So This Is Competitive Swimming: For Newer Swim Parents

By: Russ Sampson Head Coach, Clarence Swim Club, New York


Equipment Used During Practices

Swim Suits:      The attire for a swimmer is important. Comfort as well as material is very important when choosing a suit. Boys will wear either a Jammer or Training Brief (speedo) during practice. Girls will wear a basic one piece competitive suit. We are sponsored by Speedo, we encourage you to buy Speedo gear. We do not have a specific brand/team suit that everyone has to wear. However, during swim meets, a black suit is required.

Goggles:           Rule #1 when choosing a pair of goggles…do not choose a pair because your child thinks they look cool. Most “fun” looking pairs of goggles are bad when it comes to competitive swimming. Choose a pair that will fit your child’s face, and are from a reputable brand. The lens should be light colored, not dark. The goggles that the DCY sells at the front desk are chosen specifically by your coaches because of durability, consistency, and are given excellent reviews from both swimmers and coaches alike. Please have your own pair, and teach your child how to both loosen and tighten them, much like tying a shoe.

Swim Caps:       Swim caps are required to be worn during practices for all girls, as they protect the hair and keep it out of your child’s face. It is also recommended that boys wear caps during practice. Swim caps cut down on “drag” in the water. DCY team caps must be worn during a swim meet. The front desk sells DCY swim caps. Personalized caps can be ordered also, but only during apparel sales.

Kickboards:      Kickboards are used to enhance leg strength and kicking ability. The best swimmers in the world are all effective kickers! The DCY provides kickboards for each swimmer to use during practice.

Fins:                 Much like a kickboard, fins work on the strength of a swimmers legs. However, fins give more freedom, as they are generally used without the use of a kickboard, and work on enhancing ankle flexibility, while promoting good kicking habits. With the exception of breaststroke, all competitive strokes may be performed with a pair of fins. The DCY provides the best training fins for your swimmer.

Pool Buoy:        A training device that is held between the upper thighs of a swimmers legs, pool buoys promote both balance training, as well as an increase in arm exertion. It is a way of breaking the stroke down, and concentrating more from the hips up. Kicking is not to be done with a pool buoy.

Starting Block:  Is used for the start of a race. We practice both standing starts, and backstroke starts (in the water, with hands on the bars). Swimmers must show they can perform a safe and shallow start from the side, before the block can be introduced.

Terminology and Important FAQ’s

When can my swimmer join the DCY Swim Team?

That decision ultimately lies with the Head Coach of the DCY Swim Team. The most important consideration is not moving up a child too soon. Yes, we all want our children to keep advancing, but it is not always realistic, and could be harmful to the child. Similar to placing a child in a swim lesson that they are not ready for, a child will not feel personal success, and oftentimes loses interest in this great lifetime sport. Swimmers will need to be proficient in Freestyle, Backstroke, Breaststroke Kick, and Dolphin Kick, as well as standing starts from the blocks. Keep encouraging and supporting your child. The coaches will handle the rest!


Can my child keep doing Dolphin Club session after session?

Dolphin Club practices are not swimming lessons! It is the pre-swim team for DCY Swimming. We have a limit of no more than three sessions spent in the Dolphin Club. It is getting to be very popular, which is a great thing. But, we are at the point of having too many swimmers in the group. After three sessions in the Dolphin Club, the child and parents have to decide on whether they are ready to commit to being a part of the DCY Swim Team, in addition to being given the “okay” from the Head Coach. If this is not the sport for your child, then we certainly enjoy the time they spent with us. Dolphin Club is the preparation for the team.


Circle Swimming

Image result for circle swim

Circle swimming involves staying to the right side of the lane while swimming laps (counter-clockwise direction). Always swim complete laps of the pool. Avoid stopping in the middle of the lane, this can interfere with the progress of other swimmers and cause collisions. Stop only at the wall and once stopped, stay in the corner of the lane, preferably in the left hand corner (from the perspective of the approach to the wall).



What is a length?

A length is going from one side of the pool to the other.  At the DCY pool, the length is 25 yards (75 feet). This is considered a Short Course Yard (SCY) pool. Some pools are 25 meters (Short Course Meters - SCM), while Olympic Size pools are 50 Meters (Long Course Meters – LCM).



