Glossary of Swimming Terms


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 


“A” Meet - Swim meet that requires swimmers to have previously achieved an ”A” time standard in the events they wish to enter.  Sometimes per event, sometimes one to get in.

Adapted Swimming - Swimming for persons with a disability.  

Admin Table - Area at a swim meet where the Admin Referee, Clerk of Course, Timing System Operator, Timing Judge, Recorder, and Announcer are located.  Usually, all the administrative functions of the meet are conducted here.

Age Group – The division of swimmers according to age, usually in two-year bands.  In USA Swimming, swimmers compete within their respective age groups, usually in the following manner:  10&Younger, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18.  Most meets combine the two older age groups into one 15-18 age group.  A swimmer’s age at a meet is determined by the first day of the competition.  

Age Group Sectionals, A spring season-ending championship meet for swimmers aged 14 and younger who meet the qualifying times.  (See Section)

Age Group Swimming - Program for swimmers aged 18 and younger.

Alternate – In a Prelims and Finals (championship format), swimmers are designated as alternates and will compete only if one of the final swimmers is unable to compete or fails to show.  The finish place of the alternate is determined by the number of swimmers invited back for finals.  The first alternate is the first person in line that did not make the actual finals.

Alternate Breathing – Breathing bilaterally on both sides in freestyle swimming, every third stroke cycle.  (Ex breathing to the right side then swimming three strokes and breathing to the left side, then swimming three strokes and breathing the to right side, etc.) (See also Bilateral Breathing.)

Anaerobic Training – Training without air.  Fast paced training, heart rate above 160.  Training that improves the efficiency of your body’s energy producing systems that require little oxygen and can increase your muscular strength and tolerance for acid-base imbalances (such as the production of lactic acid) during high intensity effort.

Anchor - The final swimmer in a relay.   The Anchor Leg.  

Announcer - The person who announces meet information over the public address system at a meet (usually, a parent volunteer)

American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) - Professional organization for swim coaches headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale.

Ascending - Intervals or swims that increase in time (# 1 :55, # 2  1:00,  # 3  1:05, # 4  1:10, etc).

Assisted Swimming - Any form of swimming with assistance to swim faster, usually done with fins and stretch cords.

Attached – Denotes belonging to a specific USAS Swim Team.    

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BB/B/C Meet - A swim meet that requires swimmers to have no higher than a “BB” time standard in the events they wish to enter.  

Backstroke - One of the four competitive racing strokes characterized by swimming on the back (except the last stroke into the turns).  Backstroke (or Back) is swum as the first stroke in the Medley Relay and second stroke in the Individual Medley.

Backstroke Flags - Pennants that are suspended over the width of each end of the pool five yards/meters from the wall that notify backstroke swimmers that they are approaching the end of the pool, similar to a warning track in baseball.  The accomplished Backstroker will know the ANGLE that tells them how many strokes it takes to get from under the flags to the beginning of their turn.  Other swimmers will count strokes from flags to the wall.

Backstroke Start - In Backstroke and Medley Relay events, swimmers start the race in the pool, facing the start end, with both hands in contact with the end of the pool or the start block and both feet on the wall with toes below the gutter.

Balance - Refers to body position.  Proper balance implies that your hips, head and feet position are equally close to the surface of the water as you swim.  Also it is used to explain rolling equally to each side during the freestyle and backstroke.

Bands – This usually refers to a training device that is used to increase drag and resistance and is worn around the ankles.  It can also refer to the stretch cords or “bands” that swimmers will use for dry land training and for exercise usually associated with rehabbing a shoulder injury.

Bell Lap (0r gun lap)- The last lap of a distance Freestyle race.  The Starter normally rings a bell or fires a gun over the lane of the lead swimmer with one lap plus 5 yards to go.

Bilateral Breathing - In Freestyle swimming, breathing to the right side then swimming three strokes and breathing to the left side, then swimming three strokes and breathing the to right side, etc.  Swimmers are taught to swim in this manner because it helps with body position and helps reduce shoulder injury. (See also Alternate Breathing.)

Blocks - The starting platforms located behind each lane. Blocks have a variety of designs and can be permanent or removable.  They also incorporate a bar to allow swimmers to perform Backstroke starts.

Body Position – The most important technique in swimming is to have the proper body position, see balance, body roll, and bilateral breathing.  

Body Roll – In freestyle and backstroke the proper side to side rotation of the hips and shoulders to help reduce drag and improve stroke length.

Bottom - The floor of the pool.  In some pools these are adjustable to allow variation in the depth and use of the pool.   The term On the Bottom- refers to the 30 second mark on the pace clock.

Bottom Arm – The ARM closest to the bottom of the pool when leaving the wall in freestyle turns.  This is the arm pull that is used first to pull with to help the “break out”.

Break-out Stroke - First stroke out of a start or off the walls on turns, very important for establishing proper body position, stroke rhythm and racing tempo.

Breaststroke - One of the four competitive racing strokes characterized by the distinctive frog-like kick and undulating motion.  The oldest of the four competitive strokes, it is performed in a front prone position with simultaneous and symmetrical leg kick and pull.  Breaststroke (or Breast) is swum as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the Individual Medley.

Breaststroker’s Knee (Tendonitis) - The Breaststroke kick is an unnatural motion for the knees, so sometimes the knee can become tender and sore. In most cases, with proper care, exercises, and stroke technique, even severe tendonitis can be controlled.   Often times caused by a poor freestyle turn.

Broken Swims - Swimmers swim a race paced swim and get rest at assigned spots to maintain race pace speed.  Ex 200 free with 5 seconds rest each 50.  The final time minus 15 seconds (the allotted rest) should be near or better than racing speed.

