BSA Aquatics Supervision: Swimming and Water Rescue

BSA Aquatics Supervision Swimming and Water Rescue Award

Training for Aquatics Supervision: Swimming and Water Rescue 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. Persons 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, Venturer, or Explorer who is age 15 or older. A council-approved instructor must directly supervise all training. The course takes approximately eight hours and is valid for three years. An instructor guide is found at

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: preventative 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 crosstraining of individuals with training from other agencies.

Adult and youth first aid training, including CPR, is an important safety consideration for all Scouting activities, not just swimming. First aid training is not included in the Swimming and Water Rescue course with the expectation the leader has addressed this need separately, as noted in the course material and on the training card.

BSA Aquatics Supervision: Swimming and Water Rescue Award

Upon successful completion of the Swimming & Water Rescue course training, participants earn the Swimming & Water Rescue Patch along with their certification card, good for three years.  The patch is not specifically designed for wear, hence you will not find display guidelines in the BSA Insignia Guide.  As such, for those that feel the need to wear the patch, it may be worn as a temporary patch.

The important item is the Swimming & Water Rescue Pocket Certificate signed by your instructor and to have the certificate on your person whenever performing aquatic supervision activities.

BSA Aquatics Supervision: Swimming and Water Rescue Certification Card

Aquatics Supervision: Swimming and Water Rescue Requirements



Age and Physical Fitness:


Be age 15 years old or older prior to training.


Submit written evidence of physical fitness.


Complete Safe Swim Defense training.


Swimming Ability:


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, breast stroke, 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.


Recover a 10-pound weight from 8 feet of water.



Administer both the BSA beginner and swimmer classification tests.


Demonstrate reaching assists from deck, side and shallow water using items such as arms, legs, towels, rescue tubes, and poles.


Twice demonstrate throwing assists using items such as lines, ring buoys, throw bags, and free-floating supports. Successfully place at least one such aid within reach of a subject 25 feet from shore.


Demonstrate stride jump and compact jump entries into deep water.


Demonstrate an accompanied rescue for a conscious subject in deep water 20 feet from shore. Enter the water with a buoyant aid, present the aid to the subject, release it, and accompany the subject to shore. Speak to the subject throughout the assist to provide clear instruction and encouragement.


Demonstrate a contact rescue for an unconscious subject at or near the surface in deep water 20 feet from shore:


Approaching the subject from the front, use a wrist tow to move the subject to shore. During the approach, confirm that the subject is passive.


Approaching the subject from the rear, use an armpit tow to move the subject to shore. During the approach, confirm that the subject is passive.


With the assistance of one other person, and without the aid of a backboard, remove an unconscious subject from the water at the edge of the pool or pier and check for breathing and circulation.


Practice in-water rescues of both conscious and unconscious subjects using a variety of flotation aids.


Demonstrate the following defensive actions:


Front head-hold escape


Rear head-hold escape


Demonstrate a line-and-tender rescue as both the swimmer and the line tender.


Demonstrate in-line stabilization for a suspected spinal injury in shallow water:


For a face-up subject


For a face-down subject


Correctly answer 80 percent of the questions on the Swimming and Water Rescue written exam covering Safe Swim Defense, emergency action plans, surveillance, victim recognition, and water rescue. Review any incomplete or incorrect answers.

Aquatics Supervision – Leader's Guide

Aquatics Supervision – Frequently Asked Questions

Swimming and Water Rescue Instructor's Guide

Remote Area Setup Video

Swimming and Water Rescue Course PowerPoint

Swimming and Water Rescue Course Exam

Boy Scouts of America – Outdoor Programs – Aquatics Program

Boy Scouts of America – Outdoor Programs – Aquatics Program – Aquatics Resources