View RSS Feed

Recent Blogs Posts

  1. How do I get my split times officially recorded?

    by , February 3rd, 2018 at 11:34 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    How do I get my splits officially recorded?

    With championship meets on the horizon, many swimmers are interested in recording relay leadoff or initial splits in individual events for official purposes. Split times can be used for official purposes, including national qualifying times, top 10 times, and records, or just to record a time to measure your performance. It is good to review the rules to ensure that your splits will count for official purposes.

    What are the timing system requirements for recording splits?


    • An initial split or a relay leadoff split can be used for a world record if the split is timed with automatic equipment or, in the event of a touchpad malfunction, with a semiautomatic backup system consisting of at least one button.



    • An initial split or a relay leadoff split can be used for a USMS record if the split is timed with automatic equipment (a touchpad). If the touchpad fails, the leadoff split cannot be used for a USMS record.



    • An initial split or a relay leadoff split can be used for a USMS Top 10 time if the split is timed with automatic equipment, a semiautomatic timing system with a minimum of two buttons, or at least two valid watches.


    When do I need to submit a request to have my split recorded in the official results and how do I do that?

    You must submit a written request prior to your swim for relay leadoff splits and for initial backstroke distances in a longer backstroke event. We ask for a written request prior to these events so that officials can be notified and can judge the intermediate turns and relay exchanges appropriately. For all other initial splits in individual events, you must submit a written request prior to the end of the meet. Check with the meet director to obtain a split request form. In most cases, they will usually have them available at the check-in table when you arrive at the meet.

    What if the meet announcement states that splits will automatically be recorded?

    The rules allow for the meet host to automatically record some or all splits if the host desires. For national championships, automatic splits are mandatory, so your split times from all individual events will automatically be recorded and included in the official results, with the exception of backstroke events. Automatic splits may also be recorded for relays provided that officials are assigned to judge the exchanges and ensure that the second swimmer does not start in the water or stand on an active padand that the automatic timing system is properly functioning.

    If a meet host chooses this option, the meet announcement must state for which events splits are going to be automatically recorded. No written request is required for these events. For all other events (and, in all cases, backstroke individual events or an initial backstroke distance in the leadoff leg of a medley relay), a written request is still required. Check with the meet director if you are unsure based on guidance in the meet announcement.
  2. How do I make sure my record counts?

    by , January 6th, 2018 at 03:07 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    Swimmers often ask: "What do I need to do to make sure my record (or potential top 10 swim) counts?" There are several things for which swimmers can look to ensure that their swims count for records and top 10.

    Meet Directors and LMSC Officers should be aware of these requirements and provide the necessary resources to recognize official times. However, some meets may require action by the swimmer, so it is good to be aware of the rules and read the information in the meet announcement carefully.

    Is the meet sanctioned or recognized by United States Masters Swimming (USMS)?

    Sanctioned meets are required to follow all of the rules of competition which should ensure times may be used for all official purposes. Times from sanctioned meets are generally submitted by the LMSC for consideration without any further action required by the swimmer, but if you have questions on the status of a record application, you can follow up with your LMSC Top 10 recorder.


    • The meet announcement must have a statement that says "sanctioned by (LMSC name) for USMS, Inc."
    • All participants in USMS sanctioned meets must be members of USMS, so the meet entry process should include verification of membership and a liability release.
    • Times from sanctioned meets must be submitted for FINA world record consideration within 60 days of the swim.


    Recognized meets may also be used to achieve USMS records and top 10 rankings. These are usually meets conducted by other organizations, but the host has agreed to conduct the meet under USMS rules so the times may be used for official purposes. A USMS observer must be assigned to the recognized meet by the LMSC. The USMS observer must submit a written report to the LMSC verifying whether the relevant USMS rules were followed. The meet announcement should state that the meet is recognized by USMS and swimmers could ask the meet director if these conditions have been satisfied.

    Times from recognized meets are not automatically submitted for consideration, so it is the swimmer's responsibility to submit the times and documentation to the appropriate LMSC Top 10 recorder. This may include the need to submit documentation on the pool measurement (see below).

    A few additional notes on recognized meets:


    • USA Swimming sanctioned meets are automatically recognized without the need for a formal application for recognition. USMS members who compete in a USA Swimming meet, as a USA Swimming athlete, may submit their times for consideration, but proper documentation (including pool measurement verification for USMS records) is required.



