Homepage Forums Boy Scouts (Scouts BSA) Swim test requirement

This topic contains 18 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  DewayneMaf 2 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #30047 Reply

    Curtis Hillyer

    I had a discussion with a few leaders the other day about the swim test requirement for second class. The issue is there are several boys who are non-swimmers for various reasons. Some have never been taught; others are terrified of the water for some reason. The argument is it can take a couple of years to teach a boy to swim well enough to pass a swim test and that is the only thing holding them up from advancement. Part of the discussion included that since hiking or cycling can be substituted for swimming can a Hike be used in place of a swim test when the boy will not swim no matter what is tried? Anybody know the BSA policy on this or have any experience with it?

  • #30055 Reply


    The swim test cannot be substituted unless for chronic physical disabilities. I helped such a scout obtain a waiver once. It involves the written consent of the parent, the boy’s physician, and the boy himself. The council advancement committee reviews all such requests. Those of you with boys who have an impairment they are unlikely to grow out of should consider talking to your district advancement chair.

    Curtis, this doesn’t sound like your issue. The problem, really, is with your leaders’ philosophy. They’ve been brainwashed into thinking that First Class should be earned in the first year after crossing over. In truth, any Eagle-bound scout could take until he’s sixteen to become a first class scout, no problem.

    If it takes a couple of years to master a short swim that may save your life; then, it takes that long to achieve 2nd class. (And maybe just a little longer to achieve 1st.) In the meantime earn dozens of other MB’s, grow, take a few swim lessons at camp or elsewhere, and nail that aquatics. Then advancement becomes simply a matter of leading and encouraging younger scouts to be as patient and determined as you were.

  • #30057 Reply


    I would be remiss if I didn’t direct you to a more extensive recent discussion:

  • #30058 Reply

    • #30174 Reply

      Bryan Wendell

      Thanks for posting that, q. I was just about to. It addresses this question.

  • #30215 Reply


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  • #33183 Reply


    As a Aquatics instructor at a Boy Scout camp for 5 years now, and having gone through National Camping School for Aquatics, I agree that the requirement should be in there. Obviously for the scouts that can pass it first try, its not a problem for them. However for the ones that are afraid of the water, it is a great learning tool for them. Not only about swimming, but also overcoming something the A)think they can’t achieve or B)are afraid to achieve. I am not sure how other camps do it, however at my camp, we work one on one with every kid and we call it “teaching them to be comfortable” overall that is what they need, is to be comfortable.
    At Camp school, we had a full day practicing teaching scouts who didn’t want to go in the water or were afraid to go in the water. So although the it is a requirement and people may think that it is unfair of National to have it, National has also implemented new programs and trainings to help them learn how to swim. My friend went to Camp School 5 years before I did and he did not learn how to deal with kids of that nature.
    And ultimately, Baden Powell said that Swimming is the most important thing that a kid should learn.
    P.S. I understand I might be a little biased because I am an Aquatics Instructor

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  • #33310 Reply

    Mike M

    I had a Scout who was 16 before he made 2nd Class because of the swimming requirement. But when he finally made it, you never saw a prouder young man. We were so proud of him for sticking with it, and he did earn the Eagle.

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  • #52823 Reply


    (Obvious exceptions for physically or severely handicapped people)

    Per a quick “wikipedia” search, since its inception, more than 110 MILLION boys have been involved in Scouting. Do you really wish to imply that YOUR child is “unique” in having a fear or some level of apprehension about swimming in “deep” water?

    There is nothing in Scouting that asks a Scout to do anything that isn’t “do-able” for someone his age. Overcoming “challenges” is fundamental to a great deal of Scouting activities, and in turn, fundamental to developing the “man” that Scouting aspires to produce.

    You may think me heartless, but I am not. If your son can’t (or won’t) push himself to “just do it”, then he doesn’t deserve rank advancement. Never under-estimate what these young men are capable of doing, and NEVER give “permission” (or make excuses) for them to be quitters. They deserve better than that and God knows that “society” has done enough to emasculate them and “dumb down” the world around them already.

    My son is VERY afraid of heights, yet he chose to take COPE [twice] and walk among the tree tops on wobbly steel cables and zipline off a tower. He pushed himself to do it BECAUSE he was afraid of heights. We both couldn’t have been more proud when he was done at the end of Summer Camp. I’ve been in Scouting for 16 years and have seen many boys who were afraid of jumping in water, some of them standing on the edge of the pool literally wobbly in the knees… yet you INSPIRE and instill TRUST and they jump in, struggle through the paddle, and then BOOM… can’t stop smiling for about 4 hours and telling everyone how they “did it”, or better yet, telling other scared kids “they can do it!”

    Put your faith in the people who designed the BSA Program! There’s a lot more happening here than meets the eye.

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