Swimming Words and Terms

ABANDONMENT — termination of an open water event prior to its completion due to safety considerations.

AGGREGATE TIME — times achieved by four individuals in separate starts which are added together to arrive at a relay time for entry purposes.

AMATEUR SPORTS ACT — the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (1998) (or as applicable, the Amateur Sports Act of 1978), as amended from time to time.

APPRECIABLE — sufficient in extent to be recognized.

APPROVAL — a permit issued by an LSC for meets conducted in conformance with USA Swimming technical rules in which both members and non-members may compete.

ARM — that part of the body that extends from the shoulder to the wrist.

ATTACHED — status of an athlete member who represents a member club in competition after having met the requirements of Article 203.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS — unless otherwise noted, shall mean the USA Swimming Board of Directors. BODY — the torso, including shoulders and hips.

BONUS (C) FINAL — the third fastest heat of swimmers competing in Finals.

BULLYING — the severe or repeated use, regardless of when or where it may occur, by one or more USA Swimming members of an oral, written, electronic or other technological expression, image, sound, data or intelligence of any nature (regardless of the method of transmission), or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at any other member or Participating NonMember that to a reasonably objective person has the effect of: (i) causing physical or emotional harm to the other person or damage to the other person’s property; (ii) placing the other person in reasonable fear of harm to himself/herself or of damage to his/her property; (iii) creating a hostile environment for the other person at any USA Swimming activity; (iv) infringing on the rights of the other person at any USA Swimming activity; or (v) materially and substantially disrupting the training process or the orderly operation of any USA Swimming activity (which shall include, without limitation, practices, workouts and other events of a member club, LSC or Zone).

CHAMPIONSHIP (A) FINAL — the fastest heat of swimmers competing in Finals.

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER — unless otherwise noted, the Chief Executive Officer and President of USA Swimming.

CLOSED COMPETITION • Competition exclusively among members of a single club • Competition or series of competitions within an independent organization open only to members of that organization, such as: º YMCA competition º Summer league competition º Conference competition • Closed competition does not include representing a group within USA Swimming such as LSC, Zone, Region, or Section

CLUB — an organization which has been accepted for membership in USA Swimming.

COMPETITION CATEGORY — stated as male or female for the purpose of athlete swimming eligibility, competition, selection and records. An athlete’s stated competition category shall be referred to as “gender.”

CONFORMING TIME — time achieved in a course that corresponds to the meet competition course.

CONSOLATION (B) FINAL — the second fastest heat of swimmers competing in Finals.

COURSE — designated distance over which the competition is conducted.

LONG COURSE — 50 meters.

SHORT COURSE — 25 yards or 25 meters.

DECK CHANGE — changing, in whole or in part, into or out of a swimsuit when wearing just one suit in an area other than a permanent or temporary locker room, bathroom, changing room or other space designated for changing purposes.

DECK PASS — the official mobile application of USA Swimming.

DRAFTING/SLIPSTREAMING — swimming behind or next to another open water swimmer or support craft for the purpose of taking advantage of the reduced water resistance created by the former’s wake.

DRAW — random selection by chance.

DUAL COMPETITION — competition between two teams.

END OF COURSE — designated wall for racing turns and finishes.

ESCORT CRAFT — boats or paddle boards used in open water competition for the swimmers’ safety and logistical support.

ESCORTED SWIM — an open water event in which each swimmer is required to have an escort craft accompany the swimmer throughout the race.

EVENT — any race or series of races in a given stroke and/or distance. For competitive limits, one event is inclusive of preliminary heat(s) plus its related final(s), or one timed final, or one time trial.

EX-OFFICIO — a member of a board or committee serving by virtue of some other office or position held (whether in USA Swimming, in an Allied or Affiliate Member, or otherwise), or by virtue of an appointment to such committee or board pursuant to the Bylaws of USA Swimming. Ex-officio members have full rights of membership including the right to vote (unless otherwise provided in the Bylaws or Policy Manual). Ex-officio members without the right to vote are not counted to establish a quorum (unless expressly provided otherwise in the Bylaws).

FEED POLE — a mechanical implement used by coaches or support personnel to deliver fluid and/or food to open water swimmers during the race.

FINALS — a session of a meet in which the concluding heats of an event are contested which may include championship, consolation, or bonus finals.

FINISH — the instant that a swimmer touches the wall at the end of the prescribed distance.