Build-up Swims - Swimmers swim 3 X 50’s build up…i.e., with each 50 the swimmers begin Fast> Faster> Fastest.  

Bulkhead - A moveable turn wall or structure in 50-meter pools that allows the pool to be setup for Short Course (yards/meters).

Burn-out - Burn-out is a catch word used when a swimmer is tired of swimming … usually due to too much stress.  The stress may be self-imposed, from parents, due to illness, psychological, school, and coaches…many reasons.  It is also the most coined term used when a swimmer simply wants to quit swimming.   

Butterfly - One of the four competitive racing strokes characterized by the dolphin kick and over the water recovery of the arms.  The newest of the four competitive strokes (an outgrowth from the breaststroke in 1956), it is performed in a front prone position with simultaneous up and down leg kick and simultaneous and symmetrical arms stroke.  Butterfly (or Fly) is swum as the third stroke in the Medley Relay and first stroke in the Individual Medley.

Button - Part of the automatic/electronic timing system used by the Timers on each lane to stop the clock at the end of a race.  

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Camp -Many college programs run camps to promote their school and to help fund their coaches. There are many types of training camps for just about every level of swimmer sponsored by clubs/teams, LSCs, schools/colleges, and USA Swimming.  See your coach before enrolling your swimmer in any swim camp.

Cap - The silicone or latex covering worn on the head of swimmers.  Sometimes to aid in reducing drag and should be used in practice if the swimmer has long hair.

Carbohydrates – The complex carbohydrates are the main source of food energy used by endurance athletes.

Cards – In a pre-seeded meet, entry cards are usually passed out by he Clerk of Course to the swimmer, who gives it to the Timer behind the lane.  The cards list the event number, event description, swimmer’s name, seed time, the lane and heat number the swimmer will swim in, and includes a place for the watch time(s) to be recorded.  Each event has a separate card.   For relays, the card also lists the four swimmers in the order they will swim.  Swimmers should verify their heat and lane on the card with the timer before each race.  

Car Pool - A group of families that get together to share the responsibility for driving swimmers to and from practice, a life saver for families. 

Catch - The starting point in the stroke pattern where the hand feels the most resistance and begins effective propulsive movement.

Championship Heat - The Championship Heat (A Final) is the fastest heat (8 or 10 swimmers) of Finals when multiple heats are held and is usually conducted last, after the Bonus (C Final) and Consolation (B Final) heats.

Chlorine - The chemical used by many pools to kill the bacteria in water and keep it clear and safe to swim in.

Circle seed - In a Prelims and Finals (championship) format, the fastest three heats of each event in Prelims is specially seeded: the fastest swimmer is in the fastest heat center lane, the second fastest swimmer is in the next heat center lane, the third fastest swimmer is in the next heat center, the fourth fastest swimmer is in the fastest heat next to the center lane and so on until the three heats are filled up.  As opposed to the normal slowest to fastest seeding in the rest to the heats (used in a Timed Finals format).

Circle Swim - When there are more than two swimmers in a lane during practice/warm ups, swimmers swim up on the right side, staying close to the lane line always staying to the right of the black centerline

Clerk of Course - The person responsible for deck seeding and organizing swimmers into heats (usually, a parent-volunteer).  Also, where deck scratches and relay cards are turned in, and on-going meet information is available for the coaches.

Concessions - The snack concession at a swim meet.  The club/vendor usually has healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) snacks and drinks for sale.

Conforming Times - In championship meets, the qualifying times are often listed for each course (LCM, SCY, SCM).  The meet is seeded using entry times conforming to the course for the meet (e.g., LCM) first, then non-conforming entry times (e.g., SCM/SCY) in the first heats.

Consolation Heat - The Consolation Heat (B Final) is the second fastest heat of Finals when multiple heats are held and are conducted before the Championship Heat (A Final).  

Converted Time - A swimmer's time in an event from one course converted to an equivalent time in that event in another course (e.g., SCY times converted to LCM times), often done at the beginning of a season for seeding purposes when swimmers don't have recent times in the new course.  There are several "accepted" conversion formulas available for coaches to use.

Course - Designated distance (length of pool) for swimming competition (i.e., Long Course (LCM) = 50 meters; Short Course (SCY/SCM) = 25 yards/meters).  

Crossover Turn –(sometimes called “roll over turn”) In the Individual Medley, a type of turn used in the Backstroke to Breaststroke transition.  The swimmer approaches the wall on the back and executes a modified flip turn such that as he/she reaches the wall at the vertical then rotates to the breast and pushes off. 

Cut - A qualifying time for championship meets (e.g., Age Group Sectionals, State Meet, Senior Sectionals, US Nationals).

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Deadline - The date meet entries must be to the host club usually 2 weeks prior to the meet. Making the meet deadline may not guarantee acceptance into a meet since many meets are 'full' weeks before the entry deadline.

Deck - The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches.  No one but an 'authorized' person may be on the deck during a swim competition.  If you want on deck, volunteer.

Deck Seeding - The process of organizing swimmers into events, heats, and lanes (usually by the Clerk of Course) at the meet as it progresses (as opposed to pre-seeding by computer prior to the meet).  This type of meet will not have a seeded program.

Dehydration - The depletion of body fluids (water), the most common cause of swimmers cramps, feelings of dizziness or over heating.

Descending - Intervals or swims that decrease in time (Ex; # 1 1:15, # 2   1:10,  # 3  1:05, 1:00, etc)

Descend - To swim each lap in a faster time than the previous.  E.g., 4 x 50 yards on a 1-minute interval, swim #1 in 50 seconds, #2 in 48 seconds, #3 in 46 seconds, and #4 faster than 46 seconds.

