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Scout Swimming Requirement

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Sagerscout. Thanks for the compliment and the reminder. I did manage to float once. But not for long. I don't think I ever quite got the technique or the neck flexibility.


As to Man of Steele, I don't think I deserve the title. The man I said I pulled out of the river actually pushed me under the water and pushed off my back. I was scared as all get out. I dont' know how I got out of the undercurrent that pushed me against the rock. I really don't remember.


The good news is that we made it out. Unless I'm actually the inspiration for The Sixth Sense Movie . . .



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As someone who lives in FL and sees this all the time, you are doing the right thing to NOT lessen the requirements here. I also happen to be a BSA Lifeguard Counselor - the skills are what they are. No more and no less. If the child can not perform the skills, then trust what the trained staff at summer camp told you - PLEASE. The boys will get over this one; like the other members said, there are plenty of other things to do in Scouts and there's always next year. Additionally, if YOU sign that requirement in the boy's book saying that he IS capable of a certain skill and someday in the near future (God forbid) he has some kind of water accident..... Do you see where I'm going here??

Give the boys plenty of opportunities to work on their swimming skills along with the rest of the troop - it will do all of them good.

Good Luck!


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We also have a scout who is asthmatic and has heart trouble (had 4 open heart surgeries before age 6 or something)And I started looking into alternative requirements for him, because he also has a BIG problem with swimming...as well as other 'physical' requirements. Our concern wasn't the swimming TEST - we figure that eventually he might pass that - it had more to do with the Eagle requirement for the Swimming/Hiking/biking badge - all of which would be very strenuous for him.


What I've found out so far makes sense to me, so I'm not trying to rush into 'alternative' requirements yet -


From what I can figure out - National / Council / district encourages you to have the boy do ALL requirements he can before applying for an alternative. This gives him time to work on the tough requirement, and also doesn't put the troop/district/ council through getting an alternative approved, only for the boy to not complete the rank for other reasons.


It also sets the standard to the other boys that he legitimately earned the rest of the rank or advancement, and made his best effort (within his abilities) to do the same work they did to get there.


So he should get ALL the first Class requirements, and only then, if he has made an effort to get the swimming requirement, should you come up with, and apply for, an alternative. In the case of our boy - he should get ALL the other Eagle Required badges, and THEN the troop should ask for an alternative to the Swimming/hiking/ biking badge, if his health problems still puts those badges out of his reach.


I don't believe that means that you don't THINK ahead about possible alternatives before you reach that point - but you don't put the cart before the horse - so to speak.


But in the end - I think you also have to look at the boy in question and the alternatives out there. SHOULD someone get to be First Class, or an EAGLE without completeing ALL the requirements as written? what does it mean to be an EAGLE scout?


the following is my personal opinion - but I have to wonder if ALL the boys SHOULD have the opportunity to be Eagles, or get any rank advancement, if they have severe enough handicaps that prevent it normally. Think about it - some boys with handicaps can make Eagle with only some adaptations that really only make the Eagle award HARDER -not easier - such as using a braille handbook. But for those with emotional disorders, or ADD, or asthma - they APPEAR able to do anything the 'normal' kids can, and yet, they get special help getting there. Are we LEVELING the playing field for ALL? or are we letting some kids drive while others have to walk across that field; hills, ruts and all?


I have an ADD son - I KNOW how hard he has to work to get good grades and keep up with organizational things - IF he makes Eagle, he will have REALLY earned it, because the organization and positions of responsibility required will be really difficult for him to stay on top of. I know it will be an extraordinary effort for him. Right now, he's not very 'into' rank advancement - he likes fun badgework, but is not really interested in the Eagle badges he has left to do - they're too much like schoolwork. But he COULD do them if he really wanted to. He needs POR to advance, but he's such a goof-off at meetings, and forgetful, so the boys don't vote him PL and he's not really interested in a more 'organizational' position like librarian or scribe. He DOES have a 'legitimate' handicap, gets special help at school with organization, and possibly, I could appeal for alternatives for him - but he's got another 5 years 'til he's 18 - plenty of time. Lots of our troop get their Eagle at 15 or 16, but maybe his abilities and maturity level are just on a different timeline. I'd love for him to be an Eagle Scout - but it's not ME who has to earn it - only HE can decide if HE wants it - and he's got time. If I push him, or pave the path for him - what has he really learned? and is he REALLY what people think of when they think of an 'EAGLE SCOUT'?


