlete.
    • The attributes (qualities) of a good sport, the importance of sportsmanship, and the traits of a good team leader and player who exhibits Scout spirit on and off the playing field.
  4. With guidance from your counselor, establish a personal training program suited to the activities you choose for requirement 5. Then do the following:
    • Create a chart and use it to track your training, practice, and development in these sports for one season (or four months).
    • Demonstrate proper technique for your two chosen sports.
    • At the end of the season, share your completed chart with your counselor and discuss how your participation in the sports you chose has affected you mentally and physically.
  5. Take part for one season (or four months) as a competitive individual or as a member of an organized team in TWO of the following sports: baseball, basketball, bowling, cross-country, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, wrestling. Your counselor may approve in advance other recognized sports, but not any sport that is restricted and not authorized by the Boy Scouts of America. Then with your chosen sports do the following:
    • Give the rules and etiquette for the two sports you picked.
    • List the equipment needed for the two sports you chose. Describe the protective equipment and appropriate clothing (if any) and explain why it is needed.
    • Draw diagrams of the playing areas for your two sports.

Your Body Your Engine

your body your engine

Think of your body as a race car preparing for the Indianapolis 500. Your training is similar to the fine tuning of the engine. Your medical examination is like checking the air pressure on the tires.

Eating is adding the fuel needed for every speeding lap around the track. During the weeks before the big race, everything possible is done to prepare the car for top performance.

1. Your Health Habits: The Key to Sport Success

Your body during training is a race car preparing for the big race. Healthy habits, including sleep and diet, can have a major impact on your strength, agility, and endurance.

During training, your body is building stronger muscles and bone tissue, while being tested to the limit of endurance. Serious athletes cannot ignore the need to maintain a healthy diet.

An athlete needs a good night’s sleep before practice and games for strength, endurance, mental focus, and quick reflexes.

Have you ever stayed up late and felt physically and mentally sluggish the next morning? That sluggish feeling doesn’t disappear when you step on the court or field-the problem intensifies.

And what about the night after a practice, game, or even working out with weights? While you are sawing logs the night after exercise, your body is busy rebuilding itself, repairing and strengthening muscles, and growing so don’t cut sleep short!

2. First Step: The Physical

Most middle schools and high schools require students to have an annual physical examination before they participate in a sports season.

In the exam, the physician will measure your heart rate, blood pressure, height, and weight; listen to your heart and lungs; and test your reflexes and vision. Your physician may also ask about your nutritional habits, physical activity, and family life.

Explain to your physician the sports you plan to play. During the physical exam, the physician can then look for underlying conditions or symptoms that need treatment or correction before or during training.

The physician may also advise you on nutrition and how to train safely. Once you have the physician’s green light, you are ready for sports!

Make a list of questions for your physician before your appointment. For example, if you have a sore muscle, ask about it. Training may increase the pain. Ask about vitamins and nutrition.

What injuries are common for your sport, and how can you prevent them? If you are attending BSA summer camp or participating in school sports, you may need to have the physician sign a physical form.

3. Feed Your Engine-A Healthy Diet

Feed Your Engine-A Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet is especially important when competing in sports. Your body burns food to produce energy and build muscles and bones. Better choices at the dinner table will increase your energy and improve your performance.

With all the advertising for low-carbohydrate foods, you may wonder if carbohydrates are bad for you.

Your body needs carbohydrates for energy, but not all carbs are the same. Limit eating simple carbohydrates foods with refined sugar and white flour-soft drinks, cookies, cakes, and doughnuts.

Look for energy builders, complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Make part of your pregame plan a big carbohydrate dinner the night before, and a good night’s sleep.

Growing bodies also need extra protein. Protein helps build and repair damaged tissue. It also helps the body make antibodies to fight disease. For protein, eat foods like fish, poultry, pork, beef, eggs, beans, and nuts.

You may find it hard to believe, but fat is also important for energy and health. It helps the body use carbohydrates and insulates you in cold weather. Certain fats, however, are healthier than others. 

You should limit foods high in saturated fats, made of meat and dairy fats. These saturated fats increase cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Most unsaturated fats, which are good for you, come from plant oils.

A third type of fat is trans fat. When vegetable oils are made into margarine or shortening, the resulting trans fats are difficult for the body to use. Trans fats are used to make french fries, doughnuts, crackers, and cookies. 

Keep your body hydrated by drinking at least eight to 10 glasses of water every day. Water helps you stay energized, deal with hot and cold temperatures, and digest food. 

By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, which means your body doesn’t have as much water as it needs and can’t perform to its full potential. 

