Swimming rules parents need to know

There are competition rules that your young swimmer has to follow.

There are competition rules that your young swimmer has to follow.

To the casual observer, swimming might seem pretty simple. The competitor who gets to the other end of the pool wins, right? That's true for the most part, but there are technical rules that athletes must follow to provide uniformity. Each stroke also has a set of specific guidelines to ensure no swimmer has an unfair advantage over another. 

According to USA Swimming, the following are rules that all swimmers must follow during competition: 


  • Swimmers cannot turn back on the breast to touch a wall at the end of the race.


  • Any kick other than a frog kick is illegal
  • Swimmers must stay on the breast 
  • Taking two arm strokes or two leg kicks while head is underwater is not allowed.


  • A breaststroke-type kick is an illegal movement
  • Alternating movements of the arms or legs is not allowed. 


  • Competitors may not walk on the bottom of the pool, pull on lane ropes or touch the wall on a turn
  • Swimmers must complete the required distance. 

If an official observes that a swimmer is not following the rules, this will result in a disqualification. If your child is removed from an event, you don't necessarily have to pack your athlete's competitive swimwear and go home. They just won't be able to receive an award in that particular event. It's important to note that a disqualification may also result from unsportsmanlike behavior or not getting to the starting blocks on time.

Early in your young athlete's career, it would not be unheard of for them to receive a disqualification or two. Be sure to treat these situations as learning experiences. Also, you or your child's coach should explain what went wrong so it won't happen again.