In order for swim meets to run effectively, we rely on people volunteering their time and skills. In swimming, all the amazing volunteers out on pool deck and in the control room are called Technical Officials or TO’s for short. These TO’s, along with other volunteers, are the backbone of swimming competitions everywhere!
New Technical Officials are always welcome and there are a variety of different roles that Technical Officials play at swim meets such as Timekeeper, Judge of Stroke, Referee or Starter. We’ve outlined what each of these roles involves below.
When you're ready, head to our Becoming a Technical Official page to begin your journey in officiating.
Technical Official Roles
- Timekeeper & Chief Timekeeper
- Check Starter
- Clerk of Course (Marshal)
- Inspector of Turns & Chief Inspector Of Turns
- Judge of Stroke
- Chief Recorder (Recorder)
- Finish Judge
- AOE Operator & SAT Operator
- Technical Manager
A Timekeeper takes the time of swimmers in their assigned lane out on pool deck using either a stopwatch (manual timing) or a plunger (semi-automatic timing). If an automatic timing system isn’t available three Timekeepers are required per lane. Where this isn’t possible, as many Timekeepers per lane is always preferred.
A Chief Timekeeper supervises all other Timekeepers and assigns them to lanes, as required.
A Check Starter is positioned on pool deck and receives the swimmers and race sheet from the Clerk of Course (Marshal) and is then responsible for checking the swimmers are in the correct event and lane, before lining them up behind the blocks.
A Starter is positioned on pool deck and has full control over the swimmers, from the time the referee hands over until the start of the race. A Starter signals swimmers by saying, ‘take your mark’ and then by using a starting system to begin the race, which usually sounds as a loud beep or horn.
There are three Starter levels:
Level 1 Starter – Club/Region Competitions;
Level 2 Starter – State Competitions and below;
Level 3 Starter – National Competitions and below;
A Clerk of Course, previously known as a Marshal, checks in swimmers before the event (usually in a marshalling room or similar) and organises swimmers into heats, recording any scratches (or withdrawals) and no shows.
An Inspector of Turns is positioned at either end on pool deck to ensure that swimmers comply with the relevant rules when starting/finishing the race and turning between laps.
The Chief Inspector of Turns is responsible for supervising all Inspector of Turns’.
A Judge of Stroke walks up and down the side of the pool, following the swimmers, to ensure that the rules for the stroke are being observed. They also assist with Inspector of Turns duties.
The Chief Recorder, previously known as Recorder, is positioned in the control room and is responsible for maintaining accurate results throughout the meet.
A Finish Judge is positioned on pool deck at the finish end to determine the order of finish when Manual or Semi-Automatic timing is being used (if there are less than 3 timekeepers per lane).
The Automatic Officiating Equipment (AOE) or Semi-Automatic Timing (SAT) Operators are positioned in the control room, monitoring the Automatic Officiating Equipment (AOE) or Semi-Automatic Timing Equipment (SAT) and playing an important role in ensuring the times and places are accurately captured for each swimmer.
A Referee is positioned on pool deck and is responsible for all swimmers and officials, ensuring all swimming and competition rules are followed and makes important decisions regarding race conditions. A Referee will use their whistle to signal to swimmers, officials and spectators, before handing over to the starter.
There are three Referee levels:
Level 1 Referee – Club/Region Competitions;
Level 2 Referee – State Competitions and below;
Level 3 Referee – National Competitions and below;
Some Referees may also choose to complete their ‘Referee – Multi Class’ accreditation.
The Technical Manager oversees the meet and all other Technical Officials; they are responsible for ensuring the meet is run in a fair manner.