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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dear AMS Officials,

Happy New Year! Now that we are well into 2017 with just a couple of months to go in our Short Course swim season, I thought it would be a good time to catch up on few Officiating items.

How are you doing getting to your minimum of 12 sessions?

We have a flurry of meets towards the end of the Short Course Season. It's a match made in heaven--we have clubs hosting meets that need your help, and we have Officials who need to work more sessions to reach their minimum.
We need everyone's help to make it to the finish line. Now is a good time to log into and go the OTS (Officials Tracking System) and check on the number of sessions you've worked so far. Many of you have worked more than the required 12 sessions per year (from Sept 1. 2016 through Aug 31, 2017)--for this we thank you for going above and beyond. It's a good idea to check on your progress to make sure that 1) you've gotten proper credit for the meets and sessions you've worked so far (we will happily correct any errors or omissions--just send me an email!), and 2) that you are on track to completing the minimum number of sessions as an AMS Official. 

We are in particular need of Ref and Starter for the additional afternoon sessions that were added for this weekend's meets at SFAC.

"When should I Officiate?" Rules of thumb

  • When your child is swimming--yes
  • When your club is hosting a meet--yes
  • When your club is attending a meet--yes, host clubs rely on the help of visiting clubs, even if your kid is not swimming
  • At finals when your child is swimming--most definitely yes
  • At finals when your child is not swimming--I promise you that your help is still needed
  • I can't make it to a meet or session due to work/travel/family--we understand life happens, but consider making it up at another meet
  • At a meet that neither my child nor team is attending--please consider helping out, many clubs and meets still need our help
  • I've already worked my 12 sessions, so I'm "done."--Nice try, if you've gone above and beyond 12, we appreciate your all you've done, but we still need your help. Working more than 12 sessions keeps you sharp and makes you a better Official. Keep in mind we have some Officials working more than 50 sesssions a year. We can always use your help anytime.

New Officials 

We have a lot of experienced Officials, many of whom are Referees, Starters, CJs and Admins, whose kids are graduating in the next couple of years. This means we need more parents within AMS with younger kids to become Officials. Talk to parents in your club about becoming an Official. Meets simply can't happen without Officials, and we need to always be looking for the next generation to step up. If you're an Official who is about to retire, consider making it your goal to find at least two parents from your club to become new Officials. This way we plant the seeds for the next generation and leave AMS in good shape for the future.

Moving on up

If you've been an Official for more than a year, consider stepping up to a higher position. If you're a Stroke & Turn and feeling confident in that position, consider training to become a CJ. If you're a CJ, think about becoming a Starter. If you're a Starter, maybe Referee is in your future. Be sure that before you start training for a higher position, that you first contact your Officials Chair, Scott Pauley ( to make sure a move is right for you, and to have a discussion about the next phase of your Officiating career, and to plan the best strategy for your training.

Thanks to all of you for your help thus far in making our meets a success. With a final push from each of us to get to the end of Short Course season, I'm confident we'll get there.

All best wishes,

Scott Pauley
AMS Officials Chair

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Pitt Christmas Meet Officials Sign Ups and Evaluations for N2 and N3 Certification

Hello AMS Officials,

We are quickly rolling through our fall short course meet schedule. Thanks to each of you for helping to make our meets a success! Our biggest meet of the year, the Pitt Christmas meet is quickly approaching.

Consistent with prior years, this meet will once again be an Officials Qualifying Meet (sanction QM16-191). National evaluations are a great barometer for officials and a wonderful learning experience, a chance to learn from select officials with significant national deck experience who are certified as National Evaluators. 

Our national evaluators this year are Jayne Spittler from Illinois and Mark Geleskie from Middle Atlantic Swimming.

Whether you intend to be evaluated for national certification or just want to officiate without evaluation, you must complete the Application to Officiate (see the link below). The deadline for signing up for evaluation is 12/8/16. this is a very fast meet run out of two pools during prelims so we re need of an awful lot of officials. We will undoubtedly be joined by officials traveling with visiting teams from other LSC's and it's a great opportunity to meet officials from around the (typically) Eastern Zone. This is an "all hands (and feet) on deck" kinda meet so your help is greatly appreciated.

This meet will not be available for shadowing/training at any level.

Should you have any questions about national certification or specific questions about the meet, feel free to contact Scott Pauley, AMS Officials Chair at or David Watterson, Meet Referee at

Looking forward to seeing you all on deck. 

