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Don’t Make This Assumption About the Coast Guard

Stefanie Senkow
August 24, 2021

cadet swimmingNEW LONDON, Conn – Do not assume that incoming cadets must know how to swim just because it’s the Coast Guard Academy. Not only is it acceptable to have no swimming experience, but the Academy makes sure cadets know how to swim during their freshman year.

This is accomplished through the swim test.

"The test establishes a baseline assessment of each cadet’s ability in the water, and it is a placement assessment for subsequent swimming classes," said Coach John Westkott, Aquatics Director at the Coast Guard Academy.

The swim test consists of:

  • Swimming 100 yards using three strokes (each stroke must last at least 25 yards/1 length) in the Roland or Billard pool. The cadet can use all four competitive strokes, elementary backstroke, and sidestroke as options for the required three different strokes.
  • Five minutes of treading water/hands in the water
  • A feet-first entry from a 10-foot platform

If a cadet cannot complete one of these parts, he/she is placed into a course called Developmental Swimming that focuses on passing that test. Cadets are swimming by the end of their freshman year.

Second class cadet (2/c) Kev Frazier had little to no experience swimming prior to reporting into the Academy. Despite taking a weeklong swim course prior to reporting in, Frazier wasn’t ready to swim.

"When it was time to take the swim test, I did not even get into the pool. My lack of confidence and experience overcame me and left me discouraged. A year later, when I reported to the Academy as a swab, my skill level of swim did not change. I attempted to take the swim test during Swab Summer, however, of course, I failed it. When the academic year rolled around, I was placed in Developmental Swim (a.k.a. "Rock Swim"). For a whole semester, I was challenged with understanding the fundamentals of swim and becoming comfortable with the water. It was a matter of simply trusting myself and having confidence in my abilities. Soon enough, I was proficient in all the strokes Coach Westkott taught. Now, fast-forward to my cadre summer, I acted as a lifeguard for my swabs when their swim test was administered!" said Frazier.

For 2/c Michelle Kwafo, overcoming a fear of swimming helped her to see every challenge as a growth opportunity.

"It’s safe to say that I have probably taken more swim classes than your average cadet. However, these classes have allowed me to acquire more confidence in the pool. As a result of these classes I feel competent to engage in activities with my friends which involve going to the pool or beach. Not only have I learned how to swim, but with the support of my classmates and Coach Weskott, I learned that there is no challenge that I cannot overcome," said Kwafo.