Swimming 101 - a guide for parents 

by coach Jason Cawkwell

As an introduction to the new iM Skilled program, the following article was created to help parents of young swimmers navigate their way through the world of swimming with the Regina Dolphins. As you will see from each of the levels of the iM Skilled program, the emphasis is on having "legal" progression of all four strokes, turns and the development of Individual Medley.


Below is a summary of what our coaches are looking for in each of the strokes and some basic rules that surround them.




Swimming skills need to be developed in late childhood (girls 8 – 11, boys 9 - 12)

Emphasis on skill development and the learning of all four (4) competitive swim strokes, starts, turns and finishes are of utmost importance as is teaching with a "Multi - stroke"  approach.  This teaching methodology is applied in order to maintain a high level of interest and reduces risk of injury due to repetitive strain or poor technique.  It is important for overall development that all stroke techniques are introduced and skill concepts mastered as young swimmers tend to demonstrate a natural predilection to any 1 or 2 strokes., however, the introduction of all of the competitive swimming strokes and skills at this development age, provides better opportunity for improvements later in their swimming career as the swimmers improve and mature. 

In Competitive or Speed Swimming we use four competitive swimming stroke. These are Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle along with the Individual Medley as a combination of all four of these strokes.


Butterfly 101  

Butterfly is considered by many to be the most beautiful and powerful of all the strokes and it is a very visually striking stroke. Some consider it to be very difficult and although it does require power from the athlete, it requires much more in terms of timing, rhythm and control. At the Regina Dolphins we consider the Butterfly essential to learning, as when swimmers master this stroke the whole world of swimming seems somewhat less daunting. 

What we look for to be "legal""

The Butterfly stroke is a symmetrical stroke with one side "mirroring" what the other side is doing. Butterfly features a simultaneous recovery of the arms over the water combined with an undulating dolphin kick. For the dolphin kick, the swimmer must keep both legs together and may not use a flutter or breaststroke kick.

Video link to butterfly swimming

Turning and finishing requirements

For turning and finishing, swimmers must have both hands touch the wall simultaneously (at the same time)

Video link for Butterfly turn


Backstroke 101


Having a good Backstroke is the foundation for swimming well. Backstroke swimming uses an alternating motion with the arms and using a flutter kick while on the back. Having a great body position that is high in the water, straight and firm is key to swimming well on all strokes and is  easily mastered at an early stage.

video for Backstroke -including streamline and turn (underwater angle)

video of a Ryan Lochte swimming Backstroke -including streamlining

Turning and finishing requirements

For turning, swimmers may rotate to their front and perform a flip turn (similar to a freestyle flip turn) and some part of the swimmer must touch the wall. The swimmer must start and finish the swim on their back.

Video of Backstroke Turn (underwater angle)


Breaststroke 101

The Breaststroke is the oldest of all the swim strokes with European Gentlemen preferring the stroke due to its elegance over the savage nature of the crawl strokes. The Breaststroke is a symmetrical stroke with both sides of the body "mirroring" the other.

What we look for to be "legal"

It uses a simultaneous movement of the arms in the same horizontal plane. The hands are pressed out from in front of the breast in an inverted heart shaped pattern and the hand being recovered under or on the surface of the water (unlike butterfly that needs recovery over the water) . The kick is a simultaneous with feet turned out, with a somewhat circular motion similar to that of a frog although a narrower whip like version - hence the name whip kick.

video of Breaststroke Whip Kick

Turning and finishing requirements

For turning and at the finishing, as with Butterfly, the swimmer must touch the wall with both hands simultaneously.

video of Breaststroke turn


Freestyle 101

Freestyle or "front crawl" is the fastest of all the strokes. While technically the swimmer may choose any means to propel them through the water (that's why it's called Freestyle) at the Regina Dolphins we will be using the front crawl stroke when addressing Freestyle. This stroke  is characterized by the alternate stroking of the arms over the surface of the water with face down and turning the head to the side to breath. The Freestyle uses a Flutter Kick (an alternating up-and-down action).