Declared False Start - An option for swimmers in championship meets to opt out of a swim without penalty.  A swimmer notifies the Referee prior to the event that he/she will declare a false start.  The swimmer is disqualified and reports behind the blocks but does not swim. 

Developmental Swimming -  A program designed for new swimmers and 8 and younger swimmers.

Disqualification (DQ) - A swimmer’s performance that is not counted because of a rules infraction (signified by an official on deck raising one arm with open hand above his or her head).  The results sheet will reflect “DQ” and no time will be recorded for the event.

Distance Freestyle – Freestyle events at distances greater than 500 yards/meters.

Dive - Entering the water head first at the start of the race.

Dolphin Kick -  An undulating, simultaneous kick used in Butterfly.  It is also used in Backstroke and Freestyle during the kick-out phase off the walls on starts and turns.

Drag suit - A second, loose fitting swimsuit worn by swimmers in workout and warm-up that adds weight and resistance to the flow of the water around the swimmer.  These change the body position in the water so should only be used if the coach thinks it is a good idea.

Drills – Drills are very important in teaching proper stroke techniques by isolating various components of a specific stroke.  Drills are used every day with all groups.

Dropped Elbow – When a swimmer has an elbow too low in the relative position to allow the fore arm to help in the pull phase of the stroke.

Dropped Time - When a swimmer goes faster than their previous performance in an event, they have 'dropped time' (also a Personal Best Time).

Dry Land - The program of exercises and various strengthening regimens swimmers do out of the water.

Dual Meet - A competition between two teams.    

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Early Take-off - In relays, an early take-off occurs in an exchange when a relay team member leaves the starting block before the previous team member in the water touches the wall.  The relay team is disqualified and notified of the disqualification after the end of the race.

Electronic Timing - Timing system operated automatically.  The timing system usually has touch pads in the water, buttons for backup timing, and a computer type console that prints out the results of each race. Some systems are linked to a scoreboard that displays the swimmers’ times.

Eligible to Compete - For sanctioned meets and have met all the entry requirements of the meet (usually, age and time standards, qualifying times or USAS registration/membership).

Entry - An individual swimmer or relay team listed to compete in an event at a meet.

Hand Entry- how the hand enters the water at the beginning of the stroke (freestyle, backstroke and butterfly).

Entry Fees - The amount per event a swimmer or relay is charged to compete at a meet. This varies depending on the type of meet and the meet host.

Entry Limit - Some meets have a limit of total swimmers that can be accepted before the meet will be closed and all other entries returned.  Swimmers also have a limit to the number of events they can swim in a day and in the meet.   The National rule is 5 events in a timed final meet and 3 in a prelim and finals meet.  Some hosts set the limit at 4 individual events in a timed final meet.

Entry Time - Official Times used to enter swimmers in meets.  These times are usually the swimmer’s personal best in a given event and must have been achieved at previous sanctioned competitions.

Event - A race of a stroke over a given distance at a meet.  In a Prelims and Finals (championship) format, an event equals at least one prelims heat and its accompanying final, or in a timed finals format, at least one heat.  Events are either individual (one swimmer per lane) or relay (four swimmers per lane).

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False Start - A violation of the start rules, a false start occurs when a swimmer leaves the starting block, or is moving on the block, before the Starter starts the race. The swimmer is disqualified and is informed of the disqualification after the end of the race. 

Fatigue - The whole idea of training is to fatigue the body, but to do it in a manner so that when it is given rest, the body over compensates and performs at a higher level.  This is planned and desired affect and should be allowed to happen.

15-Meter Mark - Marks on the sides of the pool and on the lane lines 15 meters from the ends of the pool.  In Freestyle, Backstroke, and Butterfly events the swimmers head must surface at or before these marks.

FINA - Federation Internationale de National de Amateur, the international governing body of competitive swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming.

Final Results - The printed copy of the results of each race of a swim meet.

Finals - In a Prelims and Finals (championship) format, the fastest swimmers (depending on the number of lanes in the pool) who, after the Prelims swims, return to compete to determine final placement in the event.  There can be up to four heats: Double Bonus (D Final), the Bonus (C Final), Consolation (B Final), and Championship (A Final).   Sometimes there

Finish - In a race, the legal touch at the end of the prescribed distance.  In the stroke the final propulsive phase of the arm stroke before the hand starts to recover and/or leaves the water to return for the next stroke.

Fins – Swim fins or flippers; devices that fit on a swimmer’s feet. Used in training to aid development of kick, ankle flexibility, stroke mechanics and speed.

Flip Turn - One type of turn used in Freestyle and Backstroke.  Just as the swimmer approaches the wall, they tuck their body into a somersault, quickly roll toward the wall and push off with their feet.   

Flutter Kick - The alternating kick used in freestyle and backstroke, usually six kicks per stroke cycle.  

Forward Start - In Freestyle, Breaststroke, and Butterfly events swimmers start from the start blocks, the edge of the pool, or in the water with a forward dive or push off.

Freestyle - One of the four competitive racing strokes, usually the American Crawl.  Swimmers swim in a prone position, face down, and pull the arms independently of each other and legs kick individually.  In competition, a swimmer can swim any stroke in a Freestyle event.  Freestyle (or Free) is swum as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the Individual medley.  

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Get Out Swim – A swim done at practice, usually as a reward to hard work, where the coach will establish a time for a specific swimmer to perform a specific swim in order to get the swimmer/ training group out of practice or out of a specific set.  A challenge between the coach and a swimmer and the reward is getting out of some practice time.

