At any swimming meet there are a range of different people involved in running the competition. A key distinction is between technical and non-technical officials. Technical official are the people in white who are responsible for ensuring that the rules of swimming are upheld and that all swimmers have the opportunity to compete fairly in whatever events they swim. At any meet there are a range of different officials including referee(s), starter, judges (stroke, finish and turns) and timekeepers. We need at least 20 officials across the different levels of qualification to run a meet!


As a ‘swimming parent’ you spend a lot of time attending swimming meets. Becoming an official gives you an insight into how swimming meets work, provides you with something to do when son/daughter isn’t swimming and is a great source of free sweeties. From the Club’s perspective we need a pool of officials inside the club so that we can run our own meets.

You do not have to officiate at other club’s meets if you don’t want to.


In order to become an official you need to attend an induction session and then complete a series of practical sessions, recorded in a workbook, focusing upon the duties associated with the qualification being worked towards. Apart from the Referee course there are no written exams. There are 4 grades of officials as follows:- (a) Judge level 1; Judge level 2; Judge

level 2 & starter and (d) referee. No prior knowledge of swimming rules is assumed at the start of training to become an official. All you need is a clipboard, a stopwatch, a pen and an enthusiasm for swimming.


This is the first level of British qualification for which the minimum age is 15. It encompasses the role and duties of a Timekeeper, Chief Timekeeper and Inspector of Turns.

Timekeeper – You record the time the swimmer takes to complete the race using a stopwatch and record it on the heat sheets. If the meet is working with Automatic Officiating Equipment (AOE) ie electronics then there will also be a secondary ‘back-up’ button that you need to push when the swimmer completes the race. If the meet is using manual times the Chief Timekeeper will collect the time sheets for each event.

Chief Timekeeper – to ensure the timekeepers perform their role. If the meet is manual (ie not electronic – AOE) they collect the time sheets from the timekeeper after each event and work out the finishing times for the swimmers based on the order of the finish in agreement with the referee.

Inspector of Turns – as a J1 you are also expected to be responsible for looking at the swimmers turns and finishes. Do not worry – you cannot disqualify a swimmer, all you do is report an infringement if you see it to the Referee or Chief Inspector of Turns. The only person who can disqualify a swimmer is the Referee. If you “think” you saw an infringement then you must give the swimmer the benefit of doubt. This part of J1 requires knowledge of the rules relating to the turn and finish for each stroke but this is where the mentoring will help since you will be attending meets and placed with more experienced officials who will ask questions and explain what you should be looking for.

Chief Inspector of Turns – is the link between the Inspector of Turns (J1) and the Referee. Takes the report from the time keeper to the referee.

Relay take-Off Judge – another role that J1s are expected to do is to watch the take-over when the incoming swimmer touches and the swimmer on the blocks dives in. If you see an infringement you report it to the Chief Inspector of Turns/Referee. Again training is given in the rules operating for this element of the race.


This is the second level of qualification. It encompasses the role and duties in relation to all aspects of judging and the theoretical role and duties of Starter. This is based around a workshop session followed by practical sessions with an experienced official and a final practical session.

Judges of stroke: J2 officials are responsible for ensuring that all stroke rules are complied with. As with J! Stroke judges do not disqualify swimmers. Rather they report observed infringements to the Referee who will disqualify the swimmer.

Finish judge: writes the lane order of swimmers as they finish and passes these to the Referee. An important role even in the meets with electronics as sometimes these systems fail!


This role is the most visible and easiest to understand role. The starter’s role is to ensure that the start is fair for all swimmers. As with J2 this is based around a workshop session followed by practical sessions with an experienced official and a final assessed practical session.


This role is the highest level of qualification in British Swimming and combines several theory sessions, an exam and assessed practical sessions. The Referee is in overall control of all aspects of the meet and is responsible for health and safety as well as ensuring that the competition is fair. It to the Referee that judges report observed infringements and who decides whether these will be accepted.

So, could you be our next volunteer, supporting your swimmers in their chosen sport?

Volunteers are the lifeblood of a swimming club. Without them there would be no sport, no national champions, no Olympic swimmers.
The Borough of Harrow Swimming Club is run by members for its members and we rely on volunteer support. We have a great team of volunteers, helping in all areas of the club. Committee, Team managers, Gala committee, Squad reps, Officials and admin support staff.

Volunteering is a rewarding experience, benefiting both the clubs and the individual. It builds upon life skills, work skills, confidence and social aspects which can be seen to be benefits for the volunteer. Volunteering is a two-way process. Individuals give up their time and skills for organizations however they do require support and recognition for their efforts.

We’re always looking for skills to strengthen the team. There are many roles you can get involved with. Parents of our younger swimmers might like to start slowly by shadowing a key role so that you can learn the ropes and decide if you’d like to take over the role when the current volunteer steps down.

Swimming Galas can only operate if there are enough poolside officials, and every time The Borough of Harrow Swimming Club enters a gala it has to provide a number of Swimming Officials in order for our swimmers to be able to compete. These officials give up their time to ensure that Swim Meets are run safely and fairly for all and that the FINA rules and regulations are adhered to by all swimmers at all times, in relation to starts, strokes, turns and timing.

Please remember, if The Borough Of Harrow Swimming gets the reputation of not providing officials to galas, then the invitations to these galas will dry up and the kids will not be able to compete.

Any time you can provide is welcome and you can give as much as you can spare. The more volunteers we have the lighter the workload for everyone.


Please contact our volunteer Coordinator Kiru Somasundram on vinammra@gmail.com and she will point you in the right direction.

Officials Pathway



We are a competitive sport club - with our swimmers competing at all levels from local team galas to British National


Do you want to be part of Harrow Swimming Club sport experience? Feel free to contact us for more info.