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Terms & Definitions

Swimming Terms

Age Group Swimming: Provides fair and open competition for its younger members. It is designed to encourage maximum participation, provide an educational experience, enhance physical and mental conditioning, and develop a rich base of swimming talent. Age groups are 8 and under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18, and 15-18.

Block:  The starting platform

Bulkhead:  A wall constructed to divide a pool into different courses, such as a 50-meter pool into two 25-yard courses.

Circle Swimming:  Performed by staying to the right of the black line when swimming in a lane to enable more swimmers to swim in each lane.

Code of Conduct:  An agreement signed by a swimmer/coach/parent stating that the swimmer will abide by certain behavioral guidelines.

Cut:  Slang for qualifying time, a time standard necessary to attend a particular meet or event.

Distance:  Term used to refer to events over 400 meters/500 yards.

DQ:  Disqualified. This occurs when a swimmer has committed an infraction of some kind; e.g., freestyle kick in butterfly. A disqualified swimmer is not eligible to receive awards, nor can the time be used as an official time. Trained officials observe the swimmers during each event to ensure compliance with these technical rules.

Drill:  An exercise involving a portion or part of a stroke, used to improve technique.

Dryland Training:  Training done out of the water that aids and enhances swimming performance; usually includes stretching, calisthenics and/or weight training.

False Start:  Occurs when a swimmer is moving before the start of the race is sounded. In USA Swimming, one false start will result in disqualification

Final:  The championship heat of an event in which the top swimmers from the preliminaries compete.

Finish:  The final phase of the race; the touch at the end of the race.

Flags:  Backstroke flags placed 5 yards (short course) or 5 meters (long course) from the end of the pool. The flags enable backstrokers to execute a backstroke turn more efficiently.

Gutter:  The area along the edge of the pool in which water overflows during a race and is recirculated through the filtration system.

I.M.  Slang for Individual Medley, an event in which the swimmer uses all four strokes in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.

Junior Nationals:  National level meets held in both short course and long course seasons, one of each in the East and in the West, limited to swimmers ages 18 and under. There are qualifying standards, and swimmers are limited to four individual events and three relays.

Lap Counter:  A set of plastic display numbers used to keep track of laps during a distance race. (Also, the person who counts for the swimmer, stationed at the opposite end from the start.)

Long Course:   A pool 50 meters in length. USA Swimming conducts most of its summer competition in long course pools.

Long Distance:  Term used to refer to events of 800 meters/1000yardsm to 1500 meters/1650 yards in lengths

LSC:  Local Swimming Committee. Governing body for swimming at the local level. There are 59 LSC’s in the country

Meet:  Competition designed to be a learning experience. By implementing what has been learned in practice, the swimmer test himself against the clock to see how he is improving.

Middle Distance:  Term used to refer to events of 200 yards/meters to 400 meters/500 yards in length.

National Age Group Time Standards:  Time standards derived from the previous years’ results that are broken down by age and sex as well as C, B, A, Champ, Zone. The designations are National and should be used as motivational times.

National Reportable Times/Top 16:  Time standards set for both short and long course based on previous years’ achievements. Only times meeting these standards may be submitted for consideration each year. The Top 16 submitted times in each event are recognized.

Negative Split:  Swimming the second half of the race equal to or faster than the first half.

Officials:  A judge on the deck of the pool at a sanctioned competition who enforces USA Swimming rules. There are stroke and turn judges, administrative officials, starters, timers, and referees.             

Open Water Swims:  Any freestyle event over 1500 meters, normally conducted in a natural body of water, such as a lake, river, or ocean.

Pace Clock:  Large clock with a large second hand and a smaller minute hand, used to check pace or maintain intervals in practice; may also be digital.

Prelims:  Slang for preliminaries, also called Heats or Trials. Those races in which swimmers qualify for the championship and consolation finals in the events.

Q-time:  Qualifying time necessary to compete in a particular event and/or competition.

Relay:  An event in which four swimmers compete together as a team to achieve one time.

Scratch:  To withdraw from an event in competition.

Short Course:   A pool 25 yards or 25 meters in length. USA Swimming conducts most of its winter competition in short course yards.

Split:  A time recorded from the official start to the completion of an initial distance within a longer event. Also the time for one of the four individuals in a relay. Under certain conditions, splits may also be used as official times, for example, the lead off swim in a relay, or the lead off portion of an event.

Sprint:  Describes the shorter events (50 and 100). In training, to swim as fast as possible for a short distance.

Streamline:  The position used by swimmers when starting or pushing off the walls designed to reduce water resistance.

Taper:  The final preparation phase, sometimes referred to as “rest” Prior to major competitions, older, more experienced swimmers shave their entire bodies to reduce resistance and heighten sensation in the water.

Time Trial:  A time –only swim which is not part of a regular meet.

Touch Pad:  A large sensitive board at the end of each lane where a swimmer’s finish is registered and sent electronically to the timing system.

USS Number:  A number assigned to a swimmer upon joining United States Swimming. The membership card with this number may be require3d at any given competition.

Warm Down:  Low intensity swimming used by swimmers after a race or main practice set to rid the body of excess lactic acid, and to gradually reduce heart rate and respiration.

Warm Up:  Low intensity swimming used by swimmer prior to a main practice set or race to get muscles loose and warm. Warm up gradually increases heart rate. Respiration and helps to prevent injury.

Watches:  Stopwatches used to time swimmers during a competition. When totally automatic timing equipment is used, watches serve as a back-up method.