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Swimming Terms

 Sometimes newcomers to a summer swim program feel that everyone around them is speaking a different language. The following glossary of swim terms will help you translate that language!

Summer Swim Dictionary

"A" Heat: an "A" heat is the fastest heat of swimmers and is the only heat scored in dual meets (see dual meet scoring), and ribbons are awarded for the top six finishers in each event.

Age group swimmers: age categories for both boys and girls (8 and under; 9-10; 11-12; 13-14; and 15 and older) as of May 31 of the current season.

Anchor: the last person (fourth leg) in a relay.

"B" Heat: the “B” heat (and on down “C”, “D”, etc) are the next fastest heats after the “A” heat and are not scored, but ribbons are typically awarded for the top six finishers in each heat.

Backstroke: one of the four swimming strokes.  The normal position for backstroke is on the back and can include a roll movement of the body up to, but not including, 90 degrees from horizontal.  The position of the head is not relevant.  Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, but she/he can be completely submerged during a turn or at the finish for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start of each turn.  By that point the head must have broken the surface.

Backstroke flags: lines of flags placed above the lanes at each end of the pool to signal the backstroker that she/he is about 5 meters from the wall.  Flag placement may not be consistent in summer pools, so a backstroker should always check her/his stroke count from the flags to the wall during warm-ups.

Breaststroke: one of the four swimming strokes.  From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and each turn, the body shall be kept on the breast.  It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time.  All movements of the arms shall be simultaneous and in the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.  The hands are pushed forward together from the breast on, under, or over the water.  The elbows are kept under water except for the final stroke before the turn, during the turn, and for the final stroke at the finish.  The hands shall be brought back on or under the surface of the water.  The hands shall not be brought back beyond the hip line, except during the first stroke after the start and each turn.  All movements of the legs are simultaneous and in the same horizontal plane without alternating movement.  The feet must be turned outwards during the propulsive part of the kick.  A scissors, flutter, or downward dolphin kick is not permitted.  Breaking the surface of the water with the feet is allowed unless followed by a downward dolphin kick.  At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously at, above, or below the water level.  The head may be submerged after the last arm pull prior to the touch, provided it breaks the surface of the water at some point during the last complete or incomplete cycle preceding the touch.  During each complete cycle of one arm stroke and one leg kick, in that order, some part of the swimmer's head must break the surface of the water, except that after the start and after each turn the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs and one leg kick while wholly submerged.  The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turned inward at the widest part of the second stroke.

Butterfly (also referred to as "fly"): one of the four swimming strokes.  From the beginning of the first arm stroke after the start and each turn, the body shall be kept on the breast.  Under water kicking on the side is allowed.  It is not permitted to roll onto the back at any time.  Both arms shall be brought forward together over the water and brought backward simultaneously throughout the race.  All up and down movements of the legs must be simultaneous.  The position of the legs or the feet need not be on the same level, but they shall not alternate in relation to each other.  A breaststroke kicking movement is not permitted.  At each turn and at the finish of the race, the touch shall be made with both hands simultaneously, at, above, or below the water surface.  At the start and turns, a swimmer is allowed one or more leg kicks and one arm pull under the water, which must bring her/him  to the surface.  A swimmer can be completely submerged for a distance not more than 15 meters after the start and after each turn.  By that point, the head must have broken the surface.  The swimmer must remain on the surface until the next turn or finish.

City Championship (also referred to as "City"): the last meet of the summer season where all teams in League I and II compete for the city championship.  An entry fee is required, and it is held at the Helen P. Brown Natatorium at South Side High School.

Clerk of course: a location where swimmers report to be lined up for their events.

Clerks: the individuals who provide the swimmers with their event tickets, lane and heat assignments, and relay information.

Crescendo relay: where applicable, this is a freestyle relay where children from all age groups participate.  A child in the 8 and under group starts the race and swims 25 meters; the representatives from the 9-10 and 11-12 groups also swim 25 meters.  The child in the 13-14 group swims 50 meters, and the last leg of the relay is addressed by a child in the 15 and older group and she/he swims 75 meters.

Disqualification (commonly referred to as a "DQ"): a swimmer's time or place in a meet is not recognized due to an infraction of the rules.

Dolphin kick: an undulating kick used with butterfly. It is also commonly used in backstroke and freestyle during the kick-out phase off the walls on starts and turns when the swimmer is still submerged.

Dryland: specific exercises that are done out of the water to enhance strength and prevent injury.

Dual meet scoring: when two teams compete, the scoring is as follows for individual events: first place-5 points; second place-3 points; third place-1 point.  The scoring is as follows for relay events: first place-7 points; second place-2 points; and third place-1 point.  Ribbons are awarded for swimmers placing one through six for all events.

