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Rules Committee Blog


Questions about rules? Search the tag cloud to the right to find previous entries that might answer your question. Feel free to post questions via the comments tool in each post, or contact rules@usms.org.

  1. Is a Crossover Flip Turn Legal from Back to Breast in IM?

    by , November 24th, 2015 at 12:28 PM (Rules Committee Blog)
    A USMS member recently asked if a "crossover flip turn" is legal when transitioning from backstroke to breaststroke in the Individual Medley.

    Sometimes we use terms that mean different things to people, so to answer the question, let's break down the rules for IM transitions.

    By rule, the individual medley transitions are considered finishes, not turns. So the finish rules for each stroke apply at the end of each leg. That means that swimmers must touch the wall while on the back or towards the back before turning. Swimmers cannot rotate past the vertical towards the breast prior to the touch.

    Now, once a legal touch has been made, the swimmer may turn in any manner desired. Yes, that includes a flip turn.

    Some swimmers will use a crossover turn whereby they will reach across the body with one arm to touch the wall while rotating slightly. After touching the wall with the hand while still on or toward the back, a flip turn is legal because a legal touch has been made. The key to being legal is that the touch must be made before the swimmer rotates past the vertical. If the swimmer rotates past the vertical before the touch, that is an infraction.

    After the turn, the swimmer must be toward the breast when the feet the leave the wall.

    A swimmer cannot roll past the vertical (onto the breast) and then do a flip turn like they would do in a backstroke turn. Again, that is because the swimmer must touch the wall on the back at the end of the backstroke leg.

    Charles Cockrell
    USMS Rules Committee Chair
  2. Other Strokes During a Freestyle Event

    by , November 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    The Coach Asks: One of my swimmers did the 800 freestyle, alternating freestyle and breaststroke. The official warned my swimmer that he was almost DQed because his head had to stay above the surface when doing the breaststroke during a freestyle event. Is it a DQ if the head goes under water during a cycle of breaststroke? I also thought that once another stroke is chosen for freestyle, you could only do that one style of stroke for the rest of that freestyle event.

    Answer: "The swimmer may swim in any style" during a freestyle event (101.5.2). There is no requirement to do only one style of stroke. If the swimmer is doing the breaststroke, the style of that stroke is that some part of the head breaks the surface of the water during each stroke cycle. Swimming in the style of breaststroke, with the head breaking the surface during each stroke cycle, during a freestyle event does not violate the rule prohibiting a swimmer from completely submerging after the 15-meter mark, since the swimmer is still swimming on the surface. That satisfies "Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race..." (101.5.2); briefly dipping the head below the surface during each stroke is that swimmer's style of stroke during breaststroke. That is different than being completely submerged for 15 meters. If the swimmer completely submerged again after the 15-meter mark to do another underwater breaststroke pullout, that would be a disqualification. Caution the swimmer that during freestyle, when using the underwater breaststroke pullout after the start and turns, the swimmer's head must break the surface at 15 meters since it is a freestyle event (101.5.2). A second caution is that a swimmer cannot do breaststroke (or butterfly or backstroke) during the freestyle portion of an individual medley event or a medley relay event (101.5.2).

    Kathy Casey

    Updated November 20th, 2015 at 01:24 PM by Rules Committee

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  3. Submitting Medley Relay Times for A Freestyle Relay

    by , October 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    The Coach Asks: Is it possible to swim a medley relay and submit that same time from the medley relay for the freestyle relay without swimming the free relay event (since in freestyle a swimmer can do any stroke)?

    Answer: No, the time from a medley relay cannot also be submitted as a time for the freestyle relay. The swimmers would have to enter and compete legally in a freestyle relay in order to get an official time for the free relay. On the flip side, if the swimmers do the medley relay during the freestyle relay event, that time would only be considered as a freestyle relay time, not a medley relay time. 103.18.2 addresses both scenarios, "An official time for an event or stroke can be achieved only in that event or stroke, or in an initial distance of such event or stroke (e.g., backstroke time must be achieved in a backstroke event or a butterfly time can be achieved in an individual medley event). Regardless of the stroke(s) used, times achieved in freestyle events can be recorded only as freestyle times."

    Kathy Casey

    Updated November 20th, 2015 at 01:24 PM by Rules Committee

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  4. Birthday During A Swim MeetWhat Age Group?

    by , July 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    The Coach Asks: At a four-day meet, if a swimmer is 34 the first two days of the meet but turns 35 on the third day, in what age group does that swimmer compete at the meet?

    Answer: The 35-39 age group for the entire meet; "For short course yards, the eligibility of a participant for a particular age group shall be determined by the age as of the last day of the meet." (USMS 102.2.1). That is the opposite of USA Swimming, whose rule for age group competition is the swimmer's age as of the first day of the meet (USA-S 205.2.2).

    Kathy Casey
  5. Backstroke Start Ledges

    by , May 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    The Coach Asks: We saw backstroke ledges at nationals in San Antonio and tried them out during warm ups. What are the rules for using backstroke ledges? What else do we need to know about the ledges?

    Answer: The backstroke ledge start rule reads: "When using a backstroke ledge at the start, the toes of both feet must be in contact with the end wall or face of the touchpad." (101.1.2B). Many swimmers are unaware that the rule requires the toes to touch the wall or the face of the touchpad, not just the ledge itself. If swimmers remain unaware of this rule, officials will have to instruct most swimmers in every backstroke heat on the correct placement of the toes when using a backstroke ledge.

