In 2007, USA Swimming implemented a forward racing start
certification protocol. Based on observation, coaches use their
expertise to certify that each athlete is capable of consistently
and safely performing shallow forward racing starts on demand in 4
feet of water (The minimum depth for starts in competition is 4
At the 2015 USAS Convention, the USA Swimming House of Delegates
adopted safety guidelines for teaching and performing backstroke
racing starts. In 2018, the Operational Risk Committee’s
recommendations for Backstroke Start Teaching Protocol and
Certification were adopted. The recommendations took care to keep
this process as streamlined as possible for coaches. This new
certification is now combined with the Forward Start Certification
adopted in 2009.
The new requirement (Backstroke Start certification) is to be
effective on May 1, 2018.
The 2007 Forward Start Certification protocol and 2009 rule
amendment requiring a depth of 6 feet for teaching racing start
remain unchanged and in effect.
USA Swimming worked with the American Red Cross (ARC) during this
process and the ARC will update its
Safety Training for Swim Coaches Manual
in 2018. The updated materials emphasize the importance of
appropriate safety measures in teaching racing starts, including
the proper progression for novice swimmers for both forward and
As always, teaching racing starts shall only take place under the
direct supervision of a USA Swimming member coach in at least 6
feet of water. The definition of teaching racing starts now
includes a requirement that a USA Swimming Member Coach certify
that a swimmer is proficient in performing all racing starts. The
certification process includes the completion of a Racing Start
Certification Procedure and Checklist which is included in
the Complete Forward and Backstroke Start Protocols and
What follows is a list combining the previous requirements for the
Forward Start with the new requirements for the Backstroke
1. USA Swimming Safety Notice to Parents.
This provides basic information to parents and emphasizes their
responsibility in making sure their swimmer does not attempt to
perform a racing start in less than six feet of water if they have
not been properly certified. A copy of this Notice to Parents
should be given to the parents of every swimmer and should be
displayed prominently and regularly on team bulletin boards, web
sites, in newsletters and in any new members packets.
2. Racing Start Certification Procedure and
Checklist. This process is required to be completed for every
swimmer. Additional information and requirements are shown in the
3. Frequently Asked Questions on Racing
Start Certification. This should answer most of the questions that
may arise regarding the certification process and use of the new
This certification process is very important to the safety of our
athletes and provides additional protection for our coaches in the
event of an injury to an athlete.
If you have any additional questions or need additional
guidance regarding this, please contact Tom Avischious
at USA Swimming Headquarters.
Team Unify has been notified of this new requirement and will do
their best to incorporate the new backstroke start checklist into
the electronic checklist that they currently offer for the forward
start as close to the May 1 deadline as possible.
Forward AND Backstroke Start Certification
I. Certifying Athletes for BOTH
Forward and Backstroke Starts
A. For swimmers with less than one-year experience
and for swimmers age 10 years and under:
The swimmer must have satisfactorily completed the appropriate
forward racing start teaching progressions as set forth in the
Racing Start Certification Checklists included in this document
package. The American Red Cross Safety Training for Swim Coaches
Manual has the Forward Racing Start Checklist and will include the
backstroke learning progression after a 2018 update.
B. For swimmers with more than one-year experience
and/or swimmers age 11 and older:
Certification is based on the coach’s observation that the
swimmer is capable of safely controlling the depth of his or her
C. Backstroke Racing Start With the
f an athlete will use the ledge in competition, certification with
the ledge is required. If an athlete will not use the ledge in
competition, certification with the ledge is not required. The same
age stipulations as in (A) and (B) above apply.
II. Water Depth (from Rulebook Section
103.2, page 45)
“Minimum water depth for teaching all racing starts, prior to
certification, in any setting from any height starting blocks, from
backstroke ledges or from the deck shall be 6 feet (1.84 meters)
measured for a distance of 3 feet 3-1/2 inches (1.0 meter) to 16
feet 5 inches (5.0 meters) from the end wall. Teaching racing
starts shall only take place under the direct supervision of a USA
Swimming member coach and shall include:
A. All racing start instruction until a swimmer
has been certified by his or her USA Swimming member coach as
proficient in performing a racing start, and
B. Subsequent to certification, instruction which
seeks to alter a swimmer’s basic technique in performing a
Prior to certification, all racing starts must take place from a
position in the water, regardless of pool depth. Subsequent to
certification, practicing of racing starts may take place in water
depth of four (4) feet (1.22 meters) and deeper.
III. In all cases, the certification is based on the
coach’s professional judgment.
IV. Each club is responsible for retaining, for three
years, an electronic or paper certification form for each of its
swimmers. There is no requirement that these forms be sent to an
LSC or to officials responsible for any competition.
V. If a swimmer is certified at one club and then
transfers to another, the swimmer must be recertified at the new