Kathy Jackson’s Comment

By David

A couple of days ago, Swimwatch received an comment from Kathy Jackson. Her thoughts were in response to the Swimwatch article, “Show us the Rule”. You may remember it. We argued that swimmers were being disqualified for starting block movements that were not false starts. Swimmers were being disqualified wrongly. When that happens it is a blight on a young athlete’s swimming career.

Here is Kathy Jackson’s comment, originally posted on our article titles, “Where is the Rule.”

“My name is Kathy Jackson, I have been a Texas UIL certified official for 5 years, I am also a USA certified as a starter and stroke/turn official, and I am NCAA certified. I am the Central Regional Director for the College Swimming’s Officials Association. We have had a similar problem at our District meets involving a particular starter. I contacted the National office this morning to see how to go about requesting a rule change. I was informed that the request had to come from the state board. I have sent the following request to our state president.

I was the meet referee this weekend at the District 13 Championship meet here in College Station. We had an incident during the meet in which a swimmer was disqualified by the starter and deck referee (not me) for false start due to a foot twitch after the swimmers had been told to “take your mark” but before the starting horn sounded. We had a similar incidence with this same starter, 2 years ago.

In every event where I was the starter, if there was any movement, I would either stand the swimmers or slightly hold off on the horn until all movement had ceased. I do this at all meets, both high school, USA and College. Both USA and NCAA rules do not use the word “motionless” in their rules regarding starts instead the word “stationary” is used. I would like to request a rule change in high school swimming of Rules 8.1.1; 8.1.3 to reflect consistency with NCAA and USA rules. If there is a certain form that needs to be completed, I would be happy to fill it out.

If there are any questions that you have, please feel free to contact me.

Kathy Jackson

Cell 979-777-4217”

You will not be surprised to see that Kathy’s arguments are more reasoned and less strident than those made by Swimwatch. However there is a commonality of purpose. In the United States right now, swimmers are being disqualified for starting block movements which do not constitute false starts. Swimmers who could stand on their marks until next Christmas are being disqualified, simply because they moved their leg, their head, their arm or the pinky toe on their left foot. And that is not reason enough for a disqualification.

It is comparable to the disastrous judging that used to go on in New Zealand when the backstroke turn was first changed to a non-hand touch turn. There was no uniformity; swimmers were being disqualified in one place for exactly the same turn that was fine somewhere else. It was a shambles. Officials held seminar after seminar and still couldn’t get it right. Getting through a backstroke race was less a matter of good swimming than good luck.

Shortly after the backstroke turn rules were changed, Toni Jeffs placed second in the New Zealand Short Course Championships in the 50m backstroke. During the race, she did the worst, non-continuous, kick-like-mad-into-the-wall turn you’d ever have the misfortune of seeing. And do you know what: not a thing was done about it. She bloody well got away with it. To this day I’m not sure whether the official was scared to disqualify Toni Jeffs, or was confused after attending her fifth backstroke turn seminar.

The Toni story illustrates the inconsistencies of the time. Toni benefited, but hundreds of others got the rough end of the judging stick.

Yesterday’s backstroke turn is today’s start. Officials have a bee-in-their-bonnets about minor movements and are disqualifying swimmers when they shouldn’t. A movement does not mean a false start and should not be judged as such. It is obviously time for another seminar.