Why should my kid(s) go to Swim Meets?

It is actually quite simple…the meets are the fun part! To say that swim practices are fun is not exactly correct. Working hard, exercising, and knowing you will be in better shape, and a better swimmer from practice is fun for coaches and parents…but the actual work is not fun for swimmers! Swim meets are the reward for all of the hard work and hours spent at practice. Dolphins are allowed to participate in all home meets during the season, and it is strongly recommended. The atmosphere, awards, food, and being a true part of the team is the really fun part!


Volunteering at Home Swim Meets

Yes, the meets are the fun part. Having said that, the only way we can host such swim meets is to have parents volunteer so that they run smoothly. The coaches are busy doing their jobs, and the parents are absolutely needed to take on a job themselves at meets. A week or two before each home meet, a job list is sent out. The jobs are very routine, and pretty easy. A parent from each child signed up for the meet is required to take on a job! Again, we are all doing this for your swimmer.



Can I continue watching practices from the mezzanine?

Are children easily distracted? Yes. Are parents a distraction? Yes. DCY Swim Team practices are closed to parents for this reason. All parents want to be a part of their child’s athletic career – which is awesome. Please let us do the coaching. We have one of the most successful programs in the state! Support them, get them to practice on time, but do not “try” and coach them. We will take care of that!  If you would like to be more involved with the team, please talk to Mike before or after practice to discuss volunteer opportunities.

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: Division 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, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 (13 and over), 15-Over, Junior, Senior. 

Alternate: 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. 

Anchor: The final swimmer in a relay. Also a term coaches use for the beginning of all four strokes indicating the “high elbow”, “catch,” or “early vertical forearm.” 

Backstroke: One of the four competitive racing strokes, basically any style of swimming on your back. Backstroke is swum as the first stroke in the Medley Relay and second stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, and 200 yards/meter (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yd back). 

Breaststroke: One of the four competitive racing strokes. Breaststroke is swam as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, and 200 yards/meter. (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yd breast) 

Butterfly: One of the four competitive racing strokes. Butterfly (nicknamed FLY) is swam as the third stroke in the Medley Relay and first stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, and 200 yards/meter (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yard fly). 

Carbohydrates: The main source of food energy used by athletes. Quick energy that is burned quickly during exertion. Refer to a Nutritional Manual for more information. 

Check-In: 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. 

Deadline: The date meet entries must be "postmarked" by, to be accepted by the meet host. Making the meet deadline does not guarantee acceptance into a meet since many meets are "full" weeks before the entry deadline. 

Deck: The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches. No one but an "authorized" USA Swimming member may be on the deck during a swim competition. 

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

Deck Seeding: Heat and lane assignments are posted after swimmers have checked in have “scratched” (indicated they will not participate in the event.) 

Distance: How far a swimmer swims. Distances for short course are: 25 yards (1 length), 50 yards (2 lengths), 100 yards (4 lengths), 200 yards (8 lengths), 400 yards (16 lengths), 500 yards (20 lengths), 1000 yards (40 lengths), 1650 yards (66 lengths). Distances for long course are: 50 meters (1 length), 100 meters (2 lengths), 200 meters (4 lengths), 400 meters (8 lengths), 800 meters (16 lengths), 1500 meters (30 lengths). 

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. 

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

Dryland: The exercises and various strength programs swimmers do out of the water. 

Entry: An individual, relay team, or club roster's event list in a swim competition. 

Entry Fees: The amount per event a swimmer or relay is charged. This varies depending on the LSC and type of meet. 

Entry Limit: Each meet will usually have a limit of total swimmers they can accept, or a time limit they cannot exceed. Once an entry limit has been reached, a meet will be closed and all other entries returned. 

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

Event: A race or stroke over a given distance. An event equals 1 preliminary with its final, or 1 timed final. 

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.

Fastest to Slowest: A seeding method used on the longer events held at the end of a session. The fastest seeded swimmers participate in the first heats followed by the next fastest and so on. 

FINA: The international rules-making organization for the sport of swimming. 

Final Results: The printed copy of the results of each race of a swim meet. 

Flags (Backstroke flags): Pennants that are suspended over the width of each end of the pool approximately 15 feet from the wall. Used by swimmers to judge where the wall is while swimming backstroke.

