Jump to content

Scout Swimming Requirement

Recommended Posts

Were back from summer camp, and this year I had a handful of scouts that could not pass either the 2nd Class or First Class swim requirement. These guys are not really afraid of the water, its more of a swimming ability thing. A couple of them have serious asthma that prevents them from completing the required distance. One has very severe ADHD and I think it prevents him from learning something he really doesnt want to do. All the boys went to swim classes during the week, and I felt that they did make an effort to pass, but just couldnt for various reasons.


Anyway, I explained to their parents why they didnt advance and the scouting philosophy that swimming ability is an important life skill that everyone should learn. Several parents expressed concern that their sons medical problems would prevent them from ever advancing, and I see their point. The Scout Oath says to do your best, then we penalize them when they try but cant measure up to the standard. On the other hand, I had a couple of boys this year that went to the camp swim classes and did make it. It wouldnt be fair to them to just make the requirement easier for some scouts. Another problem is that logistically we may not have another opportunity to test the scouts until camp next year.


Ive read the alternate rank requirements, and it seems like its a major process to get a requirement altered for a medical or mental problem. Does anyone have any experience with this, either from dealing with this situation itself or with dealing with alternate requirements?


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 34
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

"Do your best" is a Cub Scout thing. Boy Scouts promise to do their best to do their duty. Big difference.


My son failed the swim test at Webelos camp and his first year of Boy Scout camp. He's struggled and strained to make the distance and managed this year to pass the test. He's underweight for his height, has asthma, takes Adderall and is very uncoordinated.


Not passing the test isn't the end of Scouting. If they want to pass the test and make First Class they'll find a way. If they don't want to pass the test, then they really don't want to advance.


There's boy in my troop that suffers so much anxeity before the swim test at camp that he gets physically ill. He struggles but makes it because he wants to go out in the canoes.


There are public pools, the Y, "the old swimmin' hole," etc. Around my area both the public pools and the Y offer deep discounts for the financially stricken. Lots of places to practice.


Link to post
Share on other sites

First the alternative requirements rules were changed a few years back from troop committee to district or council advancement committee for First Class and below. This was because troop's were inconstant especially concerning swimming . The rule was for health or safety, but I heard a troop waived the swimming because a scout couldnt swim so if was a safety issue because he would drown(?).

Be thankful your scout didnt try a couple of years ago when they moved a lot of the Swimming Merit Badge requirements to second and first class.

I found that a lot of the scouts that had problems with swimming at camp, were use to pool swimming and the lake at camp or the salt water at Hood Canal was the first time out of a pool. They worried about things in the water (leaches, fishes, turtles, duck poop) or they couldnt stand up.

A troop can help by running a few swimming outings. A great idea for troop meetings in summer when you are missing boys due to out of town family trips. Check with your summer camp some I have attended allow troops to bring their swim checks to camp and they will use them.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Give the scouts time to grow and develop. Unless the asthma is severe it is unlikely that national will waive the requirement. My son has asthma and did not pass the swim test his first summer either. It wasn't that he couldn't swim it was that he was used to a heated indoor pool. He tried too make the test a race and he wore himself out. Make sure your scouts understand that speed has nothing to do with the test. Just keep moving forward and they will probably do just fine.



Bob White

Link to post
Share on other sites

The scout handbook states "successfully complete the BSA swimmers test".


After a scout or scouter successfully completes the test they are then given a swimmers classification based on the results of the test. Think about it!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I said it under another thread, and I'll say it again: almost ANY child that is able to walk unassisted can and should learn to pass the swim test.

Many that cannot walk unassisted can still learn to pass the swim test. It's all about stroke efficiency and body position. Many will need extra practice and training. Find someone around your troop with good swimming and instruction skills and have him or her help out.


My son didn't learn to swim until he was almost 10 and still doesn't care much for water sports. From age 3 until about 13 he was on oral steroids about half the year to keep his asthma under some kind of control - and the rest of the time he was on 4-5 other meds.


Most exercise-induced asthmatics should pre-treat with a bronchodilator 15 minutes before trying it, as well as before trying to run or do push-ups.

A good pedi pulmonologist will provide a written asthma management plan that will address what medications should be used.