Whether he ever advances in rank or gets another badge really doesn't matter - he has already learned so much from scouting, that I know scouting values have become a way of life for him. Just seeing him make his way through a WHOLE WEEK of summer camp without losing ONE SINGLE thing is a major advancement to me!

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For ill scouts such as Laura describes, their physicians really must be involved in the planning . No leader or parent would want to put a scout at risk, of course, and if there are ongoing concerns about the heart, well, you really can't be too careful.


But I have three points to make here. First, I believe your idea of "no great rush" is very valid - I mean, the frail, sickly, underweight or overweight 11 year old may become a relatively robust 14 or 15-year old, you just don't know. A year ago my son had trouble carrying a heavy grocery bag in; yesterday he put a 40 pound bag of dog food on his shoulder and effortlessly toted it in. He even surprised himself.


Secondly: One of the essential elements for building health is EXERCISE at whatever level is medically appropriate. All you cardiac patients out ther - did your cardiologist say go home and sit on the couch because you have a weak heart? Most likely NOT. Odds are, your doc said get your tail moving, and keep it moving. Lose weight, walk a bunch, swim or whatever. Of course, under supervision and with some limitations - but use it or lose it.


Third - I gotta get on my soap box: For asthmatic scouts: the goal of asthma treatment is a normal life, and it is a RARE patient that cannot achieve that goal. If any of you are parents of asthmatics and your child's physicians are telling you to accept disability as a normal and unavoidable consequence of this condition, that doctor is 20 years behind the times and you need to find a new doctor. If you are hearing this kind of garbage from your pediatrician, and he or she is the only doctor you've seen, RUN, do not walk, to a pediatric pulmonologist.


ASthma management - a subject very near to my heart, as this disease nearly took my son away on a couple of occasions. When he was younger, he was NOT one of those "mild asthmatics" - I remember his pulmonologist looking at him and saying, 'Kid, you scare me to death" because he was so chronic, had such an atypical presentation and could crash soooooo fast. But even at his sickest he went to school, family camping, cub scouts, the pool - all the things a "normal" kid would do. We carried a mobile pharmacy and did not take trips more than 30 minutes from emergency medical care for years - but we went.


Looking at the plus side, he now does not have much trouble with altitude as long as his airways stay open - he is so used to not moving much air, he has incredibly efficient oxygen transport, like someone who has lived on a mountain. I'll never forget the time I took him to the hospital at his request and the doctors and nurses literally lining up to marvel at him. They could not hear any air moving in his chest at all - one after the other would listen, look puzzled at their stethoscope and tap it, and listen again - but his O2 saturation level was 92%. He wasn't even wheezing, he couldn't move enough air to make sounds. They couldn't believe it.

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Can the SWIMMING REQUIREMENT for ANY RANK be WAIVED ? A Troop Committe in our DISTRICT has done this due to high levels of anxiety on the part of the SCOUT. Shouldn't this just be a wait until SCOUT "GROWS" into swimming and looses his fear ?


Waive the swimming requirement because of anxiety? Maybe we should waive the identifying plants requirement because the Scout live in the city & there are no plants there. Or let's just waive all the requirements & pass out ranks willy nilly!


Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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Welcome to the forums, Douglass.


Let me try to be more "helpful" and provide an answer. The short answer to your question is NO. Repeat, NO!


Advancement requirements may NOT be waived or modified by a troop committee. There is a process for requesting alternative advancement requirements for medical reasons, but there must be medical documentation and the alternative plan MUST be approved by the District/Council Advancement committees and/or the Council Scout Executive. Contact your District Advancement Committee chairman for more information.


One of the cardinal rules of the BSA is that we may neither add nor subtract from the requirements.

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Welcome to the campfire. Pull up a log :)


As Ed and scoutldr both said, given the info you gave us, our answer is "don't expect a waiver."


There is a very definite procedure for waivers involving special needs. The procedure is documented in BSA Requirements. The stock number for it is #33215 at your Scout Shop.


