NFHS Confirms Proposed Rule Changes for 2017-2018

by Luke Ryan 12

April 25th, 2017 High School, National, News

We reported in late March that the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) had proposed rule changes for the 2017-2018 season during their rule committee meeting from March 19-21.

The NFHS has recently confirmed the proposed changes, which will take effect this coming fall. The committee cites risk minimization as the primary reason for the changes.

Seven total changes have been made, highlighted by changes that address the definition of season culminating meets and relay starts. Beginning next season, rule 1-3-12 will say that state associations must now identify what their culminating meets are that will take place in the championship meet format. This change comes due to NFHS recognizing the extreme variation between each individual state’s meet schedule and format.

According to Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the Swimming and Diving Rules Committee, “the committee agreed that state associations are in the best position to determine which competitions must adhere to the championship meet format. The language also allows non-championship meets to be conducted using the championship meet format.”

Another notable confirmed rule change deals with clarifying relay starts for swimmers after the lead off. The new rule, 8-3-5c, states that a swimmer must have one foot touching the block in front of the starting wedge.

The other confirmed changes are:

  • Rule 9-5-2, which addresses the approach and hurdle requirements in diving. This clarifies the intent for hops, leaps and/or jumps to count toward the three-step forward approach requirement.
  • Rule 3-3-2a, which provides consistency for all NFHS sports regarding what school and competitor information is permitted on the uniform which, in swimming and diving, consists of the suit and swim cap.
  • Rule 4-6-4, which requires dual confirmation for relay exchanges during championship meets. The referee and the starter may serve as the relay takeoff judges.
  • Rule 3-4, which provides competitors more flexibility when competing in 500-yard events to count either up or down with visual lap counters. This practice permits flexibility for the competitor, and is in keeping with current trends in the sport.
  • Rule 3-6 makes dealing with conduct issues easier by categorizing them within the rulebook. This is connected to 4-1-8 by providing language to make dealing with issues for officials easier

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Can’t wait until they throw this silly rule book in the circular file!


One hundred percent agree. As a USA Swimming official, the NFHS rule book is one of the most maddening publications I’ve ever read. It is more a “book of situations” rather than a rule book. The level of minutiae in the NFHS rule book is insane compared to USA Swimming. If it weren’t for my kid swimming high school, no way I would bother with officiating high school and just stick to USA Swimming.


In many cases, the high school swim coaches are part-timers, or at least that used to be the situation. Maybe an English or Math teacher who coaches the season for a stipend. They may not be all that familiar with swimming rules. There’s also the old-time contingent, who have been coaching forever, and change comes hard for them, including a new format for the rule book. In many or most cases, it’s USA Swimming clubs and meets that do the heavy lifting in terms of top-level preparation of swimmers. Meaning, in many or most cases, the best HS swimmers get their main training and top-level competition in the USA setting (Katie Ledecky and Jack Conger come to mind immediately). I… Read more »


The standing backstroke start?
What happened, was it voted down?

ricky bobby

I too would like to know….


Rule 4-6-4, which requires dual confirmation for relay exchanges during championship meets. The referee and the starter may serve as the relay takeoff judges.

Neither of these people are near lane 4 in an 8 lane pool and they’re going to be able to call a early take over in relays. Does this refer to them being the second person in this dual confirmation, not the primaries? If they are both allowed to make the call together, they are so far out of place that it would take obvious early take offs to make calls, otherwise close exchanges should always go to the athlete.

The Pollack

One of them will slide over to lane 5.

James Chapman

I don’t know where you work, but where I work HS meets we rarely have (only the state meet) have enough officials for RTO’s in the middle. HS is not USA. We generally will have a three or 4 official crew for a HS championship meet, with two start end officials and two turn end officials. The start end officials, the referee and the starter are generally on opposite sides of the pool looking across all 6, 8 or in some places 10+ lanes. We also use dual confirmation in our meets. Does this mean that some RTO violations are missed? I’m sure we do, but the dual confirmation also requires that both of us see it, meaning that if… Read more »

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