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Recommended Procedures For Swimming And Diving Officials

New York State Certified Swimming Officials Association

First Edition  -   1941  -   Ted Webster

Revision Committee Chairpersons


Ted Webster
Ted Webster
Ted Webster
Ted Webster & Larry Caldwell Larry Caldwell
Bob Walsh
John Horgan
Bob Kersch
Ithaca-Syracuse Chapter
Ithaca-Syracuse Chapter
Ithaca-Syracuse Chapter
Ithaca-Syracuse Chapter
Ithaca Chapter
Western New York Chapter
Mid-Hudson Chapter
Long Island Chapter


The New York State Certified Swimming Officials Association was formed in 1938 and, as one of its early priorities, authorized the establishment of a guide for officials to help them officiate in an effective and efficient manner. This document, written by Ted Webster, the swimming coach of Syracuse University and a founder of this Association, was designated as the Mechanics of Officiating. In his initial endeavor, Mr. Webster enlisted the help and assistance of Larry Caldwell to produce this document.

Revision Chairpersons have, over the years, enlisted the support and cooperation of experienced officials to share their expertise and knowledge in the production of this guide. Their input helped supplement the rules and provided a set of guidelines for officials to conduct a meet in a professional manner. The goal of this edition of Mechanics of Officiating has been achieved, thanks in great part, to the following New York State Certified Swimming Officials Association members:

Larry Caldwell
Joe Stetz
Bob Kersch
Tom Acklin
Art Young
Doug Virkus
Ithaca-Syracuse Chapter
Metropolitan Chapter
Long Island Chapter
South Central Chapter
Capital District Chapter
Long Island Chapter
Bud Cole
Mush Masters
Dick Pauly
Brad Pesarek
Tim Voltmann
Ken Kallio
Mark Randall Chapter
Metropolitan Chapter
Western New York
Syracuse Chapter
Jamestown Chapter
Southwestern Chapter

Sadly, while this revision is in the process of being distributed to more than 1,000 swimming and diving coaches as well as officials in New York State, Syracuse University, which played an integral role in the birth of the New York State Certified Swimming Officials Association and this document, is abandoning its storied intercollegiate swimming and diving program.

Knowledge of the rules, and their application by meet officials in a fair, consistent and equitable manner will help improve the quality of officiating. And, as a result, improve the quality of competitive swimming and diving. Mechanics of Officiating has, and will, continue to play a significant role in achieving this goal by making both officials and those who critique them, aware of their responsibilities and duties. It will further enhance their understanding of how to conduct a meet while meeting the needs of the competitors they serve.

Bob Kersch

Mechanics of Officiating

General Procedures | Referee | Diving Referee | Diving Judges | Starter | Stroke and Turn Judges | Lane Time/Judge

General Procedures

A swimming and diving official is someone who cares about the sports of swimming and diving and strives to make a positive contribution to these sports and its competitors. The focus of an official should be to perform his/her responsibilities in a professional manner. To do that, the following guidelines are set forth to assist all officials in achieving that goal.

  1. The primary purpose of an official is to conduct a meet according to the governing rules.
  2. Know and enforce all rules consistently, uniformly and without bias.
  3. Arrive at the pool at least 30 minutes before the scheduled starting time, unless a local contract stipulates otherwise. Make your presence known to the site personnel when you arrive.
  4. Be properly attired in a uniform that is neat and clean. The proper uniform consists of a white shirt with the NYSCSOA insignia, white shorts/pants/skirt, white belt (if worn), white socks and white footwear.
  5. Be sure that all personal equipment needed for the meet is available and ready to use.
  6. From the time of your arrival until your departure, make certain that your conduct is professional.
  7. Never criticize another official in public.
  8. Take a proactive stance on all matters to avoid potential problems.
  9. Communicate with colleagues whenever necessary to resolve any problems.
  10. Make certain of your duties and responsibilities prior to the start of the meet and carry them out in a professional manner.
  11. If you believe you have witnessed a rule infraction, use the proper procedures for recording and/or reporting. Never point to a lane or lanes where you believe an infraction may have occurred.
  12. Do not bring electronic devices (cell phones, pagers, etc.) onto the pool deck.
  13. Accept or reject assignments as early as possible. Once accepted, honor your commitment. When unusual circumstances prevent you from fulfilling an accepted assignment, notify the assigning agent as soon as possible so that a replacement official may be procured.
  14. After the meet, do not seek out or avoid coaches and/or team personnel. Complete your post-meet responsibilities in a timely manner.
  15. Never ask a coach if they agree or disagree with a decision that you and/or your colleagues have made during a meet. To do so indicates an uncertainty in your application of the rules and/or your judgment.
  16. Remember that it is your job to know and enforce all the rules in a fair and just manner. There may be rules you don’t like or disagree with, but that cannot interfere with your obligation to adhere to and enforce them.
  17. You are only as good as your colleagues……………learn to work together as a team.
  18. Your attitude is contagious…………….make it a positive one!


