The four competitive swimming strokes are freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. The combination of all four strokes is called individual medley.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
LEVELS OF SWIMMING
Swimming is a wholesome, positive activity because no matter where you are in the swimming progression, the sport encompasses the fundamental elements that parents love. At USA Swimming, we believe that the core benefits of swimming include:
Fun-whether it is the exhilaration of achieving your goal time or playing cards with your friends at a swim meet, we love this sport and stay involved because it is FUN.
Fitness-getting kids to be water safe, keeping them moving with fundamental aerobic activity, or a low impact workout for the joints as we age, swimming keeps its participants in incredible shape and teaches basic FITNESS principles that last a lifetime.
Friends-ask any swimmer what they like most about the sport, more often than not it will be the friendships they made through car pools to practice, hanging out at the end of the lane, or pushing their buddies to try just a little bit harder at practice.
Under the USA Swimming umbrella there are different levels of involvement as well as entry points to the sports. Listed below are the most common areas where your child can get involved with USA Swimming.
LEARN TO SWIM
Becoming safe in the water and learning to swim are essential skills. Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 14 in the United States. Many of those deaths might have been prevented with swim lessons. Swimming lessons are a fun activity for kids of all ages and are often a great entry point into swimming. Check out USA Swimming’s Make a Splash Program and more in our Learn to Swim Section.
AGE GROUP SWIMMING
Many children get their competitive start through a neighborhood swim team, local recreational team, country club, school team or a USA Swimming club team. At this level, swimmers learn and refine swimming skills and begin to compete against their peers. You can find a local club to get your swimmer started by using USA Swimming’s Find a Club Tool.
As swimmers mature, the goals become a little bigger and they move into senior level swimming. At this level swimmers still refine skills, but training becomes more serious and is designed by professional coaches to get athletes to peak performance when they are physically and mentally prepared to do so. Athletes are still part of the USA Swimming club system, but may also compete for a high school or college team depending on their ages.
ELITE LEVEL SWIMMING
Some athletes have the talent, dedication, and commitment to reach the elite levels of the sport. They compete at national and international level competitions and strive to make a national team to represent their country in the Olympics or other international competitions. Elite swimmers in the United States come out of the USA Swimming club system.