STARTER
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MANUAL FOR STARTERS & TRAINEES

Adapted from FINA's "Manual for Officiating at Swimming Events", February 1999 edition.


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Page Topics

STARTER'S ROLE
RESPONSIBILITIES
POSITION
PRE-MEET PREPARATIONS
    OPERATIONAL SETUP
    TEST START
MEET OPERATION
    HEATS
    DIVE STARTS
    BACKSTROKE STARTS
    STARTING A RACE
    INSTRUCTING THE SWIMMERS
    PROCEDURES FOR THE STARTER
    FALSE STARTS
SUMMARY


STARTER'S ROLE:

  • To help the swimmers achieve the best possible fair and equal start
  • To ensure that one swimmer does not gain an advantage over the others on the start of a race
  • To communicate directly with the swimmers at the start of each race.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Ensure that a legal starting form is consistently observed
  • Give the starting command "Take Your Marks"
  • Activate the starting device
  • Assure that no swimmer has an unfair advantage over the other swimmers. With the concurrence of the Referee, the Starter may charge a false start to a swimmer who leaves the starting platform early, whose action causes another swimmer to leave early, or, who fails to obey the Starter's "Stand Up" command.

POSITION

There is no difference for short or long course meets. For those events commencing with a dive start, the Starter should stand on the side of the pool, within 5 metres of the starting blocks, with a clear view of all lanes. For backstroke events, the Starter should take a position at the end of the pool where he or she can clearly see the feet of the swimmers in the water.

PRE-MEET PREPARATIONS

Connect cable from power source to port at rear of starting console at least 24 hours before meet starts and allow starting console's battery to charge overnight.

OPERATIONAL SETUP

Set up the starting horn within 5 metres of the starting blocks, in a location where it can be seen and heard by the Timers and the swimmers. Connect cables from power source, microphone, lane speakers and timing console to ports at rear of starting console. Turn on the console using the button at rear of the console.

TEST START

The unit is now ready for meet operation. Test that starting horn and scoreboard are both working by simultaneously depressing then releasing both buttons on microphone. Horn should sound, strobe light should flash and scoreboard clock should start running. Test that false start horn is working by simultaneously depressing and holding both buttons on microphone. Horn should sound repeatedly.

MEET OPERATION

Get ready for the actual start of the swim meet. Get a copy of the meet programme or session heat sheets and review it. Find out from the Announcer or Chief Recorder the names of all scratches and time-only swimmers. Practice your instructions to the swimmers. Always be calm, clear and confident with your instructions. The swimmers should not be threatened by tone of your voice. The Starter "instructs" rather than "orders". Remember to pause between any instructions and the "Take Your Marks" command. This allows the swimmers to hear the Starter's command and to prepare for the start. Set up the starting device within 5 metres of the starting blocks where you have an unobstructed view of the swimmers before and after they have stepped onto the starting blocks. You should also have an unobstructed view of the Referee. No one should be standing or seated between the Starter and the starting blocks or the Starter and the Referee. Discuss with the Referee where each of you will stand and how false starts will be handled.

HEATS

The Announcer should announce the lane assignments and swimmers for each heat. Unless otherwise directed by the Referee, the Starter SHOULD NOT call the swimmers up to the blocks.

DIVE STARTS

At the commencement of each heat in Freestyle, Breaststroke, Butterfly and Individual Medley events, the Referee should signal to the swimmers by a short series of whistles that they should remove their warm-up clothing, followed by a long whistle for them to step onto the starting blocks and remain there. When the swimmers and officials are ready for the start, the Referee shall gesture to the Starter with a stretched out arm indicating that the swimmers are under the Starter's control. The Referee's arm shall remain up and outstretched until the starting signal, but dropped before the starting signal if the Referee wishes to abort the start.

BACKSTROKE STARTS

At the commencement of each heat in Backstroke and Medley Relay events, the Referee should signal to the swimmers by a short series of whistles that they should remove their warm-up clothing, followed by a long whistle for them to immediately enter the water. On the Referee's second long whistle, the swimmers should take their starting positions in the water. The swimmers line up facing the starting blocks, with both hands placed on the starting grips. The feet, including the toes, must be completely under the water until the staring signal is given. Swimmers may not stand in or on the gutter, nor curl their toes over the lip of the gutter prior to the start. It is the Starter's duty to ensure that these rules are complied with before the starting signal is given. When the swimmers and officials are ready for the start, the Referee shall gesture to the Starter with a stretched out arm indicating that the swimmers are under the Starter's control. The Referee's arm shall remain up and outstretched until the starting signal, but dropped before the starting signal if the Referee wishes to abort the start.

