San Gabriel Sea Gulls

  Glossary of Swimming Terms 

   A glossary of those strange and wacky words we use in the sport of swimming. You may or may not find these words in the English Dictionary, and if you do, their definitions will probably be radically different than the ones listed in this Glossary.

Relax and take your time reading. Soon you’ll be understanding and maybe even speaking some ‘swim slang.”


Age Group    

Definition of swimmers according to age. The National Age Group divisions are:  10-under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18. Some LSCs have divided the swimmers into more convenient divisions specific to their situations: (i.e.) 8-under, 13-Over, 15-Over, Junior, Senior.



In a Prelims Finals meet, after the finalists are decided, the next two fastest swimmers other than the finalists are designated as alternates. The faster of the two being the first alternate and the next being second alternate. If a finalist cannot participate, the alternates are called to take their place.



The final swimmer in a relay.


Approved Meet

A meet conducted with sufficient USA Swimming officials to certify conformance to USA Swimming rules. The meet may included competitors who are not USA Swimming members. The meet may be a competition sanctioned at the LSC level with the added approval of USA Swimming because both member and non-member athletes will be competing.



The starting sound from an electronic, computerized timing system.


Blue/Red/White times

The Southern California time standards for age group swimmers. Blue being the fastest and White being the slowest.


Bonus Heat

The heat held during the finals session of a Prelims/Finals meet that is slower than the swimmers participating in Big Finals. The bonus Heat may refer to Consolation Finals or an extra heat in addition to Consolation finals.



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. There are usually 3 buttons per lane. It is the timers responsibility to push the button as the swimmer finishes the race.


Championship Meet

The meet held at the end of a season. Qualification times are usually necessary to enter meet.


Championship Finals

The top six or eight swimmers (depending on the number of pool lanes) in a Prelims/Finals meet who, after the prelims are swum, qualify to return to the Finals. The fastest heat of finals when multiple heats are held.



The procedure required before a swimmer swims an event in a deck-seeded meet. Sometimes referred to as positive check-in, the swimmer must mark their name on a list posted by the meet host.


Circle Seeding

A method of seeding swimmers when they are participating in a prelims/finals event. The fastest 18 to 24 swimmers are seeded in the last three heats, with the fastest swimmers being in the inside lanes. (i.e.) Lane 4 in the final three heats. See rule book for exact method for seeding depending on the lanes in the pool.


Closed Competition

Swim meet which is only open to the members of an organization or group. Summer club swim meets are considered to be “Closed Competition.”



A registered swim team that is a dues-paying member of USA-S and the local LSC.



A set of rules that have been officially published.



A brand of automatic timing system.


Consolation Finals

After the fastest six or eight swimmers, the next six or eight swimmers (depending on the number of pool lanes) in a Prelims/Finals meet who, after the prelims are swum, qualify to return to the Finals. Consolations are the second fastest heat of finals when multiple heats are held and are conducted before the Championship heat.



Achieving a time standard


Disqualified (DQ)

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.


Dual Meet

Type of meet where two teams/clubs compete against each other.


Dropped Time

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



The order of events and type of swim meet being conducted.


Gun Lap

The part of a freestyle distance race (400 meters or longer)



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



June age group championship meet. Time standard base meet. Swimmers must achieve the minimum time standard.



Junior Olympics Championship meet. Time standard base meet. The LCS has a goal of the fastest 10-20% of a given age group to compete at this level.



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


Long Course

A 50-meter pool



Local Swim Committee. The local level administrative division of the corporation (USA-S) with supervisory responsibilities within certain geographic boundaries designated by the Corporation.




The measurement of the length of a swimming pool that was built per specs using the metric system. Long course meters is 50 meters, shot course meters is 25 meters.



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


Positive Check In

The procedure required before a swimmer swims an event in a deck seeded or pre seeded meet. The swimmer must mark their name on a list posted by the meet host.



Session of a Prelims/Finals meet in which the qualification heats are conducted.



Type of meet with two sessions. The preliminary heats are usually held in the morning session. The fastest six or eight (Championship Heat) swimmers, and the next fastest six or eight swimmers (Consolation Heat) return in the evening to compete in the Finals. A swimmer who has qualified in the Consolation Finals may not place in the Championship Finals even if their finals time would place them so. The converse also applies.



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



points per Swimmer, a gauge that Coach George uses at SGSG Championship meets.  In Coach George's view a pure way to review the results.


Proof of Time

An official meet result, OVC, or other accepted form. Swimmers/Coaches must supply proof of time with some meet entries, and other meets it is not required unless a swimmer misses a cut of time at the meet.


Psyche Sheet       

An entry sheet showing all swimmers entered into each individual event. Sometimes referred to as a “Heat Sheet” or meet program. However, a “heat sheet” would show not only every swimmer in an event, but also what heat and lane they are swimming in.


Recovery Base Training (RBT) 

A type of training used by the SGSG


Short Course

A 25-yard or 25-meter pool.



A portion of an event that is shorter than the total distance and is timed. (i.e.) A swimmer’s first 50 time is taken as the swimmer swims the 100 race. It is common to take multiple splits for the longer distances.



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


Time Trial

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


Touch Pad

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



A meet with three teams competing for points to see who places 1st-2nd-3rd.



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


USA-S ID Number

A 16-part number assigned to a swimmer after they have filled out the proper forms and paid their annual dues. The first 6 parts are numbers of a swimmer’s birthdate: Day/Month/Year using zeros as place holders. The next three spaces are the first three letters of the athlete’s legal first name. The next letter is the middle initial, followed by the first four letters of the swimmer’s last name. For example: USA-S ID# for swimmer Suzanne Eileen Nelson and born Aug.17, 1976 = 082776SUZENELS. It is the same as LSC# or SCS#.



Winter age group championship meet takes place in December.



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 distance a swimmer races or swims in practice. Total yardage can be calculated for each practice session.


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