Meet Robert Nesbitt

IPC Swimming World Champs - Robert Nesbitt young official


I decided that I wanted to become a swimming official when I realised that my swimming career was no more after picking up shoulder injuries. I had previously helped out as a timekeeper at my club and this opened my eyes to a different perspective of the sport. I enjoyed learning the technical swimming rules and the laws that govern the sport.

Officiating provided a fantastic excuse for me to travel the country and offered opportunities to officiate at some fantastic venues, at different standards of competition. Through officiating I’ve been able to meet top level athletes, coaches and officials, who have shared their knowledge and experience with me.


Aged 14, my club invited me to attend a trial course being offered nationally to encourage youngsters to get involved in officiating. I qualified as a Young Official where I was taught the duties of Timekeeper, which led to me becoming a qualified Technical Swimming Official. Having been trained as a Timekeeper, I was eager to undertake my Judge Level 1 course, but age restrictions meant I had to wait another year before doing so.

In the meantime, I found myself studying the laws of swimming, so when I finally turned 15, I was ready and able to attend a Judge Level 1 course, where I was trained in the duties of Timekeeper, Chief Timekeeper, Inspector of Turns and Chief Inspector of Turns.


I distinctly remember my first gala as a qualified Official, the Diss Tidlers gala. This was also where I made my first disqualification report. I remember it well, because all of a sudden I panicked and I started dropping things, knowing I had to act quickly.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience making that first DSQ but I knew it had to be done. They became easier over time with practice.

I became anxious and started to feel guilty as I rushed around red-faced. It wasn’t a pleasant experience making that first DSQ, however I knew it had to be done. Disqualifications became easier over time, with practice of dealing with the situation.


I’m on the autistic spectrum and aged 16 I went on a national program called Young Disabled Volunteers Back Swimming, which led to me officiating at the DSE National Junior and Youth Swimming Championships in 2011. This was my first experience at a national competition and officiating swimmers who have disabilities.

Following this, I officiated at an array of national competitions, gaining a wealth of experience along the way, and qualified as a Judge Level 2 and British Swimming Starter, whilst undertaking Referees training.


I attended the National Talent Camp in December 2014, where I met other Young Officials from swimming and other sports, with shared interests and I picked up some very important skills. I learned so many new things that I feel helped me to progress and which have probably changed the way I will officiate for the rest of my life – the skills and education I received will make me a better official in the future.


About six years after I first began officiating, I received an email sent to all officials nationwide, with an invitation to apply to officiate at the IPC World Champs. I applied, thinking there was nothing to lose, so when I received an email saying that I had been nominated to be a National Technical Official, I was over the moon. This was my first ever international appointment as an Official and I was so excited by this opportunity.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – I was representing all young officials across the country!

On arrival, I recognised some familiar faces from other championships, which helped me feel more comfortable. I was the youngest person officiating on poolside, and television and media were all around. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous – I was representing all young officials across the country!


I feel the whole experience was too good to single out a specific part. I enjoyed taking up new roles that I hadn’t done before. I enjoyed meeting new people, sharing my passion, getting to officiate at a new venue, representing the Young Official’s network from all over the country and the different style and standard of the competition to a national event.

Robert Nesbitt volunteeringI was particularly excited to meet up with officials who have been to Paralympics, Olympics and World Championships, and share experiences, knowledge and listen to other people’s officiating plans for the future. I met officials from around the world and talked to them to understand how competitions are run in their countries. If I was offered a role at another high-level competition I would say “yes!”, because my experience at the IPC Swimming World Championships 2015 was simply extraordinary.


The dream for me would be to make my officiating a career, although I know this might not be possible. If I had to choose a dream event to officiate at, it would either be an Olympic Games or Paralympic Games – or even both!

I am currently waiting to find out what the selection criteria will be for the LEN European Aquatics Championships in London 2016, where I’d love a role as a National Technical Official. For my continued development, I want to pass my Referees training and I would love to go on to be nominated for international training under FINA and IPC.


If you would like to know more about how you can get involved in officiating, head to our Volunteering Training and Development.

If you’re currently a Young Official, and think National Talent Camp may be of interest to you, you can find further information here.


website: Skylab