An unattached swimmer is a competitor who participates in an organized swimming event as an individual, rather than as a representative of a team. A swimmer must be registered with one of the national organizations, USA Swimming or U.S. Masters Swimming, to compete in one of those sanctioned events unattached, but swims only individual events, cannot compete in relays and earns no points for any team title or award.
Any Swimmer Can Unattach
Any swimmer can choose to swim unattached at any time under rules of USA Swimming, which governs most swimming competitions. U.S. Masters Swimming, for those competitors older than age 18, generally follows the same rules. College and high school meets are governed by those athletic associations and usually are confined to team competitions without unattached swimmers.
A swimmer who is changing USA swimming clubs must swim unattached for 120 days before eligible to represent a new team or club. The time period is based on the swimmer's last date of competition as a member of the old team. A swimmer who is planning to move, for instance, may swim with a team but as unattached and not have that date count as the last competition.
Transfer and Masters Rules
Any swimmer switching clubs or teams must apply for a transfer before swimming for the new club and have the ending date of competition with the old unit and starting date for the new one registered as a "Re-Attach Date" on the swimmer's USA Swimming Card. U.S. Masters Swimming imposes only a 60-day waiting period when switching clubs, unless the switch coincides with an annual membership renewal. Swimmers must be unattached during the wait periods.
There are special rules for closed competitions, such as YMCA-only events, or collegiate swim programs. In some cases those will not count as USA Swimming team competitions and will not be affected by the 120-day wait rule. A college swimmer who chooses not to swim with his school team during a summer vacation will face the 120-day wait if he swims for a home team. He can participate in those meets as unattached, however, without affecting the college team status.
- USA Swimming: Become a Swimmer
- Illinois Masters Swimming Association: Frequently Asked Questions
- U.S. Masters Swimming: Frequenty Asked Questions
- North Texas Swimming: North Texas Swimming Registrations FAQ
- Adirondacks Swimming: USA Swimming 120 Day Rule and Rules Pertaining to Unattached Swimmers
- Swimming USA: Unattached Rules
- U.S. Masters Swimming: Administrative Regulations of Competition
Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.