5 Chief Judge
6 Stroke and Turn
7 Clerk of Course
|Handbook for Officiating
Stroke and Turn
Well run meets and good competitive results are directly related to good officiating. Thorough knowledge of the rules, coupled with fair and consistent application of them, make a good official. To confidently work on deck, a Stroke & Turn Judge must study the rules, attending training sessions and working regularly at meets.
Officials should always keep in mind that the swimmers have worked hard to achieve their successes and deserve a fair and equitable competition. Officials must apply the rules intelligently at all times, using common sense and good judgement. The rules of swimming are intended to provide fair and equitable conditions of competition. Officials must work hard to fully understand the rules and their responsibilities in applying them.
The authority of Stroke/Turn/Relay Take-off Judges (like that of the Referee and Starter) to disqualify a swimmer makes these positions particularly important. To function properly, one dominant principle must prevail:
"Fairness to all competitors, giving the benefit of
The rules of swimming define the acceptable form for each stroke. Many variations of form are possible and may still comply to the letter of the rules. Decisions regarding the form of strokes and turns must, therefore, be subject to flexible judgment and common sense. "Ugly isnt necessarily illegal."
I. BASIC CONCEPTS
a.). Take officiating seriously and work hard at it. Competitors have a right to expect officials to know the rules and interpret them correctly, fairly and courteously.
b) Work regularly at the job.
c) Be professional in manner.
d) Uniform. (Varies in LSCs)
STROKE JUDGE -- ensures that the rules relating to the style of swimming designated for the event are being observed.
TURN JUDGE -- ensures that, when turning or finishing, the swimmer complies with the turning and finishing rules applicable to the stroke used.
RELAY TAKE-OFF JUDGE -- ensures that a relay swimmer does not leave the starting platform before the preceding swimmer has touched the end of the pool.
The Referee (or, at the Referee's discretion, the Chief Judge) assigns and instructs Stroke and Turn Judges and Relay Take-off Judges. Before the competition begins, the Referee determines the respective areas of stroke and turn responsibility as well as jurisdiction.
Stroke Judge -- At the start, the Stroke Judge is responsible for observing the swimmers at the 15 meter mark for all strokes except the breaststroke.
After the start, the Stroke Judge walks the sides of the pool, preferably abreast of swimmers during all strokes except freestyle. The breaststroke and butterfly are best judged by walking abreast or slightly behind the swimmers. Judges should walk at a pace that is sufficient to stay with the swimmers. If the field spreads out, the stroke judge should maintain a position slightly ahead of the trailing swimmers while maintaining contact with the lead swimmer(s). If there are two (2) stroke judges working one side of the pool (usually in long course meets), a "lead-lag" observation pattern could be utilized as the field spreads out; i. e., the leading stroke judge takes jurisdiction over the faster swimmer(s) while the following stroke judge takes jurisdiction over the slower swimmer(s). After each turn, the stroke judges switch jurisdictions as they begin to walk in the opposite direction. Teamwork and coordination are important between the two (2) stroke judges to ensure that all of the swimmers are observed on a fair and equitable basis.
The stroke judge must clearly be in position to watch swimmers in the
backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle events who are submerged after the start
or any turn to ensure that their heads surface before the 15-meter mark.
Turn Judge -- The Turn Judges are positioned at either end of the pool.
Turns and finishes are best judged from the ends of the pool, slightly ahead of, but not directly over, the swimmer. The one exception to this technique occurs when judging backstroke turns and finishes, when the judge should stand directly over the lane, if possible. If a judge must observe more than one lane (the norm for most meets at the LSC level), the official will have to adjust his position to best observe all assigned lanes.
A Turn Judge at the starting end of the pool must position himself so he can step forward quickly to observe the first stroke and kick in the breaststroke, butterfly or individual medley events as soon as the starting signal is given and the swimmers leave the blocks. (NOTE: A judge in this situation must not block the Timers' view of the Starter, the starting device, or the Starter's view of the swimmers.)
