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Swimming Challenges in 2020

Hi all,

My son is 16 and is stuck on 2nd Class due to COVID. He’s got all of his 1st class requirements except the swimming one and also has all the merit badges required through Eagle. Swimming is his weak spot so pre-COVID we were hitting the pool 3 times a week. But since March all the pools in the area have closed, and we do not have access to a lake or private pool. As his friends are all starting to advance beyond him he’s really taking this hard and I hate that there’s nothing that we can do right now to help besides wait. I get the feeling that the BSA COVID FAQ was a needed stop gap but the lack of swimming venues for practice seems like a major issue for a lot of scouts that I don’t think is being addressed very well right now. What are we to do?



Last week all Scout Execs were sent a COVID-19 update saying the swimming requirements for 2nd class (5b) and 1st class (6a) can be deferred up through Life rank. In order to earn Eagle, the Scout will still be required to pass the BSA Swimmers test one time.

Check with your Council Advancement Committee as they should be distributing this official notice to units.


You’re kidding?!? Wow, thank you so much for this info. I’ll reach out to our advancement committee and/or commissioner right away.

Still check with your council, but a copy of what was sent to all council Scout Executives can be found here: https://www.grandcanyonbsa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Scouts-BSA-COVID19-Updates-final.pdf

So those of you who have been trying to help me out with my scouts 1st Class Swimming requirement he now has a temporary out until Life?

@JohnBurnham I would recommend contacting your council, but it says:

With that in mind, the Swimming rank requirements for Second Class (5b) and First Class (6a) may be deferred until each Scout’s next rank, as necessary (through Life, but not Eagle).

This temporary deferment will allow Scouts to advance in rank up to, and including Life Scout, but not beyond. All other rank requirements must still be earned to advance. When conditions warrant and upon direction from the National Council, these requirements will be reinstated with 30 days’ notice to our Scouting family via Workplace, Bryan on Scouting, Scouting Wire, social media, and any other means determined appropriate.

So it might depend on how long it takes your Scout to get to Life rank, because they could reinstate the swimming requirements prior to his Star and Life boards of review.

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Thanks Jennifrer,
We have a Swimming merit badge counselor and our local beach is closing On September 8. Now we just need 3 more campouts. These have proven to be the most challenging items for him
Thank again. Also your health form information worked. Thank you.
Stay safe.

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Go find a lake to practice in.

WayneHenry, thanks for asking a great and timely question! Our council just got the word about swimming and camping deferments also. I checked the Scoutbook demo environment at https://stg2.scoutbook.com/, and don’t yet see these deferments implemented yet. This topic or somewhere similar would be a great place to post an update if/when these changes are reflected on that platform.

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We are unlikely to make the changes in the SB environment as they are temporary - there are ways around them like click the Percent Complete and forcing the rank when needed

Thanks for the prompt reply! Can you please point to specific instructions that I can share with the leaders in my Council? It would be GREAT if the documentation for this practice was part of the more robust announcement on Swimming and Camping deferment that I am sure is in the works.

…I can’t help calling once again for a central web point to track all Advancement related rule changes, temporary or permanent. The practice of announcing important advancement changes to the “Scouting family via Workplace, Bryan on Scouting, Scouting Wire, social media, and any other means determined appropriate” is very complicated. To find out the rules today, I shouldn’t have to go read the latest updates on seven different sites and blogs. BSA maintains a central page with the latest merit badge updates, a similar page for rank advancement and Eagle Palm updates would be a blessing.

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You just click the box by “Percent Complete” - that will bring up a date/Approve box
Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 9.26.24 AM

I think the operative word is “and,” so all those sites are used to give updates, not just one of those sites. So find the updates on your favorite site of those five. Just some sites may publish the update a bit sooner than other sites.

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That would be great! It’s been “one of the above” in the past, requiring a survey.

The order I would follow for advancement rules is:

  1. Scout handbook
  2. Guide to advancement
  3. Covid FAQ

I would also add the Scouts BSA Requirements book, which gets updated every year usually in January-February. It might be newer than the Scout Handbook.

Do your scouts also do the Swimming MB, or are they doing Hiking / Biking instead? What we have done is run the swimming MB at a local pool, which includes those advancements. COVID means we just have to run it in smaller groups.

Here is a Screen Grab from the BSA Covid-19 FAQ about Swimming:

So, in a similar vein - why is it that the cooking requirements for Tenderfoot (2a) and First Class (2e) are modified, but Second Class (2e) appears to be skipped over?

Anyone have anything remotely resembling a reasonable explanation for this?


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So, when we ‘Force the Rank’ by using the Percent Complete

How will we know, or those Scouters after us that this requirement is still due?