Basic Swimming Skills
From your work toward Second Class rank, you know that a rescuer often does not need to enter the water to save someone from drowning. Reaching or throwing rescue devices usually work, but sometimes a rescuer must swim a float to an active victim, or swim out and tow an unconscious person to safety. Such cases require strong swimming skills. First Class rank requirements start you on your way to becoming a good swimmer, but you need additional skills to begin training for the Lifesaving merit badge. You need to master the front crawl, sidestroke, breaststroke, and elementary backstroke. These are introduced in your Boy Scout Handbook and reviewed here, but you will probably need formal instruction to master them. Do not assume that your Lifesaving merit badge counselor will teach you swimming and lifesaving at the same time. Your swimming skills need not be perfect, but you should know the basic strokes before you tackle lifesaving. An excellent way to prepare for the Lifesaving merit badge is to first earn the Swimming merit badge. You also may take swimming courses from the Red Cross, YMCA, or your local parks department. if you are a member of a swim team, you can ask your coach for help with the noncompetitive strokes. You should contact a counselor for the Lifesaving badge only after you are confident that you can perform the prerequisite 400-yard swim with ease. if you can't quite make the distance, get someone to review your strokes with you. At this stage, stamina is probably not as critical as good form. That is, if you know how to do the strokes property, the distance shouldn't be a problem. Review the following stroke descriptions to refresh your memory. More detailed descriptions and illustrations are in your Boy Scout Handbook and the Swimming merit badge pamphlet. Note that lifesaving procedures will require you to modify the strokes to carry equipment, to avoid obstructions, to keep an eye on the victim, and, if needed, to tow the victim to safety. The front crawl and breaststroke are generally used as approach strokes and to push objects. The sidestroke and elementary backstroke are normally used to tow objects. You also will need to know the rotary kick for holding a vertical position and surface dives to recover submerged objects.
The front crawl combines a relaxed flutter kick with a rotary arm motion and rhythmic breathing. It is the fastest stroke but can consume considerable energy. The stroke is most efficient if the head remains supported by the water. The head is turned to the side to inhale and rotated down to exhale. Power is improved if the lower arm is bent and swept across the chest rather than rotated in a vertical arc. The kick should generate enough power to push you through the water without using your arms. The feet should not slap the surface of the water. 12 LIFESAVING LIFESAVING
Coordination is the key to the breaststroke. Your legs power you forward as your arms move to a glide position with your head down. Your arms power you while you take a breath and prepare the legs for the next whip kick. Done slowly with a glide, the breaststroke conserves energy and is appropriate for long distances.
The backstroke begins with arms at your sides and legs together. Start the whip kick by slowly lowering the heels beneath the knees. Then rotate the ankles outward of the knees and return them to the start position in a rapid, continuous circular motion. The knees separate and follow the feet out do not lead out with the knees. The arms are brought slowly up along the chest and extended outward at shoulder level. They are used to push water toward the feet while the legs are making the circular ''whipping'' action. Raising the head and bending at the waist are common mistakes that distort the body position. The elementary backstroke is a restful stroke suitable for long distances. A long glide is an essential...
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