(NOTE: Since most local swim committees (LSCs) mainly use combined "Stroke and Turn Judges," these individuals must be prepared to walk the sides of the deck and to "wrap around" on the turns, positioning themselves over the ends before the first swimmer in their jurisdiction turns, to ensure they cover all aspects of the competition.)
The Referee will assign each Stroke and Turn Judge an area of responsibility before the competition begins. This will include the manner and sequence in which he wants the judges to move to different areas.
The Stroke and Turn Judges responsibilities begin after the start. Any action prior to the start is the Starter's responsibility or, in the case of relay take-offs, it may be the Relay Take-off Judge's responsibility. Each Stroke and Turn Judge should observe the start; however, his duties commence immediately after the start.
There are two positions for Relay Take-off Judge: one stands immediately beside the starting block (the LANE judge) while the other looks across the lanes from the side of the pool (the SIDE judge). Depending on the number of people available and the lanes to watch a side judge could be assigned 2 but not more than 4 lanes and lane judges (depending on availability) could be assigned to watch from 1 to 4 lanes. It is preferable to have the lane judges watch fewer lanes than the side judges if a choice on assignment must be made. For example one side judge watching lanes 1-4 and a lane judge watching lanes 1&2 and a lane judge watching 3&4, instead of the other way around.
Finally, where limited personnel or the pools configuration does not permit the ideal arrangement of officials, common sense and equity in judgement must prevail.
III. REPORTING VIOLATIONS
IV. RULES FOR SWIMMING COMPETITION
1.Start -- Forward start shall be used.
2.Stroke -- Use of any swimming style except in I.M. or Medley Relay, where "freestyle" means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly. Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it is permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of no more than 15 meters (16.4 yards) after the start and each turn. By that point, the head must have broken the water surface.
3.Turns -- Upon completion of each length, the swimmer must touch the solid wall or pad at the end of the course with some part of his body. (NOTE: a "hand touch" is NOT required!)
4.Finish -- when any part of the swimmer touches the solid wall or electronic pad at the end of the pool.
5.Examples of violations:
a. Failure to touch at the turn. (NOTE: if touch missed, official should not turn away immediately, since swimmer may reach back and make a legal touch or may come back if he missed the wall.)
b. Finishing in the wrong lane.
c. Walking or springing from the bottom of the pool.
d. Getting artificial assistance (e.g., grasping and pulling on the lane lines; pushing off side walls.)
1.Start -- Back start shall be used.
a. Standing in or on the gutter or curling the toes over the lip of the gutter immediately after the start is not permitted.
b. Swimmer must push off on back and continue swimming on back throughout the race.
c. Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it is permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of no more than 15 meters (16.4 yards) after the start and each turn. By that point, the head must have broken the water surface.
a. Upon the completion of each length, some part of the swimmer's body must touch the wall.
b. During the turn, the shoulders may turn past vertical toward the breast.
c. If the swimmer turns past vertical, a continuous single arm pull or a simultaneous double arm pull may be used to initiate the turn.
d. There shall be no kick or arm pull that is independent of the continuous turning action.
e. The swimmer must have returned to a position on the back upon leaving the wall.
4.Finish -- when any part of the swimmer's body touches the wall at the end of the course.
5.Examples of violations:
a. Sliding toes up after the starting signal and standing in or on the gutter.
b. Swimmer submerged after start or turn and head surfacing beyond 15 meters (16.4 yards).
c. Getting artificial assistance (e.g., grasping and pulling on the lane lines to assist forward motion; pulling or pushing off side walls.)
d. Turning shoulders past vertical on the turn and, after completion of the arm pull, either gliding some more or taking additional kicks/pulls to bring swimmer closer to the wall before initiating the somersaulting action. (Note: this constitutes a pause in the turning action!)
e. When shoulders have turned past vertical on the turn, swimmer misses touch on the wall and sculls back to touch.
f. Failure to return to or past vertical toward the back before the swimmer leaves the wall on the turn.
g. Turning shoulders past vertical at the finish.
