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Chap 6: Meet Officials

Your first swim meet can be a bewildering experience as you encounter a vast horde of adults dressed in blue and white. NVSL rules require white shirts and blue slacks or shorts (no team logos) as the color to be worn by all officials. This is also practical as white shirt is a good color to wear on a hot humid summer morning, so start shopping now. The various officials required to run a swim meet and their responsibilities are listed below.

Clerk of Course: The Clerk of Course is the “gatekeeper” or “kid herder” for all swimmers in our meets. The people who perform this function get the swimmers to the right lanes for the correct race. You can’t run a race without swimmers and the Clerk of Course makes sure the right swimmer gets to the right place at the right time.

Referee: The Referee is the chief official for each swim meet. He or she is responsible for the conduct of the meets and is the final authority on the interpretation and enforcement of all swimming rules. Prior to the start of each race, the Referee sounds two to four short blasts on his/her whistle to advise the participants to get ready. After the event is announced by the announcer or starter, the Referee sounds one long blast on his/her whistle as a signal for swimmers to get into position for the start or to jump feet first into the water for a backstroke event. For backstroke events, a second long blast of the whistle is given to bring the swimmers to the wall for the start.

When the Referee sees that all the swimmers are ready, he extends his arm pointing towards the Starter. At this point, the Starter takes control of the participants.

Starter: The Starter is responsible for ensuring that all swimmers are given a fair and equitable start. The Starter will instruct the swimmers to “Take your mark”. After all swimmers are ready and still, the Starter will start the race, using a “Colorado System” (so called because it is built by Colorado Timing Systems). This system consists of a public address system, a horn, and a strobe light. A race can be recalled only if it was a bad start by the Starter (i.e., not all the swimmers were ready) or for a safety reason. This is done using a recall signal on the Colorado system (you’ll know it when you hear it). For more information on the start, see False Starts in Chapter 7.

Stroke and Turn Judges: Once the race has started, the Stroke & Turn Judges are responsible for ensuring that all swimmers obey the rules of the stroke that they are swimming. Two judges are typically positioned at each end of the pool, with each judge at each end responsible for watching swimmers in three of the six lanes. If a Stroke and Turn Judge believes he or she has seen a violation of the rules, he or she raises his or her hand to signify that an infraction has occurred. A disqualification is recorded on a DQ slip, which the Referee reviews and approves and forwards copies to the Table Workers and the Team Reps.

Course Marshals: Marshals are responsible for ensuring that warm-ups and the meet are conducted safely, and that order is maintained during the warm-ups and the meet. Duties include stopping any horse play and directing swimmers to the appropriate place on the pool deck.

Relay Take-off Judges: During relays, you’ll see four Relay Take-off Judges at each end of the pool (two per lane). Their job is to insure that each swimmer touches the wall prior to the next swimmer in the relay leaving the pool deck. Each Judge notes on a slip of paper whether each swimmer in his lane left before or after the swimmer in the water touched the wall. Relay Take-off Judges do not raise their hands when they observe an early take-off because a disqualification occurs only if both Relay Take-off Judges observed an early takeoff.

Timers: The Timers are the most important people to every swimmer. They are the people who determine each swimmer’s official time for each race. Being a Timer is a good entry-level position for new parents. Some parents have been Timers for years and wouldn’t want to see a swim meet from any other vantage point. If you can start and stop a stopwatch, you can be a Timer. We’ll even provide the stopwatch. Timers start their watches on the strobe light from the Colorado System and stop their watches when the swimmer touches the wall. There are three Timers per lane, and all three times are recorded. The middle time of the three is recorded as the official time. The Chief or Head Timer collects the time cards from the Timers, reviews them for accuracy and completeness, and forwards them on to the Table Workers.

Table Workers: The time cards from the Timers and any DQ slips go to the Table Workers who determine the order of finish for each event, score the meet, and prepare ribbons for the participants. Several people from each team perform these functions to ensure that errors are caught before the results are announced.

Team Rep: The Team Rep is the designated recipient of all DQ slips for his/her team and is the only person with any official standing to challenge any decisions made by the Referee. It sounds like an easy job, but remember, most of the Team Rep’s job is done before the meet starts.

Coaches: During the meet, the Coaches primary responsibility is to encourage and praise the swimmers and to make sure that they get to the Clerk of Course in time to swim their event.

Other Very Important People: It would be impossible to host a swim meet without a number of people in Other Very Important Positions. These people set up the pool and sell concessions.

They also announce the results, run social activities, and do other jobs that need to be done. We need the help of every family in order to have a successful swim season.

Spectator Suggestions

Always wear (or bring) your whites. Besides being a comfortable color for a hot summer morning, you never know when you might be needed to time. Bring sun screen, a hat, an extra towel for your swimmer (or for you to sit on), and money for concessions. Expect to be able to purchase coffee and a doughnut to enjoy as you read the meet sheet. Other items will be available later in the meet. There should be quiet during the National Anthem and when the referee blows the whistle prior to the start of each event. Cheer as often as you would like, in a positive manner, but only after the race has started. Stay off the pool deck at all times, if possible. If not possible because of the way a pool is constructed, stay back - particularly during races since various officials need to walk along the sides of the pool. Send your swimmer back to the team area after their “good swim” hug and plea for money for concessions. Swimmers are to be with their team in the team area throughout the meet. Keep other children from wandering onto the pool deck, into the team areas, or into other pools at the facility. It is not appropriate to argue with any official during a meet. 

Problems should be brought to the attention of the Team Representative. 

Unsportsmanlike behavior will not be tolerated. No booing, vulgarity, nastiness, or unpleasant behavior by anyone will be accepted.

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