During training, practice and games take a water break every 20 minutes to drink 8 ounces of water. Water is the best choice, but you can drink fruit juices or sports drinks.

4. Calcium

Broken bones can leave you on the sidelines for a whole season. Make sure you are getting four servings of calcium every day so your bones will grow and stay strong. An 8-ounce glass of milk is a serving.

Without sufficient calcium, the insides of bones look like sponges with little holes throughout. Calcium is found in dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Calcium is also in some surprising places like nuts, beans, and broccoli. Look for calcium-fortified orange juice, too!

Also Read: Personal Management Merit Badge

Playing Sports

After all the training, practice, tryouts, and picking uniforms and equipment comes your big day-game day. The crowd gathers. 

You lace your shoes. You stretch and warm up. The referee blows the whistle. Your heart races and the game begins.

In this chapter, the 13 sports listed in the requirements are discussed in alphabetical order, except similar sports are clustered, like baseball and softball. 

Your counselor may approve other sports authorized by the Boy Scouts of America. 

The following sports merit badge pamphlets are available: Archery, Canoeing. Climbing. Cycling. Golf. Horsemanship. Rowing, Skating. Swimming, Water Sports, and Whitewater. 

If you choose one of these sports to complete your requirement, be sure to read the merit badge pamphlet about it.

1. Sports Etiquette

In all sports, there are unwritten rules called etiquette. The referee is not going to call a foul if you break one of these rules, but they are important nonetheless. Always congratulate the opponent after the game.

Humbly celebrate in front of the other team. Be encouraging to teammates and opponents during the game. Do not use trash talk or obscene gestures. Play to win, but be a polite loser.

Sports spectators also need to follow rules of etiquette. Clap with respect for your team but never boo the opposing team. When an injured player who was down on the field recovers or is carried off, then it is polite to clap in appreciation of his or her effort.

Never throw anything at the players or try to enter the playing field during the game.

The coin toss is used to begin baseball, basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, and water polo games.

The visiting team captain will call “heads” or “tails” while the coin is in the air.

The winner of the coin toss chooses either which side of the field or court to defend or whether to have possession of the ball for the kickoff or serve. In baseball and softball, the coin toss winner picks the first team up to bat.

Also Read : Snow Sports Merit Badge

2. Baseball


Known as an American sport, baseball has its roots in the streets and fields of small-town America. Playing baseball will build quick reflexes, coordination, and keen anticipation being able to guess what the other team is going to do.

Baseball players develop their arms, shoulders, and back for throwing and hitting. Because speed is of the essence when running the bases, baseball players strengthen their lower body also.

Basic Baseball Rules

Nine players make up a baseball team: a pitcher, a catcher, a first baseman, a second baseman, a third baseman, and the shortstop (an additional player between second and third bases), and three outfielders.

The pitcher throws the ball from the center of the infield-the pitcher’s mound. The team at bat sends batters to home plate to bat, in a set batting order. The pitcher throws the ball over the plate, and the batter tries to hit it between first and third base.

A ball is deemed hittable by the umpire if it passes through the strike zone, an area from the batter’s knees to the chest over the plate.

When a batter misses a hittable ball, as decided by the umpire, it is called a strike. You probably know the phrase, “three strikes and you’re out.” The batter gets three strikes and then he is out and goes back to the dugout.

The umpire will call “ball” on an unhittable ball. If a batter receives four unhittable balls, then the umpire has the player “walk” to first base.

If the ball is hit, the batter drops the bat and runs to first base. The batter or any other base runner is “out” if touched by the team holding the ball while not safely touching a base.

As long as the team in the field is attempting to recover the ball, the batter may run to second, then third or possibly all the way to home plate for a home run. Assuming the first batter stays on first base, when the second batter hits the ball, the runner on first runs to second base or beyond, depending on the play.

A team scores a point when a runner safely touches all the bases and returns to home plate without being called out. In each inning, both teams have a turn at bat and in the field. A game is complete after the ninth inning if the game is not tied, which requires extra innings to break the tie,

With your parent’s permission, you can find the latest rule changes for baseball and softball on the Little League Baseball Website:

3. Softball

child playing softball

Softball is a sport much like baseball, but with a smaller field and a bigger ball. Sometimes called mushball, the original softball was softer than today. Although enjoyed by many amateurs, softball is played professionally by women.

a. Basic Softball Rules

As in baseball, the object of the game is to bat the ball onto the fair field so that players can circle the bases and score runs. A run is scored when a batter runs the three bases and returns home without being tagged with the ball.

A team is allowed three outs, then the opposing team is up to bat and the batting team covers the field.

