Swimming Terms Glossary

Since swimming is a very different sport from those with which you may be familiar, you will probably encounter some terms that will be foreign to your vocabulary. This glossary will help you understand the new words your swimmer may use in describing a day at practice or a particular race. If you hear a term that you do not understand, please feel free to ask about it. This will help us to include more terms in the next edition of this glossary.

“A “—Time classification for a swimmer. Illinois Swimming Inc. sets time standards for each event and each age group.
“AA”—Time classification for a swimmer set by USA Swimming.
“AAA”—Time classification for a swimmer set by USA Swimming. The AAA times are used as the qualifying times for Zone Championship Meets.
“A” Championships-An Illinois Swimming Inc. championship level meet for swimmers who have achieved an “A” time in their event(s), but have not achieved a Junior Olympic time.
A-Meet—Swim meet which requires that swimmers have times classified at the “A” level or above in the events they wish to swim.
A-B Meet—Swim meet that offers separate competition for both swimmers in the “A” and “B” classifications.
A-B-Open Meet—Meet similar to A-B Meet with three divisions. The open division is for all swimmers who are not classified.
Aerobic—Training that involves long, slower paced swimming with short rest intervals. This type of training is designed to improve the body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently.
Age Group Championships—See Junior Olympics.
Age Group Swimming—The USS program that offers fair and open competition for its younger members. It is designed to encourage maximum participation, provide educational experiences, and allow for younger swimmers to enjoy competition with their peers. Nationally recognized age groups are 10 & Under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17 18, and 15-18. Many times, local meets will include 8 & Under categories as well. Sometimes, a meet may be defined as a Swim-Y our-Own-Age Meet.
American Swim Coaches Association—The professional organization for swimming coaches throughout the nation. Certifying coaches and offering services for coach’s education and career advancement is their primary function.
Anaerobic—Training that involves short, fast swimming with long rest periods. This type of training is designed to help the body deal with oxygen debt.
Anaerobic Threshold—The fastest training pace at which a swimmer can swim for long periods of time without slowing down
Anchor—The final swimmer in a relay
“B”—Time classification for a swimmer set by Illinois Swimming Inc.
Backstroke Flags—See Flags
Bullpen- An on-deck type area used to prepare swimmers and line them up in the right heat and lane assignments.
B Championships. It is a fun meet for swimmers with “B” times to receive the same treatment that swimmers will receive at higher-level championship meet.
Blocks—See Starting Blocks
Championship Finals—The final heat of an event in which the top swimmers from the preliminaries compete.
Code of Conduct—An agreement signed by a swimmer/coach/parent stating that the swimmer will abide by certain behavioral guidelines.
Consolation Finals—Final race for swimmers who qualified slower than the
Championship Finals- Typically the consolation finals are for swimmers who qualified in the 7th-12th places or 9th-16th places.
Cool Down—The end portion of a practice when the swimmer does easy work to reduce their heart rate and cool their body down. Swimmers also cool down after a race so that they will avoid unnecessary muscle soreness. Also known as a Warm Down.
Courses—The length of the pool. USS recognizes three courses: 25 Yards (Short Course Yards or SCY), 25 Meters (Short Course Meters or SCM), and 50 Meters (Long Course or LC)
Cut—Slang term for a qualifying time. A time necessary to attend a particular meet or event.
Deck—The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, coaches, and timers. No parent may be on the deck during competition unless serving one of these capacities
Descend—To swim faster. For instance, if a swimmer in practice is doing 100 meters five times (5 x100), they might swim the first in 1:45, the second in 1:40, etc.
Disqualification—This occurs when a swimmer has committed a rules infraction of some kind; e.g. a false start. A disqualified swimmer is not eligible to receive awards, nor can their time be used to make a Cut.
Distance—Term used to refer to events longer than 400 Meters/500 Yards
Drill—An exercise used to improve a stroke technique. A drill breaks a stroke down into smaller pieces to make it easier to learn.
Dryland Training- Training done out of the water that aids and enhances swimming performance. This may include weight lifting, stretching, running, etc.
DQ—See Disqualification
Entry Form—Form on which a swimmer enters a competition. Usually includes USS ID Number, age, gender, event number, and entry times.
False Start—Occurs when a swimmer is moving prior to the starting signal. In USS, one false start will result in disqualification.
Finals—See Championship Finals
Finish—The final phase of the race; the touch at the final wall.
Flags—Backstroke flags placed 5 yards (Short Course) or 5 meters (Long Course) from the end of the pool. The flags enable backstrokers to execute a backstroke turn more effectively.
Goal- A specific time, technique improvement, lifestyle choice, or accomplishment that a swimmer strives to reach.
Gun Lap—The part of a distance race when the swimmer has 2 lengths of the pool left to swim. The starter fires a single shot over the lane of the lead swimmer when the swimmer is coming into the turn under the backstroke flags.-26-
Gutter—The area along the edge of the pool in which water overflows during a race and is recirculated through the filtration system.
Heats—A division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time. The results are compiled by swimmers times, after all the heats of the event are complete. If the meet involves preliminaries and finals, the heats determine who swims in
championship finals and consolation finals and may be referred to as trials.
Heat Sheet—The pre-meet listing of swimmers entered in the meet. The Heat Sheet lists the heats and lanes the swimmers will race in.
