Rules

In order to create a fair playing field for honest competition, USA Swimming has set in place technical rules of competition. While these rules are extremely technical in nature, the following information highlights the most basic of these rules. When a swimmer fails to meet the regulations of an event, they are disqualified from competition for that event. This means that they are not eligible for awards, points, medals, trophies, or ribbons for that event. In some cases, a swimmer can be disqualified from competing in any more events in that meet. This is very rare and thus not covered in this text.

STROKES & EVENTS:
Swimming has five individual competitive stroke events that range in distance from one length of a 25-yard/meter pool to 66 lengths of a 25-yard pool or 30 lengths of a 50-meter pool. The events are broken down into freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and individual medley. There are also two different forms of relays, both of which have four swimmers who swim one quarter of the total distance.

Freestyle—The competitor may swim any stroke. The stroke most commonly used is the front crawl, which is characterized by the alternate overhand motion of the arms and an alternating (up-and-down) flutter kick. On turns, some part of the swimmer must touch the wall. Most swimmers do a flip turn and touch with their feet. Swimmers may not pull on the lane lines or push off the bottom, but they can stand up without being disqualified, so long as they do not walk on the bottom or push forward from the bottom. Swimmers may stay submerged after each start or turn for 15 meters, at which time they must surface or be disqualified. Freestyle races are contested in the following distances: 25 yards/meters, 50
yards/meters, 100 yards/meters, 200 yards/meters, 400 meters, 500 yards, 800 meters, 1000 yards, 1500 meters, and 1650 yards.

Backstroke—The competitor may swim in any manner on their back. The stroke most commonly used is an alternating motion of the arms with a flutter kick. Swimmers may stay submerged after each start or turn for 15 meters, at which time some part of their body must break the surface of the water. Swimmers may not stand up or pull on lane lines or they will be disqualified. On turns, swimmers may rotate to the stomach and perform a flip turn with some part of the swimmer touching the wall. Swimmers must finish the race on their back. Backstroke races are contested in the following distances: 25 yards/meters, 50 yards/meters, 100 yards/meters, and 200 yards/meters.

Breaststroke—The competitor must make simultaneous arm motions in the same horizontal plane. The hands are pressed out from in front of the breast, go wide and then sweep back together under the chin. The kick is a simultaneous, somewhat circular motion similar to the action of a frog. On turns and finishes, the swimmer must touch with two hands simultaneously. Swimmers can be disqualified for failing to touch with two hands together, allowing their hands to pull past their waist (except on the first stroke after a turn -30-or start), or doing a “scissors” style kick. Swimmers may never stand up or pull on the lane lines. Breaststroke races are contested in the following distances: 25 yards/meters, 50 yards/meters, 100 yards/meters, and 200 yards/meters.

Butterfly—The competitor must use a simultaneous overwater recovery of both arms combined with an undulating dolphin kick. In the kick, the swimmer must keep both legs together and may not use a flutter, scissor, or breaststroke kick. Swimmers may stay submerged for up to 15 meters after each start and turn, at which point they must surface. Swimmers must touch the wall with two hands simultaneously or they will be disqualified. Swimmers may never stand up or pull on the lane lines. Butterfly races are contested in the following distances: 25 yards/meters, 50 yards/meters, 100 yards/meters, and 200 yards/meters.

Individual Medley—Commonly referred to as the IM. Competitors swim equal distances of all four strokes in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. In the IM, freestyle is any stroke that has not been previously swum. IM’s are contested in the following distances: 100 yards/meters, 200 yards/meters, and 400 yards/meters.

Medley Relay—Four swimmers each swim one of the competitive strokes for the same distance. Because backstroke is the only stroke that begins in the water, the order for medley relays is different from an IM. The order of strokes is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle. As in the IM, freestyle is any stroke not previously swum. Strokes in the relays are judged the same as in individual events. On the relay exchanges, a swimmer
may be in motion before their teammate touches the wall, but their feet must still be in contact with the starting blocks until the touch occurs. Medley relays are contested in the following distances: 100 yards/meters, 200 yards/meters, and 400 yards/meters.

Freestyle Relay—Four swimmers each swim equal distances of the freestyle. Relay exchanges are the same as in the Medley Relay. Freestyle Relays are contested in the following distances: 100 yards/meters, 200 yards/meters, 400 yards/meters, and 800 yards/meters

For specific language on any technical rules consult the USA Swimming Rules and Regulations book. Violations of the rules are reported to the Referee. The rules require that every reasonable effort be made to notify the swimmer or his coach of the reason for the disqualification. If your child is disqualified in an event, be supportive rather than critical. For beginning swimmers, a disqualification should be treated as a learning experience, not as a punishment. A disqualification alerts the swimmer and coach to what portions of the swimmer’s stroke need to be corrected. They should be considered in the same light as an incorrect answer in schoolwork-they point out areas that need further practice. Disqualifications are necessary to keep the competition fair and equitable for all competitors. A supportive attitude on the part of the official, coach, and parent can make a positive situation out of the disqualification.