GLOSSARY OF COMMON SWIMMING TERMS 

Aerobic

Longer distance, moderate intensity, short rest period swimming sets that focus on building endurance.


Anaerobic

Shorter distance, high intensity, long rest period swimming sets that focus on building power.


Age Group
The National Age Group divisions are: 10-under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18.

Alternate
In a Prelims/Finals meet, after the finalists are decided, the next two fastest swimmers other than the finalists are designated as alternates.  If a finalist cannot participate, the alternates are called to take their place. 

Anchor
The final swimmer in a relay. 

Backstroke

Performed on the back.  One of the four competitive racing strokes.  Backstroke is swum as the first stroke in the Medley Relay and second stroke in the I.M. 

Blocks
The starting platforms located behind each lane. Minimum water depth for use of starting blocks is 4 feet. 

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. 

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. 

Championship Meet 
The meet held at the end of a season. Qualification times are sometimes 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. 

Check-In  (Circle 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. 

Colorado Timing System 
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. 

Course 
Designated distance (length of pool) for swimming competition. (Ie) Long Course = 50 meters / Short Course = 25 yards or 25 meters. 

Deck 
The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches. Only 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.

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/DQ
A swimmer's performance is not counted because of a rules infraction. 

Division I-II-III 
NCAA member colleges and universities are assigned divisions to compete in, depending on the school's total enrollment. Division I being the large universities and Division III being the smaller colleges. 

Dolphin Kick

Simultaneous leg kick used in Butterfly.


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

Dry Side 
That part of the Code book (rule book) that deals with the "Administrative" Regulations of Competition. 

Entry 
An individual, relay team, or club roster's event list in a swim competition.  Each meet will usually have a limit of total swimmers they can accept, or a time limit they cannot exceed. 

Event 
A race or stroke over a given distance. 

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. 

FINA / International Swimming Federation
FINA is the international rules-making organization recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)[1] for administering international competition in water sports.

Flags 
Pennants that are suspended over the width of each end of the pool approximately 15 feet from the wall. 

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. 

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 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.   A heat sheet lists swimmers' seed times in the various events at the meet.

High Point 
An award given to the swimmer scoring the most points in a given age group at a swim meet. 

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. 

IMX
IMX is a motivational program that allows swimmers across the nation to compare themselves to the thousands of other athletes in their age group. Swimmers must legally perform a given combination of events, at least one time per season.  Points are assigned based on speed. 

IM Ready
A stepping stone program to IMX where swimmers compete in a series of five events at shorter distances. 

Interval 
A specific elapsed time for swimming or rest used during swim practice. 

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. 

Lactic acid

Produced in the muscles during anaerobic sets.  Swim down & stretching help disperse lactate.


Lane 
The specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim. Lane Lines are 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. 

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. 

Long Course 
A 50-meter pool. 

LSC 
Local Swim Committee. The local level administrative division of the corporation (USA-S) with supervisory responsibilities within certain geographic boundaries designated by the Corporation. There are 59 LSCs. PFL's LSC is Gulf Swimming.

NAGTS 
National Age Group Time Standards - the list of "C" through "AAAA" times published each year. 

Natatorium 
A building constructed for the purpose of housing a swimming pool and related equipment. 

NCAA 
National Collegiate Athletic Association 

Negative Split

Go faster for the second half of the set distance than the first half.


Non-Conforming Time 
A short course time submitted to qualify for a long course meet, or vice versa. 

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

Observed Meet 
A meet that is not conducted according to USA Swimming rules (high school, YMCA) where a request for observation has been processed and approved in advance. Sufficient USA Swimming officials are present to certify that the athletes' swims are in compliance with USA Swimming technical rules. 

Observed Swim 
A swim observed by assigned USA Swimming officials for conformance with USA Swimming technical rules in a meet conducted under other than USA Swimming rules. 

Olympic Trials 
The USA-S sanctioned long course swim meet held the year of the Olympic Games to decide what swimmers will represent the USA on our Olympic Team. Qualification times are faster than Senior Nationals. 

OTC 
Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Open Competition 
Competition which any qualified club, organization, or individual may enter. 

Open Turn

The two handed touch turn completed for Breaststroke and Butterfly.


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 warm-ups or swim practice. 

Paddle 
Colored plastic devices worn on the swimmers hands during swim practice. 

Prelims-Finals 
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. 

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. 

Pull Buoy 
A flotation device used for pulling by swimmers in practice. 

Qualifying Times 
Published times necessary to enter certain meets, or the times necessary to achieve a specific category of swimmer.

Recall Rope 
A rope across the width of the racing pool for the purpose of stopping swimmers who were not aware of a false start. The rope is about 1/2 way on yard pools and about 50 feet from the starting end on meter pools. 

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. 

Sanction 
A permit issued by an LSC to a USA-S group member to conduct an event or meet.  A Sanctioned Meet must be conducted according to USA Swimming rules. All participants, including coaches, athletes and officials, must be USA Swimming members. 

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. 

Sectionals 
Nickname for Speedo Championship Series, an open senior level meet held in the spring and summer. Each Zone may hold up to four meets. Qualifying times, sites, dates and meet rules are determined locally. 

Seed 
Assigning swimmers to heats and lanes according to their submitted or preliminary times. 


Senior Meet 
A meet that is for senior level swimmers and is not divided into age groups. Qualification times are usually necessary and will vary depending on the level of the meet. 

Senior Nationals 
A USA-S National Championship meet for swimmers of any age as long as the qualification times are met. 

Short Course 
A 25-yard or 25-meter pool. 

Split 
A portion of an event that is shorter than the total distance and is timed. It is common to take multiple splits for the longer distances.

Sprint

All out as fast as you can go, breathing as little as you can.


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

Streamline

Underwater body position after diving or pushing off the wall which maximizes swim speed and efficiency.


Swim-off 
In a Prelims/Finals type competition, a race after the scheduled event to break a tie. The only circumstance that warrants a swim-off is to determine which swimmer makes finals or an alternate, otherwise ties stand. 

SWIMS 
USA Swimming system that keeps track of every time swum by all swimmers. Available through the USA-S website. 

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

Time Standard 
A time set by a meet or LSC or USA-S (etc) that a swimmer must achieve for qualification or recognition. 

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. 

Transfer 
The act of leaving one club or LSC and going to another. Usually 120 days of unattached competition is required before swimmer can represent another USA-S club. An unattached athlete may compete, but does not represent a club or team.

USA-S
The governing body of swimming--USA Swimming.  Hedquartered in Colorado Springs.

USA-S ID Number 
A 14-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: Month/Day/2-Digit 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. 

Warm-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. 

Zones 
The country is divided up into 4 major zones: Eastern - Southern - Central - Western. At the end of the long course season (in August) the Zone Administration sponsors a championship age group meet.

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