"Around the Deck" masthead

March, 2008

We’re Back!
Thanks for the great response to the first edition of Around the Deck. We’re back with another issue. March brings a number of culminating meets, including several championship meets. We hope to see you on deck this month! As the short course season winds down, you can expect the next newsletter in late April or early May, in anticipation of the PVS long course season.


We Need Your Help! Upcoming Meets

March 2008

Date Meet Location Officials Contact
2/28-3/2 PVS 14 & Under Junior Olympic Championships Fairland Aquatics Center
Pam Starke-Reed
6-9 PVS Senior Championships PGS&LC PVS Officials Committee
7-9 Spring Finale Rockville and Olney Bob Richardson
8-9 Mini Championships Olney Scott Witkin
8-9 LJ Miller 12/U Invitational South Run John McKenzie
13-16 Speedo Championship Series Eastern Zone Southern Sectional Meet Univ. of Maryland Eastern Zone
29-30 Spring Championships Fairland Aquatics Center Lynne Gerlach
29-30 MAKO Spring Invitational GMU Tony Fitz


Junior Olympics
PVS 14 & Under Junior Olympic Championships are being held this coming weekend, February 28 - March 2, at Fairland Aquatics Center in Laurel, MD. There is still a need for officials at all levels. To volunteer please contact the meet referee Pam Starke-Reed. Even if you did not sign up in advance, you can still work the meet — simply report to the referee when you arrive.


PVS Senior Champs
The 2008 PVS Short Course Championships will take place March 6-9 at the Prince Georges County Sports & Learning Complex, adjacent to FedEx Field in Landover, MD. The meet has been designated as an Officials Qualifying Meet, and there will be opportunities to be evaluated for the N2 level positions. It’s not too late to volunteer to work at this meet — contact Jim VanErden. Assignments will be posted on the PVS Website. Certified officials who have not previously volunteered should contact the referee upon arrival to make their services available. A comprehensive officials briefing will precede each session.


Eastern Zone South Region Sectionals
The 2008 USA Swimming Speedo Champions Series Meet will be hosted by Curl-Burke Swim Club and Potomac Valley Swimming, March 13-16 at the University of Maryland, College Park, MD. This high profile championship meet will feature elite swimmers from across the Eastern seaboard. The meet has been designated as an Officials Qualifying Meet, and there will be opportunities to be evaluated for the N2 and N3 level positions. Applications for non-specific deck positions will be accepted up to March 7. But even if you haven’t submitted an application, certified officials are encouraged to come and volunteer. This is terrific opportunity to work at a high profile meet and see some very fast swimming. All officials must attend mandatory officials briefings before each session, which begin one hour prior to the start of the session (except Thursday, when the briefing starts an hour and a half before the start of the session).


PVS officials Boots Hall, John Hirschmann and Don Riedlinger have been selected to officiate at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska this summer. Congratulations to Boots, John, and Don!


You Make the Call
A swimmer leaves the pool at 150 yards believing that he has finished his 200 Free race. Finding out that he has not swum the correct number of lengths, he enters the pool again to finish. Is this legal or should he be disqualified?
See the answer at the bottom of this newsletter.


How to Improve as a Swim Official

  • Work regularly – There is no substitute for experience.
  • Know the rules – Review the rulebook on a regular basis; listen carefully to the pre-meet briefing, no matter how many times you’ve heard it previously.
  • Have a protective (rather than punitive) attitude – A DQ is not considered a penalty against a swimmer, but rather a protection of all the other swimmers who went to the effort to swim properly in accordance with USA Swimming Rules & Regulations.
  • Be consistent – The rules are the same for 6-year olds and for Olympic medallists.
  • Work at a high profile meet – You’ll work with many experienced, knowledgeable officials in championship conditions. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn.
  • Evaluate your performance after every session – Did I do my part to provide safe, fair, and equitable conditions of competition?


Where Do New Officials Come From?
Question: What group of parents at a swim meet most clearly exhibits the qualities of volunteerism and dedication that we look for in officials? Answer: The timers! The next time you give a Timers’ Briefing, you might also want to include a sixty second plug for becoming an official. Let the timers know that we’re available and willing to answer any questions they might have.


Questions? Suggestions?
Do you have a question about officiating or a tip you’d like to share? Is there a rule that you’d like to have clarified? Do you have a suggestion for a future item in this newsletter? If so, please send your questions/comments to the newsletter editor, Jack Neill.


Feature Article:
“My First Coach Initiated Discussion” by Jim Thompson
This is the second in a series of articles that describe some of my “first experiences” in officiating. I thought “firsts” is a good theme because they are special, like your first kiss or your child’s first step, something that you remember for a long, long time.

