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BSA mile swim

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The requirements do not demand an open-water swim, though that's implied. The requirements do not demand a child use a certain stroke. The requirements also don't explicitly demand that the mile swim be continuous. So everything we see here, including doing the swim in stages, meets the letter of the requirements. So, yes, if a lap pool swim is okay with the aquatics counselor, then it's okay.

Yes, there's a difference between swimming a mile in a pool versus swimming a mile in open water. But there is a far bigger difference between swimming a mile freestyle versus swimming a mile using a resting stroke. A boy who swims freestyle for one mile continuously in a pool is a far better swimmer and athlete than a boy who backstrokes and floats his way to a mile in open water. Remember Mao's swim in the Yangtze? 15 kilometers in one hour doing the breast stroke -- eight minute miles! That was an open water swim. But I don't think Mao earned the one mile swim badge. Current did all the work.

I say whatever you decide a one-mile swim should be for your kid, go for it. The requirements are deliberately vague and open to interpretation. That's done on purpose. You, as a scoutmaster, merit badge counselor, or parent, are the person to set the standards. If you set low standards, your scout learns or achieves nothing except rank advancement or a patch. If you set high standards, then your child scout, achieves, and develops, even if they fall short of earning the patch. It doesn't matter what other people choose for their kids. What you choose for your kid is what matters.

For my scout, I decided that a one mile freestyle-only swim in a lap pool with no gliding after flip turns (so swimming the entire distance) and no stopping is a high achievement for a 12 year old, worthy of the mile swim badge. Sure, it's not as challenging as an open water freestyle swim in deep water. However, if he backstroked or doggy-paddled on open water for one mile, I wouldn't let him have the badge. I don't consider resting strokes -- or incapable strokes -- to be swimming. But that's the standard I chose for my scout. I'm perfectly okay with different choices that people make and I'm happy with the reasons they make those choices. We just differ in our criteria. Folks who think the badge should require an open water swim, they're thinking about outdoor competence, survival, and skills. Great. Those who are okay with resting strokes, dog paddling, or staged swimming, they're thinking about developing character, self-esteem, and confidence. Great. I, on the other hand, interpret the badge as a continuous freestyle with no stops and no resting strokes. Pool or open water, I don't care. I'm thinking athletics, strength, stamina, fitness, and performance. Different set of criteria entirely.

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Two years ago I did the mile swim at summer camp. You had 2 choices, 4 lengths of the small lake followed by an escort in a canoe/kayak or doing a ton of lengths in the roped off swimmers area where the lifeguard could see you.  I couldn't get an escort during free swim, so I did the ton of shorter lengths.

I swam a mile and earned my patch.  I believe both meet the requirements.

100 or so years ago when I was at summer camp as a scout, I recall that they had you swim the perimeter of the pool rather than the established lanes.

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@DadandGareth, welcome to the forums! And thanks for resurrecting a useful topic.

No parent was around when went for my first (or any subsequent) mile swim. I will say that the absolute worst is laps in a square.

My motivation? Forestalling death. That's what was pounded into me by my ARC instructor (a Women's Air Corps vet, tough as nails) from when we were in guppies (or whatever they called that 1st class). My brothers were Navy, an uncle was rescued in Midway -- twice, so the whole "lost at sea" scenario was pretty close to the surface.

Part of that mentality is athletics and stamina. But part is also calculus. "Am I getting everything out of each stroke? How many times to breath, really? If I have to do another mile, can I?" And later, when I got guard certified, "If I have a victim in tow, will we make it?"

Those 40 minutes give you a lot of time to think.

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My, now "vintage", Mile Swim cards just state, "swam 1600 meters (1 mile) under safe conditions and has qualified for the Mile Swim BSA" on the front.

The back reads, "You have proved yourself to be a strong swimmer and are commended for this fine accomplishment. It means that you are making yourself prepared for a possible emergency in the water and are working toward physical fitness. The emblem show that you have reached a worthwhile goal. Don't stop here. Continue to improve your stamina."

I seem to remember all my "official" mile swims being conducted in a pool (no swimming waterfront at summer camp, just boating) doing circular laps around the circumference of the pool. Which I hated because I remember always bumping into other, mostly slower, swimmers. And it seems like I can make the exact same statements if I have to describe my experience doing the mile swim for the water survival portion of my aircrew training while in the Navy. Circle swim in a (much larger) pool, constantly getting kicked in the face and bumping elbows... Really the biggest difference between the two was for Scouts I wore a swimsuit and for aircrew school I wore a flightsuit.

So if swimming a mile in a pool is good enough for the Navy aircrew training, it's probably good enough for Scouting purposes...

 

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Welcome to the forums

The mile swim doesn't not state a requirement for where the mile is swum.  see below.  I have completed it with my son in a lake and in a pool.  Both are fine.  The problem with the pool is that there are people that cheat.  I have seen people stand up.  stop at the wall, push off the bottom of the pool.  All of those are things I would disqualify for,  In the lake, I have seen boy almost drown and panic.  Sadly, many people that earn it probably shouldn't but it doesn't say swim it strongly or in a certain time period.  