    • FINA will not accept times from recognized meets for world record or world top 10 consideration.



    • Times achieved by USMS members at events sanctioned by a FINA member federation (i.e., a masters meet in another country) may be submitted without a formal application for recognition as long as the USMS swimmer registers for the meet as a USMS member.



    • Times achieved at FINA World Masters Championships will automatically submitted for USMS record and top 10 consideration.


    Is the timing system sufficient to allow for records and top 10?


    • World and USMS records now require automatic timing (automatic start and touchpad finish). Without touchpads, it is not possible to achieve a record.
      • In the event of a touchpad malfunction, records may also be achieved using a semi-automatic backup system with three, two, or one button(s).
      • If the touchpad and buttons both fail, a single watch may be used to establish a top 10 time, but watches may not be used to establish records.
      • A minimum of two timers is advised in the event that one of the buttons also malfunctions.




    • If touchpads are not in use, a semi-automatic system (buttons) or watches may still be used to establish USMS top 10 times, but a minimum of two valid times are required.


    If touchpads are in use and there are at least two timers assigned to each lane, operating buttons and watches, all swims should count for records and top 10 barring complete failures of all timing systems (extremely rare). If touchpads are not in use and there are at least two timers per lane, all swims should count for top 10 consideration.

    Have the pool measurement rules been satisfied?


    • Sanctioned meets must have a statement in the meet announcement that indicates whether the pool measurement is on file with USMS and is in compliance with USMS rules, so check for this statement. For recognized meets, swimmers may need to check with the meet director if this information is not provided.



    • If a bulkhead is in use, the bulkhead placement must be confirmed with a measurement before and after each session. For recognized meets, swimmers may need to check with the meet director to ensure that this requirement is met and to obtain a copy of the measurement to submit to your LMSC Top 10 recorder.


    Are there enough officials?


    • There should be a minimum of two deck officials for the duration of the meet. There must be a meet referee, a starter, and two stroke and turn officials, but the referee and starter may perform the duties of a stroke and turn judge.



    • Officials must be certified by an approved certifying body (USMS, USA Swimming, NCAA, or High School Federation). The LMSC should verify that these requirements are met, but swimmers could also check with the meet director or meet referee at recognized meets.


    Is the documentation sufficient to accompany the record application?


    • Record applications must include a copy of the official meet results, timing system printout, and a copy of the heat sheet. A copy of the swimmer's birth certificate must accompany the record application or be on file with USMS.



    • Formal record applications are not required for swims at USMS National Championships or FINA World Championships.


    If I swim an event and miss the record, can I ask to re-swim the event later in the meet in another attempt to break the record?


    • No, except for postponement or a foul, there are no provisions for re-swimming a race. Time trials may only be conducted at short course yard (SCY) meets, but additional time trials or additional events may not be added to meet once the order of events is published in the meet announcement.


    Can I ask my LMSC to sanction another meet for me to attempt a record?


    • An LMSC can sanction a meet at their discretion pursuant to LMSC policies, but any event offered at a sanctioned meet must be offered to all age groups and both genders. The order of events must be published in the meet announcement at least one week prior to the entry deadline.


    Can my relay leadoff or initial split be submitted for a record application or top 10 consideration?


    • A relay leadoff split may be submitted provided automatic timing is used (touchpads) and the second swimmer does not start in the water.



    • A leadoff split may be submitted provided automatic timing is used and a written split request is submitted prior to the event (for backstroke events) or prior to the end of the meet (all other events).



    • For USMS national championship meets, leadoff and initial splits will automatically be submitted for consideration without the need for a written request (except for backstroke events).
  3. Amending the Rules of Competition

    by , August 11th, 2016 at 12:05 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    One of the unique things about masters swimming is that the athletes themselves get to make the rules. Considering changes to our competitive rules is an annual process. Ultimately any change to the rules of competition must be approved by the USMS House of Delegates which meets at our annual convention in September. After months of work by the Rules Committee, the proposed 2016 changes are now ready for review by convention delegates.

    The USMS Rules Committee collects, studies, recommends proposed changes to the membership of USMS. Our goal is to ensure that the rules are fair, equitable, clear, and reflect the objectives and values of our membership. The Rules Committee is responsible for the glossary and part one of the USMS rule book, which governs all sanctioned and recognized pool meets. (The Long Distance and Legislation Committees have similar processes for other sections of the rule book.)

