USA Swimming’s “Short Course” and “Long Course” Seasons


USA Swimming’s “Short Course” and “Long Course” Seasons


USA Swimming divides the training year into two seasons -- a “short course” season and a “long course” season.”

The "short course” season runs from September to March. That corresponds to our winter and summer months.

The "long course” season runs from April to early August, corresponding to the spring and the summer months.


Short Course Season

During the “short course” season, swimmers train for competitions the events of which are swum in 25-yard lengths (e.g., 50 Y Freestyle, 200 Y Individual Medley, 1650 Y Freestyle). 

“Short course” competitions are reasonable since many American swimmers (and meet organizers) only have access to indoor, 25-yard pools during the winter.  The 92Y, Hunter and the SH pools, for example, are both 25-yard pools.

In "short course" training and competing the swimmer encounters a wall, and has to perform a turn, every twenty-five yards. 

By definition, then, a 50 Y race is contested in the short course format. The swimmer dives in, swims two lengths of the 25-yard course, and finishes where she started, making one turn in the process.

A 100 Y race involves swimming four 25-yard lengths and making three turns.  A 200 Y race involves swimming eight 25-yard lengths and making seven turns, and so on.

As you can see, if one wants to excel in “short course” swimming, learning how to do turns well is really important.

Long Course Season

By contrast, during the “long course” season, swimmers train to compete in meets the events of which are measured in 50-meter lengths (e.g., 50 M Freestyle, 200 M Individual Medley, 1500 M Freestyle).

In this "long course" training and competing, the swimmer encounters a wall only every fifty meters.

For example, in a 50-meter race, the swimmer dives in, swims just one length of a 50-meter course, does no turn, and ends up at the opposite end of the course from where he started...

A 100-meter involves swimming two 50-meter lengths, in the process doing one turn to connect the two stretches. 

A 200-meter swim involves covering four lengths of the 50-meter course, and doing three turns.


The Arithmetic

What’s the actual difference in length between a 50-yard swim and a 50-meter swim? For you mathematicians, here’s the calculation.

A meter is 39.37 inches; a yard is only 36 inches. Since a meter is 3.37 inches longer than a yard. 50 meters is (50 X 3.37) inches longer than 50 yards. That's 168.50 inches longer, or 4.68 yards longer than 50 yards.

For us non-mathematicians, we just need to know that a 50-meter stretch of water – the shortest stretch swum at a “long-course”  meet -- is about 55 yards, more than half a football field.

Said another way, a 50-meter pool is two 25-yard pools like the Rome High School pool placed end-to-end, plus five more yards.

Facility Availability

Since “long course” meets can only take place in facilities with long pools that allow 50-meter stretches, there are fewer pools in the region that can accommodate “long course” meets compared to the number that host “short course” meets.

In the Metropolitan area 50-meter pools include those at Lehman College, Felix Festa Middle School Pool, Hoftsra University, Eisenhower park aquatic center and few others.

Adapting to Long Course Swimming

Functioning in a sport with two measuring systems -- a 25-yard-based (short-course) system and a 50-meter-based (long-course system) – does take some mental gymnastics. But we in the swimming community adapt and pretty soon we take the dual system for granted.

We soon learn that 50-meter swims simply take 3-5 seconds longer than 50-yard swims; that 100-meter swims take about 8-9 seconds longer than 100 yard swims; that 200 meter swims 18-24 seconds longer than 200 yard swims, and so on.

 Times achieved in short course meets often have Y or SCY (short course yards) next to them.  Times attained in long course meets are designated by M, L, or LCM (long course meters).

Note: In other parts of the world, short course pools are 25 meters rather than 25 yards, and times swum in them are designated SCM (short course meters).  

Many swimmers like long-course swimming better than short-course swimming. They find they can stretch out and get into a good rhythm on each length of the pool before having to interrupt things with a turn.  They like the endurance they develop.

Hopefully this explanation has put things in some perspective. If you have any other questions, please let us know. Any of the coaches can answer them.

More Information

Please see the link below for time conversion