Starting, in the sport of swimming, looks to most people simple, straightforward and easy. Well it can be – but it can also be difficult and involved. To keep it simple, straightforward and easy is the secret and is mainly in the hands of you, the Starter.

Much rests on how you conduct yourself. To be calm and relaxed, but still in control requires certain capabilities of an individual that not everyone has.

Your voice and command must be clear but calm. Your requests, commands, or instructions should be at the same pace, the same level and given in the same manner each time. Say the words "Take your marks” as you would read them if they were written. Say it the same way you would say “take a seat” with no one word given more emphasis. Remember you are trying to keep the swimmers relaxed and ready, not make them nervous, anxious and hesitant.

A good Referee will only hand the swimmers over to the Starter when they are relaxed and ready. When this happens, you need to decide when you feel they are as well and then give your command. Only when they are all stationary do you give the start signal. If the swimmers do not settle, the command to “stand up” or “relax swimmers” (backstroke for example) should be given, then when they are settled, asked to take their marks again.

A Starter should be fit, healthy, have good peripheral vision, good eyesight, quick reactions and decision-making ability and be decisive. You only have a very brief time with the race in your control and most incidents will happen quickly while being part of everything else that is going on at the start.

Be firm and clear on your comments and recommendations to the referee. With this in mind, detailed below are some of the details regarding rules and requirements for starting in the sport of swimming.

A disqualification for starting before the starting signal must be observed and confirmed by both the starter and the referee.

Your position should be approximately five metres from the end of the pool and in an area where you can clearly see all of the starting platforms and swimmers clearly. You should be able to see all the swimmers from lanes 1 to 8 or 0 to 9 without looking back and forth or up and down. If you are unable to do this, then reposition yourself or think about your ability to start! Test this out during the warm up period when the outside lanes are practising starts. Work with the Referee prior to the start of the session to find the optimum position for you both to enable you both to perform your duties.

You should be familiar with the equipment you will be using at the competitions you will be appointed to. Pencils/pens and the SNZ rulebook and regulations along with a set of current FINA rules should be in your possession plus an up-to-date programme or session sheet from the organisers.

FINA Rules for StartersThe following

FINA rules are relevant to starters:

SW2.1.6 RefereeSW 2.3 Starter

SW 2.4 Clerk of the Course

SW 4 The Start

SW 6.1 Backstroke

To assist you in starting, a good sound knowledge of all strokes is recommended. These rules are:

SW 5 Freestyle

SW 6 Backstroke

SW 7 Breaststroke

SW 8 Butterfly

SW 9 Medley Swimming

SW 10 The Race

Most Starters will already have their IOT qualification, which covers these rules. However a starter can be just that with no other official qualifications. It is even more advantageous if, as a starter, you also have a Referees’ qualification. A Starter and Referee work very closely together and should confer after every start. Any decision for a Start DQ will be made as long as the Starter and the Referee both observe the infraction and agree.

Although the role and time span of a Starter’s duties are short it does pay to keep a watchful eye on all aspects of the race.You may be asked by the Referee to assist in recording the finish placings.

Duties of a Starter

• Report to the Referee 1 hour before the first session and 30 minutes before for subsequent sessions. Discuss the procedures and requirements you or the Referee may wish to follow, to ensure you work as a team.

• Check all equipment. Starting blocks should be firm, ready and not slippery. Check the backstroke handles are firm. The sound system for you and the swimmers needs to be checked along with the starting signal.

• Check the starting podium area is clear from obstruction and distractions.

• False start rope should release easily and fall evenly over all lanes. Ensure outside lanes are fully covered with the rope.

• Check with the other appointed starter, ensure you agree on procedures and who is starting which races.

• Check with the automatic timing device operators before the commencement of each session that the start system and computers are functioning correctly.

• Watch for the clearance signal indicator from the control room that they are clear and ready for the next race. Pass this on to the Referee. If a podium is being used, stand down while waiting for the clearance signal and step up when this has been received.

• Advise the Referee of any misconduct or incidents that affect you or the starting of the race.

• When the race is in your hands, instruct the swimmers in a manner that ensures you have control. Do not let the swimmers control you or the start.

• If after the start signal is given you consider the start is unfair, you are able to stop the race even if the Referee has not indicated to do so.

• Check to ensure that the false start rope is ready to be activated and someone is in control of that. (Usually JOS 2)

• Know which race you are starting, i.e. Event 23, 200 metres Backstroke, Heat 3

• Mark in your programme the completed races and any relevant notes you wish to record of incidents or infringements. This assists you in any possible later discussions required with a Jury of Appeal.

Role of a Starter

As with all swimming Officials, a high standard of expertise, attitude and personal appearance is expected. This will convey to the swimmers and public that you have confidence in yourself, and your position. You must be fair, consistent, and decisive. Remember you are in control when nothing else is happening. The people in the pool area are watching the swimmer’s reaction to your instructions and signals. You may have many observers and critics. As long as you are confident, positive and decisive you will not be aware of the pressure that can be placed on you.

You are there to ensure that each swimmer has A FAIR AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR A GOOD START. Quite simple. If you achieve this, you have done a good job. It is a great challenge to consistently achieve the role of a Starter as described above.