Entry card: typically a blue or pink ticket with the swimmer's name, event number, and heat and lane assignment.  The tickets are given to the timers when the swimmer reports to the appropriate lane in advance of the race.

Entry time: the best time, to date, each swimmer has in each event entered.

False start: a swimmer gets an unfair advantage by being in motion before the starting signal is given.  Officials will disqualify a swimmer who executes a false start.

Finish judges: two individuals that sit at the finish line and confirm the order of finish by the swimmer's lane numbers.  If the timers record a tie, the winner is determined by the report compiled by the finish judges.

Flip turn: used in freestyle and backstroke.  As a swimmer approaches the wall, she/he tucks her/his body into a somersault, quickly rolls toward the wall, and pushes off with her/his feet.

Flutter kick: the kick used in freestyle and backstroke, usually about six kicks per stroke cycle. It’s an alternating kick with legs extended and toes pointed.

Freestyle: one of the four swimming strokes. Also known as the front crawl stroke. Technically “freestyle” means any style other than backstroke, breaststroke, or butterfly. Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it is permissible for a swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 meters after the start and each turn.  By that point, the head must have broken the surface.

Freestyle relay: an event where four children swim freestyle for 1/4 the prescribed distance.  This relay is 100 meters for those in the 8 and under and 9-10 age groups; it is 200 meters for 11-12, 13-14, and those 15 and older.

Heat: one race. The number of swimmers in a heat will vary, depending upon the number of swimmers entered in the event and the number of lanes at the pool.

Heat sheet: a listing of all swimmers by event number, heat, and lane assignment in the meet.  Typically, these sheets are only available at the Leighann Palmer and Pete Johnston invitational meets, as well as the City meet.

Individual Medley (IM): a 100 meter event for all age groups where the swimmer does each stroke for 25 meters in this order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle.

Lane assignments: the home team uses lanes 2, 4, and 6. The visiting team uses lanes 1, 3, and 5.

Lead-off: the first person (leg) in a relay.

League I: This is the top league and includes the seven highest placing teams from last year’s City meet.

League II Teams: This is the second league and includes the next six placing teams from last year’s City meet after League I is determined.

Leighann Palmer Invitational: an annual invitational with an entry fee for all swimmers 10 and under held at Avalon pool in memory of LeighAnn Marie Palmer (1991-1995).

Medley relay: an event where four children swim 1/4 the prescribed distance.  This relay is 100 meters for those in the 8 and under and 9-10 age groups; it is 200 meters for 11-12, 13-14, and those 15 and older.  The order of this relay is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle.

Order of Events: girls go first, followed by the boys, in this order: medley relay, freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, individual medley, and freestyle relay.

Pete Johnston Invitational: an annual invitational with an entry fee for all age groups held at Blackhawk pool in memory of Pete Johnston (1974-1993).

Race length: for the individual events (except the individual medley), those in the 8 and under and 9-10 age groups swim 25 meters. Those in the 11-12, 13-14, and 15 and older groups swim 50 meters. For the individual medley, all ages swim 100 meters.

Recorder: the timer responsible for writing down the swimmer's times.  This should be a timer with clear handwriting, and a second timer should confirm that the numbers are correct as they are being recorded.

Relay exchange: in a relay, the process of one child entering the water just after the previous swimmer touches the wall.

Spirit week: the week of the city meet where many fun activities are planned in conjunction with "city". Such events typically include poster decoration, team scavenger hunt, coach appreciation, spaghetti luncheon, family fun night, swim/dive/prep banquet, special treats, and a pizza party.

Starter: the official at a meet who provides the starting signal to each heat of swimmers.  This referee informs swimmers to step upon their respective blocks, for timers to clear their watches, and then provides the command "take your mark," and after all swimmers become motionless, will activate the horn.

Starting block: the starting platform from which the swimmer enters the water at the beginning of an event.

Streamline: the body position that requires the arms to be stretched in front of the head with hands held tightly together.

Strobe (light): light used to signal the start of a race in conjunction with the horn start.  Timers need to start their watches when the light flashes to provide a more accurate time as light travels faster than the horn sound.

Stroke and turn clinic: supplemental practice sessions held on Saturday mornings to refine specific stroke and turn techniques for swimmers. Typically four such sessions are staged during the summer swim season.

Stroke and turn judge: the official who determines the legality of swimmers' strokes and turns.  It is her/his duty to disqualify those who do not conform to the rules.

Timers: volunteers who time swimmers in a specific lane during a swim meet.

Touch pad: In summer swimming, this is only available at the City meet at the Helen P. Brown Natatorium at South Side High School. An electronic timing system is utilized that is in the water at the end of each lane. A swimmer's time is electronically recorded to the hundredth of a second when she/he touches the pad.