(adapted from USA Swimming’s website)
Age Group– Division of swimmers according to age. The National Age Group divisions are: 10-under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18. Some LSCs have divided the swimmers into more convenient divisions specific to their situations: (i.e.) 8-under, 13-Over, 15-Over, Junior, Senior.
Alternate– In a Prelims/Finals meet, after the finalists are decided, the next two fastest swimmers other than the finalist are designated as alternates. The faster of the 2 being first alternate and the next being second alternate. If a finalist cannot participate, the alternates are called to take their place, often on a moments notice.
Backstroke– One of the 4 competitive racing strokes, basically any style of swimming on your back. Backstroke is swam as the first stroke in the Medley Relay and second stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, and 200 yards/meter. (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yd back)
Blocks– The starting platforms located behind each lane. Some pools have blocks at the deeper end of the pool, and some pools have blocks at both ends. Blocks have a variety of designs and can be permanent or removable.
Breaststroke– One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. Breaststroke is swam as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, and 200 yards/meter. (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yd back)
Butterfly– One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. Butterfly (nicknamed FLY) is swam as the third stroke in the Medley Relay and first stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, and 200 yards/meter. (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yard back)
Button - The manual Timing System stopping device that records a back-up time in case the touch pad malfunctioned. The button is at the end of a wire, plugged into a deck terminal box. There are usually 3 buttons per lane. It is the timer’s responsibility to push the button as the swimmer finishes the race.
Car Pool– The major transportation service provided by parents of a swim club, to shuttle swimmers to and from practices.
Cards/Timing Sheets– A card or timing sheet that may either be handed to the swimmer in the bullpen or given to the timer behind the lane. Cards/timing sheets usually list the swimmers name, USA-S number, seed time, event number, event description, and the lane and heat number the swimmer will swim in. Backup times are written on these cards. Each event may have a separate card.
Championship Meet– The meet held at the end of a season. Qualification times are usually necessary to enter meet.
Championship Finals– The top 6 or 8 swimmers (depending on the # of pool lanes) in a Prelims/Finals meet who, after the Prelims swim, qualify to return to the Finals. The Championship Final is the fastest heat of finals when multiple heats are held.
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.
Check Out– The parents’ job at the motel. This is listed here to remind parents to request "Late Check Out" times if offered at no charge by the motel. This makes the last day of the meet a little less hectic.
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 (Lane 4 in the final 3 heats).
Consolation Finals– After the fastest 6 or 8 swimmers, the next 6 or 8 swimmers (depending on the # of pool lanes) in a Prelims/Finals meet who, after the Prelims swim, qualify to return to the Finals. Consolations are the second fastest heat of finals when multiple heats are held and are conducted before the Championship heat.
Course– Designated distance (length of pool) for swimming competition. (Ie) Long Course = 50 meters / Short Course = 25 yards or 25 meters.
Deck– The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches. No one but an "authorized" USA Swimming member may be on the deck during a swim competition.
Distance– How far a swimmer swims. Distances for short course are: 25 yards (1 length), 50 yards (2 lengths),100 yards (4 lengths), 200 yards (8 lengths), 400 yards (16 lengths), 500 yards (20 lengths), 1000 yards (40 lengths), 1650 yards (66 lengths). Distances for long course are: 50 meters (1 length), 100 meters (2 lengths), 200 meters (4 lengths), 400 meters (8 lengths), 800 meters (16 lengths), 1500 meters (30 lengths).
Disqualified (DQ)– A swimmers performance is not counted because of a rules infraction. A disqualification is shown by an official raising one arm with open hand above their head.
Dropped Time - When a swimmer goes faster than the previous performance they have "dropped their time".
Dry-land Training– The exercises and various strength programs swimmers do out of the water.
Electronic Timing– The timing system usually has touchpads in the water, junction boxes on the deck with hook up cables, buttons for backup timing, and a computer type console that prints out the results of each race. Some systems are hooked up to a scoreboard that displays swimmers.
False Start– When a swimmer leaves the starting block before the horn or gun. One false start will disqualify a swimmer or a relay team, although the starter or referee may disallow the false start due to unusual circumstances.
Flags– Pennants that are suspended over the width of each end of the pool approximately 15 feet from the wall.
Freestyle– One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. Freestyle (nicknamed Free) is swam as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the I.M.
Gun or Bell Lap– The part of a freestyle distance race (400 meters or longer) when the swimmer has 2 lengths plus 5 yards to go. The starter fires a gun shot or rings a bell over the lane of the lead swimmer when swimmer is at the backstroke flags.
Heats– A division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time. The results are compiled by the swimmers’ time swam, after all heats of the event are completed.
Heat Award– A ribbon or coupon given to the winner of a single heat at an age group swim meet.
Heat Sheet– The pre-meet printed listings of swimmers seed times in the various events at a swim meet. These sheets vary in accuracy, since the coaches submit swimmers times many weeks before the meet. Heat sheets are sold at the admissions table and are used mainly to make sure the swimmer has been properly entered in all the events they signed up for. Parents enjoy looking at the seedings prior to the race plus swimmers can tell the order the events will be conducted and get a rough idea how long the meet sessions will last.
High Point– An award given to the swimmer scoring the most points in a given age group at a swim meet.
Horn– A sounding device used in place of a gun. Used mainly with a fully automatic timing system.