  1. Confirm that the assigned officials are on site and are prepared to start the meet on time.
  2. Review with each of the officials, his/her assignments and responsibilities. Prior to the start of each race see that they are properly positioned. The referee and starter should be positioned on opposite sides of the pool, with the referee nearer the scoring table.
  3. If applicable, collect and review (or have other officials review) the diving sheets prior to the start of the meet. The diving order should also be determined at this time.
  4. Have the visiting team select the lanes (odd/even) they will be competing in and the diving order (odd/even) desired. Convey this information to all coaches.
  5. Establish the process for the collection of entries for each of the events.
  6. If applicable, establish the procedures to be followed for a declared false start.
  7. Confirm, or have other officials confirm, that all necessary equipment is present, properly placed and in working order prior to the start of the meet.
  8. Make every effort to start the meet on time. If the visiting team is late and needs additional warm-up time that will affect the starting time, notify the home team of any changes.
  9. If appropriate, meet with coaches and captains prior to the start of the meet.
  10. Collect entries for each event shortly after the announcement of the results of the previous event. Give the coaches enough time to prepare their entries. Should a coach unduly delay in providing their entries, stipulate guidelines outlining what will and will not be acceptable and adhere to those guidelines.
  11. All competitors should be introduced prior to the start of each race. The status of those swimming exhibition must be noted as well.
  12. When the results of an event are announced, it is recommended that the name, affiliation and lane of the competitors be announced. The referee should also ensure that any disqualification(s) be announced prior to the announcing of the results of the race.
  13. For dual meets, the referee should keep a running score of the meet in addition to the one(s) being kept at the scorer’s table. The referee should continually check to ensure that all scores are in agreement and correct any discrepancies as soon as they are discovered.
  14. Prior to the start of each race, call the swimmers onto the blocks or into the water with one long signal of the whistle. When they are appropriately set and the pool area is quiet, turn the event over to the starter.
  15. Assist the starter as necessary.
  16. During the race, constantly check the other officials to see if they have signaled potential violations and are doing so by raising their hand with an open palm. If a signal is observed, raise your hand in a similar manner to indicate that you’ve acknowledged their signal.
  17. At the conclusion of a race where there are possible violations, immediately meet with the other official(s) to make a determination. The final decision for all disqualifications is solely that of the referee. When disqualifying a competitor, notify that individual and/or their coach of the disqualification and the reason.
  18. If you believe that a false start has occurred, meet with the starter at the conclusion of the race to determine if there is written confirmation. If a false start is declared, immediately notify the swimmer and/or their coach.
  19. In dual, double dual, triple dual or triangular meets, provide the scorer’s table with an accurate run down of the results of the race. If an automatic timing system is being used, verify with the scoring table that the posted results are correct.
  20. It is the responsibility of the meet referee to determine the official results of every race.
  21. If an automatic timing system is being used, the results of the electronic timing system are considered correct. However, the referee may determine otherwise. A difference of more than .3 seconds between automatic and backup times may indicate a timing malfunction.
  22. When an official’s rundown (order of finish) differs from that of the automatic timing system, they should notify the referee immediately. The referee will consider his/her input and then determine the order of finish.
  23. When automatic timing is not being used, the referee may request a rundown (order of finish) from another official. Such input is advisory and the referee will make the final determination.