Goal - Short- and long-range performance/achievement targets set by swimmers and overseen by their coaches to help motivate and challenge the swimmer.  These should be set by the swimmer and shared with others only if the swimmer wants.

Goggles - Eyewear worn by swimmers in the pool to protect the swimmers' eyes from the effects of chorine in the water.  Also improves vision underwater considerably!   Some companies make prescription goggles for those with poor vision.   

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Heat – A flight or a division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time.

Heat Sheet - A printed order of events by session with swimmers listed by heat and lane (with team and entry times).  Usually used at pre-seeded meets.  Also, a Meet Program.

High Elbow - Refers to the recovery phase of freestyle where keeping a high elbow encourages better balance and body roll and to the pull phase of freestyle where the elbow remains in a higher position over the hand, giving the sensation of reaching over a barrel when pulling through the water.

High Points Award - At some championship meets, High Point Awards are presented to the swimmer in each sex/age group and overall who accumulates the most total points (earned by placement in their events).

Horizontal – Usually in relation to the bodies position in the water, parallel to the water surface.

Horn - A sounding device used in place of a gun. Used mainly with a fully automatic timing system.  

Hospitality - An area set aside for Coaches and Officials at a swim meet.  The host club usually provides breakfast, lunch, sometimes dinner, and snack items and drinks

Host Team - The USA Swimming club assigned/awarded the responsibility to conduct a sanctioned meet.  The club secures the venue, organizes the competition and its support, provides/arranges for volunteers and officials, and collects entries.  They also keep any profits earned.

Hypoxic Breathing - Breath control swimming such as underwater swimming or breathing every fifth or seventh stroke in Freestyle.

Hypoxia Training (breath control) - Training with a decreased concentration of oxygen that causes the constriction of blood vessels that, in turn, helps muscles work more efficiently with what oxygen is available.   This should be done only with close supervision and only with older athletes.

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Individual Medley (IM) - An event in which the swimmer uses all four competitive strokes in the following order: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle (in this case, Freestyle means any stroke except one of the three previously swam).

Insurance - USA Swimming self-insures for liability.  Accident coverage for swimmers, coaches, and officials is part of USA Swimming membership (covered in their annual registration fee).  Parents and non-member siblings are usually restricted from the deck at practice and meets because they are not covered by this insurance.

Interval Training - Consists of repeated swims of a set distance on a set “send off” time.

Interval - A specific elapsed time prescribed to complete a given distance, plus rest, used during swim practice.   This is the actual SEND OFF time.

Intrasquad Meet - A competition for just one team that divides into two or more teams.

Invitational – A swim meet that certain clubs are invited to attend. 

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Junior Nationals – A meet sponsored by USAS for those swimmers 18 or 19 years and younger that meet a certain qualifying time.  There used to be 3 meets, both spring and summer while currently there is only 1 in the summer, that is a season ending meet used as a stepping stone to USAS National Championships.

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Kick Board - A flotation device used by swimmers during training when swimming with legs only or for drills.

Kick - The leg movements of a swimmer that provide propulsion during execution of the stroke.  

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Lactic Acid – When training or racing the body will breakdown muscle sugar (glycogen) using a process that produces an acidic by-product waste called lactate acid.  The muscles may start to burn or ache as lactic acid accumulates and your body can’t keep up with removing it from your muscle stores.

Lane Ropes / Lane Lines - Continuous floating dividers attached to a cable stretched from the start end of the pool to the turn end, used to delineate the individual lanes. These dividers are made of individual finned disks that rotate on the cable when hit by a wave. The rotating disks dissipate surface tension waves in a competitive pool.   Swimmers MUST NOT SIT on the lane lines.

Lane - The specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim (i.e., Lane 1 or Lane 2). For pools with starting blocks at only one end: as the swimmers stand behind the blocks, lanes should be numbered from right (Lane 1) to left.

Lap Counter - The large numbered cards (or the person turning the cards) used during the Freestyle events of 16 or more lengths of the pool to help the competitor keep track of their yardage.  Other swimmers usually do the counting from the turn end of the pool.  Coaches or teams often used the counter to help the swimmer aware of their race paces.

Lap – One length of the pool.  There is no difference between lengths or laps. 

Late Entries - Meet entries from a club or individual that are received by the meet host after the entry deadline.  These entries usually can be accommodated, but the individual must pay the late entry fee which is generally twice the normal fee.

Lead-off - The first swimmer (leg) in a relay.

Leg - The part of a relay event swum by a single team member; a single stroke portion of the IM.

Length – One lap or length of the pool, the terms lap and length are interchangeable in swimming.

Log Book - A log of everything to do with swimming, including all training sessions and event best times, kept by the swimmer.

Long Course (LC) - A 50-meter pool. The Olympic Games swimming competition, as well as all major international swimming competitions, are conducted in long course.  The swim year is divided into two seasons: Short Course season, competed in 25-yard/meter pools during fall and winter, and Long Course season, competed in 50-meter pools during spring and summer.  See also Short Course (SC).

Local Swimming Committee (LSC) – One of 59 administrative divisions of USA Swimming with supervisory responsibilities within certain geographical boundaries designated by USA Swimming.  South Carolina Inc. (SC-LSC) is our LSC.   Virginia Swimming is VSI.

LY – Lynchburg YMCA Swim Team 

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Marks - A swimmer’s starting position, as in “Take Your Mark”.

Marshal - The officials (usually, parent volunteers) who control the crowd and swimmer flow at a swim meet.  They are primarily responsible for safety in the venue.

Masters Swimming - A program for swimmers aged 19 and older who wish to continue swimming, but not necessarily at the senior level.  Age groups are in five-year increments.

Medals - Awards earned by swimmers at meets for finishing in the top places. They vary in size and design and method of presentation.

