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Chap 7: My Kid DQ'D?

In swimming, the rules must be followed or a disqualification, or DQ, is committed. This can be traumatic the first time a swimmer is DQ’d for just one mistake, but it isn’t fair to other swimmers who swim the entire race per the rules to do otherwise.  It's one of the things that makes swimming unique among youth sports - the rules for an 8yr old are the same as for an 18yr old.  

What is a DQ?

A DQ (short for disqualification) is any violation of the rules observed by any appropriate official. Some of the more common reasons for a DQ are as follows:


  • Failure to touch the wall at the turning end of the pool.
  • Walking on the bottom or pulling on the lane lines.
  • Exiting the pool before swimming the specified distance.
  • Backstroke:
  • Past vertical towards the breast at any time except during a flip turn.
  • Leaving the wall after a turn past vertical towards the breast.
  • Improper flip turn.
  • Breaststroke:
  • Incorrect kick, such as a scissors kick or flutter kick.
  • Non-Simultaneous two-hand touch or one-hand touch at turn or finish.
  • Toes not pointed outward during the propulsive part of the kick.
  • More than one stroke underwater with arms fully extended at start or turn.
  • Arm recovery past waist except on first stroke after start or turn.
  • Head didn’t break surface by conclusion of second arm pull underwater after a start or turn.
  • Butterfly:
  • Non-Simultaneous or one-handed wall touch at the turn or finish.
  • Non-Simultaneous leg movement during kicks.
  • Arms don’t break water surface during recovery.
  • Non-Simultaneous arm movement during recovery.
  • Relay Races:
  • A swimmer leaves the deck before the previous swimmer touches the wall.
  • False Start:
  • A swimmer starts the race early (more details below).
  • How will I know a DQ occurred?

    Unlike football, we don’t blow a whistle and announce to the world that a rules violation has occurred. When a Stroke and Turn Judge observes a violation, he or she raises his or her hand to signify that they have observed a violation, then writes it up on a DQ slip. The judge then takes the slip to the Referee, who verifies that a rule has been broken and can question the stroke and turn judge to ensure that he or she was able to see the violation that was cited. The Referee then gives one copy of the DQ slip to the Team Rep and another copy to the Table Workers. Another clue that a DQ has occurred is observing a Stroke and Turn Judge writing and a longer than normal pause between events.

    Disqualifications for early relay takeoffs are done slightly differently. The Referee receives all the take-off slips from all the judges. If both judges on a lane agree that an early takeoff occurred, the Referee will stand over the lane that the team being DQ’d swam in and raise his or her hand.

    False Starts

    A false start occurs whenever a swimmer moves towards the pool after having assumed a still position (taking his/her mark), and before the Starter has started the race. When this occurs, a swimmer is usually trying to anticipate the starting signal and beat the other swimmers into the water.

    If the false start is detected before the starting signal is sounded, the offending swimmer can be removed from the race prior to it starting. If a false start occurs, but the starting signal has sounded, the race will not be stopped. Instead, the false starting swimmer(s) will be notified of their false start at the conclusion of the race. The use of a recall signal is now limited to a bad start (i.e., not all swimmers were ready) or for a safety reason. If the starter sounds the recall signal, no swimmer can be removed for a false start.

    How do I know if my kid DQ’d?

    Your kid will probably know before you do since the Team Rep tells the Coach, who tells the swimmer. During an A meet, you’ll probably find out if you saw your swimmer finish with one of the top three times, but he or she isn’t announced later in the top three places. Similarly, someone else DQd if your swimmer finished in 4th, 5th or 6th, yet is announced as one of the top three finishers. Another way to find out is by reading the official Meet Results, which are posted on Swimtopia. You also can get results by visiting the NVSL web site. Please do not approach the volunteers working at the data table asking about your kid's times or DQs.

    A Word About Officials and DQs

    Every Official on the deck will always give the benefit of the doubt to the swimmer. Although the difference between "legal but ugly" vs. "illegal" is sometimes close to call, any violation called by an official is an “I saw” not an “I think I saw”.

    Protesting Disqualifications

    The Team Rep is the only person who can officially question a disqualification, or any other call by an official. If something happens involving your swimmer which you do not think is right, talk to the Team Rep. The Team Rep will initiate action in accordance with NVSL rules if thought to be appropriate.

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