Education & Swim Terms

Swimming Nutrition:

5 Nutrition Myths for the Growing Swimmer that Won't Die:


Common Swim Terms

Here is a list of those strange and wacky words we use in the sport of swimming. Relax and take your time reading. Soon you'll be understanding and maybe even speaking some "SWIM SLANG".


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 the first stroke in the Medley Relay and second stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, and 200 yards/meter. (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yd back)

Banner - A team sign that is displayed at swim meets. Banners are usually made from nylon material and carry the Team Logo and possibly the name of a popular team sponsor. Some size restrictions are enforced at certain meets.

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 swum as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, and 200 yards/meter. (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yd back)

Butterfly - 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/meter, 100 yards/meter, and 200 yards/meter. (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yard back)

Cap - The latex or silicone covering worn on the head of swimmers. The colors and team logo's adorning these caps are limitless, from National Caps, State Team Caps, award caps, plain practice caps, etc.

Cards - A card that may either be handed to the swimmer in the clerk of course or given to the timer behind the lane. Cards usually list the swimmers name, event description, and the lane and heat number the swimmer will swim in. Backup times are written on these cards. Each event may have a separate card.

Carbohydrates - The main source of food energy used by athletes. Refer to a Nutritional Manual for more information.

Clerk of Course - An area where swimmers are seeded and given cards with lane and seed times. This is how meets are often organized and helps younger swimmers find their way to the blocks. Swimmers report to this area before their events are swum.

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).

Disqualified - A swimmers performance is not counted because of a rules infraction. A disqualification is shown by an official raising one arm with open hand above their head. DQ’d for short.

Dive - Entering the water head first. Diving is not allowed during warm-ups except at the designated time, in specific lanes that are monitored by the swimmers coach.

Dual Meet - Type of meet where two (2) teams/clubs compete against each other.

Electronic Timing - Timing system operated on DC current (battery). The timing system usually has touch-pads in the water, junction boxes on the deck with hook up 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.

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.

Fees - Money paid by swimmers for services. (i.e., practice fees, registration fee, USA-S membership fee, etc. )

Flags - The pennants that are suspended over the width of each end of the pool approximately 15 feet from the wall. These help swimmers count strokes during backstroke so they don’t hit the wall with their head.

Fund Raiser - A money making endeavor by a swim team/club usually involving both parents and swimmers.

Freestyle - One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. Freestyle (nicknamed Free) is swam as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, 200 yards/meter, 400 mtr/500 yd 800 mtr/1000 yds, 1500 mtr/1650 yds. (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yd free)

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

Goggles – Glasses-like devices worn by swimmers to keep their eyes from being irritated by the chlorine in the water. They need to fit right. (ask your coach)

Heats - These are a division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time. The results are compiled by swimmers time swam, after all heats of the event are completed.

Heat Winner - A ribbon or coupon 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 plus swimmers can tell the order the events will be conducted and get a rough idea how long the meet sessions will last. (We will have these at city county)

Horn - A sounding device used in place of a gun. Used mainly with a fully automatic timing system.

I.M. - Individual Medley. A swimming event using all 4 of the competitive strokes on consecutive lengths of the race. The order must be: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle. Equal distances must be swum of each stroke. Distances offered: 100 yards, 200 yards/meters, and 400 yards/meter.

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.

Kick - The leg movements of a swimmer; also, a popular word to yell to encourage swimmers during a race!

Kick Board - A flotation device used by swimmers during practice. A lightweight object used with great accuracy by coaches.

Lane - The specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim. (e.g., Lane 1, Lane 2, etc). Pools with starting blocks at only one end: As the swimmers stand behind the blocks, lanes are numbered from Right (lane 1) to Left (lane 6) OR (how ever many lanes that pool has) 

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.

Leg - The part of a relay event swam by a single team member. A single stroke in the IM.

Long Course - A 50 meter pool.

Mark - The command to take your starting position. Marshall - The adult(s) (official) who control the crowd and swimmer flow at a swim meet.

Medals - Awards given to the swimmers at meets. They vary in size and design and method of presentation. (city county)

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.

Novice - A beginner or someone who does not have experience.

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

OT - Official Time. The swimmers event time recorded to one hundredth of a second (.01).

Open Competition - A competition which any qualified club, organization, or individual may enter.

Practice - The scheduled workouts a swimmer attends with their swim team/club.

Ribbons - Awards in a variety of sizes, styles, and colors, given at swim meets or practices.

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

Short Course - A 25 yard or 25 meter pool. Simultaneously - A term used in the rules of butterfly and breaststroke, meaning at the same time.

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

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 - There are 4 competitive strokes: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle.

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.

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. (city county)

Unofficial Time - The time displayed on a read out 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.

Warm-up - The practice and warm up session a swimmer does before the meet. 

Yards - The measurement of the length of a swimming pool that was built per specs using the American system. A short course yard 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.