Scheduling swim days at the local pool for the troop seems like a great approach.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This hits close to home for me. My son (a first-year Scout) returned from summer camp yesterday. He went to camp as a "non-swimmer," being able to do nothing more than dog-paddle. He returns, according to his Scoutmaster, being able to do something more than that, though I have not yet seen for myself what that is. I suspect that he means that my son is more confident, and that he has the ability to learn. To date, only his parents and other relatives and other relatives had tried to teach him, so it is clear that he can benefit from swimming lessons, and we are about to sign him up for a 6-week (Sundays) program through the local recreation department. He really has no physical reason not to be able to swim.


Another reason I think he will learn is that he now has an incentive he did not have before. He is very enthusiastic about Scouting, is now one requirement away from Tenderfoot, and passed scattered requirements for Second and First Class at camp, plus three of the "easier" merit badges (Leatherwork, Textiles, Fingerprinting) and a partial on First Aid. I think he is on track to be First Class when he goes to summer camp next year, and in good position to keep moving after that. But of course, he isn't going anywhere without really learning to swim.


So we'll see.

Link to post
Share on other sites



Think about this, the requirement says to successfully pass the BSA swimmers test. A scout is given a "swimming" test. The outcome of the test is that the scout is either classified as a "swimmer", "beginner", or non-swimmer (or what some in the PC world call learner). To successfully complete the swimmers test (not a swimming test) I interpret to mean that the scout becomes classified as a swimmer.


Learner: Just get into the shallow water and get wet.


Beginner: Jump feet first into the water over your head. Level off, swim 25 feet, turn around and swim back.


Swimmer: Jump feet-first into the water and swim 75 yards in a strong stroke on your stomach or side (breaststroke, sidestroke, crawl, trudgen, or any combination). Then swim the last 25 yards on your back, keeping your hands in the water (elementary back stroke). After swimming these 100 yards, float and rest on your back.



Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread strikes close to home for me personally.


My first summer at camp, I wasn't a strong swimmer. Never have been actually, but I have sinced learned to manage well enough.


As I struggled my un-trained little body through the 75 yards, I heard the lifeguard say, "he isn't going to make it." I was so young I believed him and gave up.


The next year, I was elected patrol leader and thought there is no way I'm not going to be a swimmer. I imagined that swim test time and again in my mind as I lay in bed. I wasn't going to give up, no matter what.


Well I still have only about 3-5% body fat. I float about three inches under the water. That was, at the time at least, part of the test. Luckily a lifeguard took mercy on me and let me tread water for quite a while. I could do that.


Anyhow, I passed the swim test for the first time in 1978.


In 1987, I pulled a man who outweighed me by 60 pounds out of a raging river in the Cusichaca River Valley in Peru. I still hate to swim, but I'm glad my Boy Scout training was able to save the man.



Link to post
Share on other sites

You really ARE the man of Steele!

For you - or any of you trying to work with thin kids on the backfloat - try this position:

1) Lungs full of air, since you've got no natural float buoys. Breathe "off the top" of the air.

2) Arms extended over your head, elbows near your ears

3) hairline in the water (in other words, head wayyyyy back, your head is heavy and will quickly sink your body)

4) keep your butt up and knees up, but let your feet hang loosely down from the knees


The principle is this: your body with lungs full WILL float. Your arms, head and lower legs and feet will NOT float. Hang the heavy stuff from the floating stuff and balance it.


Even my very, very skinny little granddaughter can float like this. People with more body fat bob up and down like corks.


Link to post
Share on other sites



If this works, and it sounds like it should, THANK YOU!


We are fortunate to have very few new boys who don't swim. But even some of the best swimmers struggle with floating, especially the very thin boys. This will come in very handy.





Link to post
Share on other sites

mk9750 - twas nothing... taught my mom how to float like this when she was over 50, she had been a reluctant swimmer her whole life because she "couldn't float." Once she realized that she COULD float after all, she went on to take 6 semesters of college swimming and became quite a good swimmer. She thanked me over and over again as her poor swimming had always been something she felt badly about - it was a self-esteem booster for her to overcome it. (so was the BA she earned at age 55)


My granddaughter is the height of a eight-year old and the weight of a three-year old. She floats this way.


acco40 - Ooooohhhh, the salt water fix. Kinda cheating, of course, but still a good thought for teaching. Only works if you have salt water handy. I learned to windsurf not just in salt water but at Bird Island basin which is technically a little hypersaline. Never got good but had tons of fun. Then I moved inland and made the big mistake of taking the same board to the lake. Imagine my dismay as I stood on it with my feet wet and realized it was not big enough to float me and the sail! (glug, glug, glug) You can still sail on a "sinker," of course, given enough wind, but it is quite a bit more difficult and I did end up being towed in....


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...