Sign up here:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Good day, AMS Officials!

Thanks to those of you who were able to attend the Officials Clinics on Sept. 10 and hear our Keynote speaker, Carol Zaleski, FINA Technical Swimming Chairman. In case you missed Carol's excellent presentation, she has also shared her recent article from the USA Swimming Officials Newsletter, which appears below.

Have you ever wondered how the rules of swimming are decided and how they have changed over the years? Read on to learn more. Thanks again Carol, for sharing your time and expertise with our AMS Officials!

Scott Pauley
AMS Officials Chair

History of Rules and Rule Changes in the Sport of Swimming

For FINA there is opportunity to change swimming rules every four years at a FINA Technical Congress. All member federations are invited to submit proposals that are reviewed by the Technical Swimming Committee. The Committee then recommends action to the Bureau. All proposals come to the Congress with a Bureau recommendation. The Congress then votes on the proposals as recommended by the Bureau.
The next Congress is in the summer of 2017 in Budapest. 
Carol Zaleski
FINA, Technical Swimming Chairman
Carol Zaleski
FINA, Technical Swimming Chairman


There was a time when three starts could occur before a disqualification. If there was movement, two such starts could be called back and charged on the field but no false start disqualification charged to an individual until the third start.
This was changed in about 1990 to allow two starts. The first false start was charged on the field with an individual disqualification called on the second start.

This was the rule until 1998 when it became optional whether to use a one start rule or a two start rule. If one, the individual disqualification would come at the end of the race. If two, the first start would be recalled, charged to the field and the individual disqualification would be made at the completion of the race after the second start.

The starting rule has now been the same since 2001. Any swimmer starting before the signal shall be disqualified. If the starting signal has been given before the disqualification is declared, the race shall continue with the disqualification at the completion of the race. It is important to note that false start disqualifications must be observed and confirmed by both the Starter and the Referee.

As you might imagine each change was controversial. The convincing point for me was a statement from an Olympic athlete who said: “Many guys play games at the start. They try to distract you or draw you off the blocks. Your first start is the best one. If I could concentrate on my own start and not worry what the guys next to me were doing, that would be great.”


There was a long period of time when a breaststroke swimmer was required to have the head above the “calm surface” of the water throughout the race. As coaches and athletes tried new ways to swim breaststroke, the rule was changed in 1996 to allow some part of the head to break the surface during each cycle of one arm stroke and one leg kick.

The other big breaststroke change came in the kick. In about 1990, we began to see some Breaststroke swimmers use a butterfly kick on the starts, turns and sometimes throughout the race. Television showed this very clearly but it was difficult for the officials to see from the deck level. As a result, rule proposals were submitted to allow butterfly kicking in the breaststroke. All of the proposals failed when they were first submitted to the Congress.  Four years later for the 2005 edition of the rules a single butterfly kick was allowed at the start. There have been several changes since that time to clarify the timing of the kick, etc. to the present version allowing a single butterfly kick during the first arm stroke at the start and each turn.


There was a time when there was no restriction on how far an athlete could be underwater. The 15-meter surface requirement came into the rule book for the 1991/1992 rules after some elite athletes were swimming the whole distance underwater. There were several factors in the decision. The audience could not really see the athletes, therefore, it was not very entertaining for the audience or for television viewers. Another reason was the potential danger for young swimmers who held their breath trying to emulate this style.

Turns - Swimmers used to have to remain on the back until the touch of the wall for the turn. Most used the cross over turn that we often see in the medley. For the 1992 rule book, there was a proposal to allow the backstroke swimmer to turn to the breast to execute the turn. Most of the FINA TSC thought that the purpose was to eliminate the concern as to whether the swimmer actually brushed the wall as he/she turned. After the Congress passed the change, an international coach came to me and asked if I would bring some of the Technical Swimming Committee members to the pool to view turns that his swimmers were trying in anticipation of the rule change. Imagine the surprise when the swimmers turned to the breast quite far from the wall and were able to do a free style type flip turn, completely legally under the new rule. Over the 1992 – 2000 period of rule changes, the backstroke turn rule was adjusted several times to clarify the requirements of the turn.


The butterfly is the newest of the strokes recognized in our sport. It has probably had the fewest changes in the period 1980 to present. There have been changes to allow more latitude in the turn rules for example but no real changes to the stroke or kick. The 1998 rule book introduced the requirement to surface by 15 meters.

