USRowing PASS Application Document Library
Water SafetySwim Test
The purpose of having every rower and coxswain take a swim test is not to see if they are a fast swimmer. It is to gage proficiency in the water and to see who is more or less comfortable. At the very least, they need to be able to keep themselves calm and afloat and get back to the boat if they find themselves on the wrong side of the hull. In an emergency, you need to be able to identify and possibly rescue the athlete who is the least competent and least comfortable in the water first. While USRowing has no official policy regarding swim tests, the following suggestions may help you put together your plan:
1. There should be two parts to the test: treading water and swimming. Be it in a pool or your body of water, your testing choices are endless. A few tried and true tests include a 10-minute tread and a 50-yard swim with clothes, or a 15-minute tread and 100-yard swim with swimsuits. It also is a good idea to have the athletes put on a life jacket while in the water, which is not as easy as it may seem. You need enough time during the test to have the rower show competency and ease in the water. Again, each program has unique circumstances, so the test should be designed to serve the purpose stated above as it relates to your site.
2. Tests should be administered by lifeguards or other water professionals and not by coaches. Not only can these experts help you identify weak swimmers, it reduces your liability. The coach should always be present at the test to confer with the professional about the abilities of each athlete and to witness for themselves who may need more assistance. Contact your local YMCA, city recreation department or school to find out their willingness and ability to help your program, as well as swim classes offered for those who may not be able to pass the test.
3. Swim test vs. the waiver ... Go with the swim test every time. The waiver gives you no knowledge at all as to the actual proficiency (or lack there of) of your athletes in the water. That is too large a risk to take.
4. Keep good records of the results of your swim tests, and make sure the coaching staff knows of any athlete who may have a problem in the water.
Have a question about the topics above or any other safety related issue? Contact Willie Black at USRowing and get those questions answered.