My son, toasted me on the last mile swim.  After he completed his mile, he continued to do laps next to me smiling at me underwater and encouraging me.  It was a great experience, the entire troop showed up to watch the 2 of us do it and hopefully it inspired some of them to attempt it in the future.

Under the supervision of a currently qualified certified aquatics instructor, BSA or equivalent, participate in four hours of training and preparation for distance swimming (one hour a day maximum). Swim 1 mile over a measured course that has been approved by the trained instructor who will supervise the swim.

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I hated swimming laps too back in the day. I did it as a 19 year old ASM, and did Approach Breaststroke the entire time except the last lap. That way I could keep an eye on my Scouts doing it with me and motivate them. Drove the lifeguards nuts because I was yapping the entire time. Still remember making a parody of 500 Miles called 500 Yards

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Just to muddy the waters a bit, the summer camps in Northern California are in the High Sierras.  The lakes consist of near freezing cold water, even in late summer, from all of the snow runoff.  The question is whether a scout is, or should be, permitted to wear a light wet suit just to keep warm?

  Understandably, it will provide some buoyancy, which may discount the effort in someone's view.  On the other hand, it makes for a "safer" swim as the scout is less likely to experience cramping or severe loss of body heat because of the frigid temperature.  NOTE: The surface temperature at the varies lakes average between 50-55 degrees in the spring and to 70 degrees in mid-summer.

Scotty

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5 minutes ago, Summitdog said:

Just to muddy the waters a bit, the summer camps in Northern California are in the High Sierras.  The lakes consist of near freezing cold water, even in late summer, from all of the snow runoff.  The question is whether a scout is, or should be, permitted to wear a light wet suit just to keep warm?

  Understandably, it will provide some buoyancy, which may discount the effort in someone's view.  On the other hand, it makes for a "safer" swim as the scout is less likely to experience cramping or severe loss of body heat because of the frigid temperature.  NOTE: The surface temperature at the varies lakes average between 50-55 degrees in the spring and to 70 degrees in mid-summer.

Scotty

That is a really good precautionary consideration. I know many of those lake well and even at lower elevation some of them could threaten hypothermia if care isn't taken. 

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6 minutes ago, Summitdog said:

Just to muddy the waters a bit, the summer camps in Northern California are in the High Sierras.  The lakes consist of near freezing cold water, even in late summer, from all of the snow runoff.  The question is whether a scout is, or should be, permitted to wear a light wet suit just to keep warm?

Scotty

Why not? IMHO, layers is layers whether a hike, whitewater rafting, or swim. Be prepared. 

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Too muddy it even more.  Do the swim at Sea Base or the like in Salt Water.  You will be very bouyant.    AFAIK, you can't do the mile swim at Sea Base because they don't have a swimming area.

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45 minutes ago, Summitdog said:

Just to muddy the waters a bit,...  The question is whether a scout is, or should be, permitted to wear a light wet suit just to keep warm?

Seems like cold mountain lakes would be pretty clear. Don't see how a wet suit would muddy them ... unless they shed microplastics?:cool:

Seriously, though, I find that wetsuits have drag that offset any benefit of flotation. Some scouts might find them hard to adapt to. I certainly have opted for mild hypothermia. (I swim in Lake Erie, which is at 55F most Memorial Days.) But our camp's ranger wouldn't let swimmers in, wetsuit or otherwise, if the temp is below 64F.

I think that is why the requirements are clear about the four hours of preparation -- the intent is that you are prepping in the same body of water you'll swim in, usually across several days in the same week. That would help determine the need for thermal protection.

Edited by qwazse

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1 hour ago, qwazse said:

Seems like cold mountain lakes would be pretty clear. Don't see how a wet suit would muddy them ... unless they shed microplastics?:cool:

Seriously, though, I find that wetsuits have drag that offset any benefit of flotation. Some scouts might find them hard to adapt to. I certainly have opted for mild hypothermia. (I swim in Lake Erie, which is at 55F most Memorial Days.) But our camp's ranger wouldn't let swimmers in, wetsuit or otherwise, if the temp is below 64F.

I think that is why the requirements are clear about the four hours of preparation -- the intent is that you are prepping in the same body of water you'll swim in, usually across several days in the same week. That would help determine the need for thermal protection.

Not triatholon wetsuits.  They reduce drag.

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As long as you're not using flippers or something like that, I can't see the type of suit disqualifying a scout.

YPT rules say to wear a modest swimsuit, IIRC, so I don't wear the competition style one I use at the gym and go with boxer style.  My competition style suit isn't bad, but I've seen guys wear ones at the gym that are so tight you can tell their religion.

Edited by 69RoadRunner
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