The umpire will call an out for three strikes, two strikes followed by a foul ball, and when a batted ball is caught in the field before touching the ground. Both teams take a turn at bat for each inning. The team with more runs wins!

The rules of softball may be found under baseball with the following two exceptions:

  • The game consists of seven innings.
  • The pitcher must throw underhanded.

4. Basketball

playing basketball

James Naismith, a physical education instructor, had been challenged for years to come up with an indoor sport for the cold winter months in Massachusetts. Like most inventors, he tested several ideas that failed.

He thought a goal with an opening that faced up versus facing the players like hockey or soccer would be fun.

In December 1891, Naismith coached a game using a soccer ball thrown into two peach baskets nailed to the gym balcony the fast-paced game of basketball was born.

a. Basic Basketball Rules

The simplicity of basketball equipment with two hoops and a basketball makes it an excellent pick-up game. The five-player teams have a single objective to shoot the ball through the opponent’s basket to score.

Players have the advantage if they can dribble, bounce the ball with one hand, and pass while not looking at the ball, but instead at the position of the other players.

Once a player stops dribbling, by catching the ball in one or two hands, he or she must either attempt to pass or shoot the ball.

The goal of a dribbling player is to move closer to the basket for a shot, or to pass to a player who is in a position to take a shot. Of course at any skill level the closer to the hoop the easier the shot.

As you have probably seen in the final seconds of a game, a player may shoot from anywhere on the court. If a shot misses, maybe bounces off the hoop, it often rebounds back into play.

A team must attempt to shoot a goal within a predetermined number of seconds of gaining possession on the playing court.

1. Most basketball teams have 10 players on their roster at a time; the NBA allows 12.
2. Most high school games consist of four quarters of 10-minute periods. If the game is tied, then overtimes, ranging from two to five minutes, are added until the tie is broken.
3. A goal is made when a live ball enters the basket from above, Goal scores are one point for a free throw, two points from inside the three-point line, and three points from outside the three-point line.
4. The ball is played only with hands. It is a violation to kick the ball. A player in possession of the ball may take one step and pivot on the other foot. If moving when the ball is caught, the player may take two steps before dribbling or passing,
5. Dribbling is with one hand only. When a dribbling player places two hands on the ball, the dribbling is done; that player cannot dribble again until after another player has handled the ball.
6. Depending on the league, a team with possession of the ball has a set amount of time in which they must take a shot. For the NBA the time is 24 seconds.
7. Free throws are taken from the free-throw line with no other players allowed in the key while the shot is taken. If an opponent fouls you while you are shooting, then the referee can give you as many as three free throws from the free-throw line.
8. Jump ball is used to begin the game, called a tip-off. A jump ball also can be used when two players catch the ball at the same time and it is difficult to see which team should have possession. A player from each team stands facing each other on either side of the ball the referee holds. The referee throws the ball straight up in the air and it is back in play. Both players jump to gain possession of the ball. Instead of a jump ball, many leagues use an alternating possession system, which allows teams to control possession equally.
9. Ten-second rule: Once a team has possession of the ball, it has 10 seconds to move the ball to its front court.
10. Three-second rule: When a player’s team has possession of the ball, that player cannot be in the free throw lane for more than three seconds at a time.
11. The referee may call a foul on a player for intentional contact with an opponent.
12.  After an opponent scores a basket, possession changes to the other team, whose designated player steps out of bounds and passes the ball to a teammate on the court. Then both players race to the other end of the court while dribbling or passing the ball, and play resumes.
Basic Basketball Rules

b. Basketball Etiquette

In all sports, and especially basketball, it is important to be encouraging toward your teammates and opponents.

It is an unwritten rule, but important in the close-contact game of basketball, to hold back any negative comments and instead give encouragement like “good shot.”

Your goal should be for your team to excel, not to set a new record for the number of baskets made by an individual. If you can safely pass the ball to another player who is in a better position, don’t be a ball hog-pass the ball.

c. Equipment

Truly all you need to play basketball are two hoops, a basketball, and a flat surface for dribbling the ball. A regulation basket is 10 feet above the ground, and the inside diameter of the hoops is 18 inches.

Basketballs in the approved shade of orange are made of leather, rubber, or synthetic material. To meet regulations, your basketball when dropped from a height of 6 feet should bounce back at least 4 feet high. Basketballs come in different sizes.

For players 9 to 11 years of age, a junior or youth basketball (size 5) should be about right. For players ages, 11 to 14 try a size 6 ball. You can play basketball in any sneaker, but when buying basketball shoes, look for high-tops with ankle support and good grip.

5. Bowling

playing bowling

The object of bowling is to roll a bowling ball down the lane and knock over as many of the 10 pins as possible.

