NFHS Reorganizes High School Swimming & Diving Rule Book

High school swimming and diving officials, get ready to re-learn your rules books. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which is the governing body for most high school sports in the United States, has released the new rules book, and the biggest change was a reorganization of Rule 1 and Rule 5.

This reorganization in Rule 1 related to meet management included using new terminology that “accurately reflects and defines meet specifications and organization, including the consolidation of several terms that label the types of meets such as dual, double-dual, triangular, invitational, multi-team, etc.”

Editor’s note: (For those who didn’t hear, there is now an NFHS rules app, which is searchable and free to paid members of the NFHS Coaches and Officials Association)

Rule 5, also dealing largely with administrative rules, was reorganized too. NFHS director of sports Sandy Searcy says that the new order lays it out in a  “logical stepwise fashion from the dual meet to the championship meet.” For example, Rule 5-3-2 was altered for additional lane assignments to be provided to accommodate non-championship multi-team meets. Diving is also now allowed to be the first event of non-championship events – a rule that was already used in practice, but not codified in the rules book. 11-dive competitions are also now permitted at non-championship events if all teams agree.

“The changes to Rule 5 provide flexibility and direction for situations in which the number of teams and/or entries cannot be equally divided into the number of available lanes,” Searcy said. “New language delineates options for conducting meets based on high school facilities across the country.”

Other Changes, Courtesy NFHS:

  • Rule 4-2-1d: A mandatory pre-meet conference with the referee, starter, and the captain and coach of each team must be held to review meet procedures, special instructions, and any unusual pool conditions
  • Rule 2-4-5 was changed to require a 15-meter mark on both sides of the pool, which take precedent over those integrated into lane markers
  • Rules 2-6-1 through 4, which were reorganized to clarify mandatory requirements versus recommendations.
  • Rule 2-7-2b, which adds the prohibition of the backstroke starting ledge to the rules so that there is no question that the equipment is not permitted in high school swimming.
  • Rules 4-5-3 and 4-7, which clarify and confirm that responsibilities of stroke inspectors and turn/finish judges can be combined. This is especially the case when the availability of officials is limited. The flexibility to staff the deck effectively and efficiently with available officials should be preserved.

Full List of Rules Changes, Courtesy NFHS

Rule 1: Rule 1 has been reorganized to more accurately reflect and define meet specifications and organization.

Rationale: Clarifies and consolidates terminology and reorganizes sections to reflect the order in which rules appear in the rules book.

2-4-5: The 16.4-yard/15-meter marks must be visible on both sides of the pool deck.

Rationale: Although markings may be integrated into each lane marker/lane line, because the position of such floats are often irregular, the marks on the sides of the pool are the uniform default marking for all lanes.

2-7-2b: Backstroke starting ledges are not permitted in high school swimming.

Rationale: Clarifies that backstroke starting ledges are prohibited in high school swimming due to risk minimization.

2-7-2c (NEW), 2-7-3: Options for starting platform malfunctions are provided, and direction for malfunctioning swimming equipment has been re-organized.

Rationale:  Clarifies directives when swimming equipment malfunctions or is non-compliant.

4-2-1d: The referee shall conduct a pre-meet conference with the starter, the coach and the captain of each team for all non-championship meets.

Rationale: Emphasizesthe importancethat participants are aware of all details associated with the event.

4-5-3, 4-7: The responsibilities of stroke inspectors and turn/finish judges can now be combined by the referee.

Rationale: Specifies when the availability of officials is limited, the referee has the option to staff the deck effectively and efficiently with available officials.

5-1-2a: In non-championship meets, thedivingeventmaybe held first, last or simultaneously with the swimming events, in addition to the traditional placement as Event 5 between the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly.

Rationale: Allows for flexibility in conducting the diving event within the dual meet program which will permit more options for competing teams.

5-3, 5-3-NOTE (NEW): Section 5-3 has been updated to provide lane and heat assignment protocol from the dual meet to the championship meet.

Rationale: Clarifies direction for situations in which the number of teams and/or entries cannot be equally divided into the number of available lanes.

5-4-2: New language provides scoring protocol based on pool facilities with differing numbers of available lanes.

Rationale: Clarifies protocol for number of qualifiers and scoring for facilities that have 4, 6, 8, 9, or 10 lanes available.

9-4-6 NOTE 2 (NEW): The NOTE clarifies that it is permissible to conduct eleven-dive competitions during dual meets, double-dual meets, and other non-championship multi-team meets.

Rationale: Provides for additional options for competitors to prepare for tournament series events.



2-6: Reorganizes water condition requirements and provides directives for non-compliant conditions.

2-7-9, 7-2-5: 
Clarifies the recommendation for posting team scores through a meet.

4-1-2: Clarifies that a meet committee and meet director are only required for championship meets.  Other meets are administered by the referee or other officials appropriate to the type of meet.

8-3-3 NOTE: Instruction for the starting procedure during a backstroke relay was moved to a NOTE, as this is not an NFHS event.  The NOTE can provide the guidance that may be needed.


1-2-3, 3-1-2, 3-2-1, 3-2-3, 4-1-4, 4-3-1b, 4-6-2, 4-6-3, 4-6-5, 4-9-3, 5-1-1 NOTE 2, 7-1-2, 7-1-3, 9-2-4


  1. Suit Coverage
  2. Guidelines on Handling Contests During Lightning or Thunder Disturbances
  3. Officials Retention and Recruitment
  4. Scratch/Declared False Starts/Failing to Compete

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Being a backstroker in high school right now, I am curious to why we can not have the starting wedges that some club meet championship pools have. Any answers?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder 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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