Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Swimming Terms:


“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, Timing System Operator, Timing Judge, Recorder, and Announcer are located. Usually, all the administrative functions of the meet are conducted here.

Age Group – Division of swimmers according to age, usually in two year band. The National Age Group Divisions are: 10-under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18. Some LSC’s have divided the swimmers into more convenient divisions specific to their situations (i.e.): 8-under, 13-over, Junior, Senior.

Alternate – In a Prelims/Finals meet, after the finalists are decided, the next two fastest swimmers other than the finalists are designated as alternates. The faster of the two being the first alternate and the next being second alternate. If a finalist cannot participate, the alternates are called to take their place.

Alternate Breathing – Breathing bilaterally on both sides in freestyle swimming, every third stroke cycle. For example, breathing to the right side then swimming three strokes and breathing to the left side, then swimming three strokes and breathing to the right side, etc.). Also known as 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. Also a term coaches use for the beginning of all four strokes indicating the “high elbow”, “catch”, or “early vertical forearm”.

Announcer – The person who announces meet information over the public address system at a meet. This is usually a parent volunteer.

Approved Meet – A meet conducted with sufficient USA Swimming officials to certify conformance to USA Swimming rules. The meet may include competitors who are not USA Swimming members. The meet may be a competition sanctioned at the LSC level with the added approval of USA Swimming because both member and non-member athletes will be competing.

ASCA – The America Swim Coaches Association. The professional organization for swim coaches throughout the nation. Certifying coaches and offering many services for coaches education and career advancement. This is located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

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

Assisted Swimming – Any form of swimming with assistance to swim faster, such as stretch cords.

Attached – Denotes belonging to a specific USA-S Swim Team.



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, basically any style of swimming on your back. Backstroke is swum as the first stroke in the Medley Relay and second  stroke in the Individual Medley. Racing distances are 50 yards/meters, 100 yards/meters, and 200 yards/meters. (LSC’s with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yard back).

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 tack in basketball. 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 starting 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 dryland training and for exercises usually associated with rehabbing a shoulder injury.

Blocks – The starting platforms located behind each lane. Minimum water depth for use of the starting blocks is 4 feet. Blocks have a variety of designs and can be permanent or removable.

Body Position – The most important technique in swimming is to have the proper body position.

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.

BOD – Board of Directors of the Local Swim Committee (LSC) or USA Swimming (USA-S)

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

Breaststroke – One of the four competitive racing strokes. Breaststroke is swam as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the Individual Medley. Racing distances are 50 yards/meters, 100 yards/meters, and 200 yards/meters. (LSC’s with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yard breast).

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

Bulkhead – A movable turn wall or structure in 50-meter pools that allows the pool to be setup for Short Course (yards or 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. Butterfly (nicknamed FLY) is swam as the third stroke in the Medley Relay and first stroke in the Individual Medley. Racing distances are 50 yards/meters, 100 yards/meters, and 200 yards/meters. (LSC’s with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yard fly).

Button – Also known as the “Pickle”. Part of the automatic/electronic timing system used by the Timers on each lane to stop the clock at the end of a race.



Camp - A swimming function offered by USA-S, your LSC, or a USA-S coach. There are many types of camps for just about every level of swimmer. When selecting a camp, ask for your coach’s advice as to what will be the best for the swimmer, or call USA-S swimming for details on the many camps they offer.

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 main source of food energy used by athletes. Refer to a Nutritiion Manual for more information.

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

Championship Meet – The meet held at the end of the season. Qualification times are usually necessary to enter the meet.

Championship Finals – The top six or eight or ten swimmers (depending on the number of pool lanes) in a Prelims/Finals meet, who after the prelims have swam, qualifying to return to the Finals. The fastest heat of finals with multiple heats are held.

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

Check-In – The procedure required before a swimmer swims an event in a deck-seeded meet. Sometimes referred to as a 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 or 24 or 30 swimmers are seeded in the last three heats, with the fastest swimmers being in the inside lanes. For example, Lane 4 in the final three heats. See rule book for exact method of seeding depending on the lanes in the pool.

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.

Clinic – A scheduled meeting for the purpose of instruction. For example a coach’s clinic or an official’s clinic.

Closed Competition – Swim meets which are only open to the members of an organizational group. Summer club swim meets are considered to be “Closed Competitions".

Club -  A registered swim team that is a dues-paying method of USA-S and the local LSC.

Code of Conduct – A Code of Conduct that both swimmers and coaches are required to sign  certain USA-S/LSC sponsored events. The Code is not strict and involves common sense and proper behavior.

