Swim meets are an essential part of the sport of swimming allowing athletes to test their skill and reach their swimming goals. Swimming officials implement the technical and administrative rules of swimming and ensure the competition is fair for all athletes.
In Ontario, swim officials are volunteers including parents, family members, and individuals dedicated to the sport of swimming. To qualify as a swim official, individuals are certified by Swimming Canada, attend clinics, and receive on-deck training.
The Toronto Swim Club, like most swim clubs in Canada, relies heavily on parents participating as officials in order to host consistent and fair racing opportunities.
How to Become a Swim Official
In order to volunteer on deck as an official at a sanctioned swim meet, Swimming Canada requires that individuals are registered. There are two ways for a new volunteer, who is aged 14 years or older, to register:
1. You may sign up to attend the first two officials’ clinics – Introduction to Swimming Officiating and Safety Marshal – which are offered by the club several times per year. These two clinics are offered together and will be advertised in the Events section on the home page of the club’s website.
Having successfully completed these clinics, consented to the collection and use of specific personal information (PIPEDA form), and agreed to abide by the Swim Ontario Code of Conduct; you are certified as a Level I official and will be registered with Swimming Canada.
2. Alternatively, you may take the first two clinics – Introduction to Swimming Officiating and Safety Marshal – online through the Swimming Canada education system. In order to take these clinics online, please e-mail the TSC Club Officials Administrator (COA), Karen Sargeant at firstname.lastname@example.org, asking to be registered with Swimming Canada and you will be sent login details for the education system.
Once you have successfully completed both of these clinics and agreed to abide by the Swim Ontario Code of Conduct, print the PIPEDA form and deliver a signed copy (parent or guardian for registrants under the age of 18 years) to the club office and let Karen Sargeant (email@example.com) know that you have done so. You will then be certified as a Level I official.
As a Level I official you can now start volunteering as a Timekeeper during sanctioned swim meets.
Higher Level Positions
Once you have gained on-deck experience and feel comfortable in the Timekeeper position, you should request deck evaluation. Before the start of a sanctioned swim meet session with a minimum duration of 2 hours, ask the Session Referee for a deck evaluation. Not all deck evaluation requests can be granted. Successful deck evaluations will be recorded on your Officials Certification Card. You should let Karen Sargeant (firstname.lastname@example.org) know about your successful deck evaluations so that these can be recorded in the Swimming Canada officials’ database.
Once you have two successful deck evaluations, the next clinic to take is the Inspector of Turns and Judge of Stroke (also known as Strokes & Turns). This allows you to begin to volunteer as a Head Lane Timer, Inspector of Turns, or a Stroke Judge.
The most common positions at meets are Timekeeper, Head Lane Timer, Inspector of Turns, and Judge of Stroke. All volunteers are encouraged to move beyond these positions. The club’s ability to host and/or assist at other club’s meets relies on officials progressing through the levels of certification. TSC offers incentives in the form of fees discounts to members who are certified and active Level III official and higher.
Learn more about Moving Up the Ladder from Swimming Canada and about the Education and Development Pathway from Swim Ontario.
Description of Officials' Positions
As a TIMEKEEPER, you operate various timing devices, such as stopwatches or electronic buttons attached to the automatic timing equipment. Timekeepers are responsible for starting their watches at the starter's signal, and stopping their watches or activating their buttons when any part of the swimmer's body touches the wall at the finish. The watch time is then recorded and used to determine the race results.
An INSPECTOR OF TURNS observes the swimmers from either the start/finish end or turn end of the pool. The inspector of turns is responsible for judging the starts, finishes, and turns during each race. At the start end this position is sometimes called a Head Timekeeper.
A STROKE JUDGE walks the distance alongside the side pool, typically between the backstroke flags, and observes the swimmers on his half of the pool. The stroke judge ensures compliance with the rules pertaining to the mechanics of the swim such as the arm stroke and kick.
A SAFETY MARSHAL is assigned the important responsibility of maintaining a safe swim environment during warm-up by monitoring the behaviour of swimmers in and out of the pool.
The CHIEF TIMER assures that all lanes have timekeepers, working stopwatches and/or electronic timing buttons, clipboards, pencils, and timing cards or sheets.
The CLERK OF COURSE checks swimmers into the meet, "scratches" swimmers that are absent or do not intend to swim an event, and seeds swimmers according to their entry times. The clerk of course may also shepherd swimmers from a staging area to the starting blocks.
The CHIEF JUDGE ELECTRONICS determines official times when electronic timing equipment is in use.
If you know your way around a computer, RECORDER-SCORER, may be the pace for you. Swimmers' times are received electronically through an ARES timing system or manually by stopwatch. These times are received or entered using Hy-tek software, and are matched to the individual swimmer's name. The Recorder-Scorer is responsible for bringing all this information together, for posting the results of races, and for printing labels for the awards.
The MEET MANAGER is responsible for planning, organizing and executing every aspect of the meet. This individual makes sure it runs without a hitch. They prepare the swim meet package, complete the sanction application with Swim Ontario, arrange for equipment and items needed for the meet right to the awards presentation. This job requires someone with patience, perseverance and attention to detail to ensure the swim meet is a success.
The STARTER ensures that all swimmers receive a fair and equitable start. The starter works closely with the referee, and assumes responsibility for the start at the referee's signal. The starter steps the swimmers onto the starting blocks or into the water, directs the swimmers to "take their mark", and in conjunction with the referee, determines when a false start has occurred. The starter is also responsible for making sure that the starting equipment is in working order prior to the start of a session, and may instruct the timekeepers in their duties.
The REFEREE has the overall authority and responsibility for seeing that the competition complies with all of the appropriate rules and regulations. The referee resolves all questions related to the conduct of the swim meet and reviews any disqualifications.
OFFICIALS 'DRESS CODE'
The dress code for Swim Ontario sanctioned competitions consists of