1.Start -- Forward start shall be used.
a. From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and after each turn, the body must be kept on the breast.
b. The arms must move simultaneously and in the same horizontal plane without any alternating movement.
c. The hands must be pushed forward together from the breast on, under, or over the water and must be brought back on or under the water surface.
d. The elbows shall be under the water except for the last stroke at the finish of the prescribed distance.
e. The hands shall not be brought back beyond the hipline except during the first stroke after the start and each turn.
f. Some part of the swimmer's head shall break the water surface at least once during each complete cycle of one arm stroke and one leg kick, in that order, except during the first cycle after the start and each turn.
g. The swimmer's head must break the water surface before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke.
h. During the first cycle after the start and each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs and one leg kick while wholly submerged.
(NOTE: Either a complete or incomplete movement of the arms or legs from the starting position is considered as one complete stroke or kick.)
a. All vertical and lateral movements of the legs shall be simultaneous.
b. The feet must be turned out-ward during the propulsive part of the kick movement.
c. A scissors, flutter, or down-ward butterfly kick is not permitted.
d. Breaking the surface with the feet shall not merit disqualification unless followed by a downward butterfly kick.
4.Turns and Finish:
a. The touch must be made with both hands simultaneously at, above or below the water surface (but the two hands need not be on the same level).
b. The head may be submerged after the last arm pull prior to the touch, provided it breaks the water surface at some point during any part of the last complete or incomplete stroke cycle preceding the touch.
c. (Turns only) Once a touch has been made, the swimmer may turn in any manner desired.
d. (Turns only) The shoulders must be at or past the vertical toward the breast when the swimmer leaves the wall.
e. (Turns only) The prescribed form must then be attained from the beginning of the first arm stroke.
f. In the IM, the completion of the breaststroke leg is judged as a finish, NOT a turn!
5.Examples of violations:
a. At the start or after any turn, head still below the water surface when the hands begin to turn inward at the widest part of the second arm stroke.
b. Over-the-water recovery with elbows not touching the water.
c. Touch not simultaneous or 1-hand touch on turns or finish. (Need not be on the same level.) On the turns, be alert for a legal, "quick" touch, which can be mistakenly interpreted as a 1-hand touch.
e. Sidestroke or scissors kick (any alternating movement).
f. Butterfly or flutter kicks underwater after the start or after push off at the turn. (A natural relaxation of the legs when coming off the wall at the turn, or a slight leg action induced by the piking of the body when taking arm strokes at the start or turn, is not considered a voluntary movement and, therefore, shall not be identified as a kick.)
g. Body not on breast when beginning first arm pull following start or turn.
h. Body not at or past the vertical towards the breast when the swimmer leaves the wall after a turn.
i. Getting artificial assistance.
1. Order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. (Reminder: In the IM, "freestyle" means any other stroke than the butterfly, backstroke or breaststroke.)
2. Rules pertaining to individual strokes govern disqualifications. (NOTE: when turning from the butterfly to the backstroke, after a legal touch, the swimmer's "shoulders must be at or past the vertical toward the back when the swimmer leaves the wall.")
3. The turns from one stroke to another are considered finishes, NOT turns, and are to be judged accordingly. The significant part here is that, when going from backstroke to breaststroke, the swimmer's shoulders in the backstroke may NOT turn past vertical prior to the touch of the wall! Moreover, the swimmer must be at or past the vertical towards the breast when leaving the wall in the breaststroke.
1.Freestyle -- any desired stroke or combination of strokes; swimmers usually do the "Crawl."
2. Medley -- order: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle. (In the Medley Relay, "freestyle" means any stroke other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.)
