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I think we just get myopic sometimes on how we think things should be done vs. what is required. If we want to recruit and advance scouts, we can't let affluence or location dictate who gets to do or achieve what. You've got to work with what you have. It's not realistic for some units to be able to afford to rent out an Olympic sized pool facility in order to administer the swim test. If you can afford that, great. If you can't, it's probably far easier to find someone with a workable backyard pool. As more and more Council camp properties with swim facilities disappear, this is also going to get harder. If this involved circumventing some aspect of the requirement, I could see holding the line. However, as written I don't see where it does. 

 

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I have conducted hundreds of swimmer tests in our council camp pool, which is 25 yards.  3 lengths using a strong stroke and the final length using a resting backstroke followed by floating motionless in the deep end.  If the scout touches bottom or stops swimming, or touches the side when turning, he starts over.  

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5 hours ago, scoutldr said:

I have conducted hundreds of swimmer tests in our council camp pool, which is 25 yards.  3 lengths using a strong stroke and the final length using a resting backstroke followed by floating motionless in the deep end.  If the scout touches bottom or stops swimming, or touches the side when turning, he starts over.  

That's exactly how I've seen tests done in our area. The rental or camp pool sizes are generally 25 yards although at times the test has also been conducted in other facilities of different sizes. The size of the pool or the number of turns required has never been raised as an issue, it's always been the total yardage and that no matter where the test is conducted that the scout doesn't "cheat" as you delineated. 

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On 7/24/2020 at 7:30 PM, yknot said:

It's not realistic for some units to be able to afford to rent out an Olympic sized pool facility in order to administer the swim test.

We just called around and found a high school pool with open swim. We asked them if we could use a lane. They said no problem. Each Scout had to lay $2.50 to get in. We asked everyone to ask friends who were lifeguards to administer the test. We found one who could do it. It worked very well. This is a small troop of only 10 Scouts. The pool is now open again after being closed for the virus. We will do this again. We also politely asked if we could do our rescue requirements if we didn’t get in the way. They had no problem.  It took a bit of work. Nothing fancy, but it worked better than 20 laps in a backyard pool. 

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Posted (edited)
On 7/24/2020 at 4:08 PM, Jameson76 said:

 

Nothing says length, etc.  Just the 100 yards must be done at one time.  Yes 10 laps in a 30' pool could be different, but it is not specifically prohibited

Well, kinda.  See below.

On 7/24/2020 at 5:43 PM, Mrjeff said:

This is just another example of issues, items, restrictions, and additions of specific requirements that are very explicit and are not open to interpretation.   Unfortunatly this happens all the time and has been going on for decades.

Actually, this isn't changing or adding requirements.  It's specifying how the test is to be administered.  See below

On 7/24/2020 at 6:29 PM, yknot said:

 If, as you state, the purpose of the test is to assess stamina, then that can only truly be assessed in open water conditions, because that's the only situation in which that kind of stamina for rescue or survival would be required. A pool test, in flat, temperature controlled static water, would be useless.

The 1st class requirement isn't "Jump in to water... swim 75yards..."; the 1st Class requirement is "Pass The BSA Swimmer Test".  And while the test can be administered by a non-BSA lifeguard, the test administrator is supposed to conduct the test using BSA guidelines.  The guidelines for conducting the BSA Swimming Test are very carefully laid out in the BSA publication "Aquatics Supervision No. 34346" .  In fact, The "Unit Swim Classification Record" specifies this on the second page:

  • The swim classification test done at a unit level should be conducted by one of the following council- approved resource people: Aquatics Instructor, BSA; BSA Lifeguard; BSA Swimming & Water Rescue; or certified lifeguard, swimming instructor, or swim coach who is familiar with the process. When the unit goes to a summer camp, each individual will be issued a buddy tag under the direction of the Camp Aquatics Director for use at the camp. Note: Unit Leader signer is knowledgeable of the Swim Test Procedure described in Aquatic Supervision - a leaders guide to youth swimming and boating activities (#34346) and is attesting that he/she has witnessed and agrees that all procedures have been followed.