Butterfly events made their entry to the Olympics in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia.


The only real change in freestyle, for obvious reasons, is the requirement to surface by 15 meters.

This appears for the first time in the 1998 FINA rules.

Individual Medley

There have been minimal changes to the Individual Medley over the years. There have been primarily wording changes to make clear that there are to be four different strokes in the event. Recent experiments with turns within the event may spark some change in the rule for the Congress in Budapest in 2017.

Monday, September 12, 2016

AMS Officials 2016-2017 SC Centralized Meet Sign Up is now Active

Hello AMS Officials,

I hope you're tanned, rested, and ready to get back on deck this fall for our 2016-2017 Short Course Season. We have decided to go back to using a Google sheets sign up instead of Volunteer Spot. Here's the link to the Google sign up sheet, along with instructions. 

1) Click on the link above to access the AMS Officials Centralized Meet Sign Up Sheet

2) Browse the tabs at the bottom of the document to find the meet you are looking for. Be sure to click on the correct meet, as this sheet will eventually cover the entire 2016-2017 short course season. Scroll using the left-right arrows next to the tabs if you don't see the meet you are looking for.

3) Meets are color coded (mostly) to match the colors of the host club

4) Enter your Name in the area of your highest certified position (Admin, Referee, Starter, CJ, Stroke & Turn, or Apprentice)

5) On the line where you entered your name, continue adding your relevant information (your club, email, phone, and put an "X" in the columns for the sessions you are able to work. There is also a column where you can leave comments or requests.

6) After you've entered your information the document will auto save and you can close that window or tab on your browser.

Please sign up early and often for meets, especially those your kids are swimming in. Our first meets start already the weekend of October 1st, so please get signed up soon! We currently have meets available for sign up through the end of October, and more will be added soon. 

If you have any questions about using our sign up sheet, please send an email to

Looking forward to seeing you on deck!

Scott Pauley
AMS Officials Chair

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Save the Date Sept. 10 AMS Convention and Officials Clinics

Greetings, fellow AMS swim officials!

I hope you've all had a great summer.

I'm excited to introduce myself as your new AMS Officials Chair. In case we haven't yet met on deck, my name is Scott Pauley, and I've been an AMS official for about 11 years. My daughter Maia is a rising high school senior who swims for the Fox Chapel Killer Whales. I'm honored to serve as your Officials Chair, and want you to know that my door is always open to your suggestions and comments. The best way to reach me is by email at

I want to thank Bob Mermelstein, our outgoing Officials Chair, for his amazing work. Bob has brought us such a long way in making our group of officials more competent and professional, improving our training, developing our AMS Officials website, and regularly communicating with us on the Officials Blog. And he's done it all with a sparkling sense of humor and devilishly good looks. I have much to learn and big shoes to fill, so thanks in advance for your patience as I get up to speed. Thanks again, Bob!

And now, for an important announcement . . . PLEASE SAVE THE DATE:

AMS HOD and Convention Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 
Mt. Lebanon High School

For a complete schedule click on this link: AMS HOD and Convention 

Registration for the clinics is required. Click on this link to register: AMS Clinic Registration

The good news is that all sessions will be in the morning, and there will be lunch.

Here's what we've got planned for Officials:

For All Officials:
CAROL ZALESKI – CHAIR, FINA TECHNICAL COMMITTEE – KEYNOTE SPEAKER (9:00 – 10:00 AM) A general session for all swim officials and anyone else in the LSC who would like to attend. 

Carol Zaleski began her iconic career as a parent forced into timing at her children’s swim meet. From there, she has worked tirelessly to become one of the powerhouses behind national and international swimming events. Zaleski is a pioneer for women in her field, standing out in a crowd of older male officials on deck. Her contribution to create programs to improve the sport has helped countless athletes, such as the elite swimmers who can now afford to continue their training because of the Athlete Assistance Program. Zaleski’s love for swimming and its athletes will continue to inspire and motivate the community well beyond her own service. 

For anyone wanting to train for Admin positions:
THE ADMIN OFFICIAL: (10:00 AM – 12:00 PM)
Learn the ropes of being an Admin Official, one of the key positions that any USA Swimming meet must have. You do not need to be a current USA Swimming Official to become an Admin Official. 

