Fairfax Station, VA
Who Are All These People Dressed in White?
Your first swim meet can be a bewildering experience, as you encounter a vast horde of adults dressed in white. US Swimming rules specify white as the color to be worn by all officials. This is also practical, as white is the best color to wear on a hot, humid summer morning.
Clerk of the Course
The clerk of the course is the "gatekeeper" for all swimmers in our meets. The people who perform this function get the swimmers to the right lanes for the correct race. You can't run a race without swimmers, and the clerk of the course makes sure the right swimmer gets to the right place at the right time.
The referee is the chief official for each swim meet. He/she is responsible for the conduct of the meets and is the final authority on the interpretation and enforcement of all swimming rules. Prior to the start of each race, the referee ensures that all deck officials are ready and blows a whistle to signify that the starter can start the race. When the whistle is blown for an event, everyone in attendance must remain quiet so the swimmers can hear the starter.
The starter is responsible for ensuring that all swimmers are given a fair and equitable start. The starter will inform the swimmers of the stroke and distance to be swum and then instruct them to "Take your mark". After all swimmers are ready and still, the starter will start the race, using a "Colorado System" (so called because it is built by Colorado Timing Systems). This system consists of a public address system, a horn, and a strobe light.
Occasionally, a swimmer leaves the starting wall early. In past years, the starter and referee would make a special effort to stop the race and then re-start the swimmers. A new rule, based on the thinking that you shouldn’t penalize the swimmers who did not “false-start”, requires that the race proceed. The swimmer (or swimmers) who false-started will be disqualified after the race ends and after a consultation between the starter and the referee.
Stroke and Turn Judges
Once the race has started, the stroke and turn judges are responsible for ensuring that all swimmers obey all the rules for the stroke that they are swimming. These people are always at the ends of the pool for starts and finishes and walk the sides of the pool as best they can within the physical constraints of the pool. If a stroke and turn judge sees a violation of the rules, he raises his hand to signify that an infraction has occurred. A disqualification is recorded on a DQ slip, which the referee reviews and approves and forwards copies to the table workers and the team rep.
Relay Take-off Judges
During relays, you'll see relay take-off judges at each end of the pool. Their job is to ensure that each swimmer touches the wall before the next swimmer in the relay leaves the deck. Two judges for each lane must agree that a swimmer has left too soon. Infractions are noted as described above for stroke and turn judges.
The timers are the most important people to every swimmer. They are the people who determine each swimmer's official time for each race. Being a timer is a good entry level position for new parents. Some parents have been timers for years and wouldn't want to see a swim meet from any other vantage point. If you can start and stop a stopwatch, you can be a timer. We'll even provide the stopwatch. Timers start their watches on the strobe light from the Colorado system and stop their watches when the swimmer touches the wall. For Saturday meets and preferably for Monday night meets, there are three timers per lane and all three times are recorded. The middle time is the official time. The chief timer collects the time cards from the timers, reviews them for accuracy and completeness, and forwards them on to the table workers.
The time cards from the timers and any DQ slips go to the table workers who determine the order of finish for each event, score the meet, and prepare ribbons for the participants. Several people from each team perform these functions to ensure that errors are caught before the results are announced.