Competition – Frequently Asked Questions


What are the most common mistakes?

My analysis of disqualifications (DQs) over the past 10 years confirms that false starts are the most common fault, followed by relay change overs and then individual stroke faults which, at least in NSW, are occurring less and less often. Also almost half of the infringements have been made by swimmers who are over 60 years and don’t compete regularly.

To my mind there are two major problems in competitions, especially bigger competitions like Nationals and World Championships, they are:

1.       Not knowing the current rules

There is no doubt that not knowing the rules is a major factor. At my last meet, two swimmers took two full strokes underwater before surfacing  at the start of the race and at the turn  in the 50m Breaststroke.

Rule changes, especially in backstroke turns (where the rule has changed at least three times in the last 10 years or so) can be a problem for swimmers who have not competed for a number of years.

So my tip:

If you are going to swim in a race, read and understand the rules for that stroke.

2.      Lack of supervised practice under race conditions.

It is not enough to just know what to do, you have to practise doing it properly, preferably supervised by a coach or a current experienced competitor.

In 65 years of competition, many of them as a team captain, I have both seen and learnt the hard way that you need to practise what you are going to do. Conversely, if you routinely practise doing the wrong thing the chances are you will do it in competition. I have seen this with swimmers doing one handed touches when doing breaststroke in training and then accidentally doing it in a race. Every turn in every stroke in practice should be done correctly.

Ask your coach to check your stroke either during or outside practice sessions. Too many club sessions consist of conditioning swims, drills, and even sprints without any attention being paid to whether the swimmers are swimming to the rules.

Then you need to practice turns at race pace. It is no good doing a perfect turn in practice if it is not also practised at race speed.

Coaches or team captains need to give individual swimmers and relay teams practice in starts, turns and change-overs under race conditions using competition starting equipment if possible.

On the day of the competition, or before if possible:

  • Practise using the starting platforms – many of them differ, even subtly.
  • Practise your turns – the “T” lane markings and backstroke flags are not the same at all pools, despite FINA specifications.

Finally, false starts and early relay changeovers are usually due to nerves. Try to compete in several minor meets before tackling a major competition.

Gary Stutsel

How do I enter a swim meet?

All MSNSW sanctioned meets are individual online entries only.

Step-by-step instructions, FAQ’s & an instructional video for the online entry system are available here

Can I stop after diving in, or in the middle of a lap, to adjust my goggles?

Yes, you can stop in the middle of the lap to adjust goggles as long as when you start again you do not push up off the bottom of the pool.

SW 10.5M Standing on the bottom during a race shall not disqualify a swimmer but he shall not walk or push off to resume the swim.

Clarification: If a swimmer has to stop during a race (to adjust their goggles or swimming costume or has swallowed water) he may resume without penalty.

Can I do any stroke in the freestyle leg of an Individual medley, or does it have to be crawl/overarm?

In the Freestyle leg of the Individual Medley, you must NOT swim a formstroke (backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.

SW 5.1 Freestyle means that in an event so designated the swimmer may swim any style, except that in individual medley or medley relay events, freestyle means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.

SW 9.1M In individual medley events, the swimmer covers the four swimming styles in the following order: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle. Each of the strokes must cover one quarter (¼) of the distance.

Can I swim a formstroke in a freestyle event?

You may nominate to swim a formstroke in a freestyle event for a record attempt, or for inclusion in Top Ten (state and national only).

This nomination must be made by close of entries for the meet and will only be accepted if there is no formstroke event of that distance already included in the meet programme.

A formstroke could be backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, or Individual Medley.

Nominations are not generally included in the printed meet programme. The meet Recorder will provide the Referee with a list of swimmers who have nominated to swim a formstroke in freestyle events so that the swims can be judged accordingly.

Will my time be recorded as freestyle or the formstroke?

Freestyle means that in an event so designated, the swimmer may swim any style.

Therefore, your time will be recorded as freestyle and you will receive a placing and points in that freestyle event.

In addition, your time will be recorded as the appropriate formstroke, although this will not normally be displayed with the poolside results at the meet and you will not receive additional placings or points.

Will I be disqualified if I do a formstroke without nominating?

Freestyle means that in an event so designated, the swimmer may swim any style.

If you did not nominate a formstroke, your swim will be judged as freestyle only – whether or not you swim a formstroke, any formstroke rules will not apply. You can even do a mix of strokes, you will not be DQ’d.