FINISH POINT — the physical location where an open water race terminates.

FIRST DAY OF MEET — day on which the first competitive swimming event is conducted.

FOREIGN SWIMMER — an athlete member of a FINA member-country federation, other than USA Swimming, or an athlete member of USA Swimming who is not eligible to represent the United States in international competition due to FINA sports citizenship requirements. (See Sports Citizen)

FORWARD START — an entry made while facing the course.

FOUL — an instance of obstruction, interference, collision, or equipment malfunction which prevents the successful completion of a race.

HEADQUARTERS — USA Swimming’s office in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

HEATS — a division of an event in which there are too many swimmers to compete at one time. (See Preliminary Heats and Timed Final Heats)

HORIZONTAL — parallel to the surface of the water.

INITIAL DISTANCE — that first portion of a race for which an official time may be recorded but which is not in itself a completed event.

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION — any athletic competition between any athlete(s) or member organization(s) of USA Swimming, either individually or as part of a team, and any athlete(s) or member organization(s) (e.g., clubs) representing any foreign country.

JUNIOR OLYMPIC — a type of Age Group competition conducted by Zones and LSCs.

LANE LINE — continuous floating markers attached to a line stretched from the starting end to the turning end of the course for the purpose of separating each lane.

LEAD BOAT — the boat used as a course guide for open water swimmers.

LENGTH — extent of the course from end to end.

LSC (LOCAL SWIMMING COMMITTEE) — an administrative division of USA Swimming with supervisory responsibilities within certain geographic boundaries designated by USA Swimming.

MANUAL START — the start of any timing device by an individual in response to the same starting signal given to the swimmer(s).

MAY — permissive, not mandatory.

MEET ANNOUNCEMENT — document setting forth information of the meet events, schedule, and procedures.

MEET COMMITTEE — Unless otherwise specified in the meet announcement, the Meet Committee shall consist of the Meet Director, Meet Referee, and coach and athlete members as appropriate. 

MIXED CLASSIFICATION — meet in which events of Age Group and Junior, Senior, or any other classification are offered.

NATIONAL AGE GROUP (NAG) RECOGNITION TIME — an official time that qualifies as one of the fastest for a given age group as defined in the SWIMS portion of the Policy Manual.

NON-CONFORMING TIME — entry time achieved in a course which does not correspond to the course in which the meet will be conducted.

NOTICE — A written communication notifying about a scheduled meeting of a committee, board or other governing body or group, or other fact or occurrence, required to be made by law, bylaw, rule or regulation. To be considered written, the communication must be addressed, using the last known address on file with the LSC or in SWIMS, to the intended or required recipient(s) and delivered by hand, first class mail, overnight or second day delivery by a national delivery service, facsimile transmission, electronic mail or text message.

OBSERVED SWIM — a swim observed by assigned USA Swimming officials for conformance with USA Swimming technical rules in a meet conducted under other than USA Swimming rules.

ON THE BACK — position of the body when the shoulders are at or past vertical towards the back.

ON THE BREAST — position of the body when the shoulders are at or past vertical towards the breast.

OPEN COMPETITION — competition which any qualified club, organization or individual may enter.

OPEN WATER SWIMMING — any swimming competition that takes place in rivers, lakes, or oceans.

OUTREACH MEMBERSHIP — a reduced-fee category of athlete membership for under-represented and/or economically disadvantaged swimmers.

PACING — an attempt by a person not participating in an open water race to enter the water with the intent of providing moral support or otherwise assisting a swimmer in setting the tempo of the race.

PADDLER — a person on a paddle board or manually propelled craft who supports an open water swimmer or group of swimmers.

PERSONAL ASSISTANT — person assigned to aid a disabled swimmer.

PLACE JUDGE — official assigned to record the order of finish of all swimmers by lane in each heat.

POLICY MANUAL — document adopted by the USA Swimming Board of Directors that specifies policies and procedures not contained in Rules & Regulations.

PRACTICE — the instruction of swimming techniques, skills, knowledge, conditioning, aptitude and motivation.

PRELIMINARY HEATS OR PRELIMINARIES — competition in which a number of heats are swum to qualify the fastest swimmers for the Finals.

PROGRAM — the order of events, including starting times and intermissions in a meet or portion thereof (See Session), sequentially listed by class of competition, sex, age group, distance, and stroke as set forth in the meet announcement.

