Common Swim Terminology

AMS (Allegheny Mountain Swimming)

AMS is one of the 59 Local Swim Committee (LSC's) comprising USA Swimming.  Geographically, it includes Western Pennsylvania and a few counties in Ohio and West Virginia.


USA Swimming

USA Swimming is the governing body of the sport of swimming within the United States.  USA Swimming is a National Governing Body (NGB) and one of the sports comprising the United States Aquatic Sports (USAS).


Long Course

A Long Course (LC) competition is held in a 50-meter pool.  The LC season is held during the summer months because most of the 50-meter pools are outdoors.


Short Course

A Short Course (SC) competition is held in a 25-yard pool.  Most of the SC pools in the area belong to High Schools and Colleges because they all swim SC events.  The SC season runs from September through March.  It is interesting to note that the USA is the only country in the world that swims SC competitions.  All the other countries swim LC events.


JO's/Age Group Champs

These are two examples of "qualifying meets".  Swimmers must have swum qualifying times to be permitted to swim in qualifying meets.  The qualifying times are contained within the Meet Announcement (MA) or meet invitation.



USA Swimming is divided into four separate zones – central, eastern, southern and western.  We are in the Eastern Zone.  Each zone elects two representatives to the national Board of Directors.  Each Zone holds a competition commonly called "Zones" (short for "Zone Championship Age Group meet") that is used to showcase some of the best swimmers in its Zone.  There are both minimal qualifying times as well as not-faster-than times for competition at these meets.

IM Stroke order

IM (Individual Medley) stroke order is: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle. 


Medley Relay order

The order of strokes in a Medley Relay is: Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly and Freestyle. 


Heat sheet vs. Psych sheet

When you attend a meet and want to follow each event, or just want to know when your swimmer(s) will be swimming, you may purchase a Heat sheet or look at the Heat sheet that is typically posted somewhere in the meet venue.  Heat sheets will contain, in order, each event and heat being swum at that session.  It also details which swimmer has been seeded into each lane.

A Psych sheet is just a listing of swimmers entered into each event sorted by their entry times- fastest being first.  A Psych sheet doesn't contain any heat-related information.  If you are familiar with seeding protocols, you may be able to extract the seeded heats from a Psych sheet, but there may be scratches that will affect the final seeding order.



These letters are used to describe what are officially referred to as "Motivational Times".  They refer to times in decreasing (faster) order- a "BB" time is faster than a "B" time and slower than an "A" time.  These time standards are set every four years (a quadrennial) right after an Olympic Games season has completed.  They are set by USA Swimming's Times and Recognition Committee. Their reason for existence is to provide motivation to swimmers to "get to that next level" in an achievable manner rather than focus on winning a race.  One of USA Swimming's goals is to "broaden the base" of its athletes by encouraging swimming faster each year and increasing the number of events swam.



Within the United States, there are fifty-nine (59) Local Swimming Committees (LSC's). Each LSC is responsible for administering USA Swimming activities in a defined geographical area and has its own set of bylaws under which it operates. A House of Delegates with representation of athletes, coaches, members of the Board of Directors and clubs is responsible for managing the business affairs of the LSC.  Our LSC is Allegheny Mountain.



The House of Delegates (HOD) meetings are the business operations meetings of an LSC.  Each member Club of an LSC may send a certain number of voting representatives to the meeting.



Circle-in refers to the process of a swimmer's requirement to circle-in for specified events.  The Meet invitation will define which events need circled-in.  Most distance events require that a swimmer circle-in if they wish to actually swim that event.  Events may be entered for a meet, but if any events requiring circle-in are not circled-in, then the swimmer will not be seeded for those events.  Yes, you will still be charged whether or not the swimmer swims those events.  There are penalties for circling-in for an event and then not swimming it.  Those penalties are defined in the Meet invitation.  The reason for the circle-in procedure is to eliminate empty lanes in events, possibly resulting in fewer heats and a shorter session.  By their nature, events requiring circle-in are deck-seeded.


Seeded meet (Deck and Pre-)

Meets can be either pre-seeded, meaning that all the heats for the meet have been seeded- every swimmer can see in what heat and lane they will be swimming for all their events.  Pre-seeded meets take all the entered events and seeds the entire meet.  Most SC meets, except possibly for the distance events, are pre-seeded.  Deck-seeding is normally done for LC meets.  When a meet is advertised as deck-seeded, swimmers must circle-in for all their events to ensure that they will be seeded into each event.  The main reason for deck-seeding is to virtually eliminate empty lanes from all heats of deck-seeded events.  You will not get a heat sheet for deck-seeded events because the events are not seeded until a few minutes prior to the event being swum.



A common practice technique used by Coaches whereby the training volume of a swimmer is drastically reduced 7-21 days before a targeted championship-level meet.  Tapering allows restoration of muscular power while maintaining the endurance-related metabolic benefits gained through earlier, hard practices.


Circle seeding

Circle Seeding is only used in the prelims of Championship meets with events which have "prelims & finals". This affects only the fastest three heats worth of swimmers- 24 in an 8-lane pool, 18 in a 6-lane pool. All other heats are seeded normally- fastest to slowest. Circle seeding goes like this: The fastest seeded swimmer will be in the last heat in lane 4. The second fastest swimmer will be in the second to last heat lane 4. The third fastest swimmer will be in the third to last heat lane 4. The fourth fastest swimmer will be in the last heat lane 5 and so on. The finals are seeded like a regular meet as are any events that are swum as timed finals such as relays, distance freestyles and other events most often held on Friday evening as a timed finals session.  The idea behind circle seeding is to seed the fastest swimmers into the middle of the pool.