Glossary of Swimming Terms

Meet - Swim meet that requires swimmers to have previously achieved an “A” time standard in the events they wish to enter.

Meet - Swim meet that requires swimmers to have previously achieved an “A or B” time standard in the events they wish to enter.

“ABC” Meet - Swim meet that requires swimmers to have previously achieved an “AB, or C” time standard in the events they wish to enter.

Age Groups – the USA Swimming program divides swimmers into gender and age categories in order to make races fair for each athlete. There are similar programs of age grouping all over the swimming world. In the United States the age groups (AG) are: 8 and under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18. There is also an “Open” division (usual called “Senior” (SR)) where anybody can swim regardless of age as long as they meet the qualifying standard for that event or competition. In most AG/SR swim meets the 15-16 and 17-18 age groups are combined with 19 and older swimmers into a “15 and over” grouping.

Backstroke – one of the four competitive racing strokes.

Blocks - The starting platforms located behind each lane.

Breaststroke – one of the four competitive racing strokes.

Butterfly – one of the four competitive racing strokes.

Bulkhead – a barrier wall fitted near the middle a long course pool (or any pool longer than 25 yards) to convert one side into to a short course. Serves as a cat-walk for stroke & turn officials.

Clerk of Course – one or more administrators who typically work at a table or behind a counter on or near the pool deck checking in swimmers and ensuring all swimmers and relay teams are properly seeded into their lanes and heats. These officials work especially hard before deck-seeded events.

Competitve Strokes - The four competitive strokes are (1) Freestyle, (2) Backstroke, (3) Breaststroke, and (4) Butterfly. Events are held in all of the competitive strokes at varying distances depending on the age group of the swimmer. In addition, there is a combination of strokes swum by one swimmer called the Individual Medley. Other swimming events include relays, which are a group of four swimmers who either all swim freestyle called a Freestyle Relay or each swim one of the competitive strokes in the order of back, breast, fly & free called a Medley Relay.

Consolation Finals - A heat consisting of the swimmers placing 9th through 16th in preliminaries.

DQ (Disqualification) – if a swimmer commits an infraction of the rules that is observed by an official, a disqualification will result.

Deck Marshall – responsible for maintaining a safe environment during warm-ups before a swim meet. Marshals are stationed at all for corners of the pool and each must be registered as a non-swimming athlete under USA Swimming.

Dual Meet - A meet between two swim teams. Sometimes 3 teams are involved making it a "Double-Dual Meet". These meets have no entry fees, awards are usually optional, and they usually last 3-4 hours in length.

Event - A particular swimming race (i.e. 50yd backstroke) designated by stroke, distance, age, and sex.

False Start - An illegal start by one or more swimmers in a heat. False starts are usually called if a swimmer is moving prior to the starting signal, resulting in the swimmer's disqualification from that event.

Finals - The re-swimming of the fastest 8 swimmers from the preliminaries. This occurs in Championship Meets.

Four-hour rule – A USA Swimming regulation for swim meets which reads: "With the exception of championship meets the program in all other age group competition shall be planned to allow the events for swimmers 12 years and younger to be completed in four (4) hours or less for a timed finals session or in a total of eight (8) hours or less per day for a preliminaries and finals meet.” The rule was put in place so not to discourage new (typically young) swimmers and families who are turned off by long meets.

Freestyle – one of the 4 competitive racing strokes.

Head Timer – the official in charge of all the lane timers. The head timer signals the meet referee when the lane timers are ready for the event. The head timer starts up two or more backup watches that may be requested by the lane timers whose own watches fail or when they miss a start.

Heat – a division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time. An event is completed when all the heats comprising it have been swum. At most meets, the heats will run from the slowest swimmers to the fastest swimmers.

Heat Sheets – the pre-meet printed listings of swimmers’ heat and lane assignments and seed times in the various events at a swim meet. These sheets vary in accuracy, since the coaches submit swimmers times many weeks before the meet. Heat sheets are sold at the admissions table and are used mainly to make sure the swimmer has been properly entered in all the events they signed up for. Parents enjoy looking at the seedings prior to the race plus swimmers can tell the order the events will be conducted and get a rough idea how long the meet sessions will last.