Here is a link for the relevant chapter :Aquatics Supervision, you want to look at Chapter 5.  This is where there is a detailed breakdown of each portion of the test, what purpose it serves and what a test administrator should be looking for.  These are not "Additional Requirements", these are the criteria that are to be used in determining if the scout has passed the test.  Here are some selected passages that are particularly relevant to understanding the purpose of the test and what's required to pass it:

  • If the swimming area available for the test is not quite over the swimmer’s head in depth, or does not provide a platform for jumping into deep water, then a person may be provisionally classified as a swimmer if able to easily bob repeatedly up and down in the water, then level off and begin swimming. (page 38)
  • The swimmer must be able to cover distance with a strong, confident stroke. The 75 yards is not the expected upper limit of the swimmer’s ability. The distance should be covered in a manner that indicates sufficient skill and stamina for the swimmer to continue to swim for greater distances. Strokes repeatedly interrupted and restarted are not sufficient. The sidestroke, breaststroke, or any strong over-arm stroke, including the back crawl, are allowed in any combination; dog paddling and underwater strokes are not acceptable. The strokes need to be executed in a strong manner, but perfect form is not necessary. If it is apparent that the swimmer is being worn out by a poorly executed, head-up crawl, it is appropriate for the test administrator to suggest a change to a more restful stroke. A skilled, confident swimmer should be able to complete the distance with energy to spare, even if not in top physical condition. (page 38)
  • (Regarding backstroke) It is placed at the end of the distance requirement to emphasize the use of the backstroke as a relief from exertion and may actually be used by some swimmers to catch their breath if they swam the first part more strenuously than needed. The change of stroke must be done without support from side or bottom. (page 38)
  • The ideal place to conduct a swim test is a swimming pool with straight stretches of 25 to 50 yards and clear water at least 7 feet deep at the point of entry. Those taking the swimmer test can then be instructed simply to swim either four or two lengths as appropriate. (page 40)
  • Very small backyard or apartment pools (less than roughly 20 feet in the maximum direction) are fine for a unit swim, but should be avoided as locations for swim classification tests since likely contact with the sides and bottom during all the turns makes it difficult to judge how well the person can swim. (page 41)

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The important thing to keep in mind with the swimming test is that while basic stroke ability is what we are using for the test, from a Water Safety perspective, the single most important aspect of the test is the swimmer's stamina.  We aren't having them swim 100 yards in order to see if they can do it.  The 100 yards is being swum in order to allow the tester to gauge the swimmer's ability as it relates to their ability to swim safely.  If a scout can complete the 100 yards, but is so wiped out that they need to get out and rest they SHOULD NOT be considered a "Swimmer". 

For anyone responsible for children's safety around water, there are two groups of people that are going to represent the vast majority of their "saves".  The first is kids that go into water deeper than they know they should because their friends are doing it and they don't want to be left out.  When I was in college and worked the city pool, I estimate that at least once every day or two, a lifeguard ended up jumping into the diving well to pull a kid out who had absolutely no idea how to swim, but who jumped off the board anyway because their friends did. (or were pushing them to)

The second problem group is the scariest. (and is the reason the testing instructions repeatedly talk about "strong stroke", being "energetic" after the test and knowing how to go from swimming to floating without needing)  These are kids with basic swimming skills, but limited stamina.  These are the kids that will be out in the deep water splashing around with friends and having a great time, who push the limits of their endurance because they are having fun and don't want to stop.  In the best case scenario, you'll see these kids suddenly start struggling to make any forward progress and getting left behind while their group starts moving away and maybe you can tell them to "come talk to me" so they get a break.  In the worst case scenario, these are the kids that just silently slip underwater.

While it might suck to have to fail a kid that made it 100 yards because they didn't look "energetic" at the end, the nice thing is that if they've got the basic skills to go 100 yards at all, usually all they need to get to the "Swimmer" level is a couple weeks of swimming some laps 2-3 times a week.

 

P.S.   I just want to mention; my original comments about the inadvisability of using a backyard pool were strictly based upon 10 years being a lifeguard, swim instructor and Aquatics Facilities Manager, which is why I didn't cite any of this the first time.  Only after reading the responses was I inspired to actually search for the official BSA literature on the subject, otherwise I'd have posted all of this the first time.  I wasn't just looking to ambush people after they'd established opinions on the subject.

 

 

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Edited by elitts
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2 hours ago, elitts said:

Well, kinda.  See below.