Colorado Timing System - A brand of automatic timing system.

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

Consolation Finals – After the fastest six or eight or ten swimmers, the next six or eight or ten swimmers (depending on the number of pool lanes) in a  Prelims/Finals who, after the prelims are sum, qualify to return to the Finals. Consolations are the second fastest heat of finals when multiple heats are held and are completed before the Championship heat.

Converted Time – A swimmer’s time in an event from one course converted to an equivalent time in that event in another course (example: SCY times converted to LCM time often done at the beginning of a season for seeding purposes when swimmers do not have recent times in the new course. There are several “accepted" conversion formulas available for coaches to use.

Convention – United States Aquatic Sports annual, week long, meeting where all rule changes are decided and working committees are established. Representatives are sent by LSC to make up the voting body.

Course – Designated distance (length of pool) for swimming competition. For example, Long Course is equal to 50 meters and Short course is equal to 25 yards or 25 meters.

Crossover Turn – Also known as a “Roll-Over Turn”. In the Individual Medley, a type of turn used in the Backstroke to Breaststroke transition. The swimmer approaches the water 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. Age Group Sectionals, Sate Meet, Senior Sectionals, US Nationals, and Olympic Trials all usually have cuts.



Deadline – The date meet entries must be “postmarked” by, to be accepted by the meet host. Making the meet deadline does 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” USA Swimming member may be on the deck during a swim competition.

Deck Entries – Accepting entries into swimming events on the first day or later day of a meet.

Deck Seeding – Heat and lane assignments are posted after swimmers have checked in or have “scratched” (indicated they are not participating in the event).

Dehydration – The abnormal depletion of body fluids (water). The most common cause of swimmers cramps and sick feelings.

Descending – Intervals or swims that decrease in time (#1 1:15, #2 1:10, #3 1:05, etc.)

Descend – To swim each lap in a faster time than the previous (Example: 4 x 50 yards on 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 – A classification of most or competition that is usually held early in the season. The purpose of a developmental meet is to allow all levels of swimmers to compete in  a low-pressure environment.

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), and 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), and 1500 meters (30 lengths).

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

Disqualified – A swimmer’s performance is not counted because of a rules infraction. A disqualification is shown by an official raising on arm with open hand above their head. The results sheet will reflect “DQ” and no time will be recorded for the event.

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

Diving Well – A separate pool or a pool set off to the side of the competition pool. This pool is deeper water and diving boards/platforms. During a meet, this area may be designated as a warm-down pool with proper supervision.

Division I, II, III – NCAA member colleges and universities are assigned divisions to compete in, depending on the school’s total enrollment. Division I being the largest universities and Division III being the smaller colleges.

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 forearm to help in the pull phase of the stroke.

Dropped Time – When a swimmer goes faster than their previous performance in an event,  have “dropped time”. Also known as a “Personal Best Time”.

Dryland – The exercises and various strength programs swimmers do out of the water.

Dry Side – The part of the Code book (rule book) that deals with the “Administrative” Regulations of Competition.

Dual Meet – Type of swim meet where two teams/clubs compete against each other.



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 on DC current (battery). The timing system usually has touchpads in the water, junction boxes on the deck with hook up cables, buttons for backup timing (pickles), and a computer-type console that prints out the results of each race. Some systems are hooked up to a scoreboard that displays a swimmer’s time.

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

Entry – An individual, relay team, or club roster’s event list in a swim competition.

Entry Chairperson – The host club’s designated person who is responsible for receiving, and making sure the entries have met the deadline.

Entry Fees – The amount per event a swimmer or relay is charged. This varies depending on the  LSC and type of meet.

Entry Limit – Each meet will usually have a limit of total swimmers they can accept, or a time limit they cannot exceed. Once an entry limit has been reached, a meet will be closed and all other entries returned.

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 or stroke over a given distance. An event equals 1 preliminary with its final or 1 timed final.



False Start – When a swimmer leaves the starting block before the horn or gun. One false start will disqualify a swimmer or relay team, although the starter or referee may declare a  false start due to unusual circumstances.

False Start Rope – A recall rope across the width of the racing pool for the purpose of stopping swimmers who were not aware of a false start. The rope is about ½ way on yard pools and about 50 feet from the starting end on meter pools.

Fastest to Slowest – A seeding method used on the longer events held at the end of a season. The fastest seeded swimmers participate in the first heats followed by the next fastest and so on.

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.

Fees – Money paid by swimmers for services such as practice fees, registration fees, USA-S membership fees, etc.

