Becoming an Official

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New officials training course as of 040124

USA Swimming is proud to announce the addition of two Officials training courses to the online educational platform USA Swimming UniversityFoundations of Officiating and Stroke & Turn Certification are video-based modules with interactive features. Both courses are required for new stroke and turn officials. Recertifying stroke and turn officials only need to complete and pass the Stroke & Turn Certification. 

“Through the Keeping Athletes First initiative and the standards established by members, we are excited to launch USA Swimming’s first two Officials Certification courses,” said USA Swimming Managing Director of Sport Development Joel Shinofield. “Like the new coach education courses built by over 300 coaches, for coaches, we have leaned heavily on grassroots officials and members of the National Officials Committee to create these courses.” 

“There was a tremendous collaboration to produce these tutorials,” said National Officials Committee Chair Dana Covington. “Many experts from the grassroots official to the National Officials Committee were utilized to provide input for this project. These tutorials will standardize the didactic portion of an officials training.” 

To help officials learn from other members of the community, both courses feature footage from local clubs across the country. All curriculum is based on training provided at the LSC level and continues to be free for all members.  

In the 30-minute Foundations of Officiating course, new officials will learn:

  • Roles and responsibilities; 
  • What to expect on deck; and 
  • The principles and values of officials.

In the 60-90-minute-long Stroke & Turn Certification, officials will learn:

  • Protocols and procedures for Stroke & Turn officials;
  • Technical stroke, turn, and finish rules for all strokes, individual medley, and relays;
  • Disqualification process; and 
  • How to work with other officials on deck. 

“I am excited for LSC Officials Chairs to view this,” continued Covington. “It offers some great ideas and lays the foundation of what is expected of an official.”

All new officials must take both courses before beginning on-deck training. Courses may be taken in either order. However, we recommend taking the Foundations of Officiating first. The Stroke & Turn Certification must be passed with a test score higher than 80 percent. Upon completion of both courses, in accordance with R-9 rules, new officials must complete at least four on-deck mentor training sessions. Once sessions are completed, evaluation and sign-off from the trainer/certifying officials are required.  

Officials who are recertifying must take the Stroke & Turn Certification only. The exam must be passed with a test score higher than 80 percent.

“I really hope parents, coaches, or athletes watch these videos and have an interest sparked to come and join us on deck as officials,” said Covington. “I believe that officiating is a great way to help raise the next generation of great people through the sport of swimming. There is room for everyone, so come out and give officiating a try!”

View all educational opportunities on USA Swimming University here

How does one become an official?

The first place to inquire is around your child’s team or club. There are probably other parents locally who are officials.   There are many benefits to becoming an official.

Why get involved in swim officiating? Video

  • Best view of the pool
    • When your child is swimming, you can get another official to watch your assigned lanes, so you can watch your child swim
  • Working with a great group of volunteers
  • Help your team
    • Based on the number of swimmers that are each team has swimming, teams are required to provide a certain number of officials.  Fines are levied against teams that do not provide enough officials.  Some teams provide incentives to become an official since it becomes financially advantageous for them to do so.  Check with your team.
  •  Free food and drink
    • The teams hosting swim meets provide hospitality to the coaches and officials.
  • Preferential parking at some swim meets
    • Some teams hosting swim meets provide reserved parking for officials.  This is quite convenient because parking at some meets can be difficult.  Please only use this parking if you are actually officiating that particular meet.

Steps to Becoming an Official

There are a number of steps that need to be completed to become a certified official.  These steps do not have a strict ordering progression (you do not need to follow an exact sequence of steps), but some steps are required before completing others.   The following list contains the steps necessary as well as the dependent steps.  Starting in March 2014, all officials on deck need to be registered with USA Swimming, either as an apprentice official or a full non-athlete member.  The new apprentice official designation allows you to be registered without paying the registration fee upfront.  This allows you to see if you enjoy officiating prior to paying any money.  As an apprentice official, you have 60 days to complete your full USA Swimming registration.  This 60 day limit is completely separate from your official certification.  I.E. you do not need to complete all of your shadow sessions within the 60 days.  After 60 days, you will need to upgrade your membership from apprentice to full membership, otherwise, you will no longer be allowed to shadow on deck.  That means you will need to complete the full USA Swimming registration before you can complete your shadow sessions. If it is June, July, or August, it makes sense to just fill out the apprentice official form and then submit the full membership in September, when the membership forms for the next year become available.  That will give you 15 months of the membership until the end of the following year.  Apprentice official forms should be turned into the meet ref at the swim meet where you perform your first shadow session.  Your first shadow session is the start date for your 60 day timer.  He/she will submit it to the office.

You can alway bypass the apprentice official membership and go straight to a full membership.  But if you do, please complete your background check and athlete protection training as soon as possible.  We will not be able to record your shadow sessions in OTS (Officials Tracking System) until you have completed the background check and athlete protection training.

  • USA Swimming Registration
    • Background Check
    • Athlete Protection Training
    • On-line Stroke&Turn/Timer test
  • Six shadowing sessions at swim meets
  • Attend an introductory officials clinic

More detailed information about each step is contained in the following paragraphs.  Finding the specific information you need on the USA Swimming website can be difficult.  The links that are provided below are for your convenience.

  • USA Swimming Registration – All officials need to become non-athlete members of USA Swimming.  Your individual team may handle the registration process for you (teams do this so they can pay your registration fee for you).  Please check with your team.  Some teams will reimburse officials for their registration fees, even if you submit your form individually
  •   Please check with your specific team.
    • USA Swimming requires all officials to clear a level II background check.  No fingerprinting is required for this level of a background check.  It is possible to get your background check prior to completing your USA Swimming registration, but it is better to get your registration completed so that the background check can be properly associated with your USA Swimming membership.  The process is easily completed online.  To start the background check process, go to this link: background check
    • USA Swimming has initiated the “Safe Sport” program and requires all officials to complete the Athlete Protection Training.  Having completed the USA Swimming registration process are required to have the training associated with your USA Swimming membership.  Officials are considered non-athlete members of USA Swimming.  Please complete the non-athlete version of the training and not the parent version.
  • Attend an introductory clinic for officials.  These clinics are held a couple of times each year and go over the basics of officiating stroke and turn.
  • Complete the on-line test. USA Swimming has on-line tests for all of the different official positions. The initial position is a stroke and turn official. Once you are a registered member of USA Swimming, you can log into the USA Swimming website and take the on-line test. Each question on the test has 2 parts, a question on the rule and the rule or rules that specify the answer. This requires using an up-to-date version of the rule book while taking the test. The latest version of the rule book is always available on the USA Swimming website. 
  • Complete the on-line concussion training and mail your completed training certificate to the SI Office.  
  • Participate in a minimum of 6 shadow sessions.  These take place at the regularly scheduled swim meets that are not championship meets or freestyle only meets.  Trainees will be assigned to a certified official to shadow.  This is where most of your learning will take place.  Nothing is better than actually seeing the swimmers in the pool to learn what officials really do.  Depending on the format of the meet, there may be multiple sessions in a single weekend.  It is possible to get up to 4 sessions completed in a single weekend.  “C” level meets are the best meets to learn to officiate because these meets offer the most opportunities to see swimmers performing disqualifiable swimming.  On the 5th or 6th shadow session, trainees will start making calls, with the trainer overseeing the trainee.  Before shadowing, you need to complete either the apprentice official registration or the full USA Swimming membership registration (see above for a link to both registration forms). 

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