For Referees (and any Starters or CJs interested in becoming a Referee)
REFEREE'S ROUND TABLE: (10:00 AM – 12:00 PM)
An opportunity for our Deck Referees to get together to discuss rules, procedures, interpretations, and best practices. Any Starters or CJs who are thinking about becoming a Referee are also welcome. 

For New Officials wanting to start their S/T Training:
Just who are those swim officials in the White Shirts? They are swim parents like you. An introductory clinic for anyone wishing to train as a Stroke and Turn Official. 

We offer these kinds of clinics and training sessions for our officials one to two times a year, and it is required for all AMS Officials to attend at least one clinic every 18 months. We have some great programs on offer on Sept. 10th. I'd like to particularly urge you all to attend the 9:00 am presentation with Carol Zaleski, Chairman of FINA's Technical Committee. Though Carol is based here in Pittsburgh, she now works at the highest levels of international swimming, and is one of the world's great authorities on swimming rules and officiating. We are very fortunate to have her speak to our AMS Officials!

In the 10:00 am to 12:00 noon hour, we are offering three sessions to choose from for Officials or trainees: An Admin training session, A Referee's Round Table, and a Clinic for New Stroke & Turn Officials. 

As many of you know, we are often scrambling to fill the role of Admin Official (or Admin Referee) at many of our meets. If your club is running a meet this year, or if you are looking for your next officiating challenge, I highly recommend training to become an Admin Official. Incidentally, you don't need to be a current AMS Stroke & Turn Official to become an Admin Official, so please spread the word to anyone in your club who has a detail-oriented mind and basic computer skills. The Admin session, led by Donna Beyerl, will get you off to a great start to becoming an Admin Official or Admin Referee.

We are also offering a clinic for any new officials wanting to start their training, so please spread the word at your club. The clinic is a great start to becoming an AMS Official. Encourage your fellow swim parents to get out of the stands an onto the deck!

Don't forget to register for the clinics using this link:  AMS Clinic Registration

Thanks again, and I look forward seeing you on deck!

Scott Pauley
AMS Officials Chair

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thanks for the Memories

As this day comes to a close, so closes my time as AMS Officials Chair. I have to tell most things in life, it's had its ups and downs. But, happily, mostly ups. It has been my honor and privilege to serve as your Officials Chair. 

I turn over the reins to a very capable official. Scott Pauley has both the technical skills and personality/temperament to lead us forward. I know he's excited to move us forward.

Some parting words...

Take officiating seriously but have fun for crying out loud. It's a sport and we're volunteers. We have a responsibility to do a good and fair job on deck but you should enjoy your much as I have. If you ever stop having fun and can pinpoint the reason(s) why, have a chat with Scott. If there's a problem he can fix or address, he'll be happy to do so.

Don't overlook quantity AND quality. Typically, the more sessions you're able to work, the better an official you'll be. We can all be better at this and should strive to overachieve.

Your relationship with coaches is critical. We've struggled lately to maintain a strong, partnering relationship with coaches on deck and this must improve for the benefit of the sport and the swimmers. It's not just on us, they hold equal responsibility. Make sure you take the time to walk the deck and introduce yourself to coaches you don't know. They'll appreciate it and you'll be happy you did.

Your relationship with your fellow officials is equally important. We're like a family. We squabble at times but at the end of the day...we're still family. Let's pledge to treat each other with respect.

I don't want to go on and on (that's my nature). I look forward to seeing you all at future meets. See ya on deck!

Bob Mermelstein
AMS Chair (retired)

PS Good luck, Scott. You'll be great!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Get Your Sessions In!

It's hard to believe that we are now within a couple of meets of completing the 2016 AMS Long Course season. Thanks to all who have pitched in and helped staff our meets this past year.

As you'll recall, a year and a half ago, we changed the minimum sessions worked required of our AMS Officials to 12 (click here to see the rule). The reporting year is September 1 through August 31. With the completion of the MLAC Last Splash meet, our reporting year will effectively be complete. It is very important that you all check to see how many sessions you've worked at AMS meets over the Short and Long Course seasons to determine whether you're in compliance with this requirement. There are two meets remaining...

Junior Olympics is being held at Pitt (July 21-24). This is a 10-session meet with timed finals on Thursday evening (distance) and Prelims Friday, Saturday and Sunday (both AM and PM) and Finals Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. This meet will be an excellent meet to "catch up" on your officials sessions worked. The Officials Contact for this meet is Dave Watterson ( To sign up to work this meet, follow this link...