Meet - A series of swimming events/ races held in one program, usually sanctioned by USA Swimming.

Meet Director - The person in charge of the planning, preparation, and administration of a swim meet (usually, a parent/volunteer).

Meet Program - A compilation of the meet’s Heat Sheets sold by the host club.  Also contains important meet information and ads.  

Meet Staff - The volunteers who are responsible for conducting a swim meet.

Mile - The slang referring to the 1500-meter or the 1650-yard freestyle, both of which are slightly short of a mile.  

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National Qualifying Time (NQT) - Time standard for entry in USA Swimming Championship meets.

No Time (NT) - Abbreviation used on a heat sheet to designate that the swimmer has not swum that event before (does not have an official time of record.

Nationals – USA Swimming’s National Championship meets.

Negative Split - The second half of the swim is swum faster than the first half (e.g.,100- yard swim negative splitting:  if the first 50 yards is swum around 30 seconds, then the second 50 yards must be swum faster than 30 seconds).  

Non-Conforming Times - In championship meets, the qualifying times are often listed for each course (LCM, SCY, SCM).  The meet is seeded using entry times conforming to the course for the meet (e.g., LCM) first, then non-conforming entry times (e.g., SCM/SCY) in the first heats.

Novice - A beginning swimmer or one who has limited experience.  

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Observed Swim - In approved season-ending High School/YMCA championship meets, USA Swimming Officials observe the swims and report USA Swimming rules violations.  Swimmers whose legal swims conform to USA Swimming rules can use their times as official times in USA Swimming-sanctioned meets.

Officials - The USA Swimming certified adult volunteers, who execute the many facets of a swim competition to ensure a fair and equitable competition for all swimmers.

Official Time - The swimmer’s time in a given event, recorded to hundredth of a second (.01).  The OT usually comes from the automatic timing system.

Official Results - After all Official Times and Disqualifications for an event are determined/recorded, the final Order of Finish (places) is published.

Olympic Trials - The USA Swimming sanctioned swim meet held the year of the Olympic Games to decide which swimmers will represent the USA on our Olympic Team. Qualification times are usually faster than Nationals.

One Hundred Twenty (120) Day Rule – The number of days, 120, that a swimmer must swim unattached with a program when they switch teams.  The start of the 120 days is from the last day of representation, (usually a swim meet) of the old club.  

Open Turn – One type of turn used in Butterfly and Breaststroke.  The swimmer touches the wall with both hands simultaneously, rotates, and pushes off with the feet.  

Open Water - Swim meets (usually, distance freestyle events) contested in lakes, rivers, or the ocean (not in pools). 

Over Fatigue -  Is the term used when a swimmer is overly tired.  Often related to or exasperated by not eating enough calories to compensate for the individuals level of training or not getting enough sleep or a combination of both.  Outside stress can also be a factor.  Good communication between the coach and swimmer is important to prevent this from happening.

Overhead Starts - Start procedures at a meet in which swimmers of the previous heat remain in the water, close to the wall, during the start of the next heat.  Usually used in senior sessions/meets to save time and/or allow swimmers to rest before exiting the pool.

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Personal Best (PB) -  Also PR- Personal Record; The best time a swimmer has achieved so far in a given event.

Pace - The swimmer swims at a steady speed. Pace is the average speed per length or distance.  Thus a swimmer may be swimming at a pace of 1:20 (or one minute twenty seconds) per 100.  Usually, the pace is expressed in terms of 50 or 100 yards/meters.

Pace Clock - The large clocks with highly visible numbers and second hands, positioned at the ends or sides of a swimming pool so the swimmers can read their times during interval training in warm-ups or swim practice. The red hand goes around every minute (60 seconds).  The 60 is sometimes referred to as the "top" and the 30 as the "bottom". Swimmers who watch the clock and know their times improve the most - they get feedback, learn pace, and improve technique.

Paddle - Plastic devices worn on the swimmers hands during swim practice to increase resistance and to increase strength.

Pitch -  The angle position of the hands and forearms in all strokes and the feet in breaststroke.

Plateau            - All swimmers, even the world’s best, will experience what are termed “plateaus”.  It refers to a period of time when a swimmer sees little improvement in their best times.  Many factors need to be considered why swimmers experience plateaus, but usually perseverance and patience will break through.  

Points - Points earned by swimmers at a championship/scored meets for final place standings in each event and totaled by team to determine the meet champion.  Usually, 1-20 points for the top 16 places in individual events and 2-40 points for the top 16 places in relay events).  Points can only be earned in the age group that the swimmer is listed in the meet.

Pool - The facility in which practice/training and meets are conducted.

Practice - The scheduled work-outs (training) a swimmer attends with their swim team/club.

Prelims - In a Prelims and Finals (championship) format, those races/heats during which swimmers qualify to return for the Finals in each event. Prelims are circle-seeded.

Prelims and Finals - Competition in which all the heats in an event are swum (Preliminaries) and the fastest 6, 8 or 10 swimmers (depending on the number of lanes) advance to Finals.  These fastest swimmers compete again to determine the final placing, points and awards.  Most championship and many invitational meets are Prelims and Finals format.

Pre-seeding - The process of organizing swimmers into events, heats, and lanes, usually by computer, prior to the meet (as opposed to deck seeding at the meet).

Proof of Time - Frequently required for entry times at a swim meet. Proof (Official Results) that a swimmer officially achieved an entry time must be presented by a coach or team representative if asked to do so by a meet official.

Psych Sheet - A printed order of events by session with swimmers listed in order, usually fastest to slowest according to their entry times.  It does not show heats.  After scratches are turned in, the session is seeded and heat sheets are printed.  Normally used at senior, sectional, and national meets.  Also used at deck seeded meets, but heat sheets aren’t usually printed.

