Swimming Terminology


Age Groups: all registered swimmers grouped by ages: 8 & under, 10 & under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-18.
Anchor: the competitor who swims the last or anchor leg of a relay.
Backstroke: one of the four primary competitive swimming styles. It is performed with the swimmer on his back and the race starts with the swimmer in the water.

Breaststroke: one of the four primary competitive styles. It is performed on the breast. The legs are kicked in unison and the arms must stroke simultaneously and symmetrically.

Bi-lateral breathing: a breathing pattern turning head to both sides, usually every 3 strokes.

Butterfly: one of the four primary competitive strokes, an outgrowth of the breaststroke, swum in the Olympics for the first time in 1956. The butterfly is performed with the swimmer face down. The legs must be kicked in unison and the arms must stroke simultaneously and symmetrically.

Deck Seed: swimmers are called to report to the clerk of course for their event on the day of the meet. After scratches are determined they are then seeded in the proper heats.

D.Q. (Disqualified): the swimmer's (or swimmers') times are not considered in the competition due to improper stroke techniques, false starting, feet touching the bottom of the pool, etc.

Dolphin Kick: the kick used in the butterfly stroke. The feet move up and down together.

False Start: an error in which the swimmer leaves the starting block too soon. If this is done once by the same swimmer in an individual event, it constitutes a D.Q. If done in a relay, e.g.,--the swimmer on the block jumps in before his teammate has touched the wall--the relay team will be disqualified.

Flip Turn: a commonly used tumbling turn in which the swimmer bends and twists his body with a corkscrew movement and pushes off the wall with his feet.

Flutter Kick: the kick used in the freestyle (crawl).

Freestyle: usually the fastest competitive stroke; a style of facedown swimming in which the arms pull independently of each other and the legs kick individually.

Heat Sheet: a printed order of swimming events and competitors.

Heats: a division of an event in which there are too many swimmers to compete at one time.

Qualifying heat:  competition in which a number of heats are swum to qualify the fastest swimmers for the finals where the final placing for the event will be determined.

Timed final heats:  competition in which only heats are swum and final placings are determined by the times performed in the heats.

High Point: the award given in age group swimming to the boy and girl in each age group who earns the highest number of points.

Individual Medley: one swimmer does all the strokes: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.

Lap: two lengths of the pool.

Leg: one of the four equal portions of a relay race, each swum by a different competitor.

Length: extent of the course from end to end.

Long Course: 50 meters.

LSC: Local Swimming Committee - an administrative division of USS with supervisory responsibilities within certain geographical boundaries designated by USS.

Medley Relay: race in which all four basic competitive strokes are used, each for one fourth of the total distance.

Meet: a series of events held in one program and in the following categories:

  • Open: competition which any qualified club, organization, or individual may enter.
  • Age Group: for any or all age groups.
  • Junior: 18 and under.
  • Masters:  for master swimmers (age 19 and over).
  • Invitational: for those swimmers and clubs invited by the meet director.
  • Dual: between two clubs.

Meter: a unit of measure equal to 39.37 inches. Some pools are measured in meters and some in yards.

Prelim & Final: some meets run preliminary heats with the fastest swimmers making it into the finals. Usually found in championship meets.

Pre-Seeded: swimmers are arranged in heats in events according to submitted times and heat sheets are prepared prior to the day of competition.

Record Attempt: swimming against time in a record attempt, unpaced by other swimmers. LSC Records must be achieved by LSC member swimmers in USA Swimming sanctioned competition. This competition can be at any level.

Relay: made up of four boys or four girls of the same age group.

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

Scratch: (from an event) withdraw an entry from competition.

Short Course: 25 yards or 25 meters.

Split Time: time recorded from official start to completion of an initial distance within a longer event.

Sprint: a short distance race.

Taper: to steadily reduce training in order to rest a swimmer for competition.

Time Standard: the time standard for any event in a meet is the cut-off time for that event.

Time Trial: an event or series of events where swimmers may achieve or better a required time standard.

Timed Finals: a meet in which all heats run one after the other--fastest times placing.

USA Swimming: United States Swimming, an organization that conducts swimming programs and supervises amateur competitions in the U.S.

Unattached: an athlete member who competes but does not represent a club member of USA Swimming.

Whip Kick: the kick used in breaststroke, simulating a frog's movement in the water. The swimmer's feet are drawn up behind him as his knees glide to the side. Then he straightens his legs with a forceful snap.