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Swim Test & Merit Badges


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#1 Roadkill Patrol

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 11:04 PM

I have a question regarding merit badges such as canoeing that have the swim test for requirements. Canoeing requirement 3 states: 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. When does the scout have to complete the swim test...completed during a previous outing or at the time he is working on the merit badge? I have a scout who completed (but not a strong swimmer) the swim requirement during the swimming merit badge at a pool, but did not want to redo the swim test in the pond where the canoeing merit badge requirements were held. He is 14 years old and was mad that I would not allow him to use a prior completed swim test. I informed him that I had not seen him swim outside of a pool in the cooler conditions of a small pond where they would be in the water during the canoeing requirements. My belief is that a scout's ability to pass the test is contingent on the water conditions he will face. Question is, am I adding to the requirements by insisting on a new open water swim test just before the activity? Or can I interpret that since it does not state "have completed the BSA swimming test" that I am right to insist on a new swim test? I could not find where the GSS specifically stated when (other than summer camp) swim checks were required just before an activity? How do other troops base their scout's swimming ability and how long they are valid for? If I had seen this scout pass an open water swim check recently, I may have allowed him to use that. It seems like a lot of interpretation can be used when regarding swim checks.
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#2 JMHawkins

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 12:58 AM

The purpose of the requirement is to ensure safety of the Scout. Intepret it (i.e. use your judgement) in the manner you think most likely to keep the scout alive if when he flips his canoe. Swim tests should happen as often as necessary to verify the Scout (or scouter's) ability level is appropriate to the activity. He needs to convince you he can swim well enough to be safe while working on the MB. If he continues to have an attitude about it, I'd suggest you point out the requirement is to ensure that he doesn't drown while you are responsible for him, and therefore, he should kindly respect you enough to demonstrate his swimming ability so that you don't have to worry about it. He's working on a water-related MB. He should expect to do some swimming. If he doesn't like pond water, perhaps Canoeing isn't the right activity for him.
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#3 Reasonable Rascal

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 01:02 AM

No where do the requirements say anything about "the water conditions he will face." That would be akin to saying if a troop is going white water rafting the participants must do their swim test in a Class 4 rapids because they will pass through one or more during the course of the trip. The Scout was right to be upset: you added to the requirements. Unless the swim test was long enough ago that his physical conditioning or medical status may have changed for the worse than it should be valid, assuming it was done this year. "Not a strong swimmer" doesn't say passed by the skin of his teeth, and a little leeway on the part of the instructor, or a lap and a half behind the other kids. RR
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#4 JoeBob

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 09:03 AM

Adding to the requirements? I don't think so. It's written in the bloody book! Swim tests are an annual requirement for BSA water activities anyway. It is not that hard. As an MBC, I would be worried by a scout getting mad about being asked to swim 100 yards. Makes you wonder what he doesn't want you to know.
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#5 Gunny2862

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 09:59 AM

I think this is one of those areas that is related to the latitude given to the MBC. Some are harder than others. My central issue here is that if you do it for one, make them pass an in-lake swim check, you need to do it for all of them. I don't think its adding to the requirements, however, just as a professional courtesy if you are working in a Camp or even a MBU Setting I might think you might want to run it past the Aquatics Director because he will certainly get an earful from someone...
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#6 packsaddle

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 10:02 AM

JoeBob's right, I think. On the other hand, I regularly take scores of students out on lakes in canoes and I often have students who openly admit that 1) they're afraid of the water and 2) they can't swim at all. I just require them to wear a life jacket at all times and even when they capsize, we've never had a problem. The outfitters who take groups down local whitewater rivers don't require a swim test, they just require everyone to wear life jackets. When the Corps of Engineers has their boating-safety-for-kids course in which the children are operating little electric boats alone on a lake, there is no swim test, only a requirement to wear a life jacket. Conversely, I regularly see scout groups on official outings on large lakes in power boats in which the scouts are following the examples set by their leaders and are NOT wearing life jackets. To me the major safety problem in all this has less to do with swimming ability (unless it's swimming merit badge) and more to do with wearing the life jacket (or not).
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#7 Lurking...

