Uniform Rules Don’t ‘Suit’ Swimmers


Rachel Lim

A referee disqualifies a swimmer because her suit is “inappropriate.” The NFHS requires that all girls suits cover a certain amount of their body, not taking into account team uniform rules or girls’ varying body types.

There are countless ways a swimmer can get disqualified when they race, like diving too early, streamlining too long, or even being absent from their event. But one thing I thought I’d never have to worry about was getting disqualified because of my swimsuit. 

I have been on swim teams since I was five years old, and although I thought I had learned dozens of violation codes and rules, I never knew a swimmer could get disqualified because their suit was considered “inappropriate.” 

Swimsuit coverage requirements for both high school girls and boys. (National High School Associations)

But during the 100 IM race at the BOHS Pentathlon on Feb. 19, varsity swimmer Ashlyn Oh, junior, was informed by the meet referee after her race that she was disqualified from the event because she “didn’t cover up her body” and that there was “a suit malfunction.”

The rule does exist. According to the National Federation of States High School Association, “When an official discovers a competitor wearing illegal attire…the official shall notify the coach of the competitor to make the suit legal before becoming eligible to compete…[but] when observed after the heat/dive officially begins, [they will] disqualify the competitor at the completion of the heat/dive; nullify the competitor’s performance time/score and he/she shall not be eligible for further competition until in a legal suit.”

However, a swimmer’s performance in a race should not be negated because of the fit of their suit. This rule needs to consider that all swimmers have to wear the same brand of suit or else they might get disqualified for not matching the rest of their team.

For example, this year all of the girls had to wear the suit brand, Jolyn. While Jolyn has dozens of styles and coverage options, the suits that were ordered were all one type of suit. The girls had to wear them when racing, no matter how they fit because they could be disqualified for not matching the rest of their team. 

Hannah Ro, senior and varsity swimmer, explained “We don’t get a choice in what type of suit we wear for the year” and that “no matter how it fits the girls, they have to wear them.”

 This affects girls especially because they have to cover a larger area than the boys since girls have to cover both their chest and bottom. 

Eden Kennedy, junior, and varsity swimmer, agreed that “everyone’s body type is different” so getting disqualified for a suit malfunction like Oh had was “unnecessary.” 

Oh expressed frustration with the disqualification. She wears her suit to practice “almost every day and no one ever said anything,” she said. She feels that when she got disqualified she was “uncomfortable” because that particular referee didn’t agree with how her suit fit her. 

This rule not only makes swim girls uncomfortable but also hurts their overall performance at a meet. It targets girl swimmers, subjecting them to inappropriate scrutiny under referees who are usually three times their age. How a suit covers a swimmer doesn’t impact their speed, so they should never be disqualified for it.