3. Rules pertaining to individual strokes govern disqualifications.
4. No competitor may swim more than one leg.
5. As in the IM, finish rules, rather than turn rules, apply at the end of each stroke.
6. Except for the last swimmer, relay swimmers must leave the water immediately upon finishing their leg.
7.Examples of Relay Disqualifications:
a. Stroke violation.
b. Failure to swim proper order of strokes.
c. Failure to swim required distance.
d. Take-off violation (decision only by Referee/Relay Take-off Judge).
e. Entering the water (Referee decision): whole team is disqualified if any member, other than the swimmer designated to swim, enters the pool before all other competitors have finished!
For a relay team to be disqualified both judges must independently assess than an early take-off by a particular swimmer has occurred. Because a confirmation from another point of view is required, a Relay Take-off Judge does NOT indicate an observed early take-off with a raised hand. Relay Take-off Slips are used to ensure that two judges, observing independently and from different vantage points, have observed the same infraction. Here is an example of a relay take-off slip.
For a disqualification to be confirmed, both judges just properly fill out this form. It is a five step process:
1. Enter the event number
2. Enter the heat number
3. Mark the box appropriate for the assigned position.
4. After each swimmer leaves the block mark the swimmer number with a "O" (circle) if the swimmer's take-off was OK (not early) or with an "X" if the swimmer left early. Take care to conceal these marks from the swimmers in the lane or lanes being judged because the swimmers might believe their team has been disqualified and not put forth their best effort.
5. Sign the form. (The form can be signed at any time, but it's not valid without a signature.)
Both judges who observed the early take-off must sign that Disqualification Report which, together with the Relay Take-off Slips that indicated the dual confirmation of the early relay take-off, is submitted to the Referee for disposition.
V. A Philosophy of Stroke/Turn/Relay Take-off Officiating: Mental Traps
It is not very difficult to acquire the technical knowledge required to judge the strokes and turns or finishes. A judge will gain that knowledge and become proficient with practice. The challenge, however, is to apply that knowledge professionally. Whether we recognize it or not, all of us, as human beings, are influenced by a wide variety of factors when we try to make judgments. We have this marvelous thing called a brain, which allows us to apply "reason" whenever we make judgments. Yet, when using this capacity, we have to be careful not to apply human reason in such a way that it causes us to make poor or "sloppy" judgments. Over the years, various examples of this, often stemming from well intentioned but misguided rationale, have surfaced. Some examples of the "mental traps" that have surfaced in stroke and turn officiating over the years are:
1. Advantage vs. disadvantage (as a basis for making a judgment)?
The question of whether swimmer advantage / disadvantage should influence the official judgment of stroke, turn and finish violations has been the subject of much debate. Some authorities have used the term, "unfair advantage," in decisions relating to specific situations. Unfortunately, this has also caused considerable apprehension and/or misinterpretation about the intent of this phrase. There is no intent that this concept be applied broadly to all situations, thus justifying inaction by officials in not calling violations such as missed turns, touches, etc., because "no advantage was gained." This type of negative interpretation only leads to "sloppy" officiating and, unfortunately, gives an official an excuse for inadequate performance. Obviously, "unfair advantage" may be used to explain one reason why an action is an infraction. Still, a violation of the rules should be noted and the competitor disqualified whether an advantage is gained or not. Therefore, caution should be exercised in any application of this rationale, to preclude its use as a "crutch" for poor officiating.
2. The "Twice Theory."
Some judges feel they should wait until an infraction happens more than once before they call it. They rationalize this position in all sorts of ways (e.g., "That clears up any doubt." "That confirms that it wasn't a simple mistake by the swimmer." etc.) Frankly, all of these, again, are crutches and excuses for uncertain and poor officiating. There is no basis for waiting to see an infraction happen twice and, in fact, it often won't. The official must simply be certain of what he saw and make the call as soon as it is observed. If there is any doubt about the violation, then don't make the call! (Remember, the swimmer gets the benefit of any doubt.) But, by the same token, don't then concentrate on that one swimmer to see if he commits the suspected infraction again. Continue to give all the competitors uniform coverage in observing their performance.
