Becoming a Volunteer Official


At any swimming meet there are a range of different people involved in running the competition.

A key distinction is between technical and non-technical officials. Technical official are the

people in white who are responsible for ensuring that the rules of swimming are upheld and that

all swimmers have the opportunity to compete fairly in whatever events they swim. At any meet

there are a range of different officials including referee(s), starter, judges (stroke, finish and turns)

and timekeepers. We need at least 20 officials across the different levels of qualification to run a



As a swimming parent you spend a lot of time attending swimming meets. Becoming an official

gives you an insight into how swimming meets work, provides you with something to do when

son/daughter isn't swimming and is a great source of free sweeties. From the Club's perspective

we need a pool of officials inside the club so that we can run our own meets. You do not have to

officiate at other club's meets if you don't want to.


In order to become an official you need to attend an induction session and then complete a series

of practical sessions, recorded in a workbook, focusing upon the duties associated with the

qualification being worked towards. Apart from the Referee course there are no written exams.

There are 4 grades of officials as follows:- (a) Judge level 1; Judge level 2; Judge level 2 & starter

and (d) referee. No prior knowledge of swimming rules is assumed at the start of training to

become an official. All you need is a clipboard, a stopwatch, a pen and an enthusiasm for



This is the first level of British qualification for which the minimum age is 15. It encompasses the

role and duties of a Timekeeper, Chief Timekeeper and Inspector of Turns.

Timekeeper - You record the time the swimmer takes to complete the race using a stopwatch and

record it on the heat sheets. If the meet is working with Automatic Officiating Equipment (AOE)

ie electronics then there will also be a secondary back-up button that you need to push when the

swimmer completes the race. If the meet is using manual times the Chief Timekeeper will collect

the time sheets for each event.

Chief Timekeeper to ensure the timekeepers perform their role. If the meet is manual (ie not

electronic - AOE) they collect the time sheets from the timekeeper after each event and work out

the finishing times for the swimmers based on the order of the finish in agreement with the


Inspector of Turns as a J1 you are also expected to be responsible for looking at the swimmers

turns and finishes. Do not worry - you cannot disqualify a swimmer, all you do is report an

infringement if you see it to the Referee or Chief Inspector of Turns. The only person who can

disqualify a swimmer is the Referee. If you think you saw an infringement

then you must give the swimmer the benefit of doubt. This part of J1 requires knowledge of the

rules relating to the turn and finish for each stroke but this is where the mentoring will help since

you will be attending meets and placed with more experienced officials who will ask questions

and explain what you should be looking for.

Chief Inspector of Turns is the link between the Inspector of Turns (J1) and the Referee. Takes

the report from the time keeper to the referee.

Relay take-Off Judge another role that J1s are expected to do is to watch the take-over when

the incoming swimmer touches and the swimmer on the blocks dives in. If you see an

infringement you report it to the Chief Inspector of Turns/Referee. Again training is given in the

rules operating for this element of the race.


This is the second level of qualification. It encompasses the role and duties in relation to all

aspects of judging and the theoretical role and duties of Starter. This is based around a workshop

session followed by practical sessions with an experienced official and a final practical session.

Judges of stroke: J2 officials are responsible for ensuring that all stroke rules are complied with.

As with J! Stroke judges do not disqualify swimmers. Rather they report observed infringements

to the Referee who will disqualify the swimmer.

Finish judge: writes the lane order of swimmers as they finish and passes these to the Referee.

An important role even in the meets with electronics as sometimes these systems fail!


This role is the most visible and easiest to understand role. The starter's role is to ensure that the

start is fair for all swimmers. As with J2 this is based around a workshop session followed by

practical sessions with an experienced official and a final assessed practical session.


This role is the highest level of qualification in British Swimming and combines several theory

sessions, an exam and assessed practical sessions. The Referee is in overall control of all aspects

of the meet and is responsible for health and safety as well as ensuring that the competition is fair.

It to the Referee that judges report observed infringements and who decides whether these will be



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