An older (probably but not certainly current) version of the procedure is online at:



The most important point is the disability must be permanent, and must be a medical/educational evaluation by competent authority (physician, educator, etc).


Hope we are helping you.


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Thanks to both of you for the confirmation of my understanding of REQUIREMENTS. Just wanted to test the waters to see if anyone had similar experience. Problem now is: Waiver (actually, just signed-off in Scout book) was issued by Troop Committee and Scout was presented RANK. WHAT NOW ? Not the SCOUT'S fault ADULT LEADERSHIP didn't follow program.

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Welcome, Douglass.


If the requirement has been signed and the rank awarded I don't think there is much you can do in an official sense about that particular scout. There was a discussion about similar kinds of issues recently on another thread here (about Boards of Review) and the consenus seemed to be that once signed off and awarded, there's no going back.


But that doesn't mean there are no ways to address the wider issue. First off, the person (or people) who signed off on this or allowed it to happen without question, need to be trained or refresh their training. That could be a refresher "in house" if you have a SM or Committee Chair or Advancement Chair or some other registered leader who can do this gently but firmly and correctly. (though, the SM had to sign off on the SM Conference and should've caught this at that time; the Advancement Chair could have questioned this too; and if the CC was on the Board of Review, well it should at least have caused him or her to raise an eyebrow and inquire later of the SM and Adv. Chair)


Or you could bring in someone from district/council. One way to do this might be to have a Safe Swim Defense training night and in the process of that, make sure whoever is conducting the training emphasizes the need to be scrupulous about sign-offs, esp. for swimming where a major safety issue could develop otherwise. So while you can't do a lot about this specific scout's advancement issue, hopefully you can prevent repeats of this problem with future scouts.


Second, one can still try to work with this specific scout. Particularly if he shows any sign of being willing to try to learn, this might work ok with a trusted leader. But you'll need to avoid phrasing it in the "you really didn't earn this the first time" mode and focus more on positives (leadership of younger boys, benefits like being able to go canoeing, etc. at camp, etc.) and do this in a way that won't embarrass him further.




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Once the rank is awarded (BOR passed), there is no looking back. It's not the scout's fault, as you said, and we never penalize a scout for the ignorance or incompetence of the adults. There is a need for some retraining (or initial training?) of the unit leadership so that it doesn't happen again.

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While what Lisabob and Scoutldr said is perfectly true,




1) Someone needs to report a problem to the District Advancement Chairman.


2) Someone needs to report same problem to the Unit Commmissioner serving this unit.


3) Someone needs to report same problem to the Chartered Organization Representative for the Troop.


These folks are the Key 3 overwatching operations of the Troop. Of the 3, the COR, if he/she is proactive, has the authority to lay DIRECTIVE IN NATURE tasks upon the Troop, or remove leaders from it. One such task might be to "Follow and do not deviate from the Scouting advancement plan without mine or the Executive Officers' foreknowledge and approval."



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Thanks to all who replied. Confirmation of my position is appreciated. The Unit in question doesn't have a UC and as District Commissioner I have been meeting with them on several issues. I don't think the 'TRUST' of the Leaders is in question, more just lack of re-inforced TRAINING, which is another issue all together. Just makes it difficult when TRADITION takes the place of the prescribed program. Again, thanks for all of your advice.....

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Even if the challenge is training, the COR is THE PERSON who can issue tasks to a unit in the name of the Chartered Partner.


In a perfect world, gentle reminders work great. On these forums, I generally propose the baseball bat solution, because it gives the reader the far option, and he can then think of shorter options. Further, we never here have the whole story on the table... it's just part of being on a message board.



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You should note that Swimming is a required MB for Eagle. If this boy is on the trail to Eagle, he won't get there very easily. The process to request a waiver is daunting and unmerciful. Only with proven, documented paper from medical professionals will the wavier even be explored.


The fact that the troop committee took it so lightly tells me that the weight of this issue has not yet been brought to bear on the boy or the boy's parents.


One of Baden Powell's underlining principles of Scouting is that "Every boy should be a Swimmer". Distict, Council and National Review Boards take this very seriously! Good Luck.

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