Feature Article - November 2005
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Handy Solutions to Common Problems

By Stacy St. Clair, Jenny E. Beeh and Kelli Anderson

How To Outfit Your Pool for Competition

Giving your swim club the winning edge means more than just building an expensive natatorium, installing a high-tech timing system and hiring a top coach.

It also means outfitting your pool with the best competition accessories available.

The wrong equipment can hamper start times, hinder performances and threaten swimmers' safety. Fortunately, with a little thought and attention to detail, it's easy to maintain your competitive edge.

Before diving into competitions, consider these tips for properly outfitting your facility.


No aquatic equipment can impact a swimmer's performance more than starting platforms. Before purchasing your starting blocks, become familiar with the variety of models, options and anchorage systems available. If you plan to store the blocks when the pool is not being used for competitions, consider platforms that can be removed easily without tools.

Highly competitive clubs should select platforms that enhance training as well as meet performance. Choose platforms that gauge a swimmer's departure for relay exchanges and race starts. Swimmers can use these state-of-the-art systems during practice to fine-tune their start reaction times and relay exchanges with quantifiable results.

Clubs also should consult the regulations established by their governing bodies before selecting platforms. There are some general guidelines, however, that all competitive programs should follow. Starting blocks, without exception, must be firm and give no springing effect. All surfaces should be covered with a non-slip material and have a maximum slope no greater than 10 degrees. In accordance with FINA regulations, each starting block must be clearly numbered on all four sides. Lane No. 1 should be on the right-hand side when facing the course from the starting end. (An exception is given to 50-meter races that start from the opposite end of the pool.) Touch panels can be numbered on the top part.


Lane markers, like platforms, can play an important role in your club's success. When selecting the markers, look for ropes that control water turbulence by allowing wave energy to be dispersed along the length of the lane. Some newer models deflect the waves downward, leaving no wake on either side. This system has been used successfully at the Sydney Aquatic Center, where a jaw-dropping 11 world records have been set.

After selecting your markers, be sure to purchase the proper storage reel. The reel should be easily operated and corrosion-resistant.


It's important to have flagged ropes that indicate an upcoming backstroke turn. Flagged ropes should be hung a minimum 1.8 meters and maximum 2.5 meters above the water's surface. They should hang from fixed standards and be placed 5 meters from each end wall. Distinctive marks must be placed on both sides of the pool—and from each lane rope if possible—about 15 meters from the end walls.


A false start rope tells swimmers someone has left the platforms early. The rope should be placed 15 meters from the starting end and hang no less than 1.2 meters from the water surface. It should be attached to standards by a quick-release mechanism and effectively cover all lanes when activated.


Though not your typical pool accessory, make sure your club has a safety marshal at all meets. The marshal ensures that people are behaving and acting appropriately during the meet. USA Swimming also encourages clubs to make safety-related announcements throughout the competition, reminding swimmers and bystanders to follow safety procedures in and out of the pool.

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