Swim Meet Volunteer Positions (or Everything You Wanted to Know About Swim Meets but Were Afraid to Ask)

Swim meets are a great family experience! They're a place where the whole family can spend time together.

Swimmer and Clock GraphicThis second FAQ page for swim meets is a brief summary of the various volunteer positions that must be filled at all RCSL Swim Meets.  Our Online Registration process allows parents to indicate the meets and jobs that they would prefer to work during the dual meet season; similarly, we have Championship volunteer sign-up online later in the season once the League has assigned us our responsibilities (see the bottom of this page).

Go to the What to Expect at a Swim Meet | Other Swim Meet Situations & Details FAQ page.

The following relates to the jobs anyone can volunteer to do at any meet:

The jobs listed on the online volunteer form are jobs that any parent can do.  With the exception of the Stroke & Turn Judge, they don’t involve any special training or skills and are needed at all of the RCSL competitions including the Championship Meets.

The Online Parent Volunteer form to volunteer to work at each of our dual meets (home and away) are accessed through the "Events" tab at the top of each page once you are signed in to your account.

Duties of the Timer

The primary responsibility of a timer is to make certain they record an accurate time for each swimmer that competes in their lane.  There are usually two timers per lane, with one serving as the “head lane timer”, who is responsible for writing the times on the card.

Timers are issued a watch by the team and stationed at the finish end of the pool.  Prior to the start of the meet, they are usually instructed in their duties and asked to verify the operation of their watch.  In addition to recording the swimmer’s time, they make certain that a swimmer that comes to their lane belongs in that lane and heat.

The host team will usually provide one additional timer to serve as the “Chief “ or “Head” Timer.  This person oversees the lane timers and starts one or two extra watches in case a watch malfunctions during a race or a lane timer “misses” the start.

Duties of the Runner

Once a race has been completed, the information gathered on the deck (times, order of finish, disqualifications, etc.) must be taken to the scorers.  This is the job of the runner, to gather up this information and carry it to the scoring table.  In addition, when the younger swimmers are starting at one end but finishing at the other, the runners help to get the swimmers’ cards to the timers

Duties of the Clerk of Course

Before each event, the swimmers are called to an area designated as the “Clerk of Course.”  In this area, they obtain their entry cards and are organized into their assigned heats by the Clerks of Course.  Once organized, they are sent out, one heat at a time, to the starting end just prior to their heat being started.

Most teams put the Clerk behind the start/finish end of the pool and use chairs or benches organized into rows to “assembly line” the swimmers through the Clerk of Course area and onto the pool deck.  Swimmers are called to the area approximately 2 to 4 events before they will be up to swim to allow for this process.

Duties of the Scoring and Awards Personnel

Once a race is completed and the information delivered to the scoring table, the information must be organized and input into the computer program running the meet.   Once input, the software helps the Chief Scorer determine the official times and the final order of finish for each event; prints results listings that are then posted; generates the award labels and periodically calculates team scores that are announced or posted.  The scorers are responsible for this process.

Once the labels are printed, they are placed on the backs of the appropriate ribbons by the Awards persons.  They also sort the ribbons by team for final distribution to the teams at the end of the meet.

Duties of the Marshal

Marshals are used at our home dual meets and the Championship meet to maintain order on the pool deck, the Clerk of Course, the spectator area and, in the case of our home dual meets, to keep everyone in the designated pool area and out of the other school areas.

The Marshal’s specific duty is to maintain order in the swimming venue. The Marshall has full authority to warn or order to cease and desist and, with the concurrence of the Meet Referee, to remove, or have removed from the swimming venue, ANYONE behaving in an unsafe manner, using profane or abusive language, consuming alcoholic beverages (which are specifically banned from all League pool decks and the JCDS and City pool campuses) or whose actions are disrupting the conduct of the meet.

The following jobs require special training:

The jobs involving the officiating of the meet (Referee, Starter and Judge) require that you attend a clinic to be trained for these jobs before you can work in those positions.  Once you have been to the clinic, we use the dual meet season as “on-the-job” training for these folks so that, by the times Championships are held, we have a large pool of folks to pull from.

Each team is required to provide a Stroke & Turn Judge for all dual meets.  At Championships, we ask that each club provide a minimum of two of these “certified” officials to work at the meet.