    You can now see all of the proposed changes on the convention information page.


    Sometimes we identify an issue that needs extensive study and a subset of the committee will work on these issues throughout the year to bring forward proposed changes by late Spring. This year, a task force studied proposed changes to the rules that involve timing system corrections for official times, USMS records, and top 10 times. The process of determining official times for different types of timing systems can get pretty complicated. (See our blog post from December 28, 2015 for an explanation of current rules.) However, the current rules are no longer consistent with FINA rules. That is a potential problem for recognition of world records and FINA world top 10 times. After several years of extensive study, USA Swimming modified their rules for timing system adjustments in 2016 and other organizations have followed suit. We took another year to study the changes and think through all of the procedures necessary to recognize official times and records. The proposed changes attempt to balance the sometimes competing goals of protecting swimmers from timing system failures, ensuring the accuracy of official times reported at meets, and ensuring that requirements placed on our meet officials are reasonable.

    Sometimes our proposed changes might arise from frequent questions about a rule, which might signal that we need greater clarity. We might propose a change based on ideas and questions from coaches, officials, meet directors, and LMSC officers. Over the years, we have received many questions regarding meet formats, time trials, acceptance of times from recognized meets. So, several proposed changes attempt to make these provisions clearer for coaches, officials, and swimmers.

    Sometimes, it is a matter of bringing the rules up to date with new technology or better practices for conducting meets. Over the years, we have dealt with rule changes involving electronic timing systems, online entries, backstroke ledges, overhead cameras, and other new innovations. This year, proposed changes to update the rules for automatic splits, eliminating written applications for USMS records at National Championships, and eliminating the written publication of USMS records in the rule book are a reflection of technologies that make it easier to run meets, tabulate the results, and publish results using electronic systems.

    Additional changes can be proposed by any USMS standing committee, any Local Masters Swim Committee (LMSC), the USMS Board of Directors, or the USMS Executive Committee. These proposals can range from simple grammatical corrections to innovative ideas to make the sport more exciting and attract new members. Several changes to rules governing national championships and USMS records are being proposed this year.

    Prior to consideration by the House of Delegates, the Rules Committee considers each proposal and may make amendments before voting whether to recommend the change to the House of Delegates. The House may also amend any proposal before voting and may adopt any change recommended favorably by the committee with a majority vote. The House may still adopt a proposed change not recommended by the committee with a 2/3 majority vote. So, the final set of changes that appear in the 2017 rule book may be different than what you see in the convention package.

    While the deadline for proposing changes to the rules has passed for this year, you can still voice your opinion by contacting the delegates from your LMSC before the September convention.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Files
  4. Time Trials

    by , February 28th, 2016 at 01:57 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    From time to time, we get asked if "time trials" are allowed at USMS sanctioned meets.

    Most people would consider a "time trial" to be something like an independent swim conducted at a meet or independent from a meet based upon an individual swimmer's request. Using this definition, the answer is no. Such independent attempts to establish official times are not permitted at USMS sanctioned meets. However, one of the difficulties in answering this question clearly is that we do not define the term "time trial" in the USMS rule book and people may have different ideas of what constitutes a time trial.

    The term "event" is defined in the USMS rule book, so we can talk about types of events, order of events, restrictions on entry limitations, and meet format. That will answer most of the questions regarding types of events that may be offered at USMS sanctioned meets. Many people may be surprised to discover that the rules actually provide a lot of flexibility to offer different and creative meet formats to serve the needs of masters swimmers, clubs, and LMSCs across the country.


    That rules say that.


    • You must have a published order of events in the entry information.
    • Events must be offered to all ages and both genders at any meet in which they are offered.
    • A swimmer may swim the same individual event only one time during a meet.
    • Individual swimmers are subject to the entry limitations stated in the entry information and USMS rules.
    • You cannot change the order of events or add additional events after publishing the entry information unless certain conditions are met.
    • Closed competition is permitted, so a sanctioned meet does not have to be open to all members of USMS.
    • Not all events defined in article 102 must be offered. (These are the "conforming" events for which we compile Top 10 rankings and keep USMS records.) A meet host may offer a subset of those events and may even offer nonconforming events subject to approval of the sanctioning LMSC.


    So, what about the following hypothetical situations?

    Could a meet host run a sanctioned meet offering only one event and have the meet open to only members of one club? Yes, as long as that one event is offered to both genders and all age groups. There are many examples of meets that only consist of a 1650 Free, for example, but there is no rule that wouldn't allow it to be any other event.

    Could a meet host run a sanctioned meet and offer the same event at multiple times (such as morning and afternoon, or Saturday and Sunday)? Yes, but an individual swimmer may only swim the event one time in a single meet and the results from all of the heats from the same event must be integrated and published as a single event in the results. (Compiling the results from all of the timed heats in a single event is the definition of "timed finals".)

    Could a meet host run an order of events and then offer to repeat the same order of events for people who want to swim an event later in the session or next day? Yes if that is published in the entry information.

    Could a meet host offer various creative event orders such as.....

    • The first three events will be all of the 200 yard non-freestyle stroke events. Swimmers may select only one event to swim and the events may be seeded together at the discretion of the referee. Yes, this type of order and meet format would be permitted.



    • The 100 Freestyle will be repeatedly offered between every other event in the meet. You can pick only one slot to swim this event. Yes, there is nothing in the rules to prohibit this type of format.



    • A "50 Choice" will be offered at the end of the meet for anyone who wants to swim another 50-yard event. No, because "choice" is not a defined stroke and distance in the USMS rules. But, you could say that all 50-yard stroke events will be offered again at the end of the meet for anyone that would like to swim another event. The restriction is that swimmers may not repeat an event that has already been swum.


    Any of the above situations might look like a "time trial" to some people because they provide flexibility for swimmers to choose when they want to swim a specific event and could maybe even be constructed to accommodate specific swimmers who want a chance to swim a specific event at a time of their choosing.

    The rules cover each of the above situations, but not necessarily as "time trials". The justification is the definition of an event and the rules that require publishing the order of events, conduct of events as "timed finals", and restrictions on how many times you can swim an event within a meet. As long as the sanctioning LMSC approves the meet format and entry information, these types of creative formats are permitted.

    Could the host run a meet with a random order of events? Just show up, tell us what you want to swim, and we will run it for you? No, because you don't have a published order of events and the same events might not be offered to both genders and all age groups.

    Can the host repeat random events at the end of the meet/session at the request of individual swimmers, maybe offering this option to swimmers who didn't want to swim back-to-back events or showed up late? No, because events cannot be added after the order of events has been published.

    Can a swimmer ask to repeat an individual event in which he or she seeks a better time or wants to establish a record? No, because additional events may not be added and a swimmer may not repeat an event.

    The preceding three situations may also look like "time trials" but they don't conform to the other rules regarding order of events and entry limitations, so that is why they are not permitted.

    But, the rules actually allow for even more flexibility in short course yards (SCY) meets.

    In USMS rules 102.6 and 102.10.1, we use the term "trials/finals" to describe meet formats that be used other than "timed finals". The term "trials/finals" is always used together, so this language should not be interpreted as meaning "time trials".

    The language in 102.6 and 102.10.1 dates back several years and is intended to cover different ways of contesting individual events, which is permitted only in short course yards (SCY) meets. Normally, masters events are conducted as timed finals, but another common format (used in USA-Swimming championship meets) is to conduct preliminary heats and finals. The top swimmers from the preliminary heats advance to the finals and places are then determined from times swum in the finals. (Back in the day, the word "trial" was often used as a substitute for preliminaries or "prelims".)

    If a meet is conducted with preliminary heats and finals, why doesn't it violate the restriction on repeating an event if a swimmer swims the same stroke and distance in the preliminaries and then again in the finals? And, why can't this alternate format be used to justify including time trials in SCY meets?

    Because when preliminary heats are used, that process is considered part of the overall process of determining the results for a single event. Swimming the same stroke and distance in a preliminary heat and then in a final heat does not constitute repeating the same event. It is just a different way (contrasted to timed finals) of determining the overall places for a single event. This is not the same as a time trial, which is an independent attempt to establish another official time.

    So, now to test your thinking, what about the following creative hypothetical formats for a SCY meet?

    The entry information says: "After the conclusion of all of the events listed in the program, each swimmer will be provided an opportunity to re-swim any event. Events will be repeated in the same order, but may be combined at the discretion of the referee. The faster of the two times swum will be used to determine the final places for each event".

