Our Mission:
To develop athletes, coaches and officials who exemplify the highest levels of
sportsmanship, honesty  and  dedication in the pursuit of excellence

Our Vision:
To be leaders within USA Swimming



Southern Zone Web

To: USA Swimming Board of Directors, General Chairs, Officials Chairs, Rules & Regulations Committee, USA Swimming Officials and USA Swimming Coaches, 

Good afternoon. Thanks for your attention and for everything that each of you do for our sport. I am addressing this large group in an attempt to directly communicate some important changes to our Rules and the process of rules changes.

The 2023 USA Swimming Rulebook is currently in effect. Physical copies are being distributed to those who requested copies through the portal. Digital versions are always available on the USA Swimming Rules & Policies Page.

All amendments approved at the September 2022 annual meeting of the House of Delegates ("HOD") are included and effective immediately. Please reference Page 1, Major Legislation and Rules Changes for 2023, in the 2023 Rulebook for an overview of the rules that were deemed to be the most impactful to our membership. To accompany this email, the entire 2023 Legislative Packet including results of each vote and a redline of the change from the 2022 to 2023 Rulebook is available here . Please note, there is a typographical error on the top of page 21. In the past many rule changes had an effective date of May 1 (of the year following the HOD when they were approved). There is language on this page stating in part, “Except as otherwise noted, all provisions under Part One, Technical Rules, are effective beginning May 1, 2023, and until changed.” As noted in the Major Legislative Changes section, as well as indicated in this letter, all changes made by the HOD in September as well as all FINA / World Aquatic related changes are currently in effect.

Additionally, several changes were made in response to World Aquatics making changes to their technical swimming rules at a FINA Technical Congress in October of 2022. The following changes, made in response to World Aquatic rules changes, appear in the 2023 USA Swimming Rulebook:

  1. USA Swimming Rule 101.1.3A (pp 22) – To Comply with World Aquatics SW4.4

Any swimmer starting before the starting signal is given shall be disqualified Any swimmer initiating a start before the signal may be disqualified if the Referee independently observes and confirms the Starter’s observation that a violation occurred. Swimmers remaining on the starting blocks shall be relieved from their starting positions with the "stand up" command and may step off the blocks.

  1. USA Swimming Rule 101.2.2 (pp 22/23) – To Comply with World Aquatics SW7.2

Stroke — After the start and after each turn when the swimmer leaves the wall, the body shall be kept on the breast. It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time except at the turn after the touch of the wall where it is permissible to turn in any manner as long as the body is on the breast when leaving the wall. Throughout the race the stroke cycle must be one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order.
All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and in the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.
The hands shall be pushed forward together from the breast on, under, or over the water.
The elbows shall be under water except for the final stroke before the turn, during the turn and for the final stroke at the finish. The hands shall be brought back on or under the sur- face of the water. The hands shall not be brought back beyond the hip line, except during the first stroke after the start and each turn.
During each complete cycle, some part of the swimmer’s head shall break the surface of the water. After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs. The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke.

  1. USA Swimming Rule 101.2.3 (pp 23) – To Comply with World Aquatics SW7.4

Kick — After the start and each turn, at any time prior to the first breaststroke kick, a single butterfly kick is permitted. Following which, all movements of the legs shall be simultaneous and in the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.

The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive part of the kick. Scissors, alternating movements or downward butterfly kicks are not permitted except as provided herein. Breaking the surface of the water with the feet is allowed unless followed by a downward butterfly kick.

  1. USA Swimming Rule 101.4.1 (pp 24) – To Comply with World Aquatics SW6.1

Start — The swimmers shall line up in the water facing the starting end, with both hands placed on the gutter or on the starting grips. Standing in or on the gutter, placing the toes above the lip of the gutter, or bending the toes over the lip of the gutter, before or after the start, is prohibited. When using a backstroke ledge at the start, the toes at least one toe of both feet must be in contact with the end wall or face of the touchpad. Bending the toes over the top of the touchpad is prohibited.

  1. USA Swimming Rule 102.8.1E (pp 33) – To Comply with World Aquatics SW10.8

No swimmer is permitted to wear or use any device, substance or swimsuit to help his/ her speed, pace, buoyancy or endurance during a race (such as webbed gloves, flip- pers, fins, power bands, adhesive substances, etc.).  The use of technology and automated data collection devices is permissible for the sole purpose of collecting data. Automated devices shall not be utilized to transmit data, sounds, or signals to the swimmer and may not be used to aid their speed. Goggles may be worn, and rub-down oil applied if not considered excessive by the Referee. Therapeutic elastic tape is prohibited. Any other kind of tape on the body is not permitted unless approved by the Referee.

  1. USA Swimming Rule 102.21.15 (pp 40) – To Comply with World Aquatics SW2.14 and SW2.15

Video replay footage from cameras approved in writing in advance of the competition by the Program & Events Coordinator (or his/her designee) may be used to  review stroke or turn infractions called on deck. The official(s) reviewing the video may only confirm the call made on deck, overrule the call, or advise the Referee that the review proved inconclusive. ensure that the rules related to the style of swimming designated for the event are being observed, and to observe the starts, turns, and finishes. 

Finally, World Aquatics has made a change to its governance structure that allows the World Aquatics Bureau the authority to make changes to their rules more frequently. These rules changes may come at any time and may also require changes to the USA Swimming Rules. Accordingly, we will need to be much more nimble in our process of addressing any technical rules changes. Matt Wilson, your USA Swimming Officials’ Chair and I will work together to ensure officials are aware of these rules changes. For everyone’s benefit, I will also directly communicate any additional rules changes as they occur, so please expect future communications of a similar nature.

I would ask all our officials to also make sure you are reading your most recent Officials’ Quarterly Newsletter, as Jay Thomas has provided additional information about a number of these rules changes. I will also continue to use that publication as a place to disseminate this type of information in addition to direct messages like this one.

Again, I truly appreciate your time and your dedication to our sport.

With best regards,

Derek Paul
Chair, USA Swimming Rules & Regulations Committee