PROPULSIVE — having power to propel.

REINSTATEMENT — return of all or limited rights of membership in USA Swimming.

RELAY — a race in which each team member swims a specified portion of the course.

RELAY LEG — the part of a relay event that is swum by a single team member.

SANCTION — a permit issued by an LSC to a USA Swimming group member to conduct a meet in conformance with all USA Swimming rules in which all participating swimmers are athlete members of USA Swimming, except as provided in Article 202.5.1.

SCISSOR KICK — use of the top of the instep of one foot and the bottom of the other foot in the propulsive part of the kick.

SCRATCH (from an event) — withdraw an entry from competition.

SEASONAL ATHLETE MEMBERSHIP — an individual athlete membership in USA Swimming which may be offered at the option of the LSC for one or two periods of not more than 150 days in a registration year pursuant to Article 302.

SEASONAL CLUB — an organization which has been accepted for membership in USA Swimming and which operates within a period of time specified by the LSC.

SEED — to distribute the swimmers among the required number of heats and/or lanes, according to their submitted or preliminary times.

DECK-SEED — swimmers are required to check in for their events on the day of the meet. After scratches are determined, events are seeded.

PRE-SEED — all entrants are seeded prior to the day of competition.

SESSION — any portion of a meet distinctly separated from other portions by locale, time, or type of competition, i.e., preliminaries and finals; morning and evening; Senior and Age Group, etc.

SHALL — mandatory.

SHOULD — recommended but not mandatory.

SIMULTANEOUSLY — occurring at the same time.

SPORTS CITIZEN — an athlete who has represented a nation other than the United States in international competition is a sports citizen of that nation and is considered ineligible to represent the United States until FINA requirements for changing sports citizenship (sport nationality) have been met. (See Foreign Swimmer)

SPORTS ORGANIZATION — a corporation, club, federation, union, association, or other group organized in the United States which sponsors or conducts any athletic competition.

SUPPORT PERSONNEL — persons in an open water swimmer’s escort craft who provide for feeding, navigating, coaching, and other supporting activities.

SUSPENSION — deprivation of all rights of membership in USA Swimming.

SWIMS (SWIMMING WEB-BASED INTERACTIVE MEMBERSHIP SYSTEM) — a single integrated database system which includes USA Swimming membership data and a databank of achieved times that are considered official and are recognized for proof of entry and recognition programs.

TAPPER — personal assistant who uses a pole with a soft-tipped end to tap a blind or visuallyimpaired swimmer as notification of turns and the finish.

TEXTILE MATERIALS — natural and/or synthetic, individual and non-consolidating yarns used to constitute a fabric by weaving, knitting, and/or braiding, or as further defined under current FINA swimwear rules.

TIME STANDARD — the time a swimmer must have previously achieved in order to compete in that event at a designated competition.

TIME TRIAL — an event conducted within or independently of a meet where the swimmer races against the clock to establish an official time.

TIMED FINAL HEATS OR TIMED FINALS — competition in which only heats are swum and final placings are determined by the times achieved in the heats.

TOUCH — contact with the end of the course.

TRYOUT — practices where a swimmer who is not a member of USA Swimming participates with a USA Swimming member club for a period not to exceed thirty (30) consecutive days in a twelve (12) month period to determine the swimmer’s interest in becoming a member of USA Swimming.

TURN — a point where the swimmers reverse or change direction.

UNATTACHED — status of a member who does not represent a club or FINA member Federation in competition.

UNESCORTED SWIM — an open water event where swimmers compete without a designated support craft.

USA SWIMMING — USA Swimming, Inc., a Colorado corporation.

VENUE — the area located on the sides and ends of the pool, spectator area, team areas within the pool facility (e.g., portion of the building designated for teams and swimmers, or fenced area around an outdoor pool), locker rooms, and such other areas as may be specifically designated by the host club or organization, meet director, or referee. In open water competition, the geographical area and environs where the meet is conducted.

VERTICAL — perpendicular to the water surface.

WALL — vertical portion of the pool, contiguous surfaces of the deck and overflow gutter, the front portion of the starting block or platform, or the touchpad at the end of the course.

WARNING SIGNAL — a bell, whistle, air horn, or other appropriate audible device.

WAVE — at an open water event, a second or subsequent start used if the start area cannot accommodate all contestants at the same time.

WEBSITE — the official site maintained by USA Swimming on the internet (