Actually, this isn't changing or adding requirements.  It's specifying how the test is to be administered.  See below

The 1st class requirement isn't "Jump in to water... swim 75yards..."; the 1st Class requirement is "Pass The BSA Swimmer Test".  And while the test can be administered by a non-BSA lifeguard, the test administrator is supposed to conduct the test using BSA guidelines.  The guidelines for conducting the BSA Swimming Test are very carefully laid out in the BSA publication "Aquatics Supervision No. 34346" .  In fact, The "Unit Swim Classification Record" specifies this on the second page:

  • The swim classification test done at a unit level should be conducted by one of the following council- approved resource people: Aquatics Instructor, BSA; BSA Lifeguard; BSA Swimming & Water Rescue; or certified lifeguard, swimming instructor, or swim coach who is familiar with the process. When the unit goes to a summer camp, each individual will be issued a buddy tag under the direction of the Camp Aquatics Director for use at the camp. Note: Unit Leader signer is knowledgeable of the Swim Test Procedure described in Aquatic Supervision - a leaders guide to youth swimming and boating activities (#34346) and is attesting that he/she has witnessed and agrees that all procedures have been followed.

Here is a link for the relevant chapter :Aquatics Supervision, you want to look at Chapter 5.  This is where there is a detailed breakdown of each portion of the test, what purpose it serves and what a test administrator should be looking for.  These are not "Additional Requirements", these are the criteria that are to be used in determining if the scout has passed the test.  Here are some selected passages that are particularly relevant to understanding the purpose of the test and what's required to pass it:

  • If the swimming area available for the test is not quite over the swimmer’s head in depth, or does not provide a platform for jumping into deep water, then a person may be provisionally classified as a swimmer if able to easily bob repeatedly up and down in the water, then level off and begin swimming. (page 38)
  • The swimmer must be able to cover distance with a strong, confident stroke. The 75 yards is not the expected upper limit of the swimmer’s ability. The distance should be covered in a manner that indicates sufficient skill and stamina for the swimmer to continue to swim for greater distances. Strokes repeatedly interrupted and restarted are not sufficient. The sidestroke, breaststroke, or any strong over-arm stroke, including the back crawl, are allowed in any combination; dog paddling and underwater strokes are not acceptable. The strokes need to be executed in a strong manner, but perfect form is not necessary. If it is apparent that the swimmer is being worn out by a poorly executed, head-up crawl, it is appropriate for the test administrator to suggest a change to a more restful stroke. A skilled, confident swimmer should be able to complete the distance with energy to spare, even if not in top physical condition. (page 38)
  • (Regarding backstroke) It is placed at the end of the distance requirement to emphasize the use of the backstroke as a relief from exertion and may actually be used by some swimmers to catch their breath if they swam the first part more strenuously than needed. The change of stroke must be done without support from side or bottom. (page 38)
  • The ideal place to conduct a swim test is a swimming pool with straight stretches of 25 to 50 yards and clear water at least 7 feet deep at the point of entry. Those taking the swimmer test can then be instructed simply to swim either four or two lengths as appropriate. (page 40)
  • Very small backyard or apartment pools (less than roughly 20 feet in the maximum direction) are fine for a unit swim, but should be avoided as locations for swim classification tests since likely contact with the sides and bottom during all the turns makes it difficult to judge how well the person can swim. (page 41)

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The important thing to keep in mind with the swimming test is that while basic stroke ability is what we are using for the test, from a Water Safety perspective, the single most important aspect of the test is the swimmer's stamina.  We aren't having them swim 100 yards in order to see if they can do it.  The 100 yards is being swum in order to allow the tester to gauge the swimmer's ability as it relates to their ability to swim safely.  If a scout can complete the 100 yards, but is so wiped out that they need to get out and rest they SHOULD NOT be considered a "Swimmer". 

For anyone responsible for children's safety around water, there are two groups of people that are going to represent the vast majority of their "saves".  The first is kids that go into water deeper than they know they should because their friends are doing it and they don't want to be left out.  When I was in college and worked the city pool, I estimate that at least once every day or two, a lifeguard ended up jumping into the diving well to pull a kid out who had absolutely no idea how to swim, but who jumped off the board anyway because their friends did. (or were pushing them to)

The second problem group is the scariest. (and is the reason the testing instructions repeatedly talk about "strong stroke", being "energetic" after the test and knowing how to go from swimming to floating without needing)  These are kids with basic swimming skills, but limited stamina.  These are the kids that will be out in the deep water splashing around with friends and having a great time, who push the limits of their endurance because they are having fun and don't want to stop.  In the best case scenario, you'll see these kids suddenly start struggling to make any forward progress and getting left behind while their group starts moving away and maybe you can tell them to "come talk to me" so they get a break.  In the worst case scenario, these are the kids that just silently slip underwater.