3. "We dont disqualify 8 & Unders" (the age group may change to 10 & Unders).
People who take this position often rationalize it by saying they dont want to cause "mental trauma" to a youngster. They usually go on to say they have no problems "socking it to a 13 & Older." While this may sound good, it is grounded in some clearly erroneous and extraneous beliefs. First, it views the judges role as punitive. Thats completely wrong. Rather, a disqualification should be viewed as a) "protecting the other athletes" in the competition, and b) "educating" the athlete who commits the infraction so he/she wont do it again. Secondly, it assumes that everyone in the identified age group is a "beginner" while those in the older age groups are "experienced" and, therefore, should be held to a stricter standard. Yet, this is also often erroneous. Athletes enter the sport at various ages and some 8 & Unders (having competed for a year or more) are far more "experienced" then some teenagers who are just entering the sport. In any event, experience is irrelevant. Finally, the idea that disqualifying an 8 & Under will "traumatize the childs psyche" is ludicrous. It clearly ignores the fact that youngsters are constantly being corrected during their early, formative years; thats how they learn.
4. "Dont ask me to judge my child."
Advocates of this usually fall into one of two categories. First, "I dont want anyone to think my child got by with some infraction because I was judging." Second, "I dont want to have to explain to my child why he/she was disqualified." Yet, this goes to the central element of being a "professional" judge. The Referee must know that the judge treats everyone in the field the same - "fairly and equitably." - all the time. The Referee must be confident that a judge will identify an infraction regardless of the effect upon his child, his team (club), his LSC. This is probably the ultimate test of the judges impartiality, and referees should not let judges "off the hook" on this basis. To the judge, this is the time when he must separate himself from his parental role and accept the responsibility of being a USA Swimming judge.
5. Dont Infer (Extrapolate)
Succinctly put, this simply means: you can only call what you see, NOT what you deduct. You must actually see the swimmer miss the wall with his right hand on the turn, not assume he missed it because, by the time you looked, he was touching the wall with his left hand and was already turning. You must actually see the breaststroker take the second arm pull and be past the widest part of that second stroke before his head surfaces, not assume that it took two pulls to get that far out in the pool when you saw his head surface. Another way of putting this: dont look for reasons to disqualify. If you see the infraction and it is clear, report it, but if you are uncertain, remember that the benefit of any doubt must go to the athlete.
1. No outward manifestations during a race regarding illegality of competitor except raised hand.
2. Do not cheer, coach or swap disqualifications; control your emotions.
3. Do not fraternize with swimmers, coaches or spectators; disregard club affiliation and personal relationships.
4. Do not concentrate on frequent violators to the exclusion of others.
5. Give undivided attention -- start to finish.
6. If uncertain of role, consult with the Referee.
VI. JUDGING SWIMMERS WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITIES
1. Judge, in accordance with USA Swimming rules, any part of the body that is used.
2. Do not judge a part of the body that cannot be used.
3. Base your judgment on actual rule, not the swimmers technique.
Officiating can be an enjoyable experience. It is not designed to win popularity contests; however, the self satisfaction of having participated and having done a good job is very rewarding. Unfortunately, "sloppy" and uninformed officials rarely recognize their inadequacies, but fellow officials, coaches and swimmers do. Consequently, all officials must continually reassess their own performances. This can best be done by regularly reviewing the rules and training material and by attending retraining sessions.
The new or inexperienced official often asks, "How long will it take me to become a good Stroke and Turn Judge?" Obviously, it depends upon the individual but, rest assured, it won't happen overnight or without effort. Knowing the rules and attending training sessions are very important, but experience gained by working at meets is the only real teacher. Only experience can build the confidence the Stroke and Turn Judge requires before his or her performance becomes "automatic." Even then, it is essential that the judge continuously review the rules and regularly attend retraining sessions.
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