    There are several different models of backstroke ledges; some models require manual placement in and removal from the water by officials or timers for every backstroke heat. The model at San Antonio retracted automatically to the deck after the start, causing some swimmers difficulty keeping the ledge in place before securing their feet to it. At this point, not all starters and officials are trained in using and officiating backstroke starts with ledges. See article 107.12 for the dimensions of the backstroke ledge.

    A swimmer is not required to use a backstroke ledge if ledges are available for use in competition. Backstrokers should take advantage of any opportunity to learn to use a backstroke ledge, either in practice or during warm up in a sprint lane, whenever ledges are available for use.
  6. Mixed Relays

    by , April 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    The Coach Asks: I have always been under the impression that when only a mixed relay is offered for a particular distance and stroke, then a swimmer can swim one relay but it can be either a mixed relay or a single-gender relay. So one could swim a valid men's 200 free relay during the mixed 200 free relay event on the program, as long as the men's 200 free relay isn't also a separate event. Is that correct?

    Answer: No. If only a mixed relay is offered at a meet, a single-gender relay cannot compete during that event for an official time. For example, a men's 200 free relay competing during a 200 mixed free relay would be disqualified for the following reasons:
    • A mixed relay is defined in the rules as follows, "Mixed relays shall consist of two men and two women who may swim in any order." (101.7.3G)
    • The mixed free relay is a separate event from the single-gender free relays. (102.5 and 102.9.8)


    Kathy Casey
  7. Are Two Logos Allowed on Racing Suits?

    by , March 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    The Coach Asks: I'm confused by the messages advertised by swimsuit vendors about one or two logos on a swimsuit and the American version of a suit versus the European version. Are suits with two logos legal or illegal for USMS competition?

    Answer: Suits with two logos are legal for USMS pool competition. USMS rules do not address the number of manufacturer logos on a swim suit (102.12.2). FINA rules allow two manufacturer logos on a swimsuit, so European suits are manufactured with two logos. In the United States, high school and NCAA rules only allow one manufacturer logo, so American suits are manufactured with one logo. (USA Swimming rules follow FINA rules and allow two logos.) Shoppers have been able to find the European suits online for purchase; hence, the warning from swimsuit vendors about two logos on a suit being illegal in the U.S. for high school and NCAA competition. The FINA rules exempt Masters from the FINA logo rules (FINA Bylaw 7.1), so USMS swimwear rules do not address the number of logos allowed.

    Remind your swimmers that USMS swimwear rules (102.12.1) do not allow modesty wear (no brief, sports bra, or jock strap under the competition suit). FINA approval stamps are not required on swimsuits for USMS competition as long as the suit meets FINA specifications (all textile in one or two pieces, knee to shoulder for women and knee to waist for men, no zippers or other fasteners except for a waist tie). Rules for open water swimwear can be found in USMS 303.7.

    Kathy Casey
  8. Nonstandard Events and Time Submissions

    by , February 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    The Coach Asks: At our last meet, swimmers were allowed to enter "(choice) 200 free" on the entry form. The meet information stated, "200 Choice (events 18-19): You may swim the 200 Free, Breast, Back or Fly. Declare 200 Free, Breast, Back or Fly by start of meet." One of my swimmers swam the 200 fly, but his time appears in the results as a 200 free time. What are the rules on this?

    Answer: There is no such event as "200 Choice" (see 102.5 for the list of events that can be offered at a meet). A person is allowed to swim in any style during a freestyle event (101.5.2), but no matter what style is swum, it can only count as a freestyle time (103.18.2). For the time to count for a butterfly time, the swimmer had to enter the 200 butterfly. If you see an entry form like that again, contact and inform the meet director that the entry choice on the entry form must appear as "Event 18-19: 200 (choose one stroke) __:__.__ Free, __:__.__ Breast, __:__.__ Back, or __:__.__ Fly", forcing the swimmer to enter an event that is listed in 102.5.

    Kathy Casey
  9. Surgical Glove During Competition?

    by , January 15th, 2015 at 01:00 AM (Rules Committee Blog)
    The Coach Asks: One of my swimmers cut his hand and had to have stitches. He still plans to swim at a meet this weekend and wants to know if he can wear a surgical glove to protect the stitches. What are the rules for this situation?

    Answer: The meet referee has the authority to decide whether or not to let the swimmer wear the surgical glove in competition. Such a glove is not regarded as part of a swimsuit (102.12.1B, last sentence), so a request for a medical exemption for swimwear is not required in this specific situation. It is more similar to tape and bandages (bandages usually include tape), both of which are left to the referee for a decision (102.12.1E and 102.13.9). The swimmer should contact the meet referee or meet director prior to the meet about the request to wear a surgical glove to protect stitches. A meet referee may ask for a doctor's note and after a conversation with the swimmer, will decide if it is reasonable and safe for the swimmer to wear a surgical glove in competition and determine whether or not it would provide a competitive advantage. Be aware that a referee's decision at one meet does not set precedent for subsequent meets (103.6.9), so the swimmer must repeat the request process with the meet referee at each meet.

    Kathy Casey
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