Timers Briefing

Timers are a significant resource at swim meets and play a very important role in the success of the swimmers and in the smooth operation of the meet. Some host teams use their members as timers, some bring in outside volunteers, and some rely on parents from participating clubs to share the responsibility. You will be asked to volunteer as a timer for our meets and probably at other meets sometime during the season. If you are at a non-Piranha-hosted meet and our club is assigned responsibility to time one or more lanes, please volunteer your services promptly and graciously (usually for one hour shifts per session, if everyone helps). At Championship meets such as Seniors and CT States, timers are assigned based on the number of swimmers at each session. Failure to fill those responsibilities will result in our club being fined. Be courteous to your fellow Members by being on time for shift relief and share the responsibility equally, during the meet and from meet to meet. While timers are volunteers, they are actually officials, so it’s important to know the responsibilities, rules, and procedures of timing.

Timers have 2 responsibilities: 1) make sure the right swimmer is in the right event, the right heat, and the right lane and 2) provide accurate backup times for every swim.

  • Most sanctioned meets use 3 timing systems: automatic (electronic touch pads), semi-automatic (buttons which stop the
    automatically started clock), and manual (digital watches). Usually, there are 2 timers per lane: one operates a button and
    a watch, while the other operates a watch and writes the watch time on the cards or lane timer slips. The person with the
    clipboard is the Head Lane Timer.
  • Swimmers line up behind the starting blocks by lanes/heat for their swims. The Head Lane Timer ensures the correct
    swimmer is present to swim by checking the name of the swimmer against the card, lane timer slip, or heat sheet.
    Perform this check prior to the Referee’s series of short whistles (that notifies the swimmers and timers it’s time for
    the next heat). At the series of short whistles, make sure your swimmer is ready to swim and standing behind the block.
    When the Referee blows the long whistle (that signals the swimmers to step up onto the blocks), make sure your swimmer
    is stepping up. Sometimes it’s confusing and difficult to hear – you must be alert and attentive. If a swimmer misses their
    heat, they can be disqualified. If there’s a problem, get the Referee’s attention immediately.
  • Once all the swimmers are on the blocks, the Referee will turn the heat over to the Starter. The Starter will only say, “Take
    your mark”, then sound the start signal. The Referee and Starter are located on the side of the pool along with the Start
    Console. The Start Console emits the audio start signal and a simultaneous visual flash. Start your watch on the flash,
    not on the sound (do not push the black pad button). If you miss the flash, start your watch on the sound of the start signal.
    Find a spot near your lane where you can see. If your watch fails to start (or stops during the race), raise it over your head
    and get the attention of the Chief Timer (usually called Head Timer). He/She will bring you another watch. Always start yourwatch for every heat, even if you don’t have a swimmer in your lane. Another timer may need it.
  • If your swimmer misses their heat, write “NS” on the card or lane timer sheet. If your swimmer gets out of the pool before
    the end of their race, write “DNF” on the card or lane timer sheet. During the race, count the laps of your swimmer. If it’s
    200Y/M or longer, mark them on the card, lane timer slip, or heat sheet, so you don’t loose count. Don’t rely on the
    scoreboard or lane counter! You need this information to determine when it’s the last lap.
  • Stop your watch and push the button at the end of the race when any part of your swimmer’s body touches any part of the
    wall. Don’t worry if it’s legal or not – that’s the S&T Judge’s responsibility. Get right up to the edge of the pool and look
    down for the touch … don’t be afraid to get wet. Also, don’t anticipate the touch. Push the button only once – that’s all it
    takes. Every time you push it, the computer records a new time. Once you stop the watch and push the button, step back
    away from the blocks and record the watch time. Write the time to the hundredth of a second without rounding
    (i.e., 33.49). If you missed the finish, write “NT” on the card or lane timer slip. Don’t try to match your time to the time
    on the scoreboard – it shouldn’t be the same. If there’s a big discrepancy, report it to the Chief Timer. A Runner will
    collect the card or lane timer slips after each heat or event, respectively.
  • At the end of the race, things get very crowded at the blocks – 2 or 3 timers, an official, and some screaming swimmers.
    Move the swimmers back and work with the official to share the space. Also if your swimmer is having difficulty getting
    out of the pool after the race, help them.
  • If the swimmer misses the touchpad or hits it late, write that (and any other anomaly) on the card or lane timer slip.
  • For relays, check the name of each swimmer and make sure they swim in that order. If they don’t, make a note on the
    card and notify the Referee. Please advise swimmers to quickly exit the water and clear block area.
  • The card must note first and last name of swimmer and age. Stay back behind the blocks, except when stopping your watch
    and pushing your button at the end of the race. If you get between the blocks at the start, you may block the Starter’s
    and/or Referee’s line of sight to the heat. Your movement could also distract them or a swimmer during the start.
  • For 25Y/50M events, your swimmer may start at the opposite end of the pool from where you are standing. In this case,
    make sure to check your swimmer’s name at the end of the race. If it’s not the right swimmer, write their name on the
    card or lane timer slip and notify the Chief Timer.
  • Things will be moving pretty quickly, so you must pay attention to the whistles and where you are in the race. The
    Referee’s short whistles will come after the last swimmer has touched the wall and the long whistle will come when the last swimmer is starting to clear the water. It takes teamwork. Make sure your swimmer quickly moves back behind
    the blocks – if they want their times, give it to them there, not up at the edge of the pool.
  • If you need a break to go to the restroom, notify the Chief Timer. He/She will get a relief timer for your lane.

It’s very important that you take your responsibility seriously. The swimmers work hard and are giving it
their best shot. They deserve the same in return. You help keep the meet flowing smoothly by making sure swimmers are ready for their races. And, while the automatic timing system usually operates correctly and provides the swimmers their Official Times, often the Timing Judge needs your backup times to determine the Official Time when the system malfunctions.

We couldn’t run swim meets without timers – your help is essential and appreciated – thank you!!