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 10:20 AM

Before doing the requirements. Does that mean just before? a year before? etc. And I don't think it is adding to the requirements to check it out. The MB is a program in a package, meaning it is a stand-alone process. It is not the responsibility of the MBC to accept information from outside the process prescribed in the MB book. If I was doing the MB, the first thing I would do is do a swim check regardless of any outside issues. I might know from his parents he's on the varsity swim team, but he still has to pass the BSA swim test as the book states. No more, no less. If the MB is being taught at summer camp, the boy can show he has passed his swim test, but if there is no record of him passing his swim test, there is justified reason for the MB counselor to test the boy. I would also have the MB counselor check the swimming ability of the boy on any partial MB completions. Anyone that balks on a swim test request will draw suspicion from me. Anyone who does not insist on testing under these kinds of circumstances is cutting corners on safety and the stated requirement. It just boils down to how much risk does one want to involve themselves in. Stosh
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#8 CalicoPenn

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 10:34 AM

Are you the Merit Badge Counselor? Then you have the discretion to accept swim tests held previously or to have them complete this as a separate, discrete requirement for the Canoeing Merit Badge. In a summer camp setting, the aquatics staff will generally accept the check-in swim test for a merit badge requirement so wouldn't make the Scout re-do the test. You don't need to give any explanations about not seeing them swim in cooler pond water (frankly, this is a bogus excuse - swimming in cooler pond water for 100 yards isn't all that much different - if anything will affect his ability to swim, it's the initial shock of jumping in cooler water, or swimming in cold water for a long period of time - now if this were a river and they were swimming with and against currents, you might have a better argument). You just tell the Scouts that as MBC, you interpret the requirement to mean that they need to pass this as a requirement of the merit badge, at the time they are doing the merit badge, just like all the other requirements, and that you aren't accepting swim tests done for other merit badges or summer camp check-ins. If the Scout wants to drop out of the merit badge at that point, it's his choice. That being said, a question for you. Does the pond where the merit badge is being worked on have a designated swimming area set up to BSA safe swim defense standards or are you creating one set up to standards? If not, how are you going to conduct your swimming tests in the pond? The pond may be appropriate for canoeing - make sure it's appropriate for swimming if your going to conduct the swim test on it - otherwise, head for the pool.
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#9 qwazse

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 10:43 AM

I would definitely do the test on flatwater. Pool vs. lake is irrelevant. You want him to be able to swim "in a strong manner" in a controlled condition. Needless to say, if you're planning some instruction on whitewater you should expect that manner to be "very strong." If the boy did his test in the past year, and you trust the person who tested him, by all means accept the requirement. This does not sound like your case. It sounds like you saw the kid's swim and thought, "This is not going to cut it during a full day of drills." I have seen a 14 year old grow so fatigued he could no longer get back in his flipped canoe during open swim in calm conditions. It didn't ruin his our anyone else's day, but if he was in your class you all would have had to interrupt the flow of everything to make sure he returned to shore safely. Then he would have had to determine if it was just a fluke (not enough for breakfast, whatever) then come back and make up for lost time. Just explain to the boy that when you teach him, you want him to be at his best so he can get the most out of his instruction. Life lesson learned.
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#10 Roadkill Patrol

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 11:03 AM

Thanks for the replies. This is one area where I think the BSA can be vague in its requirements and open to a lot of interpretations. This was a multi-troop outing. The MBC (other troop SM) was making everyone, even boys in his troop, take the swim test before starting. The MBC even had youth in his troop balk that they had passed the test at their summer camp last year. It was his MB to run the way he interpreted the MB requirements. The youth asked me (his SM) if he could use his prior swim test which I told him the MBC was making everyone take the test. The GSS does not state the BSA swim test has to be administered in a designated swimming area. The area had a floating dock and was marked off for the depth and distance required to jump in over your head and swim the required distance. Under the Safe Swim Defense section, it actually states: Safe Swim Defense does not apply to boating or water activities such as waterskiing or swamped boat drills that are covered by Safety Afloat guidelines. I do not believe that swim checks are like rank requirement where you do it once, have it signed off, then never have to do it again.
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#11 Roadkill Patrol

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 11:11 AM

Sorry, my original post had a typo in the scout's age..he is 11, not 14.
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#12 shortridge

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 11:28 AM

There's really no way to prove that someone passed the swim test within a year, short of signoff dates in the handbook. My camp doesn't keep records for any length of time, and swim tags can easily be forged with markers. I think an MBC is entirely within his rights to ask this, especially if it involves Scouts he doesn't know.
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#13 JMHawkins