Duties of the Referee

In general, the Referee is in total control of any swimming competition once the first event starts.  The Referee helps the Starter begin each race, collects and verifies any disqualifications, clarifies any questions about the rules and resolves any disputes arising from the competition.

For this reason, the Referee must be trained and certified by the League to work in this position.

From the League’s Standing Rules, some of the Dual/Tri Meet Referee’s specific duties are:

  • shall have full authority over all officials and shall assign and instruct them;

  • shall enforce all applicable rules and decide all questions related to the actual conduct of the meet, the final settlement of which is not otherwise assigned by said rules;

  • can overrule any meet official on a point of rule interpretation or on a judgment decision pertaining to AN ACTION WHICH HE HAS PERSONALLY OBSERVED;

  • shall also disqualify a swimmer(s) for any violation of the rules he personally observes and shall, at the same time, raise one hand overhead with an open palm – failure to make such a signal shall nullify any penalty;

  • shall signal the starter that all officials are in place, that the course is clear and the competition can begin before each race;

  • shall give a decision on any point where the opinions of two judges differ;

  • shall have the authority to intercede in a competition at any stage to insure that the racing conditions are observed;

  • may, at his discretion, prohibit the use of any bell, siren, horn or other artificial noisemaker during the meet and

  • may modify any rule for a competitive swimmer who has a disability (it shall be the responsibility of the swimmer or representative to notify the Referee of any such disability prior to the start of competition).

Duties of the Starter

The Starter’s primary responsibility is to ensure that every race has a fair start.  The Starter is also the primary means of communicating with the swimmers and must be one who has a calm, relaxed manner in order to perform their tasks properly.  The Starter is also the one that “fills in” for the Referee when the Referee is called away from the deck.  Like the Referee, the Starter must be trained and certified by the League to work in this position.

Duties of the Stroke & Turn Judge

In order to verify that the athletes are performing the required stroke(s) in the required manner, Stroke & Turn Judges are positioned at the side of the pool to observe each race.  They have jurisdiction over the swimmers immediately after the race has begun and report any infractions they see to the Referee and Scorers, who disqualify the offending swimmer.

The Stroke & Turn Judge should ensure that the rules relating to the style of swimming designated for the event are observed and that, when turning or finishing, the swimmer complies with the turning and finishing rules applicable to the stroke used. Upon observing an infraction within his jurisdiction, the Stroke & Turn Judge shall immediately raise one hand overhead with open palm (if the official does not do so, there shall be no disqualification).

These individuals must have a thorough understanding of the rules relating to the strokes and turns. They, too, must be certified by the League to be assigned to this job.

I've been to several RCSL dual meets and I don’t remember there being a separate Starter and Referee?

Many dual meets do not have a separate Referee and Starter; instead, one individual will serve in both positions.  While the League has begun to encourage that there be separate individuals performing these tasks, there are several “accommodations” in the rules to allow them to be combined.  The most important such provision is the waiving of the “dual confirmation” requirement for charging a false start.  Another is the optional elimination of the use of the whistle to call swimmers to the block.

One important reason for having both a Referee and a Starter at all meets has to do with how a false start is determined:

Determination of a “False Start”

No discussion of the duties of the Referee and Starter would be complete without explaining their most difficult duty – determining if a false start has occurred.

In essence, a false start is a deliberate attempt to gain an advantage at the start by anticipating the starting signal and/or leaving their mark prior to the signal. In many cases, this is a difficult determination to make and, because of this, there are several “safeguards” built into the process to protect the athletes.

First, both the Referee and the Starter must independently agree that a false start has occurred (often referred to as “dual confirmation”).  Next, when it is agreed that a false start has occurred, the heat is recalled (if the start signal was given) or stood up and the “field” (all of that heat) is charged with the false start.  At this point, any swimmer that false starts will be disqualified, although, if the start signal is given, the swimmers are not recalled and the swimmer is disqualified at the conclusion of the heat.

Are the duties of the various volunteer jobs different for dual/tri meets and Championships?

With the exception of the Referee, the actual duties of each job are relatively similar no matter what type of meet is being held - what differs is what jobs each team is responsible for filling at the meets.  Also, Marshals are assigned at the Championships but not usually used in dual/tri meets.