This section explains the different swim strokes, types of swim events, and how judging works. 

Swim Strokes

Freestyle: In Freestyle events, the competitor may swim any stroke he/she wants. With the freestyle, you may do anything to get yourself from one end of the pool to the other. When/if executing a flip turn, the feet must touch the wall in the push off.

Backstroke: Swimmer must stay on his/her back and must touch the wall while still on their back. The usual stroke consists of an alternating motion of the arms with a flutter kick.

Breaststroke: Requires simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. This is the most formalized of all the strokes. The hands are pulled from the breast to a heart-shaped pattern and recovered under or over the surface of the water. The kick is a simultaneous, somewhat circular, motion similar to the action of a frog. No flutter, scissor, or dolphin kicks are permitted. On turns and at the finish the swimmer must do a two hand touch to the wall simultaneously, with shoulders in line with the surface of the water. According to USA Swimming Rules, the hands cannot be stacked on top of one another on the touch.

Butterfly: Similar to the Breaststroke in that all movements need to be simultaneous, the Butterfly is a simultaneous overhand stroke of the arms combined with an undulating dolphin kick. On turns and the finish, the swimmer must touch the wall with a two hand touch simultaneously with shoulders in line with the surface of the water. According to USA Swimming Rules, the hands cannot be stacked on top of one another on the touch.

Individual Medley (IM): Features all four strokes by one swimmer. The swimmer must swim the IM in the following order: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle. 

Click Here for more information about swim strokes, techniques, and rules.


Swim Events

There are two basic types of races: Individual and Relay

Individual Races: Broken into 5 categories: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and Individual Medley (IM), which consists of all the strokes in the following order:

  • Butterfly

  • Backstroke

  • Breaststroke

  • Freestyle

Medley Relay: Four individual swimmers, each doing a different stroke, in this order:

  • First swimmer – Backstroke

  • Second swimmer – Breaststroke 

  • Third swimmer – Butterfly 

  • Fourth (Final) swimmer – Freestyle

Freestyle Relay: Four individual swimmers, each doing freestyle. 



At each meet you will see Stroke & Turn officials on each side of the pool dressed in white shirts and blue pants/skirts. These officials/judges are trained volunteers who determine whether a swimmer is performing each stroke legally. The main objective of the official is to verify/determine that no swimmer gains an unfair advantage by violating the rules. If a swimmer defaults the rules, they will be disqualified (also referred to as being "DQ’d") from the race. Go to the Officials Tab on this site to learn more about officiating.