Scouter's bold strokes teach kids swimming fundamentals.
TREY SHUPERT ALWAYS has been serious about aquatics. As an 18-year-old, he skipped his high school graduation to study aquatics at the National Camping School. A year later, he joined the National Camping School aquatics staff, starting a 35-year run that has included 26 years as Aquatics section director.
Shupert represents the Northeast Region on the national Aquatics Task Force and has assisted in the development and implementation of training programs like the BSA's new Aquatics Supervision courses. Last summer, he worked at a pool at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree.
Shupert is an Eagle Scout and a recipient of the Silver Beaver Award.
William H. "Trey" Shupert III
Scouter Since: 1976
Current City: Monkton, Md.
Current position: Vice president for program, Baltimore Area Council; member, BSA Aquatics Task Force
Day Job: Human resources professional
Favorite Camp: Camp Resolute, Knox Trail Council. That's the camp in my home council where I first worked on the waterfront.
Proudest moment in Scouting: In September 1997, I got a letter from one of my aquatics students telling me that the training techniques he learned from me had helped him save his brother's life.
Photograph by Walter P. Calahan
Why is it important that Scouting Teach kids to swim?
Lord Baden-Powell said it best: "Mentally, it gives the boy a new self-confidence and pluck. Morally, it gives him the power of helping others in distress and puts a responsibility upon him of actually risking his life at any moment for others. And physically, it is a grand exercise for developing wind and limb."
Have you seen any changes over the years in the swimming ability of new Scouts?
I've observed some lower initial swimming ability. I think this is because of the lack of access to year-round swimming facilities. And with the increasing demands on families today, it's understandable that swimming lessons aren't a priority. I don't find that most new Scouts are afraid of the water; they just haven't had as much exposure to swimming as, perhaps, the Scouts of 20 years ago.
What are some techniques for helping kids become stronger swimmers?
I spend a lot of time acclimating new swimmers to the water, getting them to put their faces in the water, and then teaching them to float. Floating is important because once a Scout learns how to float, he has more confidence and comfort in the water. For Cub Scouts, the main technique is KISMIF: Keep It Simple, Make It Fun. In a 30-minute swimming lesson, I might spend 10 minutes on the actual skill lesson and 20 minutes on games. And while attention spans may be longer for Boy Scouts, I still use the KISMIF approach when teaching them to swim. And the most important technique in teaching swimming is constant praise.
What can unit leaders do to help prepare kids for aquatic activities at summer camp?
First, if you have access to a pool and lifeguards, arrange for a pool session and have Scouts perform the beginner or swimmer test, depending on their ability. It may have been a while since Scouts have been swimming, so just having an opportunity to practice at a pool is a good refresher. And second, confidentially advise the aquatics director or aquatics staff of any potential issues or challenges with Scouts. Also alert them if you have Scouts with special aquatic skills.
Any advice for troops and crews that want to do aquatics activities on their own?
Safe Swim Defense and Safety Afloat are the basis for the BSA's excellent aquatics safety record. I encourage new leaders to take the training and get retrained annually. It's easy, it takes about an hour, and it's offered online.
What are some success stories you've experienced related to Scouts and aquatics?
Every Scout who passes the beginner or swimmer test is a success story, but I especially enjoying working with Scouts who have disabilities. It's nothing short of amazing to see their disabilities virtually disappear as they enter the water and experience this physical freedom.
Describe the experience you had at the National Scout Jamboree with a disabled Scout.
I had the opportunity, along with staff member Drew Bedson, to work with 14-year-old Archer Hadley from Austin, Tex., who uses a wheelchair and had never swum without a PFD or assistance. Fifteen minutes into his first swimming lesson, Archer was out of his PFD and floating on his own. By the end of the second session, he was swimming on his own back and forth across the pool. He quickly progressed through the various parts of the crawl stroke; after that, it was all practice and review. Archer's strength is his incredibly positive, can-do attitude. We just provided the opportunity, skills training, and practice time, and he did the rest. Archer's broad smile at his newly acquired skill and confidence is really what Scouting is all about.
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