    Note: An official, after providing the referee with his/her input should not provide that information to anyone else.
  24. There are times that coaches may request to see the notes of officials regarding such items as false starts, relay takeoffs and the order of finish. This information should not be provided. Advise the coach be that the results are valid and all procedures were followed as outlined in the rules.
  25. At the conclusion of the meet, check with the scoring table to verify that the results of the meet are accurate, sign the scorebooks, and indicate the ending time of the meet.
  26. Compliment coaches and competitors when good sportsmanship is observed.
  27. Many of the table personnel are volunteers who play an integral part in the operation and conduct of a meet. Prior to the start of the meet, review with the table personnel their responsibilities and ensure they know how to carry them out. At the completion of the meet, they should be complimented for their efforts.
  28. Prior to the start of the diving event, it is recommended that the meet referee determine the length of the warm-up segment to follow. Ask the visiting team first how much time they need, and then ask the home team. When a length of time has been agreed to, make certain both coaches know this information.
  29. Before leaving the pool area, make sure that your officiating team knows that you appreciate their help and assistance. In addition, should any situations have arisen during the course of the meet that might be of concern to officials, a “closed door” discussion and review of what transpired may be in order and of value for future officiating.

Diving Referee

There are two types of diving competition formats (6-dive and 11-dive). While many guidelines are shared by both formats, each format has some procedures that are unique.

The National High School Federation has established a specific set of water depth standards they wish to be utilized for interscholastic diving. However, in New York State, it is the local Board of Health, as agreed upon by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which establishes the standards that are used for competitive interscholastic diving. These local standards take precedence over those of the National High School Federation.

NOTE: It is unnecessary for the diving referee to meet with the competitors prior to the event. Doing so is an intrusion on the diver’s preparation.

Six-Dive (Dual Meet) Format:

  1. Upon arrival at the site, advise the coaches where and when the diving sheets are to be delivered for review.
  2. Review, or assign other officials to review, the diving sheets for accuracy.
  3. Establish the diving order.
  4. Review scoring and judging procedures with the diving judges prior to the start of the meet.
  5. Advise the judges where they will be seated. Whenever possible, judges should be located on opposite sides of the board. When an assistant referee is used, (a recommendation for all meets), the assistant referee should be positioned opposite the referee.
  6. The referee should be located near the scoring table whenever possible.
  7. During the competition, determine unsatisfactory and failed dives and immediately signal the judges.
  8. Advise judges when to display their awards.
  9. Review with the judges and the scoring table the procedure that will be used for violations of the forward approach and balks.
  10. Prior to the start of the diving competition ensure that those who are working at the diving table are competent and know how to perform their duties and responsibilities.
  11. When it is determined a diver should be disqualified, notify the diver and/or their coach immediately, giving the reason for the disqualification.
  12. When exceptional circumstances arise where a diver may request to repeat a dive, focus on the diver immediately after the dive to see if such a request is made.
  13. Review, or assign other officials to review, the completed diving sheets immediately after the competition if the calculations were done manually.
  14. Announce the diving results prior to the collection of the entries for the 100yd/m butterfly.
  15. Retain the completed sheets at the scorer’s table until the completion of the meet. Coaches and divers may review the results at the table.
  16. Hair restraint devices are considered attire and must be dealt with accordingly.
  17. Resolve any problems during the competition as soon as possible.

Eleven-Dive (Championship Meet) Format:

  1. Confirm that the sheets have been received in a timely manner.
  2. Verify that the diving sheets conform to the prescribed format.
  3. Determine the diving order and have it posted and announced prior to the start of the competition.
  4. Review with the meet director the number of qualifiers for each round and cut procedures, if any, which will be utilized.
  5. Review with the meet director the time allotted between the preliminary and the semi-final rounds, and between the semi-final and the final rounds.
  6. Meet with the diving panel prior to the event to review their responsibilities.
  7. After the preliminary and semi-final rounds, determine which divers will be continuing in the competition and have their names, as well as the updated diving order, announced and posted promptly.
  8. During the event, monitor the pace of the diving competition. If it is taking more than approximately 35 seconds per dive, the pace of the event is too slow. It is then incumbent upon the diving referee to modify the existing procedure to achieve this goal.
  9. Work cooperatively with the table personnel so that the meet is conducted professionally.