Fifteen-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 – The international rules-making organization for the sport of swimming.

Finals – The final race of each event. See “Consolation Finals”, “Timed Finals”, etc.

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

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

Fins – Large rubber flipper-type devices that fit on a swimmers feet. Used in swim practice, not competitions.

Flags – Pennants that are suspended over the width of each end of the pool approximately 15 feet from the wall.

Flip Turns – One type of turn used in Freestyle and Backstroke. Just as the swimmer approaches the wall, they tuck their body into a somersault, quickly rolls toward the wall, and pushes 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 block to the edge of the pool, or in the water with a forward dive or push off.

Freestyle – One of the four competitive racing strokes. Freestyle (nicknamed Free) is swum as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the Individual Medley. Racing distances are 50 yards/meters, 100 yards/meters, 200 yards/meters, 400 meters/500 yards, 800 meters/1000 yards, and 1500 meters/1650 yards. (LSC’s with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yard free).



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.

Goals – The short and long range targets for swimmers to aim for.

Goggles – Glasses-type devices worn by swimmers to keep their eyes from being irritated by the chlorine in the water.

Gun (or Bell) Lap – The part of a freestyle distance race (400 meters or longer) when the swimmer has two lengths plus five yards to go. The starter fires a gun shot (or rings a bell) over the lane of the lead swimmer when the swimmer is at the backstroke flags.



Heats – All of the swimmers entered in the event are divided into heats, or groups of swimmers. The results are compiled by the times swum, after all the heats of the event are completed.

Heat Award – A ribbon, coupon, or other prize given to the winner of a single heat at a swim meet.

Heat Sheet – The pre-meet printed listings of swimmers seed times in the various events at a swim meet.

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 Point – An award given to the swimmer scoring the most points in a given age group at a swim meet. All meets do not offer high point awards; check the pre-meet information for details.

HOD – House of Delegates. The ruling body of an LSC composed of the designated representatives of each club plus the Board of Directors (BOD) of the LSC. One vote per club and board member. Also refers to the national USAS Convention Meeting.

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

Horn – A sounding device. 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.

Hypoxic 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.



Illegal – Doing something against the rules that is cause for disqualification.

IM – Individual Medley. A swimming event using all four of the competitive strokes on consecutive lengths of the race. The order must be: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle. Equal distances must be swam of each stroke. Distances offered: 100 yards, 200 yards/meters, and 400 yards/meters.

IMX – IMX is a motivational program that allows swimmers across the nation to compare themselves to the thousands of other athletes in their age group. All you have to do is swim a combinatio of events, at least one time per season, and USA Swimming will automatically give you your ranking.

IM Ready – A stepping stone program to IMX where swimmers compete in a series of five events at shorter distances and achieve a score. In this program, swimmers are not ranked.

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 for swimming or rest used during swim practice.

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

Invitational – Type of meet that requires a club to request an invitation to attend the meet.



Jump – An illegal start done by the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th member of a relay team. The swimmer on the block breaks contact with the block before the swimmer in the water touches the wall.

Junior Nationals – A USA-S Championships meet for swimmers 18 years old or less. Qualification times are necessary.



Kick Board – A flotation device used by swimmers during practice.

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



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

Lane – The specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim. For example Lane 1, Lane 2, etc.

Lane Lines – Continuous floating markers attached to a cable stretched from the starting end to the turning end 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.

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 in 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 – 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. There are 59 LSC’s.



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

Marshall – The official who controls the crowd and swimmers flow at a s swim meet.

Master’s 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 events held in one program

Meet Director – The official in charge of the administration of the meet. The person directing the “dry side” of the meet.

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

Meters – The measurement of the length of a swimming pool that was built per specs using the metric system. Long course meters is 50 meters, short course meters is 25 meters.

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



NAGTS – National Age Group Time Standards – the list of “C” through “AAAA” times published each year.

National Qualifying Time (NQT) – Time standard for entry into USA Swimming Championship meets. 

Nationals – USA Swimming National Championship meet conducted in March/April and August.

Natatorium – A building constructed for the purpose of housing a swimming pool and related equipment.

NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association

Negative Split – The second half of the swim is swum faster than the first half. For example, in a 100 yard swim negative splitting, the first 50 yards is swim around 30 seconds, then the second 50 yards must be swum faster than 30 seconds.

NGB – National Governing Body

Non-Conforming Time – A short course time submitted to qualify for a long course meet, or vice versa.

NT – No Time. The abbreviation used on a heat sheet to designate that the swimmer has not swum that event before.

