trokes and Races:

STAR swimmers learn and develop each of the four competitive swimming strokes: Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly and Freestyle.


In the backstroke, the swimmer must start in the water faring the starting end with their feet under the surface of the water. (This differs from Minnesota High School League rule which allows the swimmer to start the race while standing on the gutter of the pool grasping the starting platform as long as some part of their body, usually their heels, remain in contact with the water.) The swimmer must stay on the back except during the turns. The stroke is an alternating motion of the arms (a reverse wind milling) with a flutter kick. The rules now allow the swimmer to turn over onto the stomach during the turn as part of "a continuous turning action." However, the swimmer must be on the back when they leave the wall after a turn and at the finish of the race. The backstroke flags that appear five yards from each end of a short course pool (five meters from each end of a long course pool) are very important to backstrokers. The flags alert them that they are approaching the wall. Swimmers spend a great deal of time practicing their turns until they know how many strokes it takes them to reach the wall after passing the flags. This helps them make the turn without looking for the wall. You may notice some swimmers doing an extended dolphin style (feet together with a flipper motion) kick as they come off the wall. Though that is not the style of kick used throughout the race, it is legal and helps the swimmer get back to speed and into rhythm. At the finish, you may also notice some swimmers diving backwards to touch the wall. This technique is a little faster way to finish the backstroke race.


The breaststroke may be one of the most difficult strokes to master. It requires simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. The hands are pushed forward from the breast, on, under or over the surface of the water. This part of the stroke is called the recovery. The hands are then pulled out, back, and together during the propulsive phase of the stroke. The timing of the kick and the arm pulls is critical. The kick looks kind of like a "frog" kick, with both legs coming down and around in a simultaneous circular motion. In the breaststroke events, the swimmer must touch the wall with both hands at the same time at the turns and at the finish of the race. Failure to make the two-hand simultaneous touch in results in a DQ (disqualification) and commonly occurs when the swimmers are first learning the stroke. After the start and after each turn, the swimmer may take one arm stroke completely back to the legs, and one leg kick while wholly submerged. The head must break the surface of the water before the hands turn inward at the widest part of the second stroke.


Butterfly is perhaps the most physically demanding stroke. It is also the newest of the four strokes and was first swum in its modern form in the 1956 Olympics. Before that, butterfly was swum using the breaststroke kick. Butterfly requires the simultaneous overhead stroke of the arms combined with the dolphin kick. The dolphin kick features both legs moving up and down at the same time. If the swimmer does a flutter or breaststroke kick, it results in a DQ (disqualification). As in the breaststroke, the swimmer must touch the wall at the turns and at the finish with both hands simultaneously. After the start and after each turn, the swimmer is permitted any number of underwater kicks but only one underwater arm pull. That pull must bring the swimmer to the surface.


In the freestyle, the competitor may swim any stroke but the stroke usually performed is the Australian Crawl. This stroke consists of an alternating overhand motion of the arms and a flutter kick that can either be a six-beat or a two-beat (kicks) per two arm stroke. The shorter races, the 5O and 100, are the "sprint" events. These events are usually all out races from the start to finish. A fast start (getting off the starting blocks quickly) is very important in both the 50 and 100 freestyle races. You will notice swimmers doing flip turns each time they reach the end of the pool. This is the fastest possible turn method and is taught and practiced from very early on in your child’s swim experience with STAR. After each turn, the swimmers come off the wall in the "streamlined" position. In other words, the body position resembles a pencil. The skinnier and sharper the "pencil," the farther they will travel off the wall. The freestyle swimmer finishes the race when any part of their body touches the wall.
The Individual Medley race, or "IM" features all four strokes swum in the same event by a single swimmer. The competitors swim one fourth of the race in each of the strokes and in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.

There are two types of relay races - Medley and Freestyle. Each relay team consists of four swimmers. A critical factor in any successful relay is the exchange between swimmers. The swimmer on the block must remain in contact with the starting block until the incoming swimmer touches the wall. An early departure by one swimmer results in a DQ (disqualification) for the entire relay team.

Medley & Freestyle Relays

In the freestyle relay , each swimmer swims one fourth of the race distance using any stroke desired. Of course, as in the individual events, the Australian Crawl is the stroke most often used. The medley relay employs all four strokes, one stroke swum by each of the four swimmers on the relay team. The order of strokes, however, is different than that used in the IM. The backstroke leg is done first in the relay because the backstroker has to start in the water. Clearly this would present a problem if the backstroker had to be concerned about someone coming into the wall while the backstroker was preparing to take off. Therefore, the order of strokes in the medley relay is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle.