Several meet situations have arisen recently of which we want officials to be aware. The following has been provided to LMSC officials Chairs and we have asked them to pass these along to Meet Referees as points of emphasis in pre-meet briefings.

1. There is still some confusion on the use of relay lead-off splits for official purposes. Please remind Meet Referees that USMS does not permit the use of relay lead-off splits if the split was obtained using semi-automatic (buttons) or manual (watches) timing. FINA does permit the use of lead-off splits for World Records obtained with semi-automatic timing using three buttons or manual timing using three watches. Therefore, this is a difference of which officials need to aware for short course meters or long course meets.

As a general point, Meet Referees should always ensure that they have appropriate procedures and have instructed administrative officials on identifying USMS and FINA records and that we have the appropriate documentation when the meet is concluded. This should also include the procedures to handle timing system malfunctions and corrections, handle swimmer requests for lead-off and initial splits, and verify bulkhead placement via a pool measurement at the end of the session. (These are necessary for all swims, not just records) These administrative points should be part of our pre-meet briefings and checklists just as the “wet” side of the rules are covered for deck officials.

2. We need to remind officials and swimmers that it is not a given that times achieved in USMS sanctioned meets will be valid for USA-Swimming meet entry or qualifying purposes. The meet must be approved by the responsible LSC for observation. If you have swimmers who swim both USMS and USA-Swimming meets in your LMSC, I urge you to coordinate this process with your USA-S counterparts and I have a packet from USA-S that describes the process if you are interested. Typically, it is necessary to observe butterfly and IM swims due to rules differences. Freestyle swims should also be observed at the start since USMS rules permit the use of a backstroke start in freestyle events where USA-Swimming rules do not. If the meet is approved for observation, officials will need procedures to handle swimmer requests and for placement of officials to observe swims.

3. A recent article in USMS Swimmer magazine contained incorrect information on the use of watches in competition. This is a situation that is likely encountered more in masters meets than in age group or collegiate meets, so some officials may not be up to speed on the latest guidance, which we are following from the USA-Swimming Rules Committee. Simply wearing a watch in competition does not constitute a disqualification. However, use of a watch as a pacing device is an infraction. As with any other disqualification, a clear and definitive observation is required that the swimmer used the device for this purpose. In the interest of preventative officiating, it is acceptable for officials to remind swimmers that they may not use a watch during competition if you observe a swimmer wearing one prior to a race. It is not acceptable, however, to ask a swimmer to remove a watch since wearing one is not necessarily illegal. (Just as it is not acceptable for officials to advise a swimmer that they were “close” to a DQ since “close” is not illegal.) Kathy Casey and I worked with Bill Volckening on a correction to be included in the next issue.

4. A question recently came to me regarding the start sequence. What if a swimmer steps onto the blocks prior to the long whistle signal? Should the officials ask the swimmer to step down or just proceed? My answer follows below. This is also a situation where there are some unique aspects in dealing with older swimmers or those who may be unfamiliar with the rules.

It is not uncommon to see the occasional swimmer who is not familiar with the starting sequence step up before the long whistle. How the Referee and Starter elect to handle this situation is a judgment call and depends on the circumstances. If the officials are ready to proceed with the heat, the most expeditious way to handle it may be to simply let it go and remind the swimmer later. Asking the swimmer to step down and then immediately step back up at the long whistle could create an issue for swimmers who may not be as stable on the blocks as others or could create an unnecessary delay in the meet. The officials could consider a general announcement to educate swimmers on the starting sequence if it is becoming a routine issue during the meet. There are other times, however, where we do not want swimmers stepping up onto the blocks only to have them remain there for an extended period because we are not ready to start the next heat. If this is the case, the Referee or Starter should ask the swimmers to step down until the Referee gives the signal. If necessary, we should also alert the timers and other officials behind the blocks that there may be some swimmers who need assistance in stepping up or down. Starters The bottom line is that the officials should be aware that they can use their discretion to some degree and it is not always necessary to ask swimmers to step down if they happen to step up early.

5. It also came to my attention that in at least one location, Referees were still using 3 short blasts for the “readiness” signal as part of the starting sequence. While not specified in the rules, the generally accepted protocol is 5 or more short blasts. There have been cases where facilities use the 3-short-blast as a type of emergency activation signal and so using 3 short blasts in the starting sequence has created an issue in some locations.

This is also a good reminder for Meet Referees that they should have a plan on how to handle emergency situations (lightning, sudden power loss, medical emergency, etc.). This should be coordinated with the facility prior to the meet. Think about questions such as…..In what situations would it be necessary to stop a race and remove swimmers from the water? If so, how will you alert officials and who is responsible for removing the swimmers? If you are outdoors in the summer, how will you handle inclement weather? Does the pool deck need to be cleared? If so, who will do it? Where are the lifeguards stationed? Do they have the ability to interrupt the meet if deemed necessary? Who will call for medical assistance if needed? These are all things we should have worked out in advance of the meet.

Best Regards,

Charlie Cockrell

USMS Officials Committee Chair