General Swim Info and Terms


General Swim Meet Information:


There are four swimming strokes – freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke. The distance of the races varies from 25 yards (1 length) to 500yards (20 lengths).


An individual medley (I.M.) is all four strokes in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.


A medley relay is swum in the following order: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle.


In addition, there will be “exhibition” heats. They do not score points. They will be noted with an “A,” “B,” or “C” (or 2, 3, 4) following the event number. Even though you are swimming an exhibition heat, you should always swim your fastest times. This information is critical to the coaches in assessing progress and planning future line-ups. It is also an import measure to help your swimmer reach personal goals.


Sometimes you will see boys and girls swimming against each other. This is just for time saving purposes where they have combined heats that weren’t full. The results remain separate for scoring purposes.


Explanation of terms:


BACKSTROKE FLAGS: These pennants are stretched over the water so that backstrokers will know how far away the wall is for their turns and finishes.


BLOCK: The starting platform where swimmers begin their races.


BREASTSTROKE: Both arms pull together, under water, whole legs kick together.  The kick looks easy, but it is hard to teach young ones.


BUTTERFLY: Maybe the prettiest stroke, if done right. It requires a lot of timing and strength. Both arms must go above the water at the same time while both legs kick together.


CIRCLE IN: At USA invitationals swimmers need to find the check in sheets and circle their name by each event before warm-ups. If you don't circle in you will not be able to swim.


CIRCLE SWIMMING: Performed by staying to the right of the black lane center line while swimming to enable more swimmers to swim in each lane.


DECK ENTRY: Some meets will allow us to enter a swimmer on the day of the meet. Sometimes being deck entered means you will swim in the slowest heat and are eligible for awards.


DISQUALIFIED: If you break a swim rule you can be disqualified or “DQ’d”. This is normally shown as a DQ behind your name on the official results. A swimmer can be DQ’d for a start, finish, stroke or turn. Two officials may have to see the error and you will be told what you did wrong. If your swimmer is disqualified, don’t worry. It is an opportunity to learn.


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


DRILL: An exercise involving a portion 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, running, and/or weight training.


ELECTRONIC TIMING: Most meets use electronic systems to give times and finish places. There are pads in the water the swimmer touches to signal the machine of  your finish. Young swimmer often do not touch the pad hard enough, therefore the need for two hand times to back-up the timing system.


FALSE START: Occurs when a swimmer is moving at the start.


FINISH: The final phase of the race, the touch at the end of the race.


GOAL: A specific time achievement a swimmer sets and strives for, can be either short or long term.


HEAT SHEET: The program that lists the events, heat, and lane assignments. You will see these sold at invitationals and championship meets.


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


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


MARKED:  The markings written traditionally on a swimmers arms to show what events they are swimming in. 


MEET: Competition designed to be a learning experience. By implementing what has been learned in practice, the swimmer tests himself against the clock to determine improvement.


NEGATIVE SPLIT: Swimming the second half of the race with a time equal to or faster than the first half.


OFFICIAL: A judge on the deck of the pool at a sanctioned competition who enforces YMCA (NCAA) rules. There are stroke and turn judges, finish judges, administrative officials, starters, timers and referees.


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


PSYCH SHEET: This lists the swimmers and their seed times for each event at a meet, but does not include heat and lane assignments. These are sold at USA meets instead of heat sheets because USA events are not assigned heats and lanes until after swimmers circle in right before warm ups.


RELAY: An event in which 4 swimmers compete together as a team to achieve one time.


SCRATCH: To withdraw from an event in competition.


SPLIT: This refers to a certain portion of a race. For example in a 100 yrd race a coach will look at each of your 50 yrd splits to compare your first and second half  pacing. A split can also refer to an individual's time in their relay leg.


SPRINT: Describes the shorter events, 50 and 100 yard/meter. In training, to swim as fast as possible for a short distance.


STREAMLINE: The position used to gain maximum distance during a start and/or push-off from the wall in which the swimmer’s body is as tight as it can be.


TAPER: The final preparation phase leading up to a major competition. Often practices will change during this time, focusing more on starts, turns, and sprints, and the yardage will go down.


TIME TRIAL: A time-only swim. A time trial is not part of a regular meet.


TOUCH PAD: A large sensitive board at the end of each lane where a swimmers’ touch is registered and sent electronically to the timing system.


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


WARM-UP: Low intensity swimming used by swimmer prior to a main practice set or race to get muscles loose and warm, and gradually increase heart and respiration rate.