Swimming Counters Rules

Swimming Counters Rules

In longer swim events, such as the 500, 1000, and 1650, it can become a challenge for athlete’s to keep track of their progress while competing. During each of these races, plus the 800 and 1500-meter freestyle races, swimmers are allowed to utilize a counter to help them locate themselves within the pool. The rules for these counters are laid out in the USA Swimming Rulebook. Read on to learn more about the rules around counters in regulation swimming events.

Verbal Counters

Some swimmers hoping to pace themselves throughout their races and keep track of their place in the pool will elect to use verbal counters. Swimmers choosing this method of recording their laps are only allowed to elect one counter. The counter is allowed to use a watch to record the swimmer’s time and progress and verbally communicate this information to their swimmer. 

The counter must stand either at one of the pool’s sides or at the end of the pool opposite the starting line. This can be an encouraging option, as the swimmer can hear the voice of a counter cheering them on while making their progress through the race.

Visual Counters

Visual counters, on the other hand, as their name suggests, give swimmers a place to focus their eyes and find information about where they are in the race. Similarly to verbal counters, visual counters are allowed on either side of the pool. However, they are also allowed on either end of the pool, whereas verbal counters are only allowed on the end opposite the starting line. 

Visual counting devices are also allowed inside of the pool, but the referee must first agree that they will not present a safety hazard or obstruct any athletes. These counting devices are typically similar to stopwatches but specially designed for swimmers. Interestingly, these counters can range from anywhere between $8 and $1,800, depending on the quality.

Specific Regulations

Regardless of which type of counter a swimmer chooses, counters play an important role in helping long-distance swimmers pace themselves throughout their race. Both types of counters are allowed to count in either descending or ascending order. 

On occasion, a counter will incorrectly signal a swimmer about their laps, or a recording device will fail. If this happens, the swimmer is still responsible for finishing the race in full. Due to this rule, it is important that swimmers not rely solely on whichever counting method they have chosen. Swimmers should always be aware of their surroundings in the pool and strive to keep track of time and laps as they go.