Pull Buoy - A flotation device used for pulling by swimmers in practice.  

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Qualifying Times (QTs) - Published times that must be achieved during a given period in order to enter certain meets.  

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Race - Any single swimming competition (i.e., preliminary, final, timed final).

Ready Room - A room/area on or near poolside, at some meets, for the swimmers to report and relax before they compete in Finals.

Records - Fastest all-time swims by course/sex/event/age group in an organization, meet, or pool.

Recovery - The phase of the arm stroke where the arm travels over the water prior to the pull.  Also, the body cannot work all-out all the time and needs recovery time.  Recovery swims are planned into workouts, and are usually done after any all-out effort, whether at practice or meets.  The more a swimmer trains, the more rest he/she needs.

Referee - The head USA Swimming-certified official at a swim meet responsible for the conduct of the meet (usually, a parent-volunteer).

Registered - Swimmers must be registered members of USA Swimming (with an ID number) in order to compete in any sanctioned competition.

Relay - A swimming event in which four swimmers (of the same sex, usually in the same age group) participate as a relay team, each swimmer swimming an equal distance of the race.  There are two types of relays:

  • Medley Relay - one swimmer swims Backstroke, one swimmer swims Breaststroke, one swimmer swims Butterfly, one swimmer swims Freestyle, in that order.  Medley Relays are conducted over 100y/m, 200y/m, and 400y/m distances.
  • Freestyle Relay - each swimmer swims Freestyle.  Freestyle relays are conducted over 100y/m, 200y/m, 400y/m, and 800y/m distances.

Relay Exchange - The exchange between the swimmer in the water finishing his/her leg and the next swimmer on the relay team.  A perfect exchange will simultaneously have the finishing swimmer's hand on the touch pad and the starting swimmer's feet just touching the starting block with the rest of the starting swimmer's body extended over the water.

Resistance Swimming – Any form of swimming with added resistance, such as drag suits, buoys, bands and stretch cords.

Results - The official listing by place of finish of the competitors in an event.  It includes the Official Time and any Points scored, as well as Disqualifications.  Host Teams usually also include in the results any Time Standards achieved by the swimmers.  Results are usually posted in the venue in an accessible location.

Ribbons - Awards earned by swimmers at meets for finishing in the top places. They vary in size, color, design and method of presentation.

Roll - Refers to the side-to-side motion of the body along the long axis in Freestyle (body roll).  

Rules - USA Swimming annually publishes the Rules and Regulations that govern the sport in the United States.  Published yearly.

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S-Pull Pattern - A method of pulling in freestyle swimming that encourages an outward and inward sweeping motion of the hand and arms rather then a straight back (point A to point B) motion.  Allows the arms to travel a greater distance through the water and results in greater distance per stroke.  The "S" pull pattern also encourages better body roll.

Safety - The responsible and careful actions of those participating in a swim meet and practice. 

Sanction - A competition or time trial must be sanctioned (approved) by USA Swimming (through the Local Swim Committee) for the times swum to count and to be used in other sanctioned meets.  

Scoreboard - An electronic display of the times and place finish by lane of the competitors in a heat.  Some venues have scoreboards that also display the event information and the swimmers' names.

Scratch - To withdraw from an event after having declared an intention to participate.  In a Prelims and Finals (championship) format, swimmers who qualify for finals usually have 30 minutes to withdraw if they don’t wish to participate.  Failure to participate in finals without scratching normally results in disqualification from the rest of the meet. In a timed finals format, there’s no penalty for missing an event without scratching.

Sculling - Skill drills performed with the hands and arms to help swimmers be more aware of the sweeps and pitches of the hands and arms.  Also, the sculling motions of the feet are important in breaststroke kick.

Section – Our section is one of the fastest in the country.  It consists of member teams from the following LSC’s.  South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, South Eastern, Kentucky and West Virginia. 

Sectionals – The meets hosted by the Section.   There are 2 sectional meets for the Senior swimmers, one in the spring (Short Course) and one in the Summer (Long Course) and 1 Age Group Sectional Meet in the spring (Short Course) for those 14 & Under that meet the qualifying times.   

Seed - To assign the swimmers to heats and lanes according to their submitted entry or preliminary times.  

Send Offs – The interval that each swim is scheduled to be started in practice.  100’s free on the 1:30 mean that each 100 must be started 1:30 (1 minute 30 seconds) apart.

Senior Meet - A meet that is for senior level swimmers and is not divided into age groups. Qualification times are usually necessary and will vary depending on the level of the meet.

Senior Swimming - A program for the better swimmers generally13 and over.

Session - Portion of meet distinctly separated from other portions by time (usually a morning or afternoon set of events for different age groups).

Set - Swim workouts are divided into sets of swims in a particular stroke, style, and distance, such as kick sets, pull sets, distance sets, sprint sets, IM sets, etc with a particular purpose.  Sets are given in terms of the distance to be swum, calculated in yards or meters, depending on the pool.  Therefore, a "set" of "25’s" means swimming one length of the pool before resting; "50's" means two lengths, and so on.  

Shave - The removal of all arm, leg, and exposed torso hair, to decrease the 'drag' or resistance of the body moving through the water and to increase the “feel” for the swimmer.  Usually done only at very important meets.   This cannot be done on sight and must be done at the swimmers home or hotel room.  Plan your time accordingly.

Short Course (SC) - A 25-yard or 25-meter pool (or a 50-meter pool divided into a 25-yard/meter course by a movable bulkhead).  The swim year is divided into two seasons: Short Course season, competed in 25-yard/meter pools during fall and winter, and Long Course season, competed in 50-meter pools during spring and summer.  See also Long Course (LC).

