Hey, Flag Fans!
An absolute blast, Capture the Flag has long been a staple of summer camp as well as playgrounds and backyard fun for kids of all ages. Children love the strategy, teamwork, and physical activity it takes to achieve victory in this game. The history of Capture the Flag goes back hundreds, even thousands of years. But where did this exciting game come from and how did it become a staple of summer camps?
Long ago, flags were more than just a symbol of identity or pride in a nation or group. They were paraded by a flag bearer on the battlefield as a source of moral support. Having the flag flying meant your troop was still putting up a fight. This is why in our national anthem, the lyric proclaims “…gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” The flag still flying was proof that the war was still on.
To play the game Capture the Flag, the playing field is divided into two clearly designated halves, or territories. Everybody splits into two teams—one to each territory. Each territory has a "flag" which is most often a piece of fabric (but can really be anything you want) that they have hidden or otherwise protected within their section of the playing field. Players then venture into the opposing team's territory, grab the flag and attempt to return with it to their territory without being tagged.
We owe the recorded rules of Capture the Flag to one German gymnast named Wilhelm Lübeck who put them down in the 1860 German gymnastic manual. These were the earliest known set of rules for the game. He didn’t call it Capture the Flag, though. He called it Fahnenbarlauf—named after an older European variation of the game called ‘Barlaufen’.
With such an enduring history to it, Capture the Flag is a true testament to the power of play and the importance of tradition in the summer camp experience. Make sure you get involved in a fun game of flag capturing at camp this year. Thanks for reading and, as always, Happy Camping!