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



Observed Meet – A meet that is not conducted according to USA Swimming rules (high school, YMCA) where a request for observation has been processed and approved in advance. Sufficient USA Swimming officials are present to certify that the athletes swims are in compliance with USA Swimming technical rules.

Observed Swim – A swim observed by assigned USA Swimming officials for conformance with USA Swimming technical rules in a meet conducted under rules other than USA Swimming.

Officials – The certified adult volunteers who operate the many facets of a swim competition.

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

Official Results – After all official times and disqualification for an event are determined/recorded the final order of finish (places) is published.

Olympic Trials – The USA-S sanctioned long course swim meet held the year of the Olympic Games to decide what swimmers will represent the USA on the Olympic Team. Qualification times are faster than Senior Nationals.

Omega – A brand of automatic timing system.

OTC – Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Open Competition – Competition which any qualified club, organization, or individual may enter.

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

Over Fatigue – Is a 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.



Pace – The swimmer swims at a steady speed. Pace is the average speed per length of 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 electronic clocks or 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 warm-ups or swim practice. The 60 is sometimes referred to at the “top” and the 30 as the “bottom”.

Paddle – Colored plastic devices worn on the swimmers hands during swim practice.

Personal Best (PB) – Also known as a Personal Record. The best time a swimmer has achieved so far in a given event.

Plateau – All swimmers, even the world’s best, will experience what are termed “plateau’s”. 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.

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

Positive Check-in – The procedure required before a swimmer swims an event in a deck seeded or pre-seeded meet. The swimmer or coach must indicate the swimmer is present and will compete.

Practice – The scheduled workouts swimmers attend with their swim team/clubs.

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 six or eight or ten (Championship Heat) swimmers, and the next fastest six or eight or ten (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.

Pre-Seeded – A meet conducted without a bull pen in which a swimmer knows what lane and heat they are in by looking at the heat sheet or posted meet program.

Proof of Time – Frequently required for entry times at a swim meet. Proof 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 – 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.



Qualifying Times – Published times necessary to enter certain meets, or the times necessary to achieve a specific category of swimmer. See “A”, “AA”, etc. times.



Race – Any single swimming competition.

Ready Room – A room pool side for the swimmers to relax before they compete in finals.

Recall Rope – A rope across the width of the racing pool for the purpose of stopping swimmers who were not aware of a false start. The rope is about ½ way on yard pools and about 50 feet from the starting end on meter pools.

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 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 official at a swim meet in charge of all of the “West Side” administration and decisions.

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

Relays – A swimming event in which four swimmers participate as a team. Each swimmer completes an equal distance of the race. There are two types of relays: Medley Relays (one swimmer swims backstroke, one swimmer swim breaststroke, one swimmer swims butterfly, or swimmer swims freestyle, in that order – swam as 200 yard/meter and 400 yard/meter distances) and Freestyle Relays (each swimmer swims freestyle – swam as 200 yard/meter, 400 yard/meter, and 800 yard/meter 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 foot just touching the starting block with the rest of the starting swimmer’s body extended over the water.

Resistance Training – 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 disqualification. 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.

Rules – USA Swimming annually publishes the Rules and Regulations that govern the sport in the United States. This is published yearly.



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

Sanction – A permit issued by an LSC to a USA-S group member to conduct an event or meet.

Sanction Fee – The amount paid by a USA-S group member to an LSC for issuing a sanction.

Sanctioned Meet – A meet that is approved by the LSC in which it is held. Meet must be conducted according to USA Swimming rules. All participants, including coaches, athletes, and officials, must be USA Swimming members.

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 swimmer’s name.

Schedule – USA-S or LSC list of meets with dates, meet host, meet location, type of meet, and contacts address and phone.

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.

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.

Sectionals – Nickname for Speedo Championship Series

Seed – Assign the swimmers heats and lanes according to their submitted or preliminary times.

Seeding – Deck Seeding is when swimmers are called to report to the Clerk of Course. After scratches are determined, the event is seeded. Pre-Seeding is when swimmers are arranged in heats according to submitted times, usually a day prior to the meet.

Send Offs – The interval that each swimmer is scheduled to be started in practice.

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 Nationals – A USA-S National Championship meet for swimmers of any age as long as the qualification times are met.

Session – Portion of meet distinctly separated from other portions by locale, time, type of competition, or age group.

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.

Short Course – A 25 yard or 25 meter pool.

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.

