Common Swim Terms


Glossary of Common Swimming Terms

AGE GROUP SWIM MEET- all USA Swimming registered swimmers, 14 years of age and under, who have met the qualifying time standard for a specific event(s) are eligible to participate in their age category. Age on the first day of competition shall govern the entire meet. (See also: Senior Swim Meet)

AGE GROUP SWIMMER– all USA SWIMMING registered swimmers age 14 and under

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SWIMMING- the name of the Local Swimming Committee (LSC), charged by USA SWIMMING to govern competitive swimming in Southern California.

BLOCK – The starting platform.

BULKHEAD– A wall constructed to divide a pool into different courses, such as a 50 meter pool into two 25-yard courses.

CHECK-IN (POSITIVE CHECK-IN)- The procedure required before a swimmer swims an event in a deck-seeded meet. Sometimes referred to as positive check in, the swimmer must mark their name on a list posted by the meet host.

CIRCLE SEEDING- A method of seeding swimmers when they are participating in a prelims/finals event. The fastest 18 to 24 swimmers are seeded in the last three heats, with the fastest swimmers being in the inside lanes.

CIRCLE SWIMMING– Performed by staying to the right of the black line when swimming in a lane to enable maximum use of pool space.

CLERK-OF-COURSE- an area at the meet where swimmers report before their event to be arranged into their heat and lane assignments. The clerk of course is generally located near the starting area.

CUT– Slang term for qualifying time. A time standard necessary to attend a particular meet or event.

DECK SEEDING- a procedure of assigning swimmers to proper lanes and heats immediately before each event at the Clerk of Course on the deck. (See also: Psych Sheet).

DQ or DISQUALIFICATION– Occurs when an official observes a rule violation by the swimmer. A disqualified swimmer can not receive awards or use the result as an official time.

DRILL– An exercise involving isolation of a portion or part of a stroke, used to improve


DRYLAND TRAINING– Training done out of the water. Aids and enhances swimming

performance. Usually includes stretching, weight training, and/or calisthenics.

ENTRY FORM – Form on which a swimmer enrolls in a competition.

FALSE START – Occurs when a swimmer is moving at the starting signal. In USA Swimming, one false start will generally result in disqualification.

FINALS (CHAMPIONSHIP OR CONSOLATION)- the session of a meet where the meet winner is determined. It is generally swum in the evening. Finalists are determined by the fastest swimmers in the preliminary rounds (generally swum earlier in the day).

FLAGS – Pennants strung across the pool 5 yards or meters from the end of the pool. They enable backstrokers to execute a turn more efficiently by counting their strokes from the flags to the wall.

NGG- the official abbreviation for the Nellie Gail Gators Swim Club for use on all entry forms for meets.

HEAT SHEET- a listing of all swimmers by event number, heat, and lane assignments in the meet. These are available for purchase at the meet. Funds go toward offsetting the costs of running a meet.

IM (INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY)– A race done by an individual swimmer consisting of one leg of each of the competitive strokes - butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and any other stroke (generally freestyle), in that order.

LONG COURSE- a type of competitive pool, which measures 50 meters in length. The standard size for all international competition and all world record swimming is the 50-meter course. Typically meets conducted from the end of April through August are swum Long Course.

MIDDLE DISTANCE – Term used to refer to events of 200 yards/meters to 500 yards/400 meters in length.

NEGATIVE SPLIT – Swimming the second half of the race faster than the first half.

OFFICIAL – A judge on the deck of the pool at a sanctioned competition who enforces USA

Swimming rules. There are stroke and turn judges, administrative officials, starters, timers, and referees.

PACE CLOCK – Large clock with a large second hand and a smaller minute hand, used to check pace or maintain intervals in practice. May also be digital.

PRELIMS (PRELIMINARIES)- in certain meets, the qualifying rounds held for each event to determine the finalists.

PROOF OF TIME- a requirement at some meets to make certain that all swimmers have legally met the time standards for that meet.

PSYCH SHEET- a ranking by seeding times for all the swimmers entered in each race of a meet, sometimes used at meets in place of a heat sheet.

REFEREE- the USA SWIMMING official who has the authority over all other officials at the meet. He makes all final decisions and sees to the efficient running of the meet.

SCRATCH – To withdraw from an event in a competition.

SEEDING TIMES- the time a swimmer uses to enter a meet. This time, which is written on the entry card, determines one's heat and lane in the particular event.

SENIOR SWIM MEET- all USA SWIMMING registered swimmers who have met the qualifying time standard for a specific event(s) are eligible to compete.

SENIOR SWIMMER– all USA SWIMMING registered swimmers age 15 and over

SHORT COURSE- a type of competitive pool, which measures 25 yards or 25 meters in length. Typically meets conducted from October through the end of March are swum Short Course.

SPLIT- a per lap time that coaches often record for teaching the concept of pacing. For instance, a swimmer's time for each 25-yard leg of a 100-yard event is his split.

STARTER- the USA SWIMMING official at a meet responsible for starting each heat and calling the next to the blocks.

STREAMLINE – The position used to gain maximum distance during a start and/or push-off from the wall in which the swimmer’s body is as tight as it can be.

STROKE JUDGE- a certified USA SWIMMING official, who determines the legality of swimmers' strokes and disqualifies those who do not conform to USA SWIMMING rules.

SWIM-A-THON- a swim to raise funds in which each team member solicits pledges per length for a maximum 200 lengths or 2 hours time period. Typically, a portion of the proceeds goes to USA Swimming and the rest to the team.

"SWIMMING WORLD"- a monthly magazine with articles and stories about competitive swimming as well as some regional and all national meet results. Write "Swimming World" / P.O. Box 45497 / Los Angeles, CA 90045.

TAPER – The final preparation phase of a season. Prior to major competition, an older, more experienced swimmer will ease yardage and allow the body to recover. Often during taper, swimmers will shave his/her entire body to reduce resistance, aid in the dissipation of lactic acid, and heighten sensation in the water.

TIME STANDARDS- certain qualifying times which have been set up annually by USA SWIMMING for all events in all levels of meets to insure that all competitors are of reasonably the same ability in their respective meets. The swimmer's goals should be betterment of his time progressing from the "B" standard to the Nationals.

TIME TRIAL – A time-only swim which is not part of a regular meet event.

TOUCH PAD- the part of an electronic timing system that rests in the water at the finishing end of each lane. Swimmer's times are electronically recorded when the pad is touched.

"TOP 10"- a tabulation of the Top 10 times in every age group and every event of all USA SWIMMING competition from the previous season. The short course "Top 10" are published in August and the long course "Top 10" are published every December.

UNATTACHED- the status a swimmer receives when changing from one USA SWIMMING club to another. A swimmer must be "unattached" for 120 days from their last competition with their previous USA SWIMMING club. During this time they may compete individually, but not in relays, without representing any club.

USA SWIMMING- the governing body for all amateur swimming in the United States. National Headquarters are in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

USA SWIMMING # (ID)- the personal registration number of each athlete member in USA Swimming. The formula for deriving your USA SWIMMING # is: birth date (6 digit format MMDDYY), first three letters of the first name, middle initial, and first four letters of the last name. For example: John A. Smith was born September 1, 1959. His USA SWIMMING # is 090159johasmit