Swimming Terminology


Some basic swimming terminology is listed as follows:


Accredited Meet is a competition where there is a full complement of officials and all the rules of swimming will be applied.

Automatic (Electronic) Timing (AOE) electrical equipment designed to measure the elapsed time between the start and finish of a race in each lane.

ASA (Amateur Swimming Association): the governing body of swimming in England.

Backstroke flags a line of flags (not bunting!) suspended above the pool 5 metres from each pool end. Used to help backstroke swimmers judge when to turn.

Competitive skills – starts, turns, streamlining, start and finish speeds – all components of racing.

Consideration Time is a time for an event set by the meet organiser that swimmers must be faster than in order to enter.

Converted Time a time calculated using tables to compensate for a change of pool length. A time swum in a 25m pool can be converted into an equivalent time for a 50m pool and vice versa.

Disqualification (DQ) indicates the swimmer has broken a swimming rule.

Even Pace is a swim that is swum at the same pace for each section – e.g. 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th 50’s of a 200m swim swum with equal times.

Graded Meet – At a Graded Meet a time cap is applied and only those swimmers below the cap are allowed to compete. Some graded meets may have both high end and low end caps.

Heat Declared Winner means that there will be no final and the winner of the event is determined by times alone when all the heats have been swum.

I.M. (Individual Medley) is an event where all four competitive strokes are swum in one event by one swimmer.  Order: butterfly – backstroke – breaststroke – frontcrawl.

Kickboard – a flat rectangular (usually) piece of foam used when kicking in training.

Leg: the part of a relay that is swum by a single team member.

Licensed Meet is a competition that has been approved by the SASA. Only times from licensed and accredited meets can be used to enter most North District competitions.

Long Course means in a 50 metre pool.

Medley Relay is an event where all four competitive strokes are swum in one event with four swimmers swimming in turns. Each swimmer swims one stroke. The order is backstroke – breaststroke – butterfly – frontcrawl. (This is different to an IM)

Negative split: a pacing tactic where the swimmer performs the second half of a race faster than the first half.

Officials are volunteers who help to ensure that the rules of swimming are adhered to in swimming events and time trials. Officials will usually wear white.

Open competition: a competition in which any affiliated club, organisation or individual may enter.

One Start Rule is a rule applied almost everywhere now and it means that a swimmer is automatically disqualified if they fall or dive into the water before the starting signal

Over the top Starts this means that the swimmer should stay in the water after finishing their race, holding on to the lane rope, until after the next race has started.

Pace Clock – normally a constantly running single arm (displaying time progression in seconds) clock with different coloured ends – each pointing to 30 seconds apart; used to assist swimmers and coach to send swimmers off for each repeat swim in a swim set – e.g. 5 or 10 seconds apart; used by swimmers for pacing or noting their swim times for particular swim sets.

Pace – the amount of effort applied by the swimmer so Fastest Possible Pace would be as fast as you can go, Easy will be nice and steady and slow

Personal Best (PB) – this is the fastest time that a swimmer has recorded for a particular event.

Placing (order of finish): determined by either the automatic timing system when available or by the meet officials when manual timing is used.

Pull Buoy – a piece of foam that goes between your legs and helps you float whilst swimming without kicking during training.

Qualifying / Consideration time (QT) the time a swimmer must perform to enter a particular meet or gain selection to a certain squad.

Referee the highest ranking official in overall charge of an accredited meet.

Short Course is in 25 metre pool.

Speeding Ticket is what a swimmer receives for swimming too fast at a graded meet.

Split time the time(s) recorded within individual sections of a race.

Starting block / Plinth: a raised platform from which competitors dive at the start of freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and individual medley races.

Streamlining – the method of aligning the body so as to reduce resistance in the water.

Timekeeper is an official who operates a stopwatch to record a swimmer’s time.

Timed finals / Heat Declared Winner: competition in which only heats are swum with final

Touchpad – a board at the end of the pool that acts as a stopwatch. When the swimmer finishes and hits the touchpad, it records the time.

Training Distances – in training the repetitions are swum as distances e.g. 25’s, 50’s, 100’s, 200’s etc. These represent a typical 25m swimming pool so are as follows:
25 = 1 length
50 = 2 lengths
100 = 4 lengths
200 = 8 lengths and so on
At Portland Leisure Centre it is a 33yd pool so if the above terms are used then they will mean the following:
33= 1 length
66 = 2 lengths
100 = 3 lengths
200 = 6 lengths

Turnaround Times – the amount of time between a block of repeated swims (repetition) in training e.g. 10 secs between repetitions or each repetition is every 1 minute

NB Specific technique terms e.g. Single Switch will be described by the coach at training.


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