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 YMCA Swimming : Rules
Subject Article: YMCA Adopts USA-S Technical Rules - FAQ 2
 YMCA Adopts USA-S Technical Rules - FAQ 2
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Posted: 04/September/2006 at 7:08am | IP Logged
Author: Tom Warrick
Title: WebMaster
Group: Web Site Administrator
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YMCA Adopts USA Swimming Technical Rules

Frequently Asked Questions # 2 - What does change

Effective September 1, 2006, YMCA Swimming has adopted USA Swimming Rules 101-105, the so-called *blue pages*.  

To assist YMCA officials with incorporating these rule changes, the YMCA National Officials Committee of the YMCA Competitive Swimming and Diving Advisory Committee has develop answers to the following frequently asked questions.

What Does Change:

Q13. What are the current significant changes affecting the actual strokes that we will encounter with the adoption of the USA-S Technical Rules?

A: There are only three notable changes affecting the actual strokes, as summarized below:

Backstroke Turn – USA-S Technical Rules are more restrictive in prohibiting gliding after the crossover or flip turn is initiated.  Once the swimmer leaves his/her back, any arm pull or kick must be part of a continuous turning action. In addition, the USA-S rule does not require that the any part of the head be past the backstroke flags before the initiation of the turn  (Compare USA-S Rule 101.3.3 with NCAA Rule 2-2-1-c).  The USA-S videocassette, “Officiating Swimming” has an excellent section on the backstroke turn and all officials are encouraged to watch it

Breaststroke – There is no prohibition on sculling with the hands during the first stroke in the USA-S Technical Rules (NCAA Rule 2-2-2-b; USA-S Rule 101.1.2).

Under NCAA rules, the elbows shall be under the calm level of the water except for the last stroke at the turn or finish and during the turn (NCAA Rule 2-2-2-b).  Under USA-S rules, the same wording is used.  However, an Interpretation clarifies that the elbows have to remain under the surface of the water only during the recovery portion of the stroke (USA-S Rule 101.1.2 and Interpretation dated June 3, 1995).

Q14. In adopting USA-S Technical Rules, are we also following published USA-S Interpretations of those rules?

A: Yes.  In fact, NCAA also unofficially followed most USA-S Interpretations.  The Officials’ Committee will try to get any Interpretations out to all officials as soon as possible, but officials are also going to have to be aware that Interpretations are published at various times and take steps to obtain them from the USA-S web site.  Interpretations are normally effective when issued, they are widely distributed and the YMCA Officials’ Committee is and always will be included in the primary distribution list.

Q15. How is the USA-S starting protocol different than what we do now?

A: There are two significant differences:

Whistle Starts – The USA-S starting protocol provides for the Referee to sound a series of short whistle chirps (four to seven or eight chirps) to alert the swimmers to get ready before he/she sounds a long whistle that instructs the swimmers to step on the blocks or step into the water.  (Current NCAA starting protocol requires only the long whistle.)  Both protocols require a second whistle for backstroke starts to bring the swimmers to the wall.  Then, upon a hand signal from the Referee, the Starter instructs the swimmers to take their mark, and when they are all stationary, he/she activates the starting signal.

False Starts – The USA-S starting protocol does not recall false starts.  If the Starter and Referee agree that a swimmer false started, the swimmer is disqualified and notified at the end of the race, as with any other disqualification.

Q16. Can the Referee or Starter give additional instructions, for example announcing the event or the distance?

A: Yes, USA-S Technical Rules provide for the Starter to give additional oral commands when necessary (USA-S Rule 102.14.3).  However, such additional oral commands should only be given where the circumstances clearly warrant them (e.g., for an 8& Under meet where the swimmers are all new and jumpy), and they should be kept to the bare minimum so as not to distract the swimmers.  Even the youngest swimmers will quickly come to respond to the whistle starts with no additional instructions from the Referee or Starter.  Also, the Starter can announce that an event is a bell or gun lap event.

Q17. Are there any circumstances under which the start of a race may be recalled under USA-S rules?

A: Yes.  As with the NCAA rules, if in the judgment of the Referee and Starter there was an unfair start they can call the race back.  For example, if a flash from a camera was detected, or a loud noise heard, right before the start, and some swimmers reacted to it, the Starter might recall the race if he/she had already activated the starting signal.  However, such instances are expected to be rare and a race should not be called back just because one or more swimmers were not paying attention.

Q18. Where do the Referee and Starter stand under the USA-S starting protocol?

A: The normal convention in USA-S meets is for the Referee and Starter to stand side by side on one side of the pool.  However, for our meets, their positioning will be guided by the nature of the meet.  For example, in a dual meet where the Referee and Starter are also serving as finish judges or relay take-off judges, they will have to be on either side of the pool, as many of us have also been in this situation in some USA Swimming meets where we were short of officials.  Let the circumstances of the meet guide you, as you have done in the past.

Q19.  If there is a confirmed false start, does the Referee raise his/her hand to signal an infraction?

A: No, if the Starter observes a false start, he/she marks their heat sheet and shows it to the Referee.  If the Referee confirms the false start, the swimmer is notified at the end of the race, but no signal is given (USA-S Rule 102.13.2).

Q20. When judging relay take-offs with dual confirmation, does the side judge raise his/her hand to signal a potential infraction when the last swimmer is in the last lap of the race?