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 11:33 AM

I have a scout who completed (but not a strong swimmer) the swim requirement during the swimming merit badge at a pool... Did the Scout receive a Swimming Merit Badge? If so, was he a stronger swimmer by the time he finished the MB?
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#14 CalicoPenn

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 11:33 AM

"The GSS does not state the BSA swim test has to be administered in a designated swimming area. The area had a floating dock and was marked off for the depth and distance required to jump in over your head and swim the required distance. Under the Safe Swim Defense section, it actually states: Safe Swim Defense does not apply to boating or water activities such as waterskiing or swamped boat drills that are covered by Safety Afloat guidelines. " ALL swimming activities are to be done using Safe Swim Defense guidelines in all places: "BSA groups shall use Safe Swim Defense for all swimming activities. Adult leaders supervising a swimming activity must have completed Safe Swim Defense training within the previous two years. Safe Swim Defense standards apply at backyard, hotel, apartment, and public pools; at established waterfront swim areas such as beaches at state parks and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes; and at all temporary swimming areas such as a lake, river, or ocean." Swim tests are a swimming activity - common sense, and even uncommon sense, tells us that when someone is swimming, even if it's being tested, it's swimming and not boating. Swim tests, even as part of boating merit badges, are not a boating activity and are not covered under Safety Afloat. Heck, Safe Swim Defense rules even apply if you are wading in water over knee deep (and that's knee deep for the shortest person there, not knee deep for the SM). If you could run the swim tests, under Safe Swim Defense rules, off this floating platform, then you're good - but in the Scouts, like it or not, if you can't run safe swim defense off a floating platform in the middle of a pond, then the Scouts can't use the floating platform. Stupid? That's a discussion for another thread (and yes, it probably is stupid but that's the BSA risk management nannies for you).
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#15 qwazse

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 12:35 PM

Yep. This definitely falls under the category of the MBC has the right to do what he needs to make his/her class run smoothly. Boys that have issue with this can look for counselors on their own time (maybe with their patrol) who will give them the individualized instruction they need. By the way, RP, did the 11 y.o. pass his test and get to take the rest of the course?
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#16 Roadkill Patrol

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 12:52 PM

The scout has not finished the swimming MB yet. Since he did not even want to attempt to try the swim test administered by the MBC, he did not do the canoeing MB. The 2nd half (after MB requirements) of the weekend consisted of canoeing to a lakeside campground to spend the night. He was able to ride in a canoe with an adult swimmer (per GSS rules).
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#17 NJCubScouter

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Posted 04 June 2012 - 03:23 PM

Counselor's discretion. (Gee it's nice that all of us (or almost all) can agree there is local discretion about something, for once.) It also sounds to me like the correct result occurred with this Scout. He got to go canoeing. (I assume when you say he "rode" you mean he paddled too, right?) In my day nobody simply "rode" in a canoe. :) He is 11 years old. He will grow older, larger, stronger and more confident in his swimming abilities, and when someone asks him to swim 100 yards it will be something he wants to do and not some dreary task. And then, in a year or two, he will earn Canoeing Merit Badge.
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#18 Pack212Scouter

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 12:14 AM

According to G2SS, Swim tests must be administered annually do do either swimming or boating. As far as the merit badge requirements go, proof of completing said swim test, either by demonstration or by certification by a SM or certified lifeguard is sufficient for the requirement. This being said, it is up to the merit badge counselor if he/she feels comfortable with this Scout in the water. The MB Counselor is responsible for the Scout's safety and therefor if they feel that they should do a swim test on every applicant prior to instruction, that is up to them. It is not adding to the requirements.
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#19 ghermanno

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 07:32 AM

Roadkill Patrol, Here we, the Troop, give the swim test annually before our first water outing. We also tell the boys that the swim test is for the TROOP and that Summer Camp, MBCs, or any swimming event outside the TROOP can and probably will require them to do it again. It has nothing to do with trusting other Scouters but it has a LOT to do with ensuring boys safety. Our boys do NOT have a problem with it. Just my $0.02 Rick edited for typo(This message has been edited by ghermanno)
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#20 qwazse

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 12:40 PM

For your scouts who are having a tough time swimming ...
Just heard a great story from Mike Massimino on the Moth Radio Hour.
It might be airing on your public radio station this week.
It will be available online in a couple of days. When it does, you should be able to find a link here:
https://themoth.org/...cience-festival
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