At their March meeting, the National Federation of High Schools Swimming and Diving Rules committee, which is the overarching governing body for the vast majority of high school swimming in the United States, voted on a huge swathe of proposed rules changes.
Below, we’ve summarized the most significant of these rules that have been voted in, failed, or where no action was taken. For a full list of rules considered, see the minutes from the meeting.
Track Start Blocks Approved For Use
The NFHS has officially approved the use of “Track-style starting blocks” in rule 2-7-2b. This will bring high school swimming more in line with what we’re seeing at the club and college levels. With these blocks becoming more-and-more common at facilities that host big meets, it’s more realistic for them to be incorporated into high school swimming.
The biggest concern here is whether or not this gives club swimmers an even bigger advantage over high-school only swimmers, which is a lingering concern at the scholastic level of the sport.
Timing Relaxed on Breaststroke Underwater Pullouts
Where the rules will settle on the dolphin kick and the underwater pullout for breaststroke in FINA and USA Swimming competition will be decided later this year. For now, the high school rules will begin to diverge significantly from those at the club level. Specifically, the one dolphin kick allowed prior to the breaststroke kick while coming off of a wall in breaststroke can now be done at ANY time prior to the breaststroke kick.
Previously, there were rules regarding the dolphin kick being done after the separation of the hands from a streamline. This will be an important difference for officials who are observing high school meets for USA Swimming qualifying swims, as many feel that there is an advantage to taking the dolphin kick while still streamlined.
This is a much less drastic change than those being considered by FINA, the international governing body, at their meeting in July.
Rules to Allow Jewelry Failed
This is one of the biggest peeves for many high school coaches. Unlike USA Swimming meets, no jewelry is allowed in high school competition. Under the current rules, though, there is no actual punishment. The competitor and their coach are simply notified of the violation, and required to remove it before they compete again. The only penalty comes when a second violation is found for the same competitor in a meet, which results in a DQ, but that rarely, if ever, happens.
While ostensibly this rule is a safety precaution (not getting jewelry caught on lane ropes, other competitors, etc.), many coaches question the need for a rule with no real authority. This rule was brought forward from the state of Ohio, though the alternative view would be that there is some, albeit small and freakish in nature, risk for injury, but nobody wants to see a swimmer disqualified for something like forgetting to snip off an ankle bracelet before a race, so a warning is allowed.
Kinesio Tape Still Requires the Note of a Doctor
This has long been one of the most confusing rules for coaches, but after a failed movement to eliminate restrictions altogether, a doctor’s documentation of injury and treatment including “Kinesio” or “Physio” tape will still be required.
Though the official Rationale given in the rules docket involved creating more work for officials and a lack of evidence of “pervasive use” of tape and “guessing as to what happens when it was used,” the biggest concern I’ve seen is inconsistent enforcement. It is not uncommon for standards for use of tape to be different depending on who is running a meet, and even more so it has become challenging for coaches to get official answers. From personal experience, I have had tape allowed at a regional meet, and with same documentation had it disallowed at a state-level meet. Consistency of ruling has been the biggest issue with the implementation of these restrictions.
One Diving Rule Passed
There were several diving rules up for consideration, but the only one to pass involves defining how long a diver must hold the straight body position on certain dives. Specifically, a diver must hold the position until the body is perpendicular to the water on one-and-one-half somersault dives, or horizontal to the water on flying one somersault dives, or else it is deemed an “unsatisfactory dive.”