Diving Judges

It is important that all judges have a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the numbering system used to denote and to describe each and every dive. For example, a forward dive with 1 1/2 somersaults and 1 full twist has the number of 5132. It is deciphered as follows:

5 (indicates a twisting dive) 1 (forward approach) 3 (3 half somersaults) 2 (2 half twists)

  1. Report promptly to the referee. Attend the pre-event meeting held by the diving referee.
  2. Know the rules!
  3. During the event, listen carefully to the announcement of each dive.
  4. Post scores immediately or when requested to do so by the referee or their agent. Confirm that your award is announced or displayed exactly as you intended it to be.
  5. While judging, there should be no talking among diving officials. (The diving referee and his/her assistant may confer when necessary)
  6. Judge fairly and be consistent with your scores.
  7. Be familiar with and use the entire scoring range from 0 to 10.


With the adoption of the no-recall false start procedure, it is extremely important that the starter be positioned on the opposite side of the pool from the referee.

It is imperative that the starter gives all commands in a clear, calm and concise manner and start the race as soon as all competitors are ready.

  1. Prior to the meet, report to the referee and ascertain exactly what duties and procedures you will be responsible for during the course of the meet.
  2. Verify that all starting equipment is available and functioning properly. Electronic starting equipment should be tested prior to use.
  3. At the start of each race, you should have a clear and unobstructed view of all competitors. For backstroke starts, it may be helpful to take an additional step towards the far end of the pool to observe the backstroke swimmer’s feet position.
  4. Because the no-recall start is used at the interscholastic level, the starter must indicate in writing the lane number(s) of any swimmer(s) he/she believes may have left the starting blocks early. This information should be shared only with the referee upon the referee’s request.
  5. Be reminded that discharging the sounding device for the lead swimmer in the 400m/500yd freestyle may be conducted from either the side of the pool or over the lane of the lead swimmer.
  6. If asked to do so by the referee, record the order of finish for every race.
  7. The responsibility for keeping score of the meet is that of the scorer’s table and the referee (not the starter). If a coach inquires about the score, refer him/her to the referee.

Stroke and Turn Judges

  1. Prior to the start of the meet, confer with the referee and determine what areas of the competition pool you are to be responsible for.
  2. Establish what your responsibilities will be for the finish of a race and that you are properly positioned at the completion of the race.
  3. If you are expected to collect entries, determine what procedures will be followed.
  4. Upon observing a stroke or turn violation, raise your hand over your head immediately. When confirmed by the referee, lower your hand. At the conclusion of the race, meet with the referee and advise him/her of your observation. Never discuss your observations with anyone except the referee.
  5. Turn judges must place themselves strategically to have the best view possible of the turns being performed. Consequently, when turn judges are assigned to cover a single lane, they should be in a position to look straight down to observe turns. When a turn judge is responsible for covering several lanes, he/she should take a position at the end wall. Observing a race while seated is unacceptable practice.
  6. Verify that the lane counting devices are in place and functioning properly prior to the start of the 400m/500 yd freestyle.

Lane Time/Judge

  1. Have a clear understanding of what is expected of you prior to the start of the meet.
  2. Start your watch at the flash of either the strobe light or starting gun if possible. If you are unable to view the flash, start your watch with the starting sound.
  3. When observing turns, position yourself so that you are looking straight down.
  4. At the finish, observe the touch of the timing pad or the end wall by looking straight down.
  5. Use the proper method to report observed violations to the referee.
  6. Recording results and violations is good practice and it will avoid potential problems.
  7. Do not ask for, or give to anyone, an opinion regarding the results of a race other than to confer with the official having that responsibility.
  8. Taking splits while timing is not your responsibility and is to be avoided.