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Swimming Requirements for Rank

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Knowing how to swim is integral to advancement, it is also about providing a safe aquatics environment.  Yes, you should say something, kids are being put at risk if they are doing other aquatics activities without knowing their abilities.   

A safety moment on why it's important to do aquatics in Scouting following safety afloat and safe swim defense:  https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/HealthSafety/pdf/680-055(17)_Aquatics_WEB.pdf

Incidents that really happened:  Swimming-  https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/HealthSafety/pdf/680-056.pdf  

Boating and Paddling - https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/680-056_Boating.pdf  https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/680-056_RiverPaddling.pdf

RichardB

 

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1 hour ago, walk in the woods said:

Just for clarity, I believe the swimming requirements are a net asset to advancement.  Like @thrifty I spent a bunch of money on rec center memberships and private swimming lessons for my son with autism so he could learn to swim.  We also endured the pain and struggle that his autism caused in the process (we starting with splashing water on his face because he couldn't bear the sensation of it).  I have very old and faded swimming, lifesaving, and mile swim badges in a box somewhere.  But, that has no bearing on my response to the OP. 

Call me a cynic ...

I know about that "worn down" feeling. And I get it. Around here, there's a lot of pressure from one camp (Seven Ranges, in Ohio, I'm calling you out) on SMs to have all scouts attending to return to camp having advanced one rank every year. I have seen this lead to a scouts skating by on the land navigation requirement. Now, at camp, the training seems to be good, but not great. Scouts are coming back with some skills, but not enough to find 80% of the markers on a "white" orienteering course. As a result, they don't take on those challenges. So, I feel like I'm swatting at windmills. Except, when I get the thank-you from the marine who said it all came back to him at boot camp on the night course in The Crucible.

Here's where you are mistaken:

1 hour ago, walk in the woods said:

... as long as the troop in question is making it's annual registration payment and maybe kicking in a little to FOS/Popcorn, the district, council and national aren't going to do a damn thing about it. the district, council and national aren't going to do a damn thing about it.  ..

You talk about those entities as though they are merely professional staff. They are not. The advancement progam is implemented by volunteers. Professionals are not on advancement committees. If something's not happening, find a mirror. That's why I suggested starting at the District Advancement Chair. The worse consequence to your action is you might find yourself on a district committee. At which point, you may organize a district camporee. If you think swimming is a deficit ...

  • Partner with the YMCA or some high school to coordinate swimming lessons in the winter. (This was a true gift for Son #1 and Daughter when they were in grade school.)
  • Then you organize a swimming challenge among first class scouts of every troop. Troops/patrols with the highest percentage of scouts at that rank or above (on their roster, not necessarily in attendance at the challenge) who can pass swim tests and demonstrate line rescues get a scouts-shop discount. Or maybe fees waived for the next year.
  • If this is a troop at camp, with the permission of the aquatics director, one SPL could call out another troop's SPL for a test of skills among champions.

Is this a tremendous hassle? Yes it is!

Is it worth it? I think so. It certainly beats telling your scouts all they can do is settle for "attaboys".

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3 hours ago, RememberSchiff said:

It took them months just  to build his confidence to float face down (eyes closed) and over a year to finally pass the BSA swim test, however he would not attempt Swimming merit badge. I would rather he earned Swimming MB than Eagle (if he does). 

I have a similar history.  My first sons took a long time to earn the swimming MB.  It was not a great experience.  With my last sons, we spent six months with one and a fully year with the younger to pass the BSA swim test.  It was weekly pool visits and working on little things.  Putting head under water.  Laying face down.  Lots of getting comfortable.  

IMHO, taking my sons to the pool weekly and making small progress swimming was one of my best experiences as a father.  I'm very proud of that time and my sons and I grew much closer during that time.  I often had to hold my tongue as I could not understand why they would not put their head under the water.  But one day they would put part of their ear under.  Then one full ear on one side of their head.  Then ....   Each little achievement was exciting to see.

BUT ... while I think the swimming MB is a critical one that really needs to be fully earned, I can sympathize with the quoted SM.  So many parents inject themselves heavily such that it's just not worth it.  I often see MBs and advancement as more negative with the scouts than positive.  I've often seen it kill scout excitement.   It's why I focus more on getting the scouts together and doing things and I focus much less on advancement.  I make sure we help and our program covers all the elements needed for advancement.  I also make sure we have chances to talk with the scouts about advancement.  BUT, our focus is on being an active and outgoing troop and much less on an advancement oriented troop.