Six-Beat Kick - Six leg movements during one arm stroke (both arms) in Freestyle for racing (usually, for sprinting and finishing distance races). The best kick for racing and training tempos. Similarly, 2- and 4- beat kicks may be used.

Skinsuit or Swim Skin- A slang term for a swimsuit designed to be very tight-fitting and to have minimum drag in the water.  New body suits of improved fabric have become popular recently. 

Split - A portion of an event, shorter than the total distance, which is timed (i.e., a swimmer’s intermediate 25-yard/meter or 50-yard/meter time is recorded as the swimmer swims the 100-yard/meter race). It is common to take multiple splits for the longer distances. Splits help coaches provide performance feedback to their swimmers.

Speed Training – Speed work is done to help swimmers race, sprint and to be able to change gears in longer races.

Sports Medicine and Science - A comprehensive use of science and technology to develop better training methods for athletes.  In USA Swimming, the sports medicine and science program deals with everything from blood and respiratory condition to the biomechanics of the swimmer to proper nutrition.

Stand Up - The command given by the Starter to release the swimmers from their starting position.

Starter - The USA Swimming-certified official responsible for signaling the beginning of a race and ensuring that all swimmers have a fair take-off (usually, a parent/volunteer).

Start - The beginning of a race; the dive used to begin a race.  Just before a swimmer’s heat, the Referee will blow a quick series of whistles to inform the swimmers to be behind their respective blocks.  He will then blow one long whistle to inform the swimmers to step up on their blocks.  The Starter will then give the command “Take your mark”, and after all the swimmers become motionless, will sound the start signal.

Starting Position - The swimmer must take his mark by placing at least one foot at the front of the block.  The most common position is bent over, knees bent, feet shoulder width apart, but the track start (one foot forward, one foot back) is becoming popular.  However, the swimmer is permitted any position as long as one foot is at the front of the block and a motionless position is held prior to the start signal.

Stations - Separate portions or exercises of a dry land or weight circuit.

Step Down - The command given by the Starter to have the swimmers move off the blocks.  Usually, this command is a good indication everything is not right for the race to start.

Still Water - Water that has no current caused by a filtration/recirculation system or no waves caused by swimmers.   Also used to describe the water that the swimmer way out in front of a race is swimming in.

Strategy - An approach to a race.  The swimmer and coach discuss possible race strategies prior to the swim ... e.g., go out fast and hold it, negative split, build steadily to a fast finish, race pace (splits),drafting or to stay close to a certain swimmer in another lane, etc.

Streamline - It often refers to making the body long and narrow (arms/hands together and outstretched, head down between arms, feet together pointed back) in the glide off the starts and walls, but it also applies to all aspects of the strokes.   The more swimmers can create a streamlined effect with their bodies, the more efficient they will be in the water

Stroke - There are four competitive techniques (strokes):  Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle.

Stroke Count or Stroke Rate - The number of strokes one takes per length or the amount of time taken for one complete stroke cycle, respectively.

Stroke Drills - Sets in training used to develop and hone proper stroke techniques by isolating various components of a specific stroke.  Skill drills are used every day with all swimmers. 

Stroke Judge - The USA Swimming-certified official positioned at the side of the pool, walking the length of the course as the swimmers race, responsible for observing the swim to ensure swimmers follow the stroke rules (usually, a parent/volunteer).

Stroke Length - The length the body travels during one complete stroke cycle.

Suit - The bathing suit worn by the swimmer, in the water, during competition. The Team Suit is usually a standard tight lycra suit, the Championship Suit is usually a very tight "paper" suit, and the Practice Suits are usually loose fitting lycra suits.

Sweeps - Refers to the direction and movement of arms through the water in all strokes and to the legs in breaststroke.  Terms such as upsweep, down-sweep, in-sweep and back-sweep are used. 

Swimmer’s Shoulder (Tendonitis) - Usually refers to tenderness and soreness in the shoulders caused by repetitive use (arm overhead).  In most cases, with proper care, exercises, and stroke technique, even severe tendonitis can be controlled.  

Swim-Off - In a Prelims and Finals (championship) format, a second race after the scheduled event to break a tie between swimmers, in order to determine which swimmer makes it into which finals heat or the order of the alternates.  

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Taper - The resting process during training for swimming competition.  Reduced training volume and intensity gives the body and mind a break from the rigors of intense training.  Coupled with quality rest, it allows the swimmer’s body time to repair itself and to restore its energy reserves to prepare for major competition.  Studies have found tapering to produce a marked increase in muscle strength. Tapers depend on the level of training the prior 3- 9 months  A perfectly designed taper will enable the swimmer to compete at their peak capability and is one of the most difficult aspects of swim coaching.   It is not magic but is designed to allow the body to gradually rest to help it over-compensate for the prior work loads.  Rest and more rest.

Team - A USA Swimming registered organization with the mission of providing a competitive swim program.  Also known as a Club.

Tethered Swimming - Any form of swimming with added resistance using bands, stretch cords or anchored ropes and cords.

Timed Finals - Competition in which all the heats in an event are swum and the final places, points, and awards for the event are determined by the resulting times of all swimmers in all heats.  The slower times will be seeded in the first heats with the fastest times in the last heat.  Most age group meets are timed finals.

Timer - The volunteers sitting behind the starting blocks/finish end of pool, who are responsible for activating the backup buttons for the automatic timing system and recording the time from a stopwatch.