Sounds easy, but this sport requires practice and skill to master. Bowling is enjoyed by many because it can be played by people young and old, tall and short, and male and female.

What is the maximum score? Knocking down all 10 pins is called a strike. If you have a perfect game, with all strikes, it would be 100, right? No, a perfect score is 300! Read on to learn the tricks of counting your bowling score.

On a bowling scorecard, there are 10 boxes called frames. In the top left of each frame, you write the number of pins knocked down on your first rolled ball.

In the box in the top right corner of each frame record the number of pins that fall with the second ball. The total score is written at the bottom of the box.

For each frame, you get two chances to knock down all the pins, with a bonus ball in the tenth frame if you make a spare with the REst two balls, or two bonus balls if you make a strike on the first ball.

A spare, marked with a slash (/). is when all 10 pins are knocked down with the second delivery in one frame. A strike is marked with an “X” in the small square and is worth 10 points plus the number of pins in the next two deliveries.

a. Basic Bowling Rules

A player, either as a team or as an individual, rolls a bowling ball aiming to knock down as many of the 10 pins as possible at the end of the 60 foot lane. Cheers go up for a spare, when all 10 pins are knocked down with the second bowl.

And even louder cheers are given for a strike, when all 10 pins are knocked down with the first bowl. An automatic machine called a pin spotter resets the pins after a player’s second bowl or strike.

Players or teams alternate turns bowling until all 10 frames on the scorecard are filled. The rare and perfect game is all strikes.

1. Bowling is played either as an individual or as a team with up to five players on a team. On teams, the players take turns bowling one frame at a time. Players must bowl in the order they have chosen each time. Teams or individuals alternate between two lanes with every frame. For example, team one would have all five players bowl frame one, while team two bowls their frame one on an adjacent lane. Then the teams would switch lanes before beginning frame two and bowl in the same order.
2. Bowling 10 frames is a complete game. Bowl only two balls per frame, except bowl only one ball in a frame when a strike is scored, and three in the tenth frame after either a strike or a spare.
3. You are not allowed to step on or pass over the foul line when bowling. If you do, it is counted as a foul, with an “F” on the score. If it is your first delivery, you are allowed your second delivery after all the knocked down pins are reported, or set up.
4. Pin falls count when they are knocked down by the ball or other pins but not when knocked down by a ball rebounding from the rear cushion, mechanical pin setting equipment, or a bowler who fouls.
Basic Bowling Rules

The ball is considered “dead” when:

  • A player bowls out of turn.
  • A player is interfered with during delivery.
  • A pin falls after delivery but before the ball rolls to the pins.
  • If after delivery it is noted that one or more pins is missing in the setup.

When a dead ball is called, the delivery does not count, any knocked down pins are repotted, and the player is allowed to redeliver the ball.

b. Bowling Etiquette

As in many other sports, it is poor etiquette to distract another player. Bowlers should remember this and remain quiet and still when around another bowler before and during his delivery.

If you are bowling at the same time as someone in a lane on your right, allow the other player to bowl first.

Wait until the pin setting machine is done and the sweep bar is raised. To help keep the fun pace of the game, be ready to bowl when it is your turn.

After your delivery, return to the settee area. One last thought, don’t use someone else’s ball without asking first.

Also Read : Personal Fitness Merit Badge

6. Cross-Country

cross country sports

If you like running but find running around the same track too boring, cross-country may be for you. Cross-country races over difficult and sometimes hilly ground often vary in distance from 3 to 12 kilometers (less than 2 miles to more than 7 miles).

Every course is different, but usually, the course is shaped in a loop so that the start and finish lines are the same places.

Today some cross-country organizations are leaving the obstacles of the countryside for stadiums. Yet for many the fun of cross country running is the experience of the beautiful countryside scenery and the challenge of the uneven running surface.

a. Cross-Country Etiquette

When running in an event or for team practice, exercise good etiquette by always passing on the left. Announcing “On your left” will alert another runner before you pass. Part of the experience of running cross-country is enjoying the beauty of the outdoors, so remember never to litter.

For more information on cross-country events, get your parent’s permission and visit the USA Track and Field Website:

7. Football

football sports

Football is an extremely popular high school, college, and professional game in the United States.

The mix of hard-hitting physical contact and complex tactics and formations, sometimes compared to chess, appeals to the masses.

The highlight of the professional National Football League season is battled out in the Super Bowl each year.

a. Basic Football Rules

Football is played between two teams on a 100-yard field with goal posts at either end. The object of the game is to move the ball by passing and/or running the ball over the opponent’s goal line-touchdown!

