Information: SWIMMING

Swimming Information Troop Meetings Main Event

Related Advancement

  • Aquatics requirements for Second Class and First Class
  • Lifesaving and Swimming merit badges

Safe Swim Defense in a Nutshell – The BSA’s Safe Swim Defense is a backbone of safe swimming during Scouting activities. These preventive measures help everyone take responsibility for their behavior and safety. For more information, see: BSA Safe Swim Defense.

  1. Qualified Supervision: Focuses on responsible and qualified adult supervision (age 21 or over) trained in BSA Safe Swim Defense.
  2. Personal Health Review: Addresses medical complications.
  3. Safe Area: Concerns controlled access and conditions of the venue, and having the proper equipment on hand.
  4. Response Personnel (Lifeguards): Ensures someone is available to provide safe and effective assistance.
  5. Lookout: Serves as the eyes and ears and is on alert for trouble.
  6. Ability Groups: Matches activities, areas, and equipment to the swimmer’s ability.
  7. Buddy System: Provides an extra layer of protection for each participant.
  8.  Discipline: Reinforces each participant’s knowledge, understanding, and respect regarding safe swimming as outlined in the Safe Swim Defense guidelines.

Buddy System – Every participant is paired with another. Buddies check into and out of the area together. They stay together, monitor each other, and alert the safety team if either needs assistance or is missing. Buddies are normally in the same ability group and remain in their assigned area. If they are not in the same ability group, then they swim in the area assigned to the buddy with the lesser ability.

Swimming1A buddy check reminds participants of their obligation to monitor their buddies and indicates how closely the buddies are keeping track of each other. Roughly every 10 minutes, or as needed to keep the buddies together, the lookout, or another person designated by the supervisor, gives an audible signal, such as a single whistle blast, and a call for “Buddies.” Buddies are expected to raise each other’s hand before completion of a slow, audible count to 10. Buddies who take longer to find each other should be reminded of their responsibility for the other’s safety.

Once everyone has a buddy, a count is made by area and compared with the total number known to be in the water. After the count is confirmed, a signal is given to resume swimming.

Swimming Rules from the Guide to Safe Scouting – All participants of BSA swimming activities must follow Safe Swim Defense. 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. 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.

Safe Swim Defense applies to other non-swimming activities whenever participants enter water over knee deep or when submersion is likely, for example, when fording a stream, seining for bait, or constructing a bridge as a pioneering project. Snorkeling in open water requires each participant to have demonstrated knowledge and skills equivalent to those for Snorkeling BSA in addition to following Safe Swim Defense. Scuba activities must be conducted in accordance with the BSA Scuba policy found in the Guide to Safe Scouting. because of concerns with hyperventilation, competitive underwater swimming events are not permitted in Scouting.

Safe Swim Defense training may be obtained from, at council summer camps, and at other council and district training events. Confirmation of training is required on tour and activity plans for trips that involve swimming. Additional information on various swimming venues is provided in the BSA’s Aquatics Supervision guide, available from and at Scout shops.

BSA Aquatics Supervision Training – Aquatics Supervision: Swimming and Water Rescue training provides BSA leaders with information and skills to prevent, recognize, and respond to swimming emergencies during unit swimming activities. It expands the awareness instruction provided by Safe Swim Defense training. Those completing the training should be better able to assess their preparation to supervise unit swimming events.

The BSA recommends that at least one person with this training is present to assist with supervision whenever a unit swims at a location that does not provide lifeguards. This training is open to any registered adult leader, Scout, or Venturer who is age 15 or older. A council-approved instructor must directly supervise all training. This course takes approximately eight hours and is valid for three years.

Although the training is consistent with training provided professional lifeguards, the Swimming and Water Rescue course is not a lifeguard training course and is not a substitute for BSA Lifeguard training for summer camp aquatics staff. On the other hand, this course addresses important information that may not be covered in generic lifeguard training programs such as: preventive measures, including the buddy system and swim classification tests; how to set up a safe swim area in diverse situations; the use of nonstandard rescue equipment; and emergency action plans in remote settings. Therefore, BSA leaders with lifeguard training from other agencies are encouraged to complete this course prior to supervising unit swim activities in remote settings. A “challenge” option is provided to foster cross-training of individuals with training from other agencies. For more information, see BSA Aquatics Resources.


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Swimming Information Troop Meetings Main Event