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How To Be A Lane Timer

For those of you who have not been a lane timer before, here’s an explanation of what you’ll do. It’s fairly simple and you get a close up (and somewhat wet) view of all the action! We will go over these timing procedures at the pool before the meets start also, for anyone that needs to learn or to be refreshed on what to do.

  • There are two timers per lane at a meet.
  • The lane timers are used as a back up to the computerized touch pad timing system. The touch pad is the board in the pool at the end of each lane.
  • Timers use a stopwatch in one hand for the beginning and end of each race, as well as a manual plunger button in the other hand when the swimmer in your lane touches the wall at the end of the race. The manual plunger is connected to the touch pad and computer system as a back up to the touch pad.
  • At the beginning of each race, make sure you have the stopwatch in one hand and that it's reset to 00:00 and the manual plunger in the other hand.
  • When the swimmers are ready on the starting blocks at the beginning of each race, the Starter uses a PA system to say “Swimmers take your mark.” Then after a brief pause, the Starter will sound the horn which signals the swimmers to start. 
  • At the same time the starting horn is sounded, a light flashes once from the Starter’s PA system; this is what the Lane Timers watch for to press the start button on their stopwatch to begin timing. When you see the light, press the start button on the stopwatch. (The manual plunger button is used only at the end of each race.)
  • As the swimmer in your lane approaches the wall at the finish of the race, the Lane Timers step up to the edge of the pool and lean over the water so that they can clearly see when the swimmer touches the wall.
  • As the swimmer touches the wall at the end of the race, the Lane Timer presses the button on the stopwatch AND the button on the manual plunger simultaneously.
  • There is a timing sheet for each lane; one lane timer will write down the times recorded on both stopwatches. 
  • After the time is recorded, you press the reset button on the stopwatch to prepare for the next race.


  • Each lane is provided with a sheet to help keep track of laps during the long 400 meter freestyle race. 
  • The BTW pool is 25 meters; the 400 meter race is 16 one-way lengths of the pool or 8 two-way laps. 
  • There is a place on the sheet to write down the split time for each 50 meters of the race; the split time is shown on the timing board above the pool when the swimmers touch the pad at the end of each 50 meters. Write that split time down in the appropriate space for 50 meters, 100 meters, etc. If the split time does not show up on the board, then just put a check mark in that space to note that distance has been completed.
  • Swimmers who aren’t in the pool stand at the opposite end of the pool with lap counters that they hold underneath the water for the swimmers to see how many lengths they’ve gone. 
  • Bell Lap: As the swimmer in your lane passes the flags nearest to you at the end of their second to last lap (the 350 meter mark,) one timer will ring the bell provided to signal to the swimmer that they are on their last lap. Ring it loudly!
  • At the end of the race, record the final stopwatch times as you do with every race. 

Timing is really easy and fun! Just make sure you wear shoes and pants that you don’t mind getting wet.  : )  A lot of water gets splashed around, especially at the edge of the pool at the end of each race. Even if it’s cool or cold outside, the pool area tends to be warm and humid; shorts and comfortable shoes are recommended; whatever you’re comfortable wearing will work.

A PDF copy of this information is linked at the bottom of this page. You can download and print it if you want.

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