While it might suck to have to fail a kid that made it 100 yards because they didn't look "energetic" at the end, the nice thing is that if they've got the basic skills to go 100 yards at all, usually all they need to get to the "Swimmer" level is a couple weeks of swimming some laps 2-3 times a week.

 

P.S.   I just want to mention; my original comments about the inadvisability of using a backyard pool were strictly based upon 10 years being a lifeguard, swim instructor and Aquatics Facilities Manager, which is why I didn't cite any of this the first time.  Only after reading the responses was I inspired to actually search for the official BSA literature on the subject, otherwise I'd have posted all of this the first time.  I wasn't just looking to ambush people after they'd established opinions on the subject.

 

 

It seems what you're saying is that aside from a very small backyard pool of 20 feet or less, which is very, very small (there are above ground pools bigger than that in my neighborhood), backyard pools are allowed as swim test facilities under the source you cite? 

Personally, I want kids to be safe in water. Stringent requirements are good. My only points are that 1) if it isn't in the requirement, we can't add it, and 2) access to ideal facilities shouldn't limit a scout's ability to meet requirements.

 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, yknot said:

It seems what you're saying is that aside from a very small backyard pool of 20 feet or less, which is very, very small (there are above ground pools bigger than that in my neighborhood), backyard pools are allowed as swim test facilities under the source you cite? 

Personally, I want kids to be safe in water. Stringent requirements are good. My only points are that 1) if it isn't in the requirement, we can't add it, and 2) access to ideal facilities shouldn't limit a scout's ability to meet requirements.

 

This is a tough line to walk between what actually gets the job done and what someone could argue "meets the requirement".  But it's much like dealing with a MBC in that some subjective decision making is inherent in the process. (like how a Communications MBC gets to approve what kind of public meeting the scout can attend)

If I was trying to find an reasonable compromise between "ideal" and "what is the minimum acceptable", I would approach it like this:

  1.  If a 75' long or lake/pond is available, that's what should be used.  (Using a less than ideal situation just because someone preferred it wouldn't fly)
  2. I wouldn't just use a lifeguard to administer the test.  I'd find a current/formerly trained lifeguard who is also an experienced swimming instructor or swimming coach; someone who was skilled in actually evaluating swimming ability.  While there aren't any specific requirements for the adult who is going to run the test other than their agreement to using the BSA standards, the inferred requirement is that the person actually be competent to discern between swimming strokes that can be sloppy and weak, sloppy but effective and proper but weak and proper and effective.  (This is rather like requiring your adult drivers to actually be safe and knowledgeable drivers, not just licensed.)
  3. I wouldn't allow the scout to really push off the wall when turning around.  Even a mediocre shove off the wall is going to propel the scout 5'-6' and with a 25' pool, that would mean over 25% less swimming. (9 laps x 6' per lap)
  4. If there was any scout where the administrator had to "think about it" to decide if they passed, I would treat it like the manual does where jumping into deep water isn't possible, I'd consider the "pass" to be provisional, pending a retest in ideal circumstances.  For checking off requirements, the scout would be done, but when it comes to letting them swim at a camp or open swim, they'd need to retest.

Since there is no "one and done" rule when it comes to swimmer tests, I don't think requiring a retest for activities would be problematic.  Besides, basically every swimming pool with lifeguards and a "deep end" is going to have a rule stating that lifeguards can require anyone to take a swim test at any time if there is any question about the person's ability to swim. 

Edited by elitts

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Posted (edited)

I had scouts who were obviously on swim teams and liked to show off with their "flip turns"...they'd get upset when I pull them out and make them start over.  Yes, they can swim, but not by gliding half the distance.  I also had "swimmers" show up in my BSA Lifeguard classes who couldn't do one length using a recognizable stroke.  The first day would be the 400 yard swim...then half of them could go register for something else while the week was still young. That's why swim checks are (or used to be) conducted every year at camp.  You'd be amazed how many "forget" how to swim from one year to the next.

When you're out in the middle of the lake or ocean, there won't be a wall to push off of or side to hold onto.  People need to realize, the purpose of the requirement is not to just sign off the requirement for rank.  It is to ensure that the scout is prepared and able to save himself if he unexpectedly finds him/herself in the water.  It is to allow the scout to progress to more advanced water adventures, such as canoeing, motorboating, sailing and white water.  The "minimum" is not good enough in this case.

