Backstroke’s “No Resubmersion During the Swim” Rule

By Reach for the Wall staff.

At an MCSL dual meet last summer, a gifted swimmer was disqualified in backstroke by a stroke and turn judge from the opposing team for violation of the “no resubmersion during the swim” rule (i.e., she allegedly resubmerged under the water after she had surfaced from her kickout).  A long discussion ensued between officials of the two teams until the Referee (who was from the DQ’ing team) finally upheld the call.

The DQ’ed team raged, claiming that (i) the ‘no resubmersion rule’ applies only in USA Swimming (USAS)-sanctioned meets (not in MCSL), and (ii) the rule is impossible to call (and thus shouldn’t be called).

So, what is this ‘no resubmersion during the swim’ rule and where does it apply?

Rule 101.4.2 of the 2016 USA Swimming Rulebook states that in backstroke, some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except the swimmer may be completely submerged (i) for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start and after each turn (i.e., don’t do what this guy did), and (ii) during the turn itself.  In simple terms, this means that in any single lap (e.g., 25 meter length of pool), once a swimmer surfaces from being completely submerged (e.g., after his/her kickout), s/he cannot completely resubmerge again during that lap (except during a turn), regardless of whether s/he resubmerges in the middle of pool or near the finish.

Ok, but does this USAS rule apply in MCSL?

In short, yes.  Under the 2016 MCSL Officials Guide, the rules for swimming backstroke also require some part of the swimmer to break the surface of the water throughout the race, except a swimmer may be completely submerged (i) for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start and after each turn, and (ii) during the turn.  In other words, the USA Swimming and MCSL rules are the same on this point.

In order to make a resubmerged during swim call an official must observe the swimmer’s entire body and ensure that the entire body is fully submerged without question (as the benefit of the doubt always goes to the swimmer).  Once the official shifts his/her gaze to watch the finish touch, they are no longer watching the entire swimmer’s body and are no longer in a position to make a resubmerged during the swim call.

Note:  Reach for the Wall is not advocating for a discussion with any official after this (or any other) call is made.  Instead, we simply point out the difficulty and subjectivity of this call.  Coaches have the right to ask what the official saw, but ultimately it is official’s judgment.

7 thoughts on “Backstroke’s “No Resubmersion During the Swim” Rule

  • Jun 3, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    It’s another summer season and the Rockville Rays are ready to rumbllllllllllle.

  • Jun 6, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    a similar thing happened at a dual meet I was at last summer, even down to the DQ team raging. Except the same call got overturned and the swimmer was awarded first place. The moral of the story is you must RAGE harder than zbo if you want that DQ overturned.

  • Jun 6, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    That call was upheld? Yeah and Grizzly Adams had a beard.

  • Jun 26, 2017 at 2:55 am

    This article reads more as if it was a gripe about impartiality of officiating than it does about the technicality of a rule.

    1. All officials are MCSL certified officials. Each team needs to provide MCSL certified officials. If the stroke and turn official is able to properly explain what that official saw to the satisfaction of the referee, it is upheld. To point out that an official and/or referee was from the DQ-ing team infers that impartiality had a role to play in the matter. Frankly that is taking a bit of a swipe at MCSL officiating as a whole.

    2. Most people who are disputing such calls are not in the position to dispute them. The stroke and turn official who has jurisdiction over those lanes has the best position to make the call. The parent/rep or Coach is either in a position where the swim is not being equitably observed (i.e. the sides) or they are way across the pool. Once again, if clearly explained by the S&T then that is the proper process.

    3. “Gifted” swimmers get DQ’d . Some try to push the rules, some simply have a bad day and make a mistake. That’s why there are officials at Worlds.

    4. If a rule was impossible to call, there wouldn’t be a rule.

    It is only a swim meet. All officials are volunteers. “Raging” against the officials, aside from being disrespectful presents a bad example for our children. If there is a legitimate protest, it should be taken through the proper channels where it can be arbitrated properly.


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