(Prevent harm)




In May of 2009, USA Swimming’s Board of Directors modified the racing start rule, 103.2.2 (which already provides that racing starts should only be taught in at least six feet of water) to further clarify that racing starts should only be taught under the direct supervision of a USA Swimming member coach, and to expand the definition of teaching racing starts to make clear that no swimmer who has not been certified as proficient by his or her coach should be performing racing starts into less than six feet of water.


All clubs must ensure that all team members are certified and that coaches understand and comply with the certification process. Failure to do so could jeopardize club and coach insurance coverage.

The certification process is described on the Racing Start Certification Checklist which was also approved by the Board (displayed in a later page in this section).  That document requires that for swimmers age 10 years and under or swimmers with less than one year of experience, the coach must certify that the swimmer has been trained according to the progression set forth on the form. Older or more experienced swimmers requires the coach to certify appropriate skill level based on the coach’s professional judgment. The Racing Start Certification must be recorded in writing for each swimmer.




Question: Why did the USA Swimming Board of Directors implement the Racing Start Certification Checklist?

Answer: The experience of the United States Sports Insurance Company (“USSIC”) and a recent racing start study commissioned by USSIC observe that teaching racing starts can potentially result in serious injury if not performed correctly. In response to these observations, the USA Swimming Board made changes to the existing six-foot depth rule for teaching racing starts. Those changes included making clear that the definition of teaching racing starts includes all racing start training until the swimmer’s coach certifies that the swimmer has the skill to perform a shallow racing start on demand into four feet of water. The Racing Start Certification Checklist establishes criteria for that certification.



Question: What are the criteria for racing start certification?

Answer: Swimmers 10 & under and/or swimmers with less than one year of experience MUST satisfactorily complete the racing start learning progression and demonstrated the ability to safely execute a shallow racing start from a starting block.  The learning progression is described in the American Red Cross Safety Training for Swim Coaches Manual. Swimmers 11 & older with more than one year experience MUST be capable of safely controlling the depth of his or her racing starts.  Certification is based on the coach’s observation that the swimmer is capable of safely controlling the depth of his or her racing starts. In all cases, the certification is based on the coach’s professional judgment—it is not and cannot be a guarantee.


Question: What if a certified swimmer transfers to our club?

Answer:  The swimmer must be recertified at the new club.


Question: Who is responsible for keeping copies of certification forms?

Answer:  Each club is responsible for retaining certifications for three years.


Question: Does each team need to submit the completed forms to the LSC and/or required to present the forms at each swim meet?

Answer:  No. There is no requirement that these forms be sent to an LSC or to officials responsible for any competition...


Question: Does the certification process impose more liability on coaches?

Answer:  No.  A coach’s liability is already based on the coach’s exercise of good professional judgment in deciding whether a swimmer has the skills necessary to safely perform a racing start into less than six feet of water (including racing starts into the USA Swimming minimum starting depth of four feet). The certification documents indicates professional judgment was exercised for each swimmer.


Question: If a certified swimmer is injured while performing a racing start, will the coach be covered by USSIC insurance?

Answer: Yes, only if the injury occurs in practice, at a sanctioned or approved competition, or at a closed competition.   However, a coach who fails to follow the certification process will not be insured by USSIC in the event of injury.


Question: Can swimmers who have not been certified still participate in swim meets?

Answer:  Yes. However, they may not start from either a starting block or from the side of the pool and may start only from within the pool.


To see more information on racing start certification please see www.usaswimming.org  and search for  “Member Resources,” “Business & Administration,” “Risk Management & Safety”


ALSO…The progressions for the racing start are described with accompanying photos in the American Red Cross Safety Training for Swim Coaches Manual.  You may purchase a manual from the American Red Cross local office or  access the Manual on the coach’s tab at www.usaswimming.org. and review Chapter 2: Head-first Entries and Racing Start Safety.