Illinois Swimming Inc.—The local branch of USA Swimming that registers swimmers and organizes local championship meets
I. M. -See Individual Medley
Individual Medley—An event in which a single swimmer swims through all four of the competitive strokes in this order-butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle
Interval—A training term which lets a swimmer know how long they have to swim a distance and how long they will be allowed to rest. The interval includes both the swim and the rest, so a swimmer who swims faster will receive more rest.
ISI—See Illinois Swimming Inc.
JO’s—See Junior Olympics
Junior Olympics– Illinois Age Group Championship meet conducted by Illinois Swimming Inc. A swimmer must achieve specific time standards to be able to swim at Junior Olympics
Lap Counter—Plastic display numbers used to keep track of laps during a distance race. This term also applies to the person who counts for the swimmer and is stationed at the end opposite from the start.
LC—See Long Course
Local Swimming Committee—The local branch of USS. In Illinois, this is Illinois Swimming Inc.
Long Course—A pool that is 50 Meters long
LSC—See Local Swimming Committee
Meet—Competition designed to be a learning experience. By implementing what has been learned in practice, the swimmers test themselves against the clock to see how they are improving.
Mile—The slang term referring to the 1500 Meter or the 1650 Yard Freestyle. Both events are just slightly short of a mile
Negative Split-Swimming the second half of a race equal to or faster than the first half.
Non-Conforming Times—Entry times that come from a different course than that which the current meet will be conducted. Non-conforming times are usually seeded ahead of NT’s and behind all conforming times.
No Time—The time classification for a swimmer who was not entered with an entry time
NT-See No Time
Officials—Stroke and Turn Judges, Starters, and Referees that ensure that competition occurs in a fair manner for all competitors.
Open Competition–Meets that do not have time qualifying standards.
Open Water Swims—Any freestyle event over 1500 Meters, normally conducted in a natural body of water, such as a lake, river, or ocean.
Oxygen Debt—A state of being deprived of air due to an all-out effort where the body cannot take in enough air to make up for the energy being used.
Pace Clock—Large clock with a large second hand and a smaller minute hand, used to check pace or maintain intervals in practice; may also be digital.
Positive Check-In—The process by which a host team establishes which swimmers are in attendance at a meet. This process helps the host team properly seed swimmers into heats without empty lanes. If a swimmer fails to positive check-in, they will not be able to swim that day.
Preliminaries—Also called heats or trials. Those races in which swimmers qualify for championship and consolation finals in their events.
Prelims-See Preliminaries
Psych Sheets—The pre-meet listing of swimmers in order from either fastest to slowest or vice-versa.
Qualifying Time (Q-Time)—Time standard necessary to compete in a particular event or competition.
Relay—An event in which 4 swimmers compete together as a team to achieve one time.
Repeats—Within an interval, the coach may give swimmers a repeat goal. The repeat represents the swimming time in the interval.
Sanction—A permit issued by Illinois Swimming to a USA Member Club to conduct an event or meet.
SCM—See Short Course Meters
Scratch-To withdraw from an event in a competition.
SCY—See Short Course Yards
Seeding—The process by which swimmers are placed into heats and lanes. Seeding takes into account the number of swimmers and swimmers entry times.
Short Course Meters—A pool that is 25 Meters long
Short Course-A pool 25 yards or 25 meters in length. USS conducts most of its winter competition in short course yards.
Short Course Yards—A pool that is 25 Yards long
Split—A time recorded from the official start to the completion of an initial distance within a longer event. Also, the time for one of the four individuals in a relay. Under certain conditions, splits may also be used as official times, for example, the lead swimmer in a relay, or the leadoff portion of an event.
Sprint-Describes the shorter events (25, 50, and 100). In training, to swim as fast as possible for a short distance
Starting Blocks—The raised platform from which a swimmer either will perform a dive to begin a freestyle, breaststroke, or butterfly race or will pull themselves up from in the water to begin a backstroke race.
Stateline Conference-A conference in which MSSC is a member. The other teams in the conference are Rockford, Freeport, Sterling, and Byron.
Streamline—The position used by swimmers when starting or pushing off the walls designed to reduce water resistance
Swim-Your-Own-Age Meet—A meet where swimmers compete only against swimmers of their own age. For example, nine-year-olds would only swim against other nine-year-olds.
Taper—The final preparation phase, sometimes referred to as “rest”. Prior to major competitions, older, more experienced swimmers shave their bodies to reduce resistance and heighten their feel for the water.
Team Illinois—Squads representing ISI at inter-LSC competitions such as Mid-States and Zones. Threshold-See Anaerobic Threshold.
Timers—The individuals who record the times for competitors at swim meets. Timers serve as the back-ups for the electronic timing system used at most pools. If an electronic timer is not available, the timers are the primary timing system.
Time Trial—A time-only swim which is not part of a regular meet
Touch Pad-A large sensitive board at the end of each lane where a swimmer’s finish time is registered and sent electronically to the computer.
Trials—See Heats
USA Swimming—The national governing body for swimming in the United States. Organizes National level competitions and supports USA athletes in international competition.
USS—See USA Swimming
Warm Down—See Cool Down
Warm-up—Low intensity swimming used by a swimmer at the beginning of practice or before a meet to get the muscles loose and warm. Warm-ups help prevent injury.
Zones—Large subdivisions of USA Swimming that encompass many LSC’s. Zones hold annual championship meets. Qualifying for the Zone meet requires a national AAA time standard. Once a swimmer has achieved a Zone cut, they must apply to be a member of
Team Illinois.