NFHS Clarifies “Lochte Rule” With Compromise for High School Meets

The National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), which ultimately sets the rules for the vast majority of high school competition in the United States, has announced its new rules changes for the 2016-2017 scholastic season.

The highlight of those changes has to do with what has been deemed the “Lochte rule,” after famous American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.

At last summer’s World Championships, Lochte won the world title in the 200 IM by swimming the entirety of the underwater on his freestyle lengths on its back. While there’s some ambiguity in the rules, FINA issued a clarification after-the-fact that this should have been a disqualification. That’s because in their opinion, a swimmer being on their back is considered swimming backstroke – a stroke allowed during freestyle competition, except in the final leg of an IM or medley relay, where rules require each of the four components to be unique.

An addition to NFHS Rule 8-2-4c will read as follows: “The final leg of the individual medley and the medley relay requires the swimmer to be at or past vertical toward the breast before any stroke, kick or propulsive motion.”

This is a middle-ground of sorts, that doesn’t require swimmers to have an entirely different flip-turn technique at the end of medleys as compared to their freestyle races, where most are coached to leave the wall on their backs.

The NCAA currently allows the “Lochte Turn,” while USA Swimming is still bound by the FINA rules on the matter.

Other Changes Approved by the NHFS:

  • The rules have been changed for determining a time when a touchpad has malfunctioned. Previously, times from primary (typically buttons) and secondary (typically stopwatches) have all been averaged together. The change will be that simply averaging the primary backups together, presuming they functioned properly, is sufficient. “Using the backup time without adjustment results in a final time that is just as accurate and avoids a mathematical exercise which is both time-consuming and difficult to perform during a meet,” Swimming & Diving Rules Committee chair Sandy Searcy said.
  • The NFHS outlawed “deck changing,” which they are defining as “changing, in whole or in part, into or out of a swimsuit when wearing just one suit in an area other than a permanent or temporary locker room, bathroom, changing room or other space designated for changing purposes.” The punishment will be a penalty for unsporting conduct, which disqualifies an individual from further participation in a meet.
  • In diving, the committee approved two rules changes and made three revisions in the official diving chart. In an effort to minimize risk, the committee ruled that a dive is failed if, in the diving referee’s opinion, the diver “performs an additional bounce(s) on the end of the board after the culminating hurdle.”
  • “The forward approach shall begin with not less than three steps and finish with a hurdle, defined as a jump off one foot to a landing on both feet at the end of the board,” Searcy said. “The diver should not be permitted to perform an additional bounce just prior to the takeoff.”
  • In Rule 9-5-5, the committee added clarity and consistency to the balk call, requiring a diver to actually commence, then stop the dive.
  • In the official listing of approved dives, the committee eliminated the Flying Back 1 SS (212) and the Flying Reverse SS (312), and added a new dive – the Forward 2 SS 1 Twist – with degrees of difficulty of 2.6 (tuck) and 2.7 (pike).

To see the highlights of all of the proposed rules changes, including ones that were voted down, click here.

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phelps swims 200 breast rio
6 years ago


6 years ago

The whole thing is idiotic: Freestyle is “free and style.” Meaning you should be able to swim any way you want.

Reply to  MacroV
6 years ago

The strokes in a medley have never included freestyle. The final leg has always been “any other stroke.” Since the only requirement for backstroke is being on one’s back, it was not entirely unreasonable to conclude that kicking away from the wall on your back was legal backstroke and therefore a repeat of strokes.

Reply to  Eddie Rowe
6 years ago

We’re aware of the rule. But it’s a dumb rule. What’s the point? If someone really wants to close a IM race with butterfly, why should the sport prevent that?

6 years ago

I actually believe this makes more sense that the current FINA rule. Swimmers are taught to come off towards their back on free turns as an efficient way to execute “freestyle” turns. The FINA rule ignores this practice and requires a different turn for the “fourth” stroke. The HS rule does not required teaching two turns…one for free and another for the 4th leg of IM.

Kirk Nelson
Reply to  newswim
6 years ago

I agree. This is the wording that should be adopted across the board.

6 years ago

Locate rule language for HS is entirely based on the ability of two officials to make calls. Same as backstroke turn. Nothing to do with being a technique compromise, just writing a rule that is enforceable with a starter and a deck ref covering an entire pool.

6 years ago

Evan u seeing this bro?

6 years ago

LOL @ deck changing rule. I assume that means a girl could get DQ’ed for getting out of tight racing suit shoulder straps under a deck coat or jumper. The horror!

Reply to  swammer81
6 years ago

It’s been a rule in several state associations and facilities for a while now. It’s been interpreted by some LSCs and facilities are paramount to athlete protection. The last thing you need is a creeper in the gallery with a zoom lens filming an underage girl hoping she slips up trying to get her Jolyn top on under her fastskin.

Reply to  Eddie Rowe
6 years ago

Lol like he won’t get enough pics of the wedges going around the deck and blocks

6 years ago

If I am reading this correctly, a swimmer may actually glide off the wall on their back during freestyle of the IM or the 4th person on the medley relay, turn over on their stomach and then start the “stroke, kick or propulsive motion”? I suppose this gives novice swimmers a chance at completing an IM legally as well as competing in a relay.

6 years ago

5142 for those keeping score at home

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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