Swim Terms & Definitions:


Time classification for a swimmer. The “A” level qualifying time required for entry into some meets. A swimmer must achieve the time standard before they will be allowed to enter an “A” meet. The state meets, for example, require an A time.

A/B Meet:

Swim meet that offers separate competition for both “A” swimmers and “B” swimmers, usually with medals for the “A” swimmers and ribbons for the “B” swimmers. Swimmers compete in separate brackets against other swimmers of their own ability.  Usually only “A” swimmers can score individual event team points.


Swimmers are separated into groups by age for competition. Typical age groups include 8 and under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, and 15 and above. If a swimmer’s birthday falls in the middle of a meet, the age they are at the beginning of the meet define the age group they compete with for the entire meet.

Approved Meet:

A meet conducted with sufficient USA Swimming officials to certify conformance to USA Swimming rules.


Time classification for a swimmer. A “B” time is a lower standard than an “A” time. Some meets require an “A” or “B” time in order to participate.


One of the 4 competitive racing strokes.  Backstroke is swum as the first stroke in the Medley Relay and second stroke in the I.M.


The starting platforms located behind each lane. Some pools have blocks at the deeper end of the pool, and some pools have blocks at both ends. Blocks have a variety of designs and can be permanent or removable.


One of the 4 competitive racing strokes.  Breaststroke is swum as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the I.M.

Bull Pen:

The staging area where swimmers wait to receive their lane and heat assignments for a swimming event.  The bull pen area is usually away from the pool and has rows of chairs for the swimmers to sit.  The Clerk of the Course is in charge of the Bull Pen.


One of the 4 competitive racing strokes.  Butterfly (nicknamed FLY) is swum as the third stroke in the Medley Relay and first stroke in the I.M.


The manual timing system stopping device that records a back-up time in case the touch pad malfunctioned.  The button is at the end of a wire, plugged into a deck terminal box.  It is the timer’s responsibility to push the button as the swimmer finishes the race.


Designated distance (length of pool) for swimming competition.  Long Course = 50 meters.  Short Course = 25 yards or 25 meters.


The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches.

Deck Entries:

Accepting entries into swimming events on the first day or later day of a meet.


Disqualified.  A swimmer’s performance is not counted because of a rules infraction.  A disqualification is shown by an official raising one arm with open hand above their head.

DQ Slip: 

A piece of paper that meet officials write the reason for a disqualification. Copies of the DQ slip are shared with the coach. 


Entering the water head first.  Diving is not allowed during warm-ups except at the designated time, in specific lanes that are monitored by the swimmer’s coach.

Diving Well:

A separate pool or a pool set off to the side of the competition pool.  This pool has deeper water and diving boards or platforms. During a meet, this area may be designated as a warm-down pool with proper supervision.

Double Dual:

Type of swim meet where three teams compete in dual meets against each other at the same time.  Separate meet scores would be kept for Team A vs. Team B, Team A vs. Team C, and Team B vs. Team C.

Dual Meet:

Type of meet where two teams compete against each other.

Dropped Time:

When a swimmer goes faster than their previous performance, they have “dropped their time.”


The exercises and strength programs that swimmers do out of the water.

Electronic Timing:

Timing system operated on DC current (battery).  The timing system usually has touch pads in the water, junction boxes on the deck with hook up cables, buttons for backup timing, and a computer console that prints out the results of each race.  Some systems are hooked up to a scoreboard that displays swimmers’ times.

False Start:

When a swimmer leaves the starting block before the horn or gun.  One false start will disqualify a swimmer or a relay team, although the starter or referee may disallow the false start due to unusual circumstances.

False Start Rope:

A recall rope across the width of the racing pool to stop swimmers who were not aware of a false start.  The rope is about ½ way on yard pools and about 50 feet from the starting end on meter pools.


One of the 4 competitive racing strokes.  Freestyle (nicknamed Free) is swum as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the I.M.


A division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time.  The results are compiled by the swimmers’ times after all heats of the event are completed.

Heat Sheet:

The pre-meet printed listings of swimmers’ seed times in the various events at a swim meet.


A sounding device used in place of a gun.


Individual Medley.  A swimming event using all 4 of the competitive strokes on consecutive lengths of the race.  The order must be:  Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle.  Equal distances must be swum of each stroke.  Distances offered:  100 years, 200 yards/meters, 400 yards/meter.


The leg movements of a swimmer.  A popular word to “yell” to encourage swimmers during a race.


The specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim, i.e. Lane 1 or Lane 2.  Lane numbers can be found on or near the blocks.

Lane Lines:

Continuous floating markers attached to a cable stretched from the starting end to the turning end to separate each lane and quiet the waves caused by racing swimmers.