Time Standards - Set of times by course, event, age group, and classification established by USA Swimming for classifying swimmers for entry into meets (e.g., a 10 year-old girl who’s best time in the 50y Freestyle is 32.05 seconds is classified as an “A” swimmer and can’t compete in a BB/B/C/Mini meet in that event).  The time standards are updated every four years and are based on the Top 16 times for each event/age group.  Also, Qualifying Times.

Time Trial - An event swum separate from the regular competition that gives swimmers the chance to achieve an Official Time, usually in an effort to meet a Qualifying Time. Time trials are races against time – no places are determined and no awards are presented.

Timing - In all strokes, correct timing or coordination of body, arms, legs, and head is needed to perform at a highly efficient level.

Timing Judge - The USA Swimming-certified official responsible for determining the swimmer’s Official Time (usually, a parent-volunteer).  

Timing System - The method used to obtain times for races at a swim meet.  There are 3 types of timing systems:

  • manual (stopwatches)
  • semi-automatic - manually-operated buttons of an electronic timing system
  • automatic - touch pads of an electronic timing system

Timing System Operator - The USA Swimming-certified official responsible for the setup and operation of the automatic/electronic timing system (usually, a parent-volunteer).  

Tired Times – Most swimmers, in particular, the older swimmers will be swimming most of the season tired and their times should be compared to swims during the same time of season/ month as swims from the previous year.  Best times will not normally be achieved by swimmers training effectively and hard as occurs during mid season.

Top 16 - The top 16 performances in each course/sex/event/age group published annually by USA Swimming.  Top 16 Reportable times are published at the beginning of the swim year so that qualifying performances can be compiled and tabulated.  The final lists are published the following year and certificates are awarded to the swimmers.

Touch Pad - The removable plate (on the end of pools) that is connected to an automatic timing system.  A swimmer must touch the touchpad at the end of a race to register a time.

Touch - At the end of the prescribed distance, the finish of the race.

Transition - In the Individual Medley event, refers to the turn where the swimmer finishes one stroke and begins the next stroke (e.g., the transition from Butterfly to Backstroke) (as opposed to the intermediate turns during each stroke/leg).

Travel Fund - A sum of money set aside by some clubs / LSC’s to offset a portion of the expenses for travel and entry fees to designated (usually, national level) meets.  It can also refer to the charges on some meet fees to go to the host club or LSC.

Trophy - Awards earned by swimmers / teams at meets for finishing in the top places. They vary in size, design, and method of presentation.

Turn Judge - The USA Swimming-certified official positioned at the ends of the pool responsible for observing the turn to ensure swimmers follow the turn rules (usually, a parent/volunteer).  Frequently, this official is a Stoke & Turn Judge watching both the turns and the swim.

Turnover - The number of times a swimmer's arms pull/recover (cycle) in a given distance or time during a race.   It can also be used in describing a DQ in backstroke, ie: the swimmer turned over to the breast during the race.

Two-Beat Kick - Two leg movements during one freestyle stroke (both arms) for racing (usually, in distance events).  Similarly, 4- and 6- beat kicks may be used.  

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USA Swimming - USA Swimming, Inc., the national governing body for amateur competitive swimming in the United States.

Unattached - A registered swimmer who is not attached to a registered USA swim team.  If a swimmer changes teams, that swimmer must swim unattached for 120 days from the last day of meet competition representing the former team.

Underwater Cycle or Pullout - Long, full arm stroke past the hips used in breaststroke after the start and off the walls on the turns.

Underwater Recovery - In Butterfly, a violation of the stroke rules when the arms fail to recover over the water.  Usually seen at the walls in the turns and the finish when the swimmer miscalculates the distance to the wall and during the swim by younger, inexperienced swimmers. It is also the legal means to recover on breaststroke.

Uniform - The various parts of clothing a swimmer wears at a meet.  May include: Team Parka, Team Warm-up suit, Team T-shirt, Team suit, Team cap, goggles, Team bag, etc.

Unofficial Time - The time displayed on a scoreboard or read over the PA system by the announcer immediately after the race.  After the time has been checked and adjusted, if necessary, it will become the official time.  

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Venue - The facility in which a swimming competition is conducted.

Vertical - At a right angle to the horizontal plane (water surface).  

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Warm-down - - A slower, longer swim after a race used by the swimmer to rid the body of excess lactic acid.  Essential to the prevention of injury.  Should be 10 minutes or longer after each swim unless the coach designates or time dictates otherwise.

Warm-up - The readying exercises and practice session a swimmer does before the meet or their event to get their muscles loose and ready to race.  Essential to the prevention of injury.   

Watch - The hand held device (stopwatch) used by timers and coaches for timing a swimmer’s race and taking splits.

Weights - The various barbells, benches, machines, etc. used by swimmers during their dry land training.  Also, training sessions in the 'Weight Room'.

Whistle - The sound a Referee makes to signal for quiet before they give the command to start the race.   

Whistle Starts – A series of whistles the starter, or referee, does to announce the starting commands before each race.  Several short whistles means the race will star shortly and to be ready.  One long whistle means get into position to receive the starting commands.  Swimmers failing to obey the starting whistle series can be disqualified.

Work Out - The practice/training sessions a swimmer attends.  

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Yardage - The distance a swimmer races or swims in practice. Total yardage is usually calculated for each practice session.  

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Zone - One of 4 administrative divisions of USA Swimming with supervisory responsibilities within certain geographical boundaries designated by USA Swimming.  South Carolina Swimming is in the Southern Zone.  

Zones - Southern Zone All-Star Championship Meet contested once a year at the end of the Long Course season.  Swimmers must meet a minimum qualifying standards and be win a place on the team based on that seasons times.

Zoomer - A special fin used for swimming and kicking.  Not recommended for our program.  

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