Coach, Why Did I Get Disqualified?

Do you want to know why you got disqualified in an event? The referee hands the head coach of each team the DQ cards (though often a few are missing). Please contact me or another coach if you want to know the reasons for a specific DQ.

Swimming is a VERY technical sport; even the very fastest swimmers get disqualified (DQ’d or “deeked”) on occasion. A primary goal of the coaches, particularly for younger or less experienced swimmers, is that the swimmer progresses to the point where s/he can reliably do all the strokes in competition without being disqualified.

Swimmers understandably get upset about being DQ’d, perhaps even a little embarrassed. We want to emphasize that there is NO SHAME in getting DQ’d.

Swimming is a hard sport and DQs are a part of the learning process. The only shame would be in not trying to correct the problem leading to the DQ; and a major part of that is learning the REASON for the DQ. Please do not hesitate to ask one of the coaches. Email may work best because it isn’t always guaranteed that we’ll have the information on hand in practice.

Here is a list of some of the most common reasons for disqualification.


Pretty much anything goes here as long as you touch all the walls and don’t push off the bottom or pull on the lane lines.


Pretty much anything is allowed on backstroke (except obvious things like pulling on the lane line) AS LONG AS YOU STAY ON YOUR BACK. The most common cause of DQ is turning over on your stomach before you touch on the finish, or pushing off on your stomach on a turn, or turning over too early on a backstroke flip turn.


Although butterfly has a reputation as a difficult stroke, it is easier to master than breaststroke; its bad reputation is mostly a matter of how tiring it is, something that can be addressed with more practice. Fatigue will often also lead to stroke flaws (and DQs) that don’t occur when the swimmer is less tired.

The most common DQs in butterfly are due to one-handed touches, non-simultaneous arms during the recovery, underwater arm recoveries (usually due to fatigue), and flutter kicks.


This is the most difficult, technical stroke to master. The list of reasons for potential DQs is long, but one of the following three is almost always the culprit.

  • hands past hipline (this is allowed during the pull-out phase but not any other time)
  • scissor kicks, flutter kicks, dolphin kicks
  • one-handed touches

Again, the most important thing is to learn from your mistakes. Sometimes correcting these mistakes takes a lot of work, and may require private lessons (particularly for breaststroke) that are reinforced by good habits in swim practice.

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