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

Speedo Championship Series – Open “Senior Level” meets held in the spring and summer. Each Zones may hold up to four meets. Meets are commonly called “Sectionals”. Qualifying times, sites, dates, and meet rules are determined locally.

Splash – The USA Swimming magazine that is mailed bi-monthly. A benefit of being a member of USA Swimming.

Split – A portion of an event that is shorter than the total distance and is timed. For example, a swimmer’s first 50 time is taken as the swimmer swims the 100 race. It is common to take multiple splits for the longer distances.

Start – The beginning of a race. The dive used to begin a race.

Starter – The official in charge of signaling the beginning of a race and insuring that all swimmers have a fair takeoff.

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

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

Strategy – An approach to a race. The swimmer and coach discuss possible race strategies prior to the swim. For example – go out fast and hold it, negative split, build steadily to a fast finish, race pace, 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 of the starts and walls, but it also applies to all aspects of the strokes. The more swimming can create a streamlined effect with their bodies, the more efficient they will be in the water.

Stroke – There are four competitive strokes: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and 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

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 disqualified.

Suit – The bathing suit worn by a 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 light fitting lycra suits.

Submitted Time – Times used to enter swimmers in a meet. These times must have been achieved by the swimmer at previous meets.

Swim-A-Thon – The “Fundraiser” trademarked by USA Swimming for local clubs to use to make money.

Swim Off – In a Prelims/Finals type of 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.

Swimming World – A paid-subscription swimming magazine.

SWIMS – USA Swimming system that keeps track of every time swum by swimmers. Available through the USA-S website.



Taper – The resting phase of a swimmer at the end of the season before the championship meet.

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

Team Records – The statistics a team keeps, listing the fastest swimmer in the clubs history for each age group and each event.

Timed Finals – Competition in which only heats are swum and final results are determined by those times.

Time Standards – A time set by a meet or LSC or USA-S that a swimmer must achieve qualification or recognition.

Timer – The volunteers sitting behind the starting blocks/finish end of the pool, who are responsible for getting watch times on events and activating the backup buttons for the timing system.

Time Trial – An event or series of events where a swimmer may achieve or better a required time standard.

Timing System – The method used to obtain times for races at a swim meet. There are three types of timing systems: Manual (stopwatches), Semi-Automatic (manually operated buttons of an electronic timing system), and Automatic (touch pads of an electronic timing system).

Top 10 or Top 16 – A list of times compiled by the club, LSC or USA-S that recognizes the top 10  or top 16 swimmers in each single age group (boys and girls) by each event and distance.

Touch Pad – The removable plate (on the ends 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.

Transfer – The act of leaving one club or LSC and going to another. Usually 120 days of unattached competition is required before the swimmer can represent another USA-S club.

Transition – In the Individual Medley event, refers to the turn where the swimmer finishes one stroke and begins the next stroke. For example, back to breast.

Travel Fund – A sum of money set aside for a swimmer to use for travel expenses and entry fees to specified meets.

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 Stroke and 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.



Unattached – An athlete member who competes, but does not represent a club or team.

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

Unofficial Time – The time displayed on a display board or read over the intercom by the announcer immediately after the race. After the time has been checked, it will become the official time.

USA-S – The governing body of swimming – USA Swimming

USA Swimming – The national governing body of the sport headquartered in Colorado Springs.

USA-S ID Number – A 14-part number assigned to a swimmer after they have filled out the proper forms and paid their annual dues. The first 6 parts are numbers of a swimmer’s birthday: Month/Day/2-Digit Year using zeros as place holders. The next three spaces are the first three letters of the athlete’s legal first name. The next letter is the middle initial, followed by the first four letters of the swimmer’s last name. For example: USA-S ID# for swimmer Suzanne Eileen Nelson and born on August 27, 1976 then the ID# is 082776SUZENELS.

USOTC – United States Olympic Training Center located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.



VCC – Virtual Club Championships. The VCC recognizes and highlights clubs that are developing athletes and achieving success at multiple levels and emphasizing the team element in club swimming. This program serves as a key part of the Athlete Development and Performance component of the Club Recognition Program.

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

Vertical – At a right angle to the horizontal plane.



Warm-Down – The recovery swimming a swimmer does after a race when the pool space is available.

Warm-Up – The practice of “loosening up” session a swimmer does before the meet or their event is swum.

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 dryland training.

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 start 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.



Yards – The measurement of the length of a swimming pool that was built per specs using the American system. A short course pool is 25 yards (75 feet) in length.

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 four major zones: Eastern, Southern, Central, and Western. At the end of the long course season (in August) the Zone Administration sponsors a championship age group meet