    OK, that must be illegal, right? Because you cannot add events and a swimmer cannot repeat an event. But, in this hypothetical scenario, the repeat swim is actually part of the same event. It is not a time trial and it is not another added event. The format defines it as another way of contesting the event and that is allowed. And, just like the scenario of swimming the same stroke and distance in the preliminaries and finals, both swims may be used for official purposes.

    What about this one? "The 100 IM will be open to the first 8 entries and swum in an elimination format. After each race, the slowest swimmer will be eliminated and the remaining swimmers will advance to the next round. The places will be determined by the order of elimination."

    OK now, that really must be illegal, right? The winner would end up swimming the same event seven times! Again, because it defines a different way of contesting the event and determining the places, it is actually legal (albeit maybe insane). Swimming the same stroke and distance multiple times is not repeating the event in this scenario because each swim is part of the overall process for determining the rankings in a single event.

    So, are time trials allowed? No, not using the most commonly accepted definition. But it is all in the way you define the order of events and the format for determining the results. For SCY meets, there is more flexibility than most people realize!
  5. How many events can I swim?

    by , January 27th, 2016 at 09:02 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    How many events can I swim?
    We must have some very hearty swimmers in our USMS membership ranks. The rules say that a swimmer can swim a maximum of five individual events per day at a USMS sanctioned meet. But, we get a lot of questions asking if there are circumstances where swimmers can swim more than five events in one day. The short answer is "no", but read further for an explanation.

    Can swimmers compete in "exhibition" events over the five event limit? Could a swimmer compete in several events and then choose which five to record for official purposes? One meet host asked if it was possible to offer an award for swimmers who were willing to swim every single event on the meet program. Is that possible? What about non-conforming events, such as 25-yard or 25-meter events. Do those count against the event limitation?

    Wow. I am tired just thinking about it.

    102.6 covers event limits at USMS sanctioned meets. The rules say that "A swimmer may compete in not more than five individual events per day.and shall compete not more than once in each individual event entered. (Read further for an explanation on the ".")

    There is no provision in the rules for "exhibition" or "unofficial" events. All events swum at a USMS sanctioned meet count towards this limitation. In the Glossary, we define "event" as a series of races in a given stroke and distance, or meet; including pool, long distance, or open water. "Individual event" refers to one of these races for a given stroke and distance. Because we do not restrict this definition any further, it means that any stroke and distance swum would be considered as an "individual event". We are also careful to define how events are conducted, how they are judged, and how to determine official times and placement for each event. It is simply not possible to swim an event that does not "count" under the rules.

    Rules 102.5.1 and 102.5.2 cover that may be offered at USMS sanctioned meets. This section of the rules also refers to 202.1.1-F(3) for nonconforming events. Nonconforming events are defined as events that not listed in part one of the rule book. These could include 25-yard or 25-meter events or any other creative event that the meet host would like to offer. (I am personally lobbying for a 1650-yard breaststroke.) These events may be conducted as long as they are conducted in a safe manner. The term "nonconforming" means that we do not keep records and top 10 rankings. However, because 102.6 does not distinguish between conforming and nonconforming events, any nonconforming events must also count towards the event limit.

    Note that the meet host (with approval of the sanctioning LMSC) could impose an event limit less than five events per day. The rules do not require the host to allow swimmers to swim a maximum of five events. The host could also place other event limitations for a meet, such as requiring swimmers to choose only one distance freestyle event. The maximum allowed by rule is five individual events per day.

    The entry limitations are different at USMS National Championship meets. Limits for National Championships are addressed in 104.5.3. The limit is three individual events per day and five (or six at the discretion of the USMS Championship Committee) individuals for the entire meet.

    The exception to this limitation is covered at the end of 102.6. If an event or events are postponed to a subsequent day of the meet due to circumstances beyond the control of meet officials (for example, due to a thunderstorm), then the postponed events could be swum without being included in the five event limitation on the re-scheduled day.

    Now, about the "" (yada, yada, yada)
    USMS meets are normally conducted in a "timed finals" format. That means everyone gets once chance to swim the event. Official times are determined and then places are determined based on ranking all of the official times. While it is rare, the rules also allow meets to be conducted with preliminary heats and finals if the meet is held in a 25-yard pool. If this format is followed, then the entry limitation becomes a maximum of three events per day. This format may not be used at USMS National Championships (102.10.1-A).