Aquatic activites are a huge part of Boy Scouting, at least here in the land of 10,000 lakes. The aquatics beach at summer camp is probably the busiest area of the camp. You will find Boy Scouts swimming, sailing, rowing, canoeing, and snorkeling. Water polo and greased watermelon are two popular team activities.
Safety first is always on the beach staffers’ minds. Safety Afloat and the Safe Swim Defense are the rule, not just something to think about. The number of staff members at the beach front is probably greater then any other area of program activities.
Since these rules are enforced it can leave Scouts who are not good swimmers out of some of the activities. For example, if a Scout who has not passed his “swimmers” test wishes to go canoeing with the troop he will need a canoe partner who is a certified lifeguard. If a troop has a few non-swimmers then this could create a logistics problem.
So what happens if your scoutmaster is a non-swimmer? Well, I can talk about this from a first person perspective because I am that non-swimmer scoutmaster. (Yeah, I know. A scoutmaster in the land of a quadrillion lakes who cannot pass the BSA swimming test. Pretty bad huh?)
Let me explain. I like swimming, but I have never been a strong swimmer. I probably could be a stronger swimmer if I would actual go swimming more often then once or twice a year, but I really do not see that happening any time soon.
I have a “condition” that usually keeps me out of the water. No, it is not a skin condition or something that others can catch from touching me. My body temperature drops very easily. I only go swimming when it is a hot day, with little wind, and in very warm water. All three conditions need to be met by Mother Nature.
When my body temperature drops I begin to shiver uncontrollably. My muscles tense up through my body. Sometimes, in the worse cases, it becomes painful. And it takes a while to warm back up again. So, I seldom go swimming with the boys. I know my limits.
Unfortunately, this means I miss out on many of the aquatic activities at summer camp. I will swim with the troop on a nice hot day but usually I am found in the non-swimmers areas. I can only go canoeing with the Scouts if there is a staff member available to be my partner. I have never gone sailing with the boys.
Yes, it bothers me that I cannot participate in these activities. I understand the reasons for the BSA’s policies, but to tell you the truth, it does make me feel worthless as a scoutmaster at times. I have even though about resigning the position of scoutmaster and let someone else take over who could be with the Scouts through all these activities. But then the troop moves on to the climbing tower, or the archery range, and I forget all about what I missed, until the next time we go to the beach.