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Swim Basics
Swim Basics

We highly recommend that you read the submittals under the main News Tab titled "ACAC 101 - A Father's

Perspective" and "How To Fearlessly Introduce Your Child To Competitive Swimming."  They are firsthand

accounts a father offers to you as to how what at first looks like a scary experience both for child and parent is actually fun

and rewarding.  Also, you can browse through the website to get additional guidance and information, or simply

contact a coach or member of the Board (or another parent!)  That being said, here are some basic facts every

parent needs to know about the sport of swimming.  

 

Skills

The four competitive swimming strokes are freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. The combination of

all four strokes is called individual medley. 

 

Competition

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. 

 

In freestyle 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 surface of 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. 

 

Backstroke 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. 

 

The breaststroke, 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 butterfly 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.)  

 

The individual medley, commonly referred to as the I.M., 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.  

 

In the medley relay, 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.  

 

The freestyle relay events consist of four freestylers, each swimming one quarter of the total distance of the event.   

 

Starts

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. 

 

Rules

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 another swimmer.

 

The Course

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. 

 

Teams

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

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.