Edited by fred johnson

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Thank you all for your feedback and input.   I'm personally very against the "everyone gets a trophy" syndrome that seems prevalent today.  That is what this reminds me of.  The SM/Troop (in my opinion) is wrong on many levels. 

I'm still contemplating whether this is worth the fight or not - I certainly do not want the SM "defrocked" nor do I want the Troop Charter revoked.   My question was not one of vindictive or malicious intent.  I do, however, have very strong feelings about following requirements exactly as written.  If it takes a long time to complete a requirement - so be it.   If a Scout (and his parents) are unwilling to devote the time necessary to master a skill, then the Scout does not advance.  If BSA advancement were easy, every Tiger Cub would become an Eagle Scout.  It's about growing, facing challenges, testing limits, and being proud of what you've accomplished.  

All the while, I completely understand alternate requirements for disabilities - we have one or two in our Troop, completing approved alternate requirements due to a documented disability is a far different situation than "just signing off" in a book because one doesn't want to rock the boat with helicopter parents.

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36 minutes ago, ScoutTrainer said:

I'm personally very against the "everyone gets a trophy" syndrome that seems prevalent today.  ...

I'm still contemplating whether this is worth the fight or not - I certainly do not want the SM "defrocked" nor do I want the Troop Charter revoked. 

Your job is to focus on your scouts in your unit(s).  It is not your place to fix another troop.  Even the district advancement committee doesn't have much power in these situations.  The only power is really approving MB instructors and training.  If you wanted to influence change, get to know and build a friendship with the scoutmaster.      

Also, feel free to chat hear in these forums about it, but be careful to not express or infer too much when in or among other scouters.  Unit leaders making comments about each other's troops happens way too much and does not reflect good scout spirit.  

 

36 minutes ago, ScoutTrainer said:

... to master a skill ...

BSA advancement is not about mastery and we need to be careful using the term mastery.  BSA advancement is about demonstrating and discussing, but "mastery" infers a higher level than found in BSA requirements.  Swimming is the closest to mastery when it says demonstrate swimming in a "strong" manner.  Cooking is a good example on the other end of the spectrum. Lots of cooking, but little requirement that the food tastes good.  

Edited by fred johnson

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8 minutes ago, fred johnson said:

We need to be careful using the term mastery.  BSA advancement is about demonstrating and discussing, but "mastery" infers a higher level than found in BSA requirements.  Swimming is the closest to mastery when it says demonstrate swimming in a "strong" manner.  

Point taken.  Poor choice of words on my part.  Thank you.

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Not only as a former lifeguard and lifeguard instructor, but also as a drowning survivor, I AM APPALLED BY THE WAY THIS TROOP IS HANDLING THE SITUATION! I drowned as a kid and had was resuscitated. I was terrified of swimming for years after that. Scouting is what forced me to face my fears, and overcome them. I was 12 years old before I was finally able to pass a swim test and earn First Class. And I am so glad I did. Not only was I able to advance, I was able to do some great adventures. All three of my 50 milers have been afloat, either canoe or sailboat. I developed a love of the water that led me to get a job as a lifeguard and eventually instructor.

And I find it insulting to those who follow the requirements to the letter. Forget me for a moment. I had a scout who mastered basic Scouting skills while a Webelos. This guy had a shelter built, fire going, and chilling out cooking his lunch before I even had my shelter 1/2 way completed when working on Castaway. I would take him anywhere except for one thing; he could not swim. He has been in the troop 20 months, and has been Tenderfoot for 17 of those months. He's taken Instructional Swim the past two summer at camp, and I just completed 3 weeks of working with him. He finally passed Beginner test and earned Second Class last month. He just passed the Swimmer test last week, and is now ready for a First Class BOR. Once he passes that, it's 4 months in a POR for Star.

As other stated, Swimming is a life skill, and an extremely important one.

1 minute ago, fred johnson said:

BSA advancement is not about mastery and we need to be careful using the term mastery.  BSA advancement is about demonstrating and discussing, but "mastery" infers a higher level than found in BSA requirements.  Swimming is the closest to mastery when it says demonstrate swimming in a "strong" manner.  

Sadly, you are correct. BSA has removed the term "Master the skill...." that was in previous handbooks, guides, and training literature that many of us old fogeys grew up under and were first Scouters under. They also removed the replacement phrase, 'The badge represents what a Scout can do, not what he has done." from guides and training materials.

