Swimming Terms
A Parents Guide

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 does not participate, the alternates are called to take their place. Alternates are required to scratch if not attending finals after finalists have been determined.

The final swimmer in a relay.

Approved Meet
A meet conducted with sufficient officials to certify conformance to Swim BC swimming rules and sanctioning guidelines set out by SNC. The meet may include competitors who are not Swim BC members (i.e. American teams) but affiliated with FINA.

Backstroke is 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. Racing distances are 50 meters, 100 meters and 200 meters.

Bell Lap
The part of a freestyle distance race (800 meters or longer) when the swimmer has two lengths plus five meters to go. The stroke & turn lane judge rings a bell over the lane of the swimmer when the swimmer is at the backstroke flags.

The starting platforms located behind each lane. Blocks have a variety of designs.

One of the four competitive racing strokes. Breaststroke is swum as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the I.M.  The racing distances are 50 meters, 100 meters and 200 meters.

A wall constructed to divide a pool into different courses, such as a 50 meter pool into two 25 meter courses.

One of the four competitive racing strokes. Butterfly (aka fly) is swum as the third stroke in the Medley Relay and first stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 meters, 100 meters and 200 meters.

A swimming function offered by Swim BC, swim clubs or private swim training organizations. There are many types of camps for just about every level of swimmer. When selecting a camp, ask for your coach's advice as to what will be the best for the swimmer.

The main