Edited by scoutldr

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Your expertise and experience are appreciated. However were not talking about the swimming merit badge, lifesaving merit badge, or BSA Lifeguard.  We are talking about the basic swim check.  Were not talking about middle of the lake swimmers or what someone wants to see.  All we're talking about is the basic swim check.  And without going around the world all of the opinions, variables, and extra requirements, the simple answer is yes, a backyard pool can be used for swim checks.  

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Mrjeff said:

Your expertise and experience are appreciated. However were not talking about the swimming merit badge, lifesaving merit badge, or BSA Lifeguard.  We are talking about the basic swim check.  Were not talking about middle of the lake swimmers or what someone wants to see.  All we're talking about is the basic swim check.  And without going around the world all of the opinions, variables, and extra requirements, the simple answer is yes, a backyard pool can be used for swim checks.  

Except that without all those pesky details you'd like to ignore, giving someone a blanket "Yes" is about as useful as telling someone:

  • You can use a 33 gallon garbage back to carry your gear on a backpacking trip, just throw it over your shoulder;
  • You can use bedroom slippers to hike the Appalachian trail;
  • You can use a racing bike with skinny tires to ride down a beach;
  • You can use your mess kit knife to eat your soup.

 

Edited by elitts

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2 hours ago, Mrjeff said:

...  We are talking about the basic swim check.  ... a backyard pool can be used for swim checks.  

Actually, @Mrjeff, as people in the business of forestalling death, it is our duty to be somewhat particular about those “basic” requirements for little ovals upon which is a scroll with a two word declarative statement: Be prepared. If not for those two words, I would get behind your any ship in a storm approach.

The nagging question that these ranks are supposed to answer with regards to aquatics: can the scout swim enough yards to save his/her life? The answer in the context of a backyard pool is only “yes” if it reasonably simulates the typical swimming area a 2nd or 1st class scout will regularly encounter.

 

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The unfortunate truth is that we have all gotten so accustomed to the current social trends (everybody gets a trophy, everybody gets an A, etc...),  that parents have come to expect that everyone passes the swim test.  An automatic pass has become a social entitlement.

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Now that's another issue. I again say that the requirements are specific.....we are talking about the basic swim test....nothing more and nothing less.  There may. ....never mind, not going there.  You do what your conscience dictates......You add what you like, change what you like, or use whatever interpretation you wish.  But the simple fact remains that if a kid passes the requirement, it's passed.  If the requirements can be passed in a backyard pool, it can be used.  How about a six foot deep lap pool thats only 15 feet long?  The 5'11 kid could jump in and swim to China but I  bet that would start another argument.  I am also greatly impressed by the experience and credentials of others, but I am equally qualified to comment on this subject. And the idea of showing up and getting a trophy is repugnant to me.  Enough said, by me.

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8 minutes ago, David CO said:

The unfortunate truth is that we have all gotten so accustomed to the current social trends (everybody gets a trophy, everybody gets an A, etc...),  that parents have come to expect that everyone passes the swim test.  An automatic pass has become a social entitlement.

This reminds me of some of the issues we've had with swim tests and swimming. We had a bunch fail one year because the camp pool water was cold. Some of them couldn't breathe after they jumped in, even after a rest and a second try. They were retested when they got to camp when the water warmed up some and passed.  Since some of the kids who initially failed were competitive swimmers, we had a lot of parent noise and verbal threats of a lawsuit. Fun times.

 

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Posted (edited)
41 minutes ago, Mrjeff said:

 I again say that the requirements are specific.....we are talking about the basic swim test....nothing more and nothing less.  There may. ....never mind, not going there.  You do what your conscience dictates......You add what you like, change what you like, or use whatever interpretation you wish.  But the simple fact remains that if a kid passes the requirement, it's passed.  If the requirements can be passed in a backyard pool, it can be used.  

I am not going to let a boy go into the water (or on a canoe) unless I am confident that it is safe for him to do so.  I really couldn't care less if BSA is satisfied.  I don't even care if the parents are satisfied.  I need to be satisfied.  My Chartered Organization needs to be satisfied.  If that's not acceptable to someone, then they need to go out and find another unit.  

Edited by David CO

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