Sometimes a touchdown happens after one play, but usually, it requires several plays. A touchdown is worth six points. After the touchdown, the ball is placed close to the goal line. The scoring team has two choices for a point after touchdown (PAT).

They can score one point by kicking the ball between the uprights the extra point. Or they can score two points if they advance the ball across the goal line known as a two-point conversion.

1. A football team usually plays 11 on the field at a time, but the complete team sometimes consists of 45 players.
2. Football is played in four quarters, each 15 minutes long. A game often lasts three hours because the clock stops after an incomplete pass, for a change of possession, or if a player with the ball goes out of bounds. Teams change ends with each quarter. A kickoff begins each half.
3. Other than kickoffs and free kicks, each play begins with both teams facing each other along the line of scrimmage. which runs through the ball and straight to each sideline.
4. Players can run with the ball or pass it. Offensive players may forward only one pass per play from behind the line of scrimmage.
5. Offensive players may use their arms and hands to block opponents, but they cannot hold on to them. For offensive holding, the referee can give a 10-yard penalty-move the ball back 10 yards.
6. If a defender unfairly attempts to stop an opponent from catching the ball, the defender is given a first down at the spot of violation. If an offender unfairly interferes with a defender attempting to intercept a pass, the offender will lose yardage.
7. In some leagues, a tied game at the end of the fourth quarter goes into overtime with another 15-minute quarter that ends in “sudden death” when either team scores. If neither team scores in overtime, the game is declared a tie.
Basic Football Rules

b. Football Etiquette

Football might be a contact sport, but pushing, shoving, and other acts of aggression are strictly forbidden when the play is over.

Help teammates and opponents up from the ground whenever possible, and never jump or “pile on another player once the whistle has blown. At the end of the game, remember to shake hands with opponents.

8. Soccer

Soccer Sports

Soccer scores as the world’s most popular game to play and watch. Only in the last 20 years has the United States joined the European obsession with soccer.

Today soccer is the number one youth participation sport in America with more than 19 million youth between the ages of 5 and 19 participating.

a. Basic Soccer Rules

Soccer is played with two teams on an open grass field with goalposts at each end. The object of the game is to move the soccer ball down the field by kicking, passing, or heading.

To score a point, a player must put the ball into the opponent’s guarded goal. With only two exceptions, players are not allowed to use their arms.

A goalie, inside the goalie box, may use his arms to block, grab, and throw the ball. If the ball passes over the sidelines, then the opponent to the last team that touched the ball throws the ball back into play.

After each goal, the team scored on kicks off the ball from the center of the field. Soccer, known as football in European countries, has a growing number of fans who love the nonstop action.

1. A team has 11 players on the field, including the goalie.
2. A game is two equal halves of 45 minutes. After the referee gives the signal, the game begins with a kickoff.
3. A goal is scored when the whole ball crosses over the goal line between the goalposts and under the crossbar when the ball goes in the goal.
4. After a goal, the team scored on the kickoff. After halftime. the teams change ends and the team that did not take the starting kickoff takes the kickoff for the second half.
5. The ball is in play except if it completely crosses the goal line or sideline or if the referee stops the game.
6. A player committing offsides is penalized by awarding the opposing team with an indirect kick. An indirect kick must be kicked by two players before scoring a goal. A referee can also call a foul and award an indirect kick to penalize the opposing team for playing dangerously, tackling when not playing the ball, or charging the goalie out of play.
7. A foul is called and a kick awarded for a “handball,” which occurs when a player deliberately touches the ball with a hand or arm. Of course, the goalie is an exception because he may use hands and arms inside the penalty box.
8. If a player fouls for misconduct or argues with a referee, he can receive a yellow card, or warning. For more serious offenses like violent behavior or foul language, a referee can raise a red card, sending the player off the field for the remainder of the game.
9. The team committing the foul for dangerous play is penalized by the award of a direct kick to the opposing team. The direct free kick is taken from the point where the foul occurred. The advantage of a direct kick is that it can be kicked directly into the goal to score.
Basic Soccer Rules

A throw-in is taken when the whole ball crosses the sideline. The player on the opposing team who last touched the ball takes the throw-in.

If the whole ball passes over the goal line, other than between the goalposts, then it is a goal kick or a corner kick.

If the last player to touch the ball was on the attacking team, it is a goal kick. If the last player to touch the ball is on the defending team, it is a corner kick.

With your parent’s permission, you may find the complete official soccer rules used in Major League Soccer at

I'm a Mechanical Engineer and lifelong Eagle Scout. My passion for scouting guides my writing, aiming to inspire fellow Scouts on their path. Thanks for reading, and best wishes on your journey to Eagle!