Proposed NFHS Rule Changes Could Make Both Large and Small Waves

The National Federation of State High School Sports Association, or NFHS, has proposed a slew of rule changes for the sport of swimming and have asked its constituents to vote on the proposals. The rule changes proposed influence both swimming and diving, and represent both stricter adherence to some items and relaxations of others.

First among the proposed changes is the acceptance of exhibition swimmers. At present, the NFHS Swimming & Diving Rule Book states that “Exhibition competitors are permitted, unless state association policy determines otherwise.” However, in the eyes of the NFHS, this has been holding teams and coaches back from creating Junior Varsity squads and organizing separate JV competitions. The proposed changes and rationale for them reads:

Due to the allowance of exhibition swimmers, school teams are refraining from expanding and adding junior varsity teams and schedules, which allows for the participation opportunities coaches are seeking through exhibition swimmers. Further, despite continual training of schools and coaches, exhibition swimmers are very often mis-used and handled inappropriately. Coaches have the belief that an ineligible athlete can perform as an exhibition swimmer, and sometimes this category contributes to illegal entries due to the belief that “since they are not scoring, anything goes”.”

A change to the definition of unsporting conduct has also been proposed. The NFHS Swimming & Diving Rules Book only defines unsporting conduct as “acts of deceit, disrespect, cheating or vulgarity and includes taunting,” though this definition has been borrowed from another NFHS rules book and was not written specifically for swimming & diving. If approved, a new definition of unsporting conduct is likely to be written specifically for swimming & diving.

Verification of the length of pools with movable bulkheads is among the proposed additions. If changed, however, referees would only be made to check the length of the pool at the beginning and end of each season. This varies drastically from NCAA rules, which states that the referee must use a laser provided by the facility to verify the exact length of the competition pool at the beginning and end of every session.

The ways officials and swimmers interact with one another could also change. For example, if an official notices a swimmer wearing illegal attire, such as a full-body polyurethane suit, or two swimsuits, or a suit with a zipper, or any other illegal attire as described in Articles 1 and 2 of the NHFS Rule Book, the official shall notify the coach, not the athlete themselves.

High School swimming rules could closer align themselves with USA Swimming rules in that, if voted through, swimmers would no longer be disqualified for failing to finish on the touchpad. The given rationale for this reads:

In high school swimming, where we often have inexperienced swimmers, it is unfair to disqualify competitors for not finishing on the pad (versus contacting the block or part of the deck) when they have miscounted their strokes on a blind finish. It is cumbersome for the officials to really officiate this rule. It would also bring high school swimming in line with USA Swimming Rules.

An interesting update to what constitutes legal stroke technique in breaststroke would now allow swimmers to do a front sculling motion “with the hands at the end of the first arm stroke following the start or turn.

The given rationale for this is that “There appears to be no advantage gained as a result of inadvertent sculling.

Among proposed changes on the diving side, the NFHS is proposing the addition of a new dive, the 5123D – Forward 1 SS 1 1/2 twist DD 2.1. If that went over your head because you only know swimming, the important takeaway is that it is an intermediate dive between an “allowable 5122 and 5124.” Further reading of the rationale states that many divers attempt the 5124 but are unable to fully execute the twist requirement. Further explanation states that “NFHS rules permit 1 SS 1½ twist dives in both the back position (5223) and Reverse position (5323). The DD of 2.1 falls directly between the DD of 5122 (1.9) and 5124 (2.3).

Furthermore, regarding diving at championship meets, is is proposed that the meet referee should be allowed to consult with a designated member of the judging panel concerning failed or “unsatisfactory” dives, with the rationale being “the more eyes the better.”

When dealing with a penalty which is pretty severe the more eyes the better in fairness to the divers. With judging panels either located on opposite sides of the pool or spread out on one side coving 10-12 feet along the side of the pool and where each diving judge sees different thing anyway it would be best to have two people agree on the unsatisfactory dive call as opposed to just one person making that call. The precedent has already been set in this note itself where the diving referee can consult with the second member of the judging panel to call a failed dive.

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Sammy Save Up

Life would be much easier if NFHS would just adopt all of USA Swimming’s rules….if YMCA of the USA can do it, so can NFHS…Most of the NFHS rules are pretty pointless.

olde coach

You are so wrong on this Sammy

2 Cents

How? It sounds good to me….


I voted on these rules. The only one I really took exception to was the first one. The allowance of exhibition heats isn’t what’s prevent teams in my area from forming JV squads. It’s the lack of pool space. I live in Columbus, Ohio and there is a severe shortage of pool space. I don’t have enough lanes to carry both a full girls and guys (16 each) roster. This rule is just silly if they think the allowance of exhibition is whats keeping teams from forming JV squads.

olde coach

Local states have the option to either allow/disallow exhibition swimming. Most locales don’t have the facilities or pool time to run subvarsity programs. Good coaches build their programs by getting their novices into these exhibition heats during the dual meet season.

High School Swammer

Yeah that’s cool but when will backstroke ledges be legal

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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