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36 minutes ago, yknot said:

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.


I remember when a Lifeguard Instructor was classified as a Non-Swimmer because he did not go to summer camp that year, and thus did not take a swim test in time for the troop's canoe trip. No annual swim test, no longer classified as a Swimmer.

Luckily at the time, non-swimmers could still do boating activities with a certified Lifeguard. So I rode with the 16 year old Lifeguard I had certified prior to summer camp.

And there is a reason for doing swim tests annually. I know that after my first accident, the one where I was in a leg brace for 3 months and gained 60 pounds, I could not pass a swim test if I had tried. And the only thing that allowed me to pass the swim test after the second accident was the 6 to 7 months of physical therapy.


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The real key is to accept the fact that First Class First Year is a lie. Assure a scout that if he doesn't want to complete that requirement now, you'll give him an opportunity next year, and the

In my professional opinion as a former lifeguard instructor and swimming instructor, I think they should be EXTREMELY RARE (emphasis). I taught swimming to physically and mentally handicapped kids. It

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

As written for 2c:


Demonstrate your ability to pass the BSA beginner test: Jump feetfirst into water over your head in depth, level off and swim 25 feet on the surface, stop, turn sharply, resume swimming, then return to your starting place.

So, a 20' pool is not wide enough to adhere to the requirements as written.


See the Swimming merit badge requirements for details about the BSA swimmer test ...

Before doing the following requirements, successfully complete the BSA swimmer test: Jump feetfirst into water over the head in depth. Level off and swim 75 yards in a strong manner using one or more of the following strokes: sidestroke, breaststroke, trudgen, or crawl; then swim 25 yards using an easy, resting backstroke. The 100 yards must be completed in one swim without stops and must include at least one sharp turn. After completing the swim, rest by floating.

The operative phrase "... in a strong manner ..."

So, as written , the requirement mandates some judgment in determining a feeble vs. a strong manner.

This cuts both ways, as @yknot indicates. The water could be inhospitable to the point that scouts fail under conditions in which they normally wouldn't be doing aquatics. The solution is to find more suitable water and test again while making a note to self to avoid putting your scouts in those inhospitable conditions again. Or, it could be "too hospitable" that it doesn't reflect the normal course of aquatic activities and conceals a scout's true ability or lack thereof.

My bottom line: recruit an evaluator who's guarded for a while, who's had to rescue a tired swimmer or two, and who can look at the pool in question and determine if it simulates a scout's "real world" swimming scenario. (E.g., getting oneself out from the middle of an aquatics area, getting oneself to shore or the nearest boat.)

Edited to add: BTW: Even though I'm qualified by most standards, I don't do swim tests. I know that my desire to get everyone up and at the next adventure should be tempered by someone who's been currently guarding for the better part of a season or two over the past couple of years.

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7 hours ago, Mrjeff said:

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. 

Actually, we are. One test and many privileges open up. Like boating to the middle of the lake.

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What I hope these discussions do is just keep kids safer. From this discussion you can see that you can insist tests only be conducted in an Olympic sized 50 meter pool and believe that is the highest safety standard. On the other hand, just because a scout can swim 100 meters in flat, temperature controlled water doesn't at all mean he or she will be safe on your canoe trip in river currents or at Sea Base in ocean water with riptides or at some northern camp where the water temps are frigid until August. I knew a child who drowned in a water bucket, so I don't think the size of the water body is really that relevant when assessing water safety. There is a lot of practical commonsense stuff that the BSA swimmer test leaves out . For example, jump into 7 feet of water? Sure, if you're at the country club pool. If you're swimming in a farm pond or a river, that would be stupid. I don't really have answers here I just hope we'll do our best to make sure kids aren't prevented from doing stuff just because they don't have access to a country club pool and yet whoever is assessing them will remember the commonsense  aspects of trying to figure out if they will be safe. 


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We happen to have a lifeguard and master swim coach in my family, so yearly we conduct the test in a 25 yard pool. We are not looking for how fast they swim other than the fact that some of them we don't pass and tell them to get some more lessons or practice because they stuggle to maintain a reasonable forward pace and are a danger of drowning if they got in a potential distress situation. Same rule works for adults and children. We don't mark off because they did a flip turn because frankly, once they are doing that they can usually swim forever anyway.

It is completely subjective, and I know many people that have passed the test at the Y that I wouldn't have passed. Summer camps are notorious for passing everyone. Swimming is a life skill that all should learn and know. 

As a Sea Scout, I promise to do my best:

  • To guard against water accidents
  • To know the location and proper use of the lifesaving devices on every boat I board
  • To be prepared to render aid to those in need
  • To seek to preserve the motto of the sea: Women and Children First.

Wearing and proper fitting PFD is critical. If you don't know how to tell if it fits please research it. They make a huge difference in survival in a distress situation. If you aren't wearing it, it won't get on you in the time of need.

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