Last Splash will be held at Mt. Lebo (July 30-31). This is a 2-session meet with sessions on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. The Officials Contact for this meet is Michelle Filey ( To sign up to work this meet, follow this link...

IMPORTANT: If you just became certified during calendar year 2016, you are exempt from this requirement for the year ending August 31, 2016!

Both of these meets need officials at all levels, especially the MLAC meet. Sign up early and often. You'll have plenty of time to rest between Last Splash and First Splash in October!

See ya on deck.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Down the Homestretch We Go!

So, we're headed toward the finish line to another Long Course season. There are some meets left that need your help. We've been a little light on officials at some of our meets (partially due to multiple meets on the same weekend...not a great idea during the LC season). But, as they say, the show must go on...and it can't go on without us!

We play a critical role in the success of our AMS meets and your time and efforts are greatly appreciated. Here's the lineup of remaining meet for you to consider. The more sessions you can help with, the better for our swimmers...

Silver Champs (North Park) - 7/15-17/2016.
   Officials Contact: Andrea Rousseau

Junior Olympics (Pitt) - 7/21-24/2016.
   Officials Contact: David Watterson

Last Splash (Mt. Lebo Rec Center) - 7/30-31/2016
   Officials Contact: Michelle Filey

Sign up early, sign up often! Let's end this Long Course season with a bang! I know the swimmers will appreciate it (whether they realize it or not). See ya on deck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Upcoming LC Meets

If you've been longing to get on deck to officiate at upcoming AMS meets, here's the list of remaining LC meets (for which Meet Announcements have been made available). Please consider working as many sessions as you can. Summer meets are always a challenge due to vacations, etc. so any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.

MLAC Summer Celebration (6/17-19)

GPAC 10 & Under Summer Champs (6/25)

JCCS Distance (6/25)

AMS Senior Circuit (7/8-10)

GPAC LC Bronze Champs (7/9-10)

MLAC LC Last Splash

That's what we have for now. There are still a couple of other meets that we're awaiting MA's for.

Thanks for your help this summer. As always, it's greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Interpretation of USAS Rule 102.8.31E - Use of Tape

There has been much confusion about allowable (and not) types of tapes permitted to be worn by swimmers in competition. This has been further confused by the fact that the NFHS and NCAA rules are not in sync with FINA's (and thus USA Swimming's) rules. While we have discussed what was meant by the language in Rule 102.8.1E (especially as it relates to the use of kinesio tape), there had not been a definitive interpretation that spelled out what was allowable and, more importantly, what was not allowed by USAS rule.
A new interpretation has been provided by Jay Thomas, Chair, USAS Rules & Regulations Committee which now spells out definitively what is specifically excluded from use by swimmers in competition. Here is the interpretation...
The NCAA and NFHS have adopted rules which permit the use of tape under certain circumstances. There now appears to be some confusion regarding the application of USA Swimming Rule 102.8.1E. The following interpretation of 102.8.1.E is presented to provide clarity to the use of tape in USA Swimming competitions.
Article 102.8.1E states in part, …“Any kind of tape on the body is not permitted unless approved by the Referee.”
Common sense should prevail. The following uses of tape are generally permitted in competition:
  1. Wound protection and closure. Band-Aids, dressings, ”Butterfly” type, etc. are normally permitted with no advanced notification to the Referee. When the tape to hold a dressing in place completely circles a major limb or the dressing is exceptionally large in size, advanced notification to the Referee is recommended.
  2. Taping of fingers or toes. “Buddy Taping” no more than two (2) injured fingers or toes together should be permitted. Advanced notification to the Referee is recommended.
  3. Tape to secure medical alert bracelets and pendants, religious objects, etc. should be permitted. Advanced notification to the Referee is recommended.
  4. Tape to secure medical devices. Example – insulin pumps, ostomy bags, etc. should be permitted. Advanced notification to the Referee is required.
The following uses of tape are not permitted in competition – irrespective of whether a Doctor’s note has been presented.
  1. Elastic Therapeutic Tape is never permitted.
  2. Kinesio Taping is never permitted.
  3. Any other taping intentioned to provide compression or support to muscles, ligaments, tendons or joints (except as stated above) is never permitted.
A copy of the interpretation can be found by clicking here. Should you have any questions, please contact Bob Mermelstein at