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9 minutes ago, ScoutTrainer said:

Point taken.  Poor choice of words on my part.  Thank you.

Easily understood.  Your words were very understandable.  I'm just sensitive to the point.  

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Every one of us can look at other units and find something being done that just isn't right, without exception.  Just reading through the years worth of threads in this forum should be convincing enough of that statement.  How many people complain about Eagle Scout mills, about Merit Badges being taught at Troop  Meetings, about people not following the requirements or being enabled not to follow the requirements.

Yes - this is not the way it is supposed to be - but - the BSA is a volunteer organization with no real method for maintaining "quality control" other than the Scout Oath and Scout Law.  So the question to be asked is, who do you report it to, and what do you expect them to be able to do about it?  You're in a classic "He Said/He Said" scenario here - even if you somehow got the DE or District Advancement Chair, or Unit/District Commissioner involved, who is to say that the SM won't just tell them that a) he never said that and b) go pound sand and never darken my doorway again (which he can easily do because none of the people I just mentioned have any real power over the unit and their operations anyway, except for perhaps the DE who is NOT going to jeopardize his year-end membership numbers by getting into a whizzing match with a Unit). 

This is probably one of the most frustrating things that volunteers with a strong tendency towards judgement (justice) on the Myers-Briggs scale  faces in the BSA - there is really nothing that can be done when they see other units not following the rules.  Sure, you can talk to "the powers that be" but don't expect anything to change.  I'm with Fred on this - concentrate on your own unit - deliver the program as it should be to them - and stop worrying about what other units do - the reality is that they can only affect your Scouts and your program if you let them do so.  Go split some wood, or bank a tennis ball at the garage door, or whatever you do to let out stress and frustration, then just let it go.  If a Scout from that Troop wants to transfer to yours, then you can fix that deficiency, but unless that happens, its really out of your hands.

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The Troop and Scoutmaster mentioned need to have their fallacies put before them.  The adult leaders are "selling the Scouts a bill of goods".   I rather imagine the story about the swim test must hold true for fire safety, cooking, first aid and navigation.  We hear of these things at summer camp, where a young Scout may be put in charge of a Skill Station or MB class, but not from a Scoutmaster? . .  The false sense of accomplishment will come back to haunt them. Both the Scouts and their Scouters.  Trustworthy?   What does that really mean? 

The Troop of my Yooooth took us to a local hotel (1960's) with an indoor pool in the winter.  Spring and summer, fall we were ushered to local "rich " folk that let the Scouts swim in their pools.  We also had Red Cross lessons in a local Country Club pool, when we were not at Scout Camp.  Looking back, I see now it took a fair amount of asking and organizing and scheduling on our parents' part. I guess they thought it was important, being comfortable and safe around the water.  Thank you, mom and dad. 

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It may only be a matter of time before this Scoutmaster and Troop's automatic signing off on swimming requirements comes back to bite them. 

Our troop has always conducted its own swim test before summer camp.   

A few years ago though, somehow one scout in our troop, who was an extremely weak swimmer got classified as a "Swimmer." How that happened, I really don't know. although I would venture to guess that the scout or parents said they couldn't make the swim test and then asked the SM to sign off for him claiming that he had passed the year before and/or falsely claiming that he's a good swimmer, when in fact he was anything but that.

At summer camp, however, the aquatics staff quickly noticed that this kid was a very poor swimmer and the camp Aquatics Director later told the SM that the entire troop was going to have to be retested - there at summer camp - since the validity of the troop's own swim test was now questionable. 

In the end, the SM and leaders complained that it wasn't fair to re-test the entire troop and the Aquatics Director chose not to push the issue and the troop as a whole did not have to be retested. The one scout in question was retested though and was reclassified as a Beginner or Non-Swimmer, don't remember which.

Swimming is definitely an integral life skill and this Scoutmaster is doing a tremendous disservice to his scouts by not requiring that they actually complete the BSA swim test as outlined.

Edited by SSF

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On 8/12/2018 at 6:55 PM, ScoutTrainer said:

No - it was expressly clear that he does not require the swim tests for advancement requirements. He stated that he just signs that off in their book and skips it.  He says that none of his Scouts swim at summer camp.  He himself is also a non-swimmer.

I had  missed this part about the SM being a non-swimmer. That's a big part of the problem right there.

People who, for whatever reason, are unable to swim often pass that fear on to their kids, and in this case the SM has projected his own fears of water/swimming onto the scouts in his troop...disturbing.

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