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The Basics

The Basics:

For those new to the sport... competitive swimming consists of 5 strokes: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, and individual medley.

Swim meets offer a variety of events and distances depending on the age group, classification and host meet location. Meets are usually held during the weekends over a period of 1, 2 or 3 days (swimmers may swim on 1 or multiple days depending on events). Athletes swim during a specific time segment each day (usually a 4-hour span) based on his or her age.

Freestyle: During freestyle events, the athlete may swim any stroke. The stroke most most commonly used is sometimes referred to as the "crawl" which is characterized by the alternating stroking of the arms over the water surface in conjunction with an alternating up & down flutter kick. Most swimmers dive off the block at the start of the race. On turns and finishes, some part of the swimmer must touch the wall. Most swimmers do a flip turn at the wall to change direction.

Breaststroke: The breaststroke requires simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. The hands are pressed out from in front of the breast in a heart shaped pattern and recovered under or on the surface of the water. The kick is a simultaneous somewhat circular motion similar to the action of the legs of a frog. Most swimmers dive off the block at the start of the race. On turns and at the finish, the swimmer must touch the wall with both hands at the same time, at, above, or below the water.

Backstroke: During the backstroke, the swimmer is on his or her back during the race. The stroke consists of alternating the arms with a flutter kick while on the back. The competitor starts the race in the water as opposed to on the blocks. On turns, the swimmer can rotate to the stomach to preform a flip turn and some part of the swimmer must touch the wall. The swimmer must finish the race on the back.

Butterfly: The butterfly features a simultaneous recovery of the arms over the water in conjunction with and undulating dolphin kick. During the kick, the swimmer must keep both legs together and may not flutter, use a scissor kick nor a breaststroke kick. The athlete dives off the block at the start of the race. Both hands must touch the walls at the same time on the turns and at the finish of the race.

Individual Medley: The individual medley, commonly referred to as the IM, features all four strokes of equal distance. The swimmer dives off the block at the start of the race. In this event this competitor begins with the butterfly, followed by the backstroke, the breaststroke, and finishes the race with the freestyle.

Freestyle Relay: This event consists of 4 freestyle swimmers, with each competitor swimming one quarter distance of the race.

Individual Medley Relay: During this relay, all 4 strokes are swum with each competitor swimming one quarter distance of the race. The first swimmer swims the backstroke, the second swims the breaststroke, the third swims the butterfly, and the final swimmer swims freestyle.

Race Starts: At the start of each event, swimmers are assigned a lane and heat and line up behind the starting blocks accordingly. When the swimmer's heat is about to take place, he or she will be called to the starting position by the starter who visually checks that all competitors are still. When all swimmers are set, the starting horn is sounded to begin the race. If the starter believes that one of the swimmers has moved, left early, or gotten an unfair advantage, that swimmer may be disqualified from the race.

Pools: Competition pools will either be short course (25 yards or 25 meters) or long course (50 meters). USA Swimming maintains records for 25 yards, 25 meters, and 50 meter pools.

Swim Teams: USA Swimming has over 2,800 teams across the country. More than half of these teams have less than 80 swimmers, while a handful of teams have over 500 swimmers! To give you an idea where the AquaFlyers stack up, we have approximately 135 swimmers participating each short course season.

Athletes compete in different age groups and meets depending on ability and how old they are on the first day of the meet. In general, age groups consist of 10 and under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18. Many meets offer 8 and under events and at times, combine 15-18 year old swimmers.