Freestyle: One of the four competitive racing strokes. Freestyle (nicknamed Free) is swum as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 yards/meter, 100 yards/meter, 200 yards/meter, 400 mtr/500, yd 800 mtr/1000 yds, 1500 mtr/1650 yds (LSCs with 8-under divisions offer the 25 yd free). 

Goals: The short- and long-range targets for swimmers to aim for. 

Goggles: Glasses-type devices worn by swimmers to keep their eyes from being irritated by the chlorine in the water, allowing swimmers to see!

Gun (or Bell) Lap: The part of a freestyle distance race (400 meters or longer) when the swimmer has two lengths plus five yards to go. The starter fires a gun shot (or rings a bell) over the lane of the lead swimmer when the swimmer is at the backstroke flags. 

Heats: All of the swimmers entered in the event are divided into heats, or groups of swimmers. The results are compiled by the times swum, after all heats of the event are completed. 

Heat Award: A ribbon, coupon, or other prize given to the winner of a single heat at an age group swim meet. 

Heat Sheet: The pre-meet printed listings of swimmers' seed times in the various events at a swim meet. 

High Point: An award given to the swimmer scoring the most points in a given age group at a swim meet. Not every meet offers high point awards; check the pre meet information. 

Horn: A sounding device. Used mainly with a fully automatic timing system. 

Illegal: Doing something against the rules that is cause for disqualification. 

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

Invitational: Type of meet that requires a club to request an invitation to attend the meet. 

Jump: An illegal start done by the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th member of a relay team. The swimmer on the block breaks contact with the block before the swimmer in the water touches the wall. 

Kick Board: A flotation device used by swimmers during practice. 

Lane: The specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim. (ie) Lane 1 or Lane 2. 

Lane Lines: Continuous floating markers attached to a cable stretched from the starting end to the turning end for the purpose of separating each lane and quieting the waves caused by racing swimmers. 

Lap: One length of the course. Sometimes may also mean down and back (2 lengths) of the course. 

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. 

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

Marshall: The official who controls the crowd and swimmer-flow at a swim meet. 

Meet: A series of events held in one program. 

Meet Director: The official in charge of the administration of the meet. The person directing the "dry side" of the meet. 

Meters: The measurement of the length of a swimming pool that was built per specs using the metric system. Long course meters is 50 meters, short course meters is 25 meters. 
April and August.

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

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

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 warmups or swim practice. 

Positive Check In: The procedure required before a swimmer swims an event in a deck seeded or pre seeded meet. The swimmer or coach must indicate the swimmer is present and will compete. 

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

Psych 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. 

Referee: The head official at a swim meet in charge of all of the "Wet Side" administration and decisions. 

Relays: A swimming event in which four swimmers participate as a team. Each swimmer completes 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 200 yd/mtr 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. 

Schedule: YMCA list of meets with dates, meet host, meet location, type of meet, and contacts address and phone.

Scratch: To withdraw from an event after having declared an intention to participate. Some meets have scratch deadlines and specific scratch rules, and if not followed, swimmer can be disqualified from remaining events.

Seed: Assign the swimmers heats and lanes according to their submitted or preliminary times. 

Seeding: Deck Seeding - swimmers are called to report to the Clerk of the Course. After scratches are determined, the event is seeded. Pre Seeding - swimmers are arranged in heats according to submitted times, usually a day prior to the meet. 

Session: Portion of meet distinctly separated from other portions by locale, time, type of competition, or age group. 

Split: 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.

Start: The beginning of a race. The dive used to begin a race. 

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

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

Step-Down: 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. 

Stroke: There are 4 competitive strokes: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle. 

Stroke Judge: The official positioned at the side of the pool, walking the length of the course as the swimmers race. If the Stroke Judge sees something illegal, they report to the referee and the swimmer may be disqualified. 

Submitted Time: Times used to enter swimmers in meets. These times must have been achieved by the swimmer at previous meets. 

Team Records: The statistics a team keeps, listing the fastest swimmer in the teams history for each age group/each event. 

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

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. 

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. 

Warm-down or Cool-down: The recovery swimming a swimmer does after a race when pool space is available.

Warm-up: The practice and "loosening-up" session a swimmer does before the meet or their event is swum. 

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