Become an Official

One barometer of a team's health is the number of Officials on the team in ratio to the number of swimmers on the team.  As the number of swimmers on a team increases, the should be a proportional increase in the number of Officials.  Although that ratio doesn't need to be 1:1, with the amount of families the Cyclones has should allow the team to staff a meet with Officials from our own team.

Therefore, we are asking parents to become an Official.  There are several benefits associated with becoming an Official.

  1. Help support an excellent sport for children and promote a healthy lifestyle for children.
  2. Gain a more thorough understanding of swimming in particular, and sports in general.
  3. Fulfill volunteer obligations at club meets.
  4. Get closer to the action; know what’s happening on deck with the “best seat” in the pool.
  5. Get mentally and physically engaged during the meet rather than merely “spectating.”
  6. Be cooler on deck than in the stands.
  7. Receive free admission and great hospitality during sessions officiated.
  8. Connect with your child through a common interest.

There are many types of Officials and each plays an important part in running a swim meet.  Below are the various types of Officials and the role they play in running a swim meet.  Please note that new Officials can only become an Administrative Official or Judge; you must be a current Judge in order to become a Starter and a Starter to become a Referee.

  • Administrative Official- The Administrative Judge is responsible for the "dry side" of the meet.  They run the scorer's table and ensure a properly run meet.
  • Judges- Once the race has begun, the Judges have jurisdiction over the swimmers.  There are many different types of judges.  Hey include:
    • Chief- Assigns and supervises the activities of various other Judges.
    • Place Judge- Place Judges are positioned on the side of the pool nearest the finish and determines the order of finish of all swimmers.
    • Stroke Judge- The Stroke Judges determine if all appropriate stroke rules are adhered to.
    • Turn Judge- The Turn Judge operates both ends of the pool ensure the swimmer complies with the appropriate turn rules.
    • Relay Take-Off Judges- These Judges ensure the legal take off of all relay swimmers.
  • Starter- The Starter stands on the block side of the pool and assumes control of the swimmers until a fair start has been achieved.
  • Referee- The Referee runs the meet and oversees the entire meet.  The Referee is essentially the person in charge at the meet.  

The process of becoming an Official is very easy.  Below are the 10 steps needed in becoming an Official.  Detailed instructions, along with screen shots, can be found here.

  1. Take your Background Check- As part of the USA Swimming Safe Sport Program, all Officials and trainees are required to undertake a criminal background check. You need to have this completed before we can process your application to attend the upcoming clinic.  For more information on the reason for the background check and to submit your background check, please go to the USA Swimming Background Checking Program.
    The Level 2 background check will cost $39 and will take about 15 minutes to submit your application online; the Elgin Cyclones will reimburse your escrow account for the successful completion of your background check upon the successful completion of your Official’s test.  You will receive an e-mail confirmation upon completion of the application and when the results are available (may take up to 2 weeks). Do not send these results to the Illinois Swimming office; they will receive notification directly from USA Swimming within 72 hours of the completed check.
  2. Register for your Clinic- Go to Illinois Swimming’s Upcoming Clinic page and register for the clinic of your choice.  Follow the steps to register. The site will ask you for detailed information on what you want to register for.  The Elgin Cyclones will reimburse your escrow account for the Clinic upon successful completion of your Official’s test.
  3. Become a Member of USA Swimming- Fill out the Non-Athlete Registration Application and mail to the Illinois Swimming office, along with a copy of your clinic confirmation, and your $62 USA Swimming fee and $30 clinic fee.  The Elgin Cyclones will reimburse these fees to escrow account upon the successful completion of your Official’s test.
  4. Complete your Athlete Protection Training- Once you are set up in the USA Swimming Database (assume two weeks from the date you send in Step 3), you will need to take the USA Swimming Athlete Protection Course for Coaches and Non-Athlete Members. This is a one-hour online tutorial which can be taken before or after your training clinic, but cannot be taken until you are registered with USA Swimming.  Fill in your name and birth date, select Locate. If you are registered with USA Swimming, you will receive a response to your request, and you will simply select your name from the list. If you are not in the list, please wait a few more days and try again. If you fail a second time, please contact the Illinois Swimming office to check on your registration from Step 3. (Remember to wait two weeks from the date you sent this in.)
  5. Attend your Training Clinic- Attend the clinic you registered for.  Remember to print out your handouts and on-deck evaluation cards.  Both can be found under “Training Resources”.  For Stroke and Turn, you will need 4 evaluation forms.  For Admin Official (Judge), you will need 3 evaluation forms.
  6. Create a USA Swimming Account- Once you have completed the Athlete Protection course, you create an online account with USA Swimming, that will link to your registration records.  This account will be used to track all of your activities with Illinois and USA Swimming in the Officials Tracking System (OTS).  It will track meets you have attended, tests you have taken, evaluations you have completed and educational and mentoring events.
  7. Take your Online Test- Once you have completed your training clinic, in addition to your on deck training sessions, you will need to take an online open book certification test. The test is designed to help you understand the rules, and know where they are located in the rule book. It will take about 100 minutes to complete. You will need to take either the Stroke and Turn Certification Test or the Clerk of Course, Timer, and Timing Judge (yes all 3) Certification Tests for Administrative Official (Judge). (NOTE: Do not take the Administrative Test.)
  8. It is recommended that the test be taken prior to or in close proximity to your first or second training session. The test(s) can be found at:  You will need to complete Step 6 before taking the test(s).
  9. On Deck Training- Once you have completed your training clinic, you will need to be mentored on deck during swim events. The requirements are below:


# of Sessions

Min # of Meets

Min # of Trainers

Stroke & Turn




Administrative Official




  1. Certification- Once you have completed all of the steps above, send an email to requesting a change from trainee to certified status. Please include scanned (or photographed) copies of your completed on deck training evaluation forms. (NOTE: please limit the size of the email to 5 MB or less; two emails are perfectly acceptable.)

Although the steps may seem arduous, it is actually a very easy process and can be done in a few weeks. 

The Elgin Cyclones Swim Team will reimburse escrow accounts for all fees upon the successful completion of your tests and credentialing.  For more information on becoming an Official, please visit Illinois Swimming or contact Greg Bruggeman.