Aquatics Blog

Weird Swimming Rules

Starting From the Water

The National Federation of State High School Association Rule Book states (Rule 2-7, Art. 2. Penalties: 3.) “When one or more starting platforms are not securely attached to the deck or end wall, all swimmers shall start in the water, or on the deck, provided the water depth rule is not violated.”

Competitors swim during the women's 200m freestyle heats at the London 2012 Olympic GamesIn today’s sporting world, we have seen coaches go to tremendous lengths to gain an edge in competition. Famously, University of Iowa Football coach Hayden Fry, had the University paint the visiting team’s locker room pink in order to gain a competitive advantage. In 2005, at great expense the University added pink urinals, showers, and lockers to the visiting team’s locker room.

We have all been to our fair share of meets where there is a loose block, but I have never witnessed a coach requesting that everyone start in the water for a fair swim meet. During my senior year of high school, I myself might have won another state championship if this had been the case. In hindsight, I should have gone and looked for a block that was loose.

Why is it that coaches don’t pull this rule out more? I think our sport has a high moral character that is deeply ingrained into our coaches and participants. Every swimmer in every race has a chance to win as they all have a chance to get a best time! A coach isn’t going to sacrifice a best time for a chance to win a race… Well maybe a better way of phrasing it is that a coach wants his athletes to win a race while going a best time!

No Guns at the Pool

News flash… “NCAA Swimming Officials get held up going through a metal detector at TSA in a local airport. They are forced to leave starting pistol at security.”

The NCAA Rule Book states (Rule 2, Section 1. The Official Start) “When the starter sees that the swimmers are stationary, the starter shall start the race with an electronic-sound device. The use of a pistol shot is not permitted.”

The NFSHSA Rule Book Stats (Rule 2-7, Art. 3) “The starting signal shall be loud enough to insure a fair start…. NOTE: A pistol capable of discharging live ammunition shall not be used for the starting signal.”

I am all for safety at a swim meet. No running on a pool deck. Making sure there is adequate water depth for diving. These are all great rules that help keep our sport safe. Some might think that the NCAA rule book takes it to the next level when it states “the use of a pistol shot is not permitted” as a starting device at a swim meet.

Call me a helpless romantic, but when the timing system starter went out at a swim meet and I saw the Meet Referee/Starter get the pistol out of that little black plastic case, part of me got excited. The pop of the gun is one of those timeless aspects of our sport (and track & field) that brings back some nostalgia.  It is like playing football on a Friday night under the lights, the “pistol shot” got your heart racing and which definitely made you swim a little faster.

You just can’t imagine Jesse Owens or Mark Spitz starting with the electronic sound of the horn. Actually, Mark Spitz started with an electronic-sound device. We have to take it back another generation to Johnny Weissmuller. You just can’t imagine Tarzan starting with a beep!

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