A: No, when dual confirmation is used, no signal is given.  The side judge walks over to confer with the lane judge and if there is dual confirmation, the relay team is notified at the end of the race (USA-S Rule 102.15.6).

Q21. Will the rules with respect to resting (standing on the bottom of the pool) be changed?

A: Yes, but only slightly.  The NCAA rules allows for a swimmer to stand on the bottom of the pool during the competition, but only for the purpose of resting (NCAA Rule 2-5-4).  Under USA-S rules, standing on the bottom of the pool during a race in any stroke other than freestyle will result in a disqualification, as the swimmer has now left the required body position on the breast or back (USA-S Rule 102.10.5).  However, a USA-S Interpretation allows for standing on the bottom of the pool during a turn after a legal touch has been made and prior to pushing off the wall (Interpretation dated June 5, 1999).  Under both sets of rules, walking on the bottom or pushing off the bottom will result in a disqualification.

Q22.  NCAA rules changes normally took place on September 1st of each year, whereas USA-S rules changes normally are effective on May 15th of each year.  Will the YMCA Swimming Program adopt USA-S rule changes on September 1st of each year?

A: No.  As we are now following USA-S Technical Rules, the effective dates set by USA-S will also govern when we adopt the rule changes.  To do otherwise would be very confusing for swimmers, coaches and officials.

Q23. Are the rules for entry into invitational and championship meets different from those we now follow?

A: There are some differences as to numbers of events a swimmer may enter, entry times, etc., but they are not significant (USA-S Rules 102.2 and 102.4.7). As in the past, the Meet Invitation is the relevant document and must describe the entry procedures and prerequisites, scratch procedures and penalties, scoring, etc.  More time is going to have to be spent by host YMCAs in making sure that the Meet Invitation (Announcement) covers the relevant information.  (Host YMCAs might also want to include a statement in the Meet Invitation to the effect that current YMCA procedures for conducting meets take precedence over inadvertent errors or omissions in the Meet Invitation.)

Q24. Will relay teams be able to change the order of the swimmers after the race has begun?

A: No.  Under NCAA rules, once the relay team was called to the blocks, the designated first swimmer could not change places with any other swimmer.  However, the other swimmers on the relay team could change the order in which they swam (as long as they swam the strokes in the correct order in the Medley Relay) (NCAA Rule 2-2-7-d).  Under USA-S rules, any changes in the names of the competing swimmers or their order of swimming must be reported to the Head Lane Timer prior to the start of the heat (when the Referee whistles the swimmers to step up or step in).  After that, no changes are permitted (USA-S Rule 102.4.7).

Q25. Will swimmers be able to scratch from Finals under the USA-S Technical Rules?

A: USA-S Administrative Rules (USA-S Rule 207.12.10) allow for swimmers qualifying in Preliminaries to swim in Finals to scratch from the Finals under certain defined conditions.  Under the NCAA Rules, a swimmer who qualified for Finals was not allowed to scratch, other than for medical reasons (NCAA Rule 3-3-4).  The Officials’ Committee has not yet decided whether to allow scratching from Finals, and this will probably be left up to the individual leagues to decide for their Championship Meets.

Q26. Is a swimmer who swims in or into the wrong lane disqualified?

A: No, except as noted below.  USA Swimming Technical Rules are somewhat different than NCAA Rules on this point.  The USA Swimming rule states that the swimmer must start and finish the race in the same lane (USA-S Rule 102.10.4).  Assuring that the swimmer swims in the correct heat and lane is the responsibility of the Head Lane Timer (USA-S Rule 102.16.3.B(1)).  The NCAA rules say that a swimmer must swim in the lane and/or heat assigned, and failure to do so shall result is a disqualification from that event (NCAA Rule 3-1-4-b).  The NCAA rules further state that a swimmer who deliberately changes lanes during a race shall be disqualified (NCAA Rule 2-5-1-b).  In any case, under both sets of rules, if the swimmer interferes with another swimmer, he/she is subject to disqualification and the affected swimmer may have to be given the chance to re-swim the event (USA-S Rule 102.10.6 and NCAA Rule 2-5-1-a).

Q27. Are the lap counting rules the same in USA-S?

A: No. The USA-S rules for lap counting (USA-S Rule 102.5.6) are less restrictive than the NCAA rules (NCAA Rule 2-3).  In either case, the swimmer is still responsible for swimming the correct number of laps, regardless if the lap counter or official makes a mistake in the count.

Q28. Will closed YMCA meets still have to be observed by USA-S officials for NTV purposes?

A: No.  As we are now following the USA-S Technical Rules, our meets will fall into the status of Approved Meets (USA-S Rule 202.4).  The actual procedures to be followed for Approved Meets will be worked out by our Advisory Committee representatives and the USA-S Rules Committee representatives at the upcoming USA-S Convention and guidance will be issued to local YMCA swim leagues and USA-S LSCs at that time.  It is expected that our various state and regional championship meets and possibly our invitational meets will be Approved Meets, but it is unlikely that we will try to have all of our dual meets approved, as the record keeping would overwhelm the
USA-S SWIMS database.

Q29. Where can I find out more about the USA-S Technical Rules?

A: You can go to the USA-S web site and purchase a Mini Rule Book, which contains all of the technical rules. USA-S also has two excellent videos on Officiating Swimming and the Starting Protocol.  Visit, or to view the rulebook, visit

Edited by administrator on 22/July/2020 at 12:40pm
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