Turning and finishing requirements

For turning, swimmers will be taught to perform the Flip a turn. (While not noticeably faster at a young/developmental level is without a doubt the fastest turn to use later in swimming. The Flip Turn is a somersault action prior to touching the end of the pool. At the wall, some part of the swimmer must touch prior to commencement of the next length.

Video of Freestyle Flip Turn



Individual Medley 101

The Individual Medley, which is more commonly referred to as the I.M., uses all four strokes. The IM begins with the Butterfly, then Backstroke, with Breaststroke and Freestyle after. Each stroke is allowed 1/4 of the race. So in the 100 IM: 25 m is allocated to all strokes. Freestyle in the IM can only be a stroke that has not yet been performed, therefore, front crawl is a requirement of the final freestyle leg of the race.

What we look for to be "legal"

All the individual rules for swimming, turning and finishing must be adhered to while swimming the Individual Medley.

Turning and finishing requirements

All rules mentioned in the individual stroke 101 must be used.



Parents guide to competition 101



Types of Competitions 101

In Competitions (or "Meets" as they are commonly referred to) swimmers compete in different age groups and at meets appropriate at their level. Some competitions require Qualifying times (or "Cuts"). These times are usually for Provincial or National Level swim meets and are published at either Swim Sask (here) or Swimming Canada (here). The age category of which the swimmer will compete in, is defined based on their age calculated on the first day of the swim meet.

Types of Meet

1) Inter Club Relay and fun night meets - Full Club involvement.

2) Inter Clubs Mini Meets - Junior Groups only.

3) Developmental Meets - Saskatchewan series meets.

4) Invitational Meets

5) Qualifying Meets - Winnipeg PWI Meet, Edmonton EKI Meet etc

7) Provincial Level Meets - A Provincials, Junior Cup (10&U Girls, 11&U Boys), ManSask

8) SNC National Level Meets - Western Canadian Championships, National age Groups

9) International events - Trials, Commonwealth Games, World Champs and Olympic Games.


Meet Sign Ups 101

A few weeks prior to every competition the coaches/team manager will send out information regarding the upcoming meet such as dates, venues and which training groups should be in attendance and other relevant information. From this email you will follow the link provided to the clubs "sign up" page and select either Accept or Decline before the stated closing date. Your coach will then add which events they want your swimmer to do at the meet. Once these have been added and relays selected these entries are submitted to the meet organizer Via Swim Canada for time verification.


Relays 101

Often swimmers will state that relays are the most fun part of a swim meet.  if your swimmer is entered into the swim meet, it is expected that your swimmer will be part of a relay should they be selected. The Regina Dolphins Coaches will often select as many teams as possible (based on the number of swimmers in each age category) sometimes if numbers are high enough the club will field A,B,C,D and even E teams. However at some meets only 2 teams are allowed.

Selections for Relays are done by the coach using best times or best current form, and are usually (where possible) selected fastest to slowest. Sometimes medley relays can look confusing as swimmers may not be swimming their "favored" stroke, yet the teams overall time will be faster. The coaching staff always endeavor to select teams using objective criteria where possible.



The technical rules of swimming are designed to provide a fair and equal "playing condition" of competition and to ensure uniformity in the sport. Each swimming stroke has specific rules designed to ensure that no swimmer gets an unfair competitive advantage over another swimmer. Swimming Canada (SNC) rules can be found here.




Competition pools may be short course (25 meters) or long course (50 meters). The international standard (as used in the Olympics) is 50 meters. World records are accomplished in both 25 and 50 meter pools. The Regina Dolphins have maintained records for these distances 25 meter records and 50 meter records (please visit our Club Records section)

The Lawson Aquatic Centre can switch between Long course and short course by moving the Bulk Heads in the middle of the pool.



Officials are present at all competitions to enforce the technical rules of swimming (mentioned above) so the competition is fair and equal. Officials have to attend clinics, pass a test and work meets before being certified.

The technical rules of swimming are designed to provide fair and equitable conditions of competition and to promote uniformity in the sport.


BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE -  From time to time the RODS will put on classes to help get parents certified to all levels of officiating.  Swim Meets cannot run without the involvement of officials therefore all parents are encouraged to get involved with some form of officiating. For more details contact (here)