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Swim Vocab & Rules

Distances – The Fair Oaks pool is 25 meters long but other pools might be 25 yards.

Heat Sheet: is the swim meet ‘schedule’ that identifies each event, and when and in which lane each swimmer will race. The home team provides these before each swim meet. Parents generally bring a pen or highlighter so it’s easier to keep track of your swimmers’ events.

Event: A race or stroke over a given distance (e.g. 50 Meters Freestyle). An event usually involves kids of the same gender and age (e.g. 9-10 Girls) but it’s not unusual to see the meet officials merging events together in order to save time

Heat: A division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time. Usually swimmers are grouped together in a heat by their seed time.

Relay: A swimming event in which 4 swimmers participate as a team. Each one swims an equal distance of the race. There are two types of relays: Medley Relay involves all strokes (order is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle) and Freestyle Relay where everyone swims freestyle.

Leg: Each swimmer in a relay swims a leg of the event.

Entry: The Individual and Relay event swimmers are in for a meet.

Warm-up: A planned session prior to a meet or practice. Usually swimmers must arrive at the pool one hour before the meet starts so they can warm-up.

Blocks: The starting platforms located behind each lane. Younger swimmers may not be prepared to start off the blocks initially, so they are allowed to start off the edge of the pool instead.

Backstroke flags:  The triangle flags at each end of the pool, they are used primarily for backstroke, to let the swimmer know the wall is near.

DQ, or Disqualified: A swimmer 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.

Stroke Judge: Official at the side of the pool, walking the length of the pool as the swimmers race. If the Stroke Judge sees something illegal, the swimmer may be disqualified.

Flip Turn: Used to transfer your momentum 180 degrees. Swimming into the wall then stopping and pushing off the wall is a waste of time and energy. A flip turn allows you to take all the speed you have into the wall then change direction while at the same time avoiding all the water you were pulling behind you as you push off under water. Picture a conveyor belt or a chain on a bike and how they change direction and distance from the ground. This turn is used for freestyle and backstroke for a 50 yard/meter swim or greater. Most levels will be taught this during the season, lower level groups will be taught later in the season.

Starts:  When the beep goes off swimmers jump out as far as they can and are in a streamlined position while in the air to start their race.

Backstroke Starts:  You start swimming backstroke in the water holding onto the wall or the starting blocks. Toes must be underwater.

False Start: a swimmer gets an unfair advantage by being in motion before the starting signal is given. Officials will disqualify a swimmer who executes a false start.


Freestyle – Also known as the forward crawl. Swam on stomach. Reaching arms and small flutter kicks.

Backstroke – Swam on your back. Long strait arms and a small flutter kick. Belly up, head back.

Breaststroke – Swam on stomach, with a narrow “frog kick”. Breathe every stroke. All about timing and power.

Butterfly – Swam on stomach. Both arms and legs move together side by side. Imagine a butterflies wings, they look identical just as your wings (arms) should as they are swimming the stroke. Kick is like a mermaid or dolphin with feet, knees, and thighs staying together.

IM – Individual Medley – Individual means 1 or a single swimmer, Medley means a combination of things. The IM or Individual Medley is a race where the swimmer will swim EACH of the strokes.

IM Order Fly, Back, Breast, Free. Ex. 100 IM is a 25 yard swim of Butterfly, 25 yard swim of Backstroke, 25 yard swim of Breaststroke, and a 25 yard swim of Freestyle, in that order.

Medley Relay Order– This is swam in a different order since you can’t dive in and swim backstroke. Back, Breast, Fly, Free.Individual Medley (IM): an event where the swimmer swims each stroke in this order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle

Typical Rules Broken:


Pushing yourself forward off the bottom of the pool.

Pulling yourself forward with the lane line, other than those two things you are free to swim the style you choose.


Rolling on to your stomach (other than if you are about to doing a flip turn)

Pulling on the lane line

Pushing off the bottom of the pool


Doing a butterfly, flutter, or scissor kick

Not getting your head out of the water every stroke.

Keeping the 1/1/1 ratio, 1 pull with your arms, 1 breath (don’t actually have to breathe but your head must come up), 1 breaststroke kick with toes out and feet flex for the majority of the kick

Arms going below belly button

Not touching the wall with two hands for your finish


Non-simultaneous arms (arms not moving together or in sync)

Feet coming apart (flutter kick or breaststroke kick)

Arms not coming out and going over the water after the pull

Not touching the wall with two hands for your finish

All Strokes 

Moving on the block after the start says “Take your mark” and before the BEEP, this will cause a false start, the first false start of every heat is strike one for the entire heat, next swimmer to false start is DQ’ed

Not finishing a race

Stopping to fix goggles (excluding freestyle)

Pushing off the bottom of the pool

Pulling on the lane line

Swimming in another swimmers lane

Relay – Not getting out of the water fast enough (before the swimmer after you gets to the other wall) or leaving too early.

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