Individual Medley (IM) – a swimming event using all four of the competitive strokes.

Lane – the specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim. In pools with starting blocks at only one end, the numbering normally goes from right (lane 1) to left (lane 6) from the point of view of a swimmers standing behind the blocks.

Lane Timer – “Lane timers” are parent volunteers who provide (usually) backup timing for each race during a swim meet. Armed with a stop watch, timers are positioned at the end of each lane where a swimmer finishes the race, usually two, sometimes three per lane. Timers start their watches on the strobe light (not the horn) fired from the starting unit positioned on one side of the pool next to the meet referee and starter. They stop the watches when the swimmer in their lane touches the wall after swimming their final length of the race. In addition to the watches, one or both timers might also be required to operate button timers. In this case, timers press the button (in one hand) and stop the watch (in the other) simultaneously at the end of each race. Watch times are recorded on “lane timer sheets” which are collected by runners after each event. Parents typically volunteer for 1 or 2-hour slots by signing their name to a “lane timer signup sheet” often posted against the wall near the lane.

Long Course Pool – an Olympic Size swimming pool that is 50 meters from end to end.

Long Course Season - April 1 through August 31. (25m or 50m)

LSC - Stands for Local Swimming Committee. Bend Swim Club's LSC is Oregon Swimming.

Oregon Swimming, Inc (OSI) – OSI is a Local Swimming Committee that charters teams and registers swimmers for USA Swimming in Oregon.

PRELIMS (Preliminaries) - The swimming of all events to determine who will swim in the consolation and final heats later that day. This occurs in Championship Meets.

Qualifying Time - Official times necessary to enter certain meets, or the times necessary to achieve a specific category of swimmer.

SCY and SCM (Swim Courses) – abbreviation for a short course pool which is 25 yards (“short course yards”) or 25-meters long (“short course meters”).

Section - Our section is Northwest. It encompasses teams from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska. The Northwest Section conducts a winter short course championship (Sectionals) in March.

Seeding – the process of assigning heats and lanes to all swimmers entered in a swim event based on each swimmer’s personal best time (“seed time”) in that event. Deck Seeding - swimmers are called to report to the Clerk of the Course. After scratches are determined, the event is seeded. Pre Seeding - swimmers are arranged in heats according to submitted times, usually a day prior to the meet.

Short Course Season - September 1 to March 31 (25yd or 25m)

Stroke & Turn (Rules, Judges) – USA Swimming defines the rules for legal swim stroke technique, starts, turns and finishes that swimmers must obey during an event at a sanctioned meet. Certified “Judges” enforce these “Stroke & Turn” rules during each heat of each event in the meet. When the judges see something illegal, they report to the referee (by completing a DQ slip) and the swimmer may be disqualified. Judges may perform the duties of a “Stroke”, “Turn” or “Relay Takeoff” Judge separately, alternately or all at the same time during a swim meet.

Time Standard – A time set for a meet or by an LSC or Section or Zone or USA Swimming that a swimmer must achieve in a specific event for qualification or recognition. These times, for all events (stroke & distances) by swim course, gender and age (for age-group competitions) when bundled together in one or more tables are also called a “Time Standard”.

Timed Finals - Most swim meets will be timed finals. The event is swum just once, and the final placings are determined by their official time in the event.

Unattached - A swimmer who competes but does not represent a club.

USA Swimming, Inc – The national governing body of the competitive swimming in the United States; often abbreviated USA-S or U.S.S. The USA Swimming Headquarters was established in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1981 and is located at the US Olympic Training Center. USA Swimming formulates the rules, implements policies and procedures, and disseminates safety and sports medicine information. Membership in USA Swimming is required to compete in sanctioned meets.

Warm-up - The practice session a swimmer does before the meet or before their event is swam.

Zone - United States Swimming is divided into four zones. They are Southern, Central, Eastern, and Western. Oregon Swimming Inc. is a member of the Western Zone. Each Zone hosts a long course championship meet (Zones) in August. This meet brings together the fastest swimmers in the Zone not including the Junior and Senior National qualifiers.