Info for Parents

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A glossary of those strange and wacky words we use in the sport of swimming. Parents! 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."


Anchor - The final swimmer in a relay.


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/meters, 100 yards/meters, and 200 yards/meters. (Some meets/leagues with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yards/meters backstroke).


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/meters, 100 yards/meters, and 200 yards/meters. (Some meets/leagues with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yards/meters breaststroke).


Butterfly (Fly) - 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/meters, 100 yards/meters, and 200 yards/meters. (Some meets/leagues with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yards/meters freestyle).


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


Colorado Timing System- The state of the art electronic timing system used at swim meets. This system allows for an accurate account on swimmers times and places. 


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).


Disqualification (DQ) – Every child is DQ’d at some point in their career.  Keep in mind that there are specific rules governing each stroke that certified USA Swimming judges use in determining whether the stroke was “legal.” 


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


Dropped Time – When a swimmer goes faster than the previous performance they have "dropped their time".


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


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


Electronic Timing - Timing system operated on DC current (battery). The timing system usually has touchpads in the water, junction boxes on the deck with hookup 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' times.


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.


Fastest to Slowest - A seeding method used on the longer events held at the end of a session. The fastest seeded swimmers participate in the first heats followed by the next fastest and so on. Many times these events will alternate one girls' heat and one boys' heat until all swimmers have competed.


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 swum as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meters, 100 yards/meters, 200 yards/meters, 400 meters / 500 yards, 800 meters / 1000 yards, 1500 meters / 1650 yards. (Some meets/leagues with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yards/meters freestyle)


Heat - A division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time. The results are compiled by swimmers' time swum, after all heats of the event are completed.


Heat Award - A prize 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, and swimmers can tell how the order the events will be conducted and get a rough idea how long the meet sessions will last.


Individual Medley (IM) – 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.


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


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.


League / League Meet – GO Swimming is a part of the North East Ohio YMCA Swim league.  Our league and league meet is made up of approximately 25 YMCA’s in north east Ohio.


Leg - The part of a relay event swum by a single team member; a single stroke in the individual medley (IM).


Length - The extent of the competitive course from end to end. See lap.


LSC – Local Swimming Committee.  GO Swimming is a USA Swimming program operating in the Lake Erie LSC.  Teams in our LSC are from the Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown area- as far west as Sandusky, east as the Pennsylvania line and south to the outlying areas of Canton.


Long Course – a 50 meter pool.


Mark - The command to take your starting position.


Psyche Sheet - Another name for a "Heat Sheet" or meet program.


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.


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. Medley relays are conducted over 200 yd/meter and 400 yd/meter distances. 2.) Freestyle relay - Each swimmer swims freestyle. Free relays are conducted over 200 yd/meter, 400 yd/meter, and 800 yd/meter distances.


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.


Seed - Assign the swimmer's heats and lanes according to their submitted or preliminary times.


Short Course - A 25 yard or 25 meter pool.


Split - A portion of an event, shorter than the total distance, that 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.


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.


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.


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


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 governing body (YMCA or USA) 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.


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


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.


Warm-down - The loosening a swimmer does after a race when pool space is available.


Warm-up - The practice and loosening session a swimmer does before the meet or their event is swum.


Zone / Zone Meet – GO Swimming is a part of the Great Lakes Zone.  Our zone meet includes YMCA teams from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.