What is a coach initiated discussion? It is what a coach does when he or she is not happy with a Referee’s decision. In the New Referee clinic I attended, they mentioned the possibility and how it may, at times, get somewhat vigorous and animated. I’m just glad they can’t kick dirt, though splashing of water may be in the realm of possibility.

What was the circumstance that led to my first coach initiated discussion? I was working as Deck Referee for a meet. At this point I was Referee for about six months. It was one of those meets where the venue was running two pools. I had the boys’ side. It was Sunday, the last session of the meet. The last event of the session was the 15 & Over 400y Individual Medley. It was a positive check-in event.

According to my program there were 3 or 4 heats with the first heat containing three swimmers. I called up the first heat and only one swimmer appeared. I looked in my program and saw that heat 2 had seven swimmers seeded. Since the 400 IM is a longer event, I got the brilliant idea that by combining heats 1 and 2, I could cut the timeline by 5 or 6 minutes. At this point, I suspected that everyone was tired and wanted the meet to be over. Besides the lone swimmer in heat 1 did not look thrilled to swim by himself. Maybe I’ll get some kind of award for this!

So I called up heat 2. Actually I was surprised; it took longer than I expected to get the second heat in place. But I figured I needed to make sure that I did not miss any heat 2 swimmers because I did not want a coach “initiating a discussion” for missing his or her swimmer. So instead of saving 5 or 6 minutes, I only saved 4 minutes. But I’m thinking that I’m still on the plus side of this decision.

There were eight swimmers for the combined heat, and off they went. The remaining heats got started with no problems. We were done and I was feeling pretty good.

Then I heard a voice behind say, “Hey, Ref. Can we speak?”

I looked around and saw that it was a coach and he was not looking too happy. I replied cautiously, “Sure. How can I help you?”

“Can you tell me why you combined those two heats in the 400 IM?”

Thinking that he wanted to understand the brilliance behind the decision, I proudly said, “Well, there was only one swimmer in the first heat. I figured it would be more competitive for the lone heat 1 swimmer if he swims with heat 2.”

The coach squinted his eyes, nodded his head a few times taking in my words. He opened his eyes, “So to make it more competitive for that one swimmer, you decided to disadvantage seven other swimmers?”

A bit taken aback, I said, “What?!?! What do you mean, I ‘disadvantaged seven other swimmers’? I did not do that. All seven swimmers in heat 2 got to swim. I did not miss anyone in heat 2!”

The coach responded, “Swimmers have a ritual or process they go through to get ready for a swim. Some of them may do stretches. Others may stand under a warm shower to loosen their muscles. They have this all planned out and timed to coincide with the start of their heat. When you called up the second heat early, this interrupted their ritual for getting ready. One of those swimmers was my swimmer. He was not ready to swim when you called heat 2. I can understand combining heats if there is a severe time constraint and there is another session after this or the distance is shorter because the swimmers should be already behind the block. This was not the case for that event.”

Taking a few moments to let the coach’s words sink in, I thought, “Well, maybe he has a point. Maybe I had not completely thought through the situation from the swimmer’s perspective.”

With a little crow in my throat, I said, “I did not know that.” We talked for a little while longer, then shook hands and parted.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize the coach’s comment about warming up for a competition applies to officials as well. As a Referee, I have a routine I follow before any meet:

  • Meet with pool management to discuss any facilities topics
  • Discuss with the Meet Director any special considerations for the meet, i.e., excessive timeline, equipment issues, swimmers with disabilities, etc.
  • Meet with coaches (if warranted) or walk the deck during warmups to make myself visible to the coaches
  • Inspect the starting blocks
  • Measure the distance to the backstroke flags. If there is a moveable bulkhead, measure the pool.
  • Check the timing equipment
  • Discuss with the Starter how we should handle situations such as false starts, swimmer stepping up late, only one swimmer stepping up, missing swimmer for a positive check-in event, etc.
  • Brief the Stroke & Turn officials: strokes, jurisdiction, rotations, DQ procedure

At least for me, if this routine is interrupted or short circuited, the session just does not feel right to me. It takes a long time for me to get into the groove if I can’t do all of the above.

Just to plant the seed for the next article, we all know there are “decisions” and there are “boneheaded decisions.” In the next installment, I’ll write about the latter.


Resolution to ‘You Make the Call’
The swimmer should be DQ’ed. Article 102.10.5 states, “...a swimmer must not leave the pool, or walk, or spring from the bottom.”