IM/Individual Medley– A swimming event using all 4 of the competitive strokes on consecutive lengths of the race. The order must be: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle. Equal distances must be swum of each stroke.
Interval– A specific elapsed time for swimming or rest used during swim practice.
Kick– The leg movements of a swimmer. A popular word "yelled" to encourage swimmers during a race.
Lane– The specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim. (e.g., Lane 1 or Lane 2). Pools with starting blocks at only one end: As the swimmers stand behind the blocks, lanes are numbered from Right (lane 1) to Left (Lane 6).
Lane Lines– Lane lines are the continuous floating markers attached to a cable stretched from the starting end to the turning end of the pool. They are used for the purpose of separating each lane and quieting the waves caused by racing swimmers.
Lap– One length of the course. Sometimes may also mean down and back (2 lengths) of the course.
Lap Counter– The large numbered cards (or the person turning the cards) used during the freestyle events 500 yards or longer. Counting is done from the end opposite the starting end. The numbers on the cards are "odd numbers" only with the final lap being designated by a bright orange card.
Leg– The part of a relay event swam by a single team member or a single stroke in the IM.
Long Course– A 50-meter pool.
LSC/Local Swim Committee– The local level administrative division of the corporation (USA-S) with supervisory responsibilities within certain geographic boundaries designated by the Corporation.
Mile– The slang referring to the 1500-meter or the 1650-yard freestyle, both of which are slightly short of a mile.
NT/No Time– The abbreviation used on a heat sheet to designate that the swimmer has not swam that event before.
Paddle– Colored plastic training devices worn on the swimmers hands during swim practice.
Prelims– Session of a Prelims/Finals meet in which the qualification heats are conducted.
Prelims-Finals– Type of meet with two sessions. The preliminary heats are usually held in the morning session. The fastest 6 or 8 (Championship Heat) swimmers, and the next fastest 6 or 8 swimmers (Consolation Heat) return in the evening to compete in the Finals. A swimmer who has qualified in the Consolation Finals may not place in the Championship Finals even if their finals time would place them so. The converse also applies.
Psych Sheet– An entry sheet showing all swimmers entered into each individual event. Sometimes referred to as a "Heat Sheet" or meet program. However, a “heat sheet” would show not only every swimmer in an event, but also what heat and lane they are swimming in.
Pull Buoy– A flotation device used for pulling by swimmers in practice.
Relays– A swimming event in which 4 swimmers participate as a relay team each swimmer swimming an equal distance of the race. There are two types of relays: 1) Medley relay - One swimmer swims Backstroke, one swimmer swims Breaststroke, one swimmer swims Butterfly, one swimmer swims Freestyle, in that order. 2) Freestyle relay - Each swimmer swims freestyle.
Scratch– To withdraw from an event after having declared an intention to participate. Some meets have scratch deadlines and specific scratch rules, and if not followed, swimmer can be disqualified from remaining events.
Sectionals– The nickname for Speedo Championship Series.
Seed– Assign the swimmers heats and lanes according to their submitted or preliminary times.
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.
Shave– The process of removing all arm, leg, and exposed torso hair, to decrease the "drag" or resistance of the body moving through the water. Used only by senior level swimmers at very important (Championship) meets.
Short Course– A 25-yard or 25-meter pool.
Split– A portion of an event, shorter than the total distance, that is timed (e.g., a swimmer’s first 50 time is taken as the swimmer swims the 100 race. There are multiple splits for the longer distances.
State Qualifier– A swimmer who has made the necessary cut off times to enter the State meet.
Stroke Judge– The official positioned at the side of the pool, walking the length of the course as the swimmers race. If the Stroke Judge sees something illegal, they report to the referee and the swimmer may be disqualified.
Swim-off– In a Prelims/Finals type competition, a race after the scheduled event to break a tie. The only circumstance that warrants a swim-off is to determine which swimmer makes finals or an alternate, otherwise ties stand.
Taper– The resting phase of a senior swimmer at the end of the season before the championship meet.
Timed Finals– Competition in which only heats are swum and final placings are determined by those times.
Time Standard – A time set by a meet or LSC or USA-S (etc) that a swimmer must achieve for qualification or recognition.
Timer– The volunteers sitting behind the starting blocks/finish end of pool, who are responsible for getting watch times on events and activating the backup buttons for the timing system.
Top 16–A list of times compiled by the LSC or USA-S that recognizes the top 16 swimmers in each age group (boys & girls) by each event and distance. The number 16 was arbitrarily chosen because it would normally fill the finals and consoles heats at a swim meet.
Touch Out– To reach the touchpad and finish first in a close race.
Touch Pad– The removable plate (on the end of pools) that is connected to an automatic timing system. A swimmer must properly touch the touchpad to register an official time in a race.
Unattached (UN)– An athlete member who competes, but does not represent a club or team.
Warm-down– The recovery swimming a swimmer does after a race when pool space is available.
Warm-up– The practice and "loosening" up session a swimmer does before the meet or their event is swum.
Watch– The hand held device used by timers and coaches for timing a swimmers races and taking splits.
Whistle– The sound a starter/referee makes to signal for quiet before they give the command to start the race.
Work Out– The practice sessions a swimmer attends.
Yardage– The distance a swimmer races or swims in practice. Total yardage can be calculated for each practice session.
Zones– The country is divided up into 4 major zones: Eastern - Southern - Central - Western. At the end of the long course season (in August) the Zone Administration sponsors a championship age group meet.