The five competitive swimming strokes are freestyle,
backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and individual medley.
Each swim meet offers a variety of events and distances, depending
on the age group and classification. Each swimmer will have a
limit to the number of events he or she may swim each day,
depending on the meet rules.
events, the competitor may swim any stroke. The stroke most
commonly used is sometimes called the crawl, which is characterized
by the alternate stroking of the arms over the water
surface and an alternating (up‑and‑down) flutter
kick. On turns and finishes, some part of the swimmer must touch
the wall. Most swimmers do a flip turn.
consists of an alternating motion of the arms with a flutter
kick while on the back. On turns, swimmers may rotate to the
stomach and perform a flip turn and some part of the swimmer must
touch the wall.
The swimmer must finish on the back.
, which is the oldest stroke dating back hundreds of years,
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 a frog. On turns and at the finish, the swimmer
must touch the wall with both hands simultaneously at, above or
below the water surface.
Some consider the
to be the most beautiful of the strokes. It features a
simultaneous recovery of the arms over the water combined with
an undulating dolphin kick. In the kick, the swimmer must keep both
legs together and may not flutter, scissors or use the breaststroke
kick. Both hands must touch the wall simultaneously on the turns
and the finish. (The butterfly is the newest stroke and was
developed in the early 1950s as a variation of the breaststroke. It
became an Olympic stroke in 1956 in Melbourne.)
, commonly referred to as the
, features all four strokes. In the IM, the swimmer begins with the
butterfly, then changes after one‑fourth of the race to
backstroke, then breaststroke and finally freestyle.
, all four strokes are swum. The first swimmer swims backstroke,
the second breaststroke, the third butterfly, and the final swimmer
anchors the relay with freestyle.
events consist of four freestylers, each swimming one quarter of
the total distance of the event.
: In the start, the swimmer is called to the starting position by
the starter who visually checks that all swimmers are motionless.
When all swimmers are set, the starting horn is sounded to start
the race. If the starter feels that one of the swimmers has moved,
left early or gotten an unfair advantage, the guilty swimmer may be
disqualified after the race for a false start. Under USA Swimming
rules, one false start disqualifies the swimmer.
The technical rules of swimming are designed to provide fair and
equitable conditions of competition and to promote uniformity in
the sport. Each swimming stroke has specific rules designed to
ensure that no swimmer gets an unfair competitive advantage over
Competition pools may be short course (25 yards or 25 meters), or
long course (50 meters). The international standard (as used in the
Olympics) is 50 meters. World records are accomplished in 25 and 50
meter pools. USA Swimming maintains records for 25 yard, 25 meter
and 50 meter pools.
USA Swimming is made up of approximately 2,800 teams from all over
the country. Of these clubs, nearly half have 80 swimmers or less,
and a handful of teams have over 500 swimmers. A team may be
comprised of any number of swimmers, parents and coaches.
Participants compete in different age groups and meets depending on
their achievement level and how old they are on the first day of
the meet. Traditionally recognized age groups are 10 and under,
11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18. Many local meets feature 8 and under,
single age groups, or senior events. Team practice groups are
usually determined by age and/or ability.
Officials are present at all competitions to enforce the technical
rules of swimming so the competition is fair and equitable.
Officials attend clinics, pass a written test and work meets before
being certified. All parents are encouraged to get involved with
some form of officiating.
Glossary of Swimming
of those strange and wacky words used in the sport of swimming
is provided. You may or may not find these words in the English
Dictionary, and if you do, their definitions will probably be
radically different than the ones listed in this glossary. Relax
and take your time reading. Soon you’ll be understanding and
maybe even speaking some "SWIMSLANG".