STARTING A RACE

The Starter is in full control of the race once the swimmers are standing on the blocks (for dive starts) or gripping the blocks (for backstroke starts) and the Referee's arm signal has been given. It is perfectly acceptable for the Starter to ask for quiet from a noisy audience and to wait until the swimmers and timers can hear every command.

INSTRUCTING THE SWIMMERS

The Starter should not confuse the swimmers with unnecessary or sharp comments and multiple or rapid commands. A Starter should speak in a slow, distinct, voice. The voice of a good Starter leads the swimmers into their staring positions, not break their concentration with unexpected orders or commands. Instructions may include the following:

  • Telling backstroke swimmers to "Place Your Feet" before the starting signal is given;
  • Asking the swimmers to "Stand Up", or, for backstroke events, to "Relax" or "Stand Down" if all swimmers are not ready for the start within a reasonable amount of time.

PROCEDURES FOR THE STARTER

The Starter's attention should be directed towards the entire field of swimmers. Through experience, it will become apparent when the swimmers are ready to race. It is best to give them time to settle down and compose themselves. A few seconds pause to let the swimmers take their last few shakes and deep breaths can save many minutes of delays and disqualifications due to false starts.

When you observe that all of the swimmers are ready, give the command "Take Your Marks." Each swimmer must immediately respond by assuming a starting position with at least one foot at the front of the starting block. When you see that all swimmers are motionless, the starting signal is given and the race begins. The Starter's position requires concentration, quick reactions and making fair decisions. It takes practice to become a good Starter. You want to ensure that all swimmers are given a fair start.

FALSE STARTS

The most common false start occurs when a swimmer leaves the starting block before the starting signal. It is the responsibility of the Starter to detect movement by a swimmer before the starting signal. It is important that the Starter provides an atmosphere that gives each and every swimmer the opportunity to achieve a calm, controlled, start. This best occurs when the Starter allows the swimmers time to become motionless before giving the starting signal.

If all of the swimmers are not ready within a reasonable amount of time, the Starter should ask the swimmers to "Stand Up", or, for backstroke events, to "Relax" or "Stand Down." If either of these commands causes a swimmer to enter the water or start swimming prematurely, the Starter and the Referee have the authority to relieve that swimmer of a false start. This does not prevent disqualification for deliberate delay if the swimmer intentionally enters the water. With experience, you want to prevent false starts caused by swimmers being jumpy or in a hurry because they aren't ready.

If the Referee decides that there has been some fault at the start on the part of the Starter or the Referee and blows the whistle, that shall be followed by the Starter's recall signals and the lowering of the false start rope. The Starter signals a recall by repeatedly sounding the starting horn and ordering the lowering of the false start rope. Those are the only likely instances when the swimmers would be recalled. If a false start infraction is observed on the start of the race, the swimmer(s) shall be disqualified on completion of the race. Otherwise, there shall be no recall of a false start. The Referee and Starter must agree or there is no false start. However, the Referee has the authority to call a false start disqualification. No confirmation by the Starter is required. The Starter and the Referee should establish a procedure for informing swimmers who have been disqualified for a false start. They should avoid embarrassing the swimmer.

SUMMARY

The Starter should:

  • Know the BSF Competition Rules and Technical Swimming Rules for starting.
  • Check the starting device thoroughly before the start of each meet and each session.
  • For events commencing with a dive start, stand in the best position on the side of the pool to see the entire field of swimmers. For backstroke events, stand in the best position on the side of the pool to see that the feet of the entire field of swimmers are completely underwater.
  • Give commands and instructions properly:
  • Use standard commands and instructions: "Take Your Marks"; "Place Your Feet"; "Stand Up"; "Stand Down"; "Relax"; "A False Start Has Been Charged To The Field"; "The False Start Rule Is Now In Effect"; "This Is The Second Start"; etc.
  • Address the swimmers with respect - speak calmly, clearly, confidently.
  • Remember - "Take Your Marks"; pause; observe; start the race.
  • Always be impartial, fair and consistent. Remain cool and professional at all times.
  • Should a fault by the Referee or Starter occur causing a false start, signal a recall to the start immediately.
  • Check-off each heat or race on your meet programme or heat sheet as it is swum. Also, cross out the names of swimmers that have scratched or failed to appear for the start.
  • Ensure that no swimmer gains an unfair advantage.


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