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What's a DQ?

What is a DQ?A DQ (short for disqualification) is any violation of the rules observed by any appropriate official. Normally, the violation has something to do with the legal execution of a stroke or turn at the wall. It can also occur as a result of a False Start. A False Start occurs when a swimmer moves towards the pool after having assumed a still position (taking his/her mark) and before the Starter has started the race.

How do you know if a swimmer DQs?
Unlike football, there is no whistle or announcement that a rules violation occurred. When a Stroke and Turn Judge observes a violation, he raises his or her hand to signify that a violation was observed and 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 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 a Stroke and Turn Judge writing and a longer than normal pause between events.

Your swimmer will probably know they DQ before you do since the Team Rep tells the coach, who tells the swimmer. You'll probably find out if you saw your swimmer finish with one of the top three times but he isn't announced later in the top three places. Similarly, someone else DQ’d if your swimmer finished in 4th, 5th or 6th, yet is announced as one of the top three finishers. You also can get results by visiting the NVSL web site www.mynvsl.com.

In relay races, a DQ takes place when a swimmer leaves the deck before the swimmer in the water touches that wall or deck. 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 hand.

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 versus illegal is sometimes too close to call, any violation called by an official is an "I saw" not an "I think I saw".

Common reasons for a DQ

  • Failure to touch the wall at the turning end of the pool
  • Walking on the bottom or pulling on the lane line
  • Exiting the pool before swimming the specified distance


  • 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 (older swimmers)


  • 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


  • Non-Simultaneous or one handed wall touch at the turn or finish
  • Arms don't break water surface during recovery (judged at the elbows)
  • Non-Simultaneous arm movement during recovery

Relay Races: A swimmer leaves the deck before the previous swimmer touches the wall or deck
False Start: A swimmer starts the race early

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 that you do not think is right, talk to the coach or the Team Rep. The Team Rep will initiate action in accordance with NVSL rules if thought to be appropriate.

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