NISCA Unveils 2016-2017 High School Rules Change Proposals

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 6

March 05th, 2016 News

The National Interscholastic Swim Coaches’ Association (NISCA) has posted a list of 26 proposals for rules being considered by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS): the governing body for the vast majority of high school swimming in the United States.

Below, we’ve highlighted some of the key proposals from that list.

Proposals 1 & 5: Eliminate Deck Changing

Already banned by USA Swimming, this rule would bring NFHS youth protection rules in line. This rule would require athletes to change into or out of suits in an appropriate changing area, like a locker room, rather than on the pool deck.

Proposal 2: More severe penalties for Over-entering

NFHS rules allow swimmers & divers to enter no more than 4 total events, with no more than 2 of those being individually. Previously, participating or attempting to participate in too many events would disqualify a swimmer from subsequent events. This rules change would also disqualify them from all previously completed events as well.

Proposal 3 & 4: Eliminate DQ for No-Showing Event

Proposal 3, whose rationale is “Current penalty too severe,” would eliminate the rule that disqualifies athletes from all future events if they miss a race without properly declaring a false start at a championship meet. The rule was originally put in place to prevent swimmers from missing races without allowing another swimmer a chance to move into their spot.

Proposal 4 takes a different attack at the same rule, saying that missing a preliminary round should result in disqualification from only that race, while missing a semi-final or final round would result in disqualification from a meet.

Proposal 6: Add a Second Break in Non-Championship Meets

Proposal 6, if added, would give meets a second 15-minute break prior to the 500 yard free in the meet schedule at all non-championship meets, unless competing coaches agree to skip it. The 100 free comes immediately before the 500 free, and that would leave just the 100 fly and 100 free between the two breaks.

These rules are rather subjectively applied at non-championship meets as is, and it’s unlikely that most meets would wind up taking advantage of this new rule, even if passed.

Proposal 7: Requiring Mutual Consent for Exhibition Races

Under current rules, the home team has the unilateral ability to hold exhibition races after the scoring heat of the same event. This proposal would require mutual consent of coaches to hold those exhibition races.

Proposal 9: Outlawing Flyover starts

The current rule book doesn’t mention whether flyover starts are allowed or not, though they’re often used at big invitational meets to reduce the run-time of meets. This rule proposal asks that it be specified that flyover starts are not permitted.

Proposal 11: Make Lochte Turns Legal

FINA has outlawed a new turn technique in the IM used by Olympic champion Ryan Lochte, an interpretation that has filtered down to USA Swimming, and that most NFHS federations have adopted as well. The technique saw Lochte do the majority of his underwater dolphin kick on his back during freestyle races, before rotating to his breast to eventually swim freestyle. The current interpretation is that this technique constitutes “backstroke,” and violates the moratorium of repeating a stroke in an IM or medley relay event. This rule proposal, made by Nebraskan Rich Hood, would make it legal to leave the wall on ones back so long as the swimmer immediately rotates toward his/her breast, which is the most commonly-coached freestyle technique.

Proposal 15: Allow Divers to “Declare a Zero” on a Dive

This rule would allow divers to take a zero rather than attempt a dive without it counting as a failed dive. Currently, more than one failed dive results in disqualification from an event. The rule, proposed by Scott Mills and Ron Laird of Wyoming, reasons that making this change would allow beginning divers to make contributions to their team even if they aren’t able to necessarily complete a full required list of dives.

On the one hand, this could help grow the sport of diving, especially in smaller schools or leagues/associations. On the other hand, it could also allow athletes who are not truly committed to being interscholastic divers to score points at meets by simply doing 1-2 basic dives without training.


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5 years ago

I like them all except #9 and #11. I think you outlaw fly overs for meets with fewer than 4 teams. Large invite meets need to be able to use fly overs to keep a reasonable timeline. Additionally I have worked at facilities where the high school had a finite amount of time to complete a meet. They used fly overs so they could complete the meet in a timely fashion. I think the proposal could backfire on diving in an effort to run a faster meet.

I think the NFHS rules should stay as aligned to USA Swimming as possible. The Lochte rule only affects 2 high school events. An official who wants to make that call on a… Read more »

Reply to  OhioSwimFan
5 years ago

Ohioswimfan, I don’t know how Ohio is but in Texas the swimmers aren’t there just for trying. They won’t make the team if that’s their goal for the season. But for your national team question, why would the swimmer be participating in high school if they wanted to skip the meets. There would be no point of being in high school swimming, because I doubt they they go to the high school practices considering the majority of club swimmers only go the minimum required practices. Also it isn’t required that they go to every meet for high school, they just have to talk to their high school coach and then they will most likely allow them to miss a meet… Read more »

5 years ago

Oh and where are proposals 12-14?

5 years ago

Why allow the Lochte rule and ban the flyover. By allowing the Lochte turn you just create more problems for the swimmer.
It is like when I began coaching in the dark ages before HY-TEk ad computer entries and you had to hand seed meets.
You had to remind swimmers whether or not they were at a high school meet, a Y meet or a US meet depending on your hands and shoulders for a breaststroke and butterfly touch. One rule all the way through.

Having coached diving, I could see declaring a zero for a diver who has yet to master one of the dives for safety’s sake.
Not counting it as a failed dive would… Read more »

ct swim fan
Reply to  linswim
5 years ago

I agree with Linswim regarding the diving rule. If the diver can’t do a full list yet, they need to keep practicing until they can and then they can dive in a meet. Until then, they watch at the meets.

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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