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Helpful Information on Pool Competitions

A big thanks to Head Coach/Official Des for providing the following very helpful information and tips about swimming in pool competitions. Hopefully, this information helps clarify any issues you were unsure about and provides encouragement to give swimming in an club pool meet a try.

Pool Competitions

Pool events are conducted from February until November for most years. Fifteen pool events were conducted during 2019 and they included swims in all strokes over distances from 25 metres to 1500 metres. Some events, such as a 400/800m or 1500m meet, target individual swimmers. Others, covering shorter distances and relays, are team oriented.

Perhaps the best way to find out whether your swimming is improving is by swimming at a LiveLighter Club Challenge. These events are run under Masters Swimming Australia rules and are timed, so you get feedback on how your fitness and technique compare to earlier swims over the same distance. (Masters Swimming Australia rule are closely aligned to FINA rules, FINA being those complied with under international swimming competitions.

You can find an outline of what happens for one of our LiveLighter Club Challenges by following the link to the Masters Swimming WA website. However, here are a couple of added comments.


While in the Marshalling area you will notice that you are in the same heat as younger swimmers (hard to beat?) and older swimmers (easy to beat?). Don’t believe it - they have nominated the same or near-same time as you for the heat, so the finish should be close. Your swim time will be placed alongside others in the same age group and gender as you and that is where you will find out how you rate against other swimmers in the same age group who swam on the day.

Before your race starts you will be standing behind the block with a lot of other people around - there will be timekeepers, officials, including Chief Timekeepers and Inspectors of Turns, and swimmers in other lanes. There will likely be a lot of banter. Ignore it all - just listen out for the first whistle that tells you to be ready, with your goggles on, your cap secure and your swimming costume in place. You can be disqualified if you are deemed to be delaying the start by doing late adjustments. (Bear in mind the meet usually must finish by a set time and if the program is running late the relays may be cancelled.) The whistling used can cause confusion to some swimmers, so here is a description.

The flutter whistle is used to alert you that the race is about to start and you should stand by the starting block ready to race. Do not mount the block or enter the water at this whistle, but wait until the next, long, whistle.

If swimming backstroke solo or as part of a medley, you will, on hearing this long whistle, enter the water feet first. At the second long whistle, you must take the starting position, which is feet against the wall and hands on the handrail. You must be facing the starting end of the pool. The Starter will call “Take your marks”, then, when all swimmers in the heat are steady, give the starting signal.

For all other strokes, at the long whistle you can either mount the diving block, stand on the deck next to the block, or enter the water feet first. All are valid starting positions under Masters Swimming Australia rules. If starting in the water, you must have one hand on the handrail or deck edge and your feet against the wall. If you are starting from the block or deck, you should stand with the toes of at least one foot over the edge. When all swimmers are ready to race, the Event Referee is hand over to the Starter, who will call “Take your marks”, at which time all swimmers should get into the start position and remain steady. When all are steady the starting signal will be given.


Due to time constraints, the Meet Referee can direct (for all events except backstroke and relays) that over-the-top-starts be employed. If so, each swimmer shall touch the wall or timing pad on finishing their race and move back about 1 metre from the wall and hang on to a lane rope, allowing the next heat to start. When the next heat has started, the swimmer who has just finished can leave the pool. Do not touch timing pads (if in use) on leaving.

The Finish

The first thing many swimmers want to know when they finish their race is the time they swam. The reason for this is not known, as this information is usually available a short time after all heats of a particular event are completed. Where timing pads are used, their leaning against the wall asking timekeepers of their recorded time can upset the timing system. If the meet is running over time, it can lead to more time being lost and a DQ being issued for delaying the next start. In that case, no time is recorded.

Swimmers in individual heats must remain in their respective lane until directed by an official to exit. In most cases, the Event referee will give a long whistle for swimmers to clear the pool, but if directed to do so, you can leave the pool before other swimmers have finished the heat. In relays, swimmers 1, 2 and 3 can leave the pool without the sanction of an official – only swimmer 4 must remain in their respective lane until whistled out or given direction to do so by an official. Swimmers 1, 2 and 3 must not interfere or obstruct a swimmer in another lane while exiting the pool.


There are rules about what cannot be worn as swimwear, and these are:


Wearing two pairs of bathers is not allowed. This includes wearing a sports bra under bathers.

No clasps or zipper in the bathers. Clasps include ‘bra-type’ clasps used to adjust straps.

Wearing half-leg bathers beneath regular bathers is not allowed.

Wearing underpants beneath regular bathers is not allowed.

Bathers can have a modesty lining, however, the lining should not be made of compression type material.


Wearing two pairs of bathers is not allowed.

Wearing underpants beneath regular bathers is not allowed.

All Swimmers

Watches or timing devices such as Garmin, Fitbits etc, are not allowed.

Jewellery, such as heavy bracelets, neck chains, and large earrings should be removed as they can cause injury during warm-up, cool-down, or swimming two to a lane.

Wedding rings can be worn.

Medic Alert bracelets and chains ARE permitted


In all swim meets, Masters Swimming Australia (MSA) rules are applied and supervised on the day by trained officials. The officials are tasked with ensuring the rules are followed. Where it is considered they have not, an Infraction Report is completed and the swimmer disqualified (DQd). The DQ is seen less as a punishment for a rule breaker and more as a means to protect another swimmer from disadvantage, especially if a record has been set. One should never feel disappointed for being DQd – even the best swimmer can make a mistake.


As stated above, all LiveLighter pool competitions follow those set down by Masters Swimming Australia. To view the rules that apply to pool swimming events, simply follow this link.

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