Who Are These People And Why Did They DQ My Kid?

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

As a swim parent, have you ever wondered about the people standing around the pool, by the blocks, at the corners and the 15-meter mark? Some have clipboards or a whistle, and they talk in headsets while walking along the deck, giving hand signals. Who are they and is their sole purpose to DQ our swimmers?

The answer to that last question is no. According to Jan Szuszkiewicz, a long-time meet administrator and deck official in Southern California Swimming, “The philosophy in our LSC is to provide a safe and fair playing field for everyone. We aren’t looking to DQ anyone because we’re mean. We want to correct swimmers’ strokes so everyone plays by the same rules.”

When your kids do get DQ’d, the official will explain to them what they did wrong. They can work with their coach to improve their strokes and not get DQ’d in the future.

We train our officials to make good calls and be professional. Our main purpose is to serve the swimmers. We treat everyone the same regardless of what cap theyre wearing, how old, how fast or what level they are,Jan said. We make sure to err on the side of the swimmer. Were here because of them.

Here are nine things I learned about officials that I didn’t know before. I had no idea there were so many different types of officials and jobs. This is how the officials are organized in our LSC. Each LSC may be a little different, but all are under the rules of USA Swimming.


Officials are divided into the “wet” and “dry” sides of a meet, or deck and administrative officials. The “wet” side includes Stroke and Turn, Chief Judge, Starter, Deck Referee, Meet Referee and Senior Referee. The “dry” side may have a Timing Equipment Operator, Clerk of Course, Administrative Official, Administrative Referee and Senior Administrative Referee.


The first step in becoming a deck official is “Stroke and Turn.” At high level meets like the Olympics there will be a stroke and turn official for every lane. At age group meets they watch more than one lane. You’ll see these officials at the corner or walking along the pool for fly and breast. There’s a 15-meter official who will stand at the 15-meter mark to make sure the swimmers pop up by then.  


The Chief Judge watches finishes as well as stroke. This person receives information of an infraction from other deck officials and informs the referee. If the referee accepts the infraction, the chief judge tells the swimmer and writes the DQ on the timing sheet. The chief judge can act as a stroke and turn judge at the same time.


The Deck Refereemakes sure swimmers are at the blocks for their heat and calls out for missing swimmers. The deck ref then blows the whistle. Three Four or more short whistles means to get ready. At the long whistle, swimmers stand on the blocks. At that point, the deck ref gives a hand signal to the starter. Other officials report DQs to the deck ref and he or she decides whether or not to accept them. Another responsibility of the deck ref is to watch the start.


After the deck ref hands off the start via extended hand to the Starter,its the starters job to make sure each heat gets off to a good and fair start. The starter looks to see if swimmers hold set positions. They arent totally predictable in the start so that swimmers can’t anticipate a one, two, three, go.


A false start has to be seen by at least two officials. If only one official sees a false start, it wont be a DQ.


The Meet Refis In charge of the venue and their word is the law. This person makes sure the meet is running correctly. They will evaluate and give feedback to other officials.


Under the meet admin tent, youll find the Administrative Officials.The number of people varies on the size of the meet. Their job is to ensure every swimmer gets a fair time. The primary timing system these days is touch pads, then pickles and stopwatches. If the timing system goes down or a swimmer doesn’t hit the pad, the admin staff goes to backup timing. If swimmers are in wrong lanes, its up to the admin official to switch up the times and make sure each swimmer get their correct times. A few of admins jobs are seeding the meet, verifying entry times, sending reports and handling financials.


Most, if not all, officials are either current or former swim parents. If anyone is interested in becoming an official theres information on the USA Swimming and local LSC websites.

What have your swimmers been DQd for? Did you agree with the call?

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog: http://bleuwater.me/.

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4 years ago

Who they are? jerks. Why did they DQ your kid? They like crushing kids dreams.

Reply to  50free
4 years ago

^this was a joke. I really appreciate all the people that are willing to volunteer and run swim meets.

HS junior
4 years ago

As a swimmer I have seen lots of illigal strokes not get DQd, I think that if you get called the chances are you were pretty bad.

Reply to  HS junior
4 years ago

Like in any amateur sport, the officials have varying degrees of experience and training…though USA Swimming does a good job in their training program. My Dad was meet official for some time, and he always admitted that he preferred the local small meets (where he could emphasize teaching and correction) to the advanced level where often times you have to air on the side of caution because the movements are very fast and obscure under water.

Tong Wu
Reply to  HS junior
4 years ago

The cardinal rule for all officials, and we are reminded of this often, is that the benefit of the doubt goes to the swimmer. On top of that, when you are watching more than one lane, you can only scan back-and-forth between swimmers, and statistically you should miss at least 1/2 to 3/4 of all infractions. One official I worked with always tells swimmer to keep swimming even if they thought they and committed a foul, because “there is always a chance that the officials didn’t see it.”

Reply to  Tong Wu
4 years ago

You sound like a good official – you can only call what you see and of course swimmers have the benefit of the doubt.

4 years ago

Not sure if things are different in different LSC’s but we are told to inform the swimmers which rules they violated not always explain what they did wrong (that is left up to the coaches). It is a small difference but, but it as I wrote, it might be different in different LSC’s

Reply to  Dan
4 years ago

I got told once by an official that they we’re going to DQ me but in order to do that they had to be able to figure out what I was actually doing. My backstroke looked like an interpretive dance on drowning, which is apparently not technically illegal. (Why yes I was a breastdtroker.)