Lap Counter:

The large numbered cards (or the person turning the cards) used during the freestyle events 500 yards or longer.  Counting is done from the end opposite the starting end.  The numbers on the cards are odd numbers only with the final lap being designated by a bright orange card.


The part of a relay event swum by a single team member.  A single stroke in the I.M.

Long Course: 

Swimming in a 50 meter (Olympic size) pool.


The command to take your starting position.


The 1500 meter or the 1650 yard freestyle, both of which are slightly short of a mile.


No Time.  The abbreviation used on a heat sheet to designate that the swimmer has not swum that event before.


The certified, adult volunteers, who operate the many facets of a swim competition.

On The:

The amount of time allowed to swim a specific distance.  For example, to swim two 100 freestyles on the 1:30 means to swim 100 yards freestyle in 1 minute 30seconds, followed by another 100 yards freestyle in 1 minute 30 seconds.


Official Time.  The swimmer’s event time recorded to on-hundredth of a second (.01).

Pace Clock:

The electronic clocks or large clocks with highly visible numbers and second hands, positioned at the ends or sides of a swimming pool so the swimmers can read their times during warm-ups or swim practice.


Colored, plastic devices worn on the swimmer’s hands during swim practice.


A meet conducted without a bull pen in which a swimmer knows what lane and heat they are in by looking at the meet heat sheet or posted meet program.

Pull Buoy:

A flotation device used for pulling by swimmers in practice.

Qualifying Times:

Published times necessary to enter certain meets, or the times necessary to achieve a specific category of swimmer.  See “A”, “B”, etc. times.


A swimming event in which 4 swimmers participate as a relay team with each swimmer swimming an equal distance of the race. There are two types of relays:  1.)  Medley relay – One swimmer swims Backstroke, one swimmer swims Breaststroke, one swimmer swims Butterfly, one swimmer swims Freestyle, in that order.  Medley relays are conducted over 200yd/mter and 400 yd/mtr distances.  2.)  Freestyle relay – Each swimmer swims freestyle.  Free relays are conducted over 200 yd/mtr, 400 yd/mtr, and 800 yd/mtr distances.


Assign each swimmer a heat and lane according to their submitted or preliminary times.

Short Course: 

Swimming in a short, 25 yard or 25 meter pool (Pools around here are typically 25 yards).


A portion of an event, shorter than the total distance that is timed.  It is common to take multiple splits for the longer distances.


The official in charge of signaling the beginning of a race and insuring that all swimmers have a fair takeoff.


The command given by the Starter or Referee to release the swimmers from their starting position.


The command given by the Starter or Referee to have the swimmers move off the blocks.  Usually this command is a good indication everything is not right for the race to start.

Swimmer Plateau: 

When first learning the sport of competitive swimming, young swimmers often see steady drops in their race times. Eventually, when athletes reach a certain maturity or skill level, drops in time are harder to come by. This happens not just in swimming, but in many athletic endeavors and is a normal progression in training. 


The resting phase of a senior swimmer at the end of the season before the championship meet.

Team Unify: 

Team Unify is website that provides services specifically suited to swim teams. Team Unify provides a system for registering and billing swimmers, a convenient method of payment for families, a system for keeping track of the team roster, an email center for easily sending out emails to the team, and a way to manage swim meets, among other things. WSC’s official website is hosted by Team Unify. 

Tech Suit: 

According to USA Swimming at this time, the working definition would count suits as technical suits if they have:

  1. bonded or taped seams regardless of its fabric or silhouette, or
  2. any male or female suit with “woven fabric extending to the knee or mid-thigh” regardless of the type of seams.

Time Standard:

A time set by a meet or LSC or USA-S (etc) that a swimmer must achieve for qualification or recognition.


The volunteers standing or sitting behind the starting blocks/finish end of the pool, who are responsible for getting watch times on events and activating the backup buttons for the timing system.

Time Trial:

An event or series of events where a swimmer may achieve or better a required time standard.

Touch Out:

To reach the touch pad and finish first in a close race.

Touch Pad:

The removable plate (on the end of pools) that is connected to an automatic timing systems.  A swimmer must properly touch the touch pad to register an official time in a race.


An athlete member who competes, but does not represent a club or team.  (abbr. UN)

Unofficial Time:

The time displayed on a read-out board or read over the intercom by the announcer immediately after the race.  After the time has been checked, it will become the official time.


The recovery swimming a swimmer does after a race when pool space is available.


The practice and loosening –up session a swimmer does before the meet or their event is swum.


The sound the Starter or Referee makes to signal for quiet before they give the command to start the race.