Stroke Technique

Tuesday, March 8

Swim Team Glossary : Swimslang

The four competitive swimming strokes are freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, & backstroke.

Below is a brief description of each stroke, and potential (not exhaustive) list of reasons for disqualifications (DQ). DQ decisions are interpretations made by trained officials, called “starters”, who are paid by the swim team to ‘call’ the meet in a uniform manner. Officials attend clinics, pass a written test and work meets before being certified.  In our league, Officials call the meet by High School Guidelines.

When a DQ occurs, the swimmer's 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, usually signaling which lane the DQ originates. The reason for DQ may be available the day after the meet – but in most cases, the coaches will be able to tell your swimmer immediately why they DQ’d. In our league, swimmers who are in the 6 & under and the 7-8 age groups will still receive a participation ribbon if they receive a DQ. DQ’s should be viewed as learning opportunities!

Freestyle (aka crawl)

Proper Technique: 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 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.

You will be disqualified if you…

*Stand up or touch the bottom of the pool before the end of the race

*Hold onto the rope (unless in the 6& under age group)


Proper Technique: 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.You will be disqualified if you…

* Do a one-hand touch at the end of the race

* Do a freestyle flutter kick or non-breaststroke kick

* Do a scissor kick that makes an above water splash

* Do a double arm pull or double kick underwater


Proper Technique: 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. You will be disqualified if you…

* Do a one-hand touch at the end of the race

* Do a flutter kick

* Have your arms enter the water at different time

* Don’t have a solid feet together dolphin kick


Proper Technique: 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.You will be disqualified if you…   

* Turn over on you stomach before you touch the wall

* Stand up before you touch the wall

* Hold on to the rope (except 6 & unders


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 (not available until 9-10 age group)

In the medley relay, all four strokes are swum. The first swimmer swims backstroke, the second swimmer swims breaststroke, the third swims 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.

Other Helpful Terms


The starting platforms located behind each lane. Our pool has blocks at the deeper end of the pool, and because of depth we do not dive into the shallow end.


The official Bullpen is by the blocks and has rows of chairs for the swimmers to sit. The Clerk of the Course is an adult swim parent volunteer in charge of the Bull Pen. Prior to being sent to the Bullpen, our swimmers sit in the VCH Bullpen near the tennis courts, awaiting their lane and heat assignments for a swimming event (on pre-printed cards).


A card that may either be handed to the swimmer in the bull pen or given to an adult parent volunteer to take to the Clerk of Courts (done sometimes for 6 & unders). Cards usually list the swimmers name, event description, and the lane and heat number the swimmer will swim in. Times are written on these cards for place picking and ribbons.


A division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time. In our league, each heat is awarded ribbons for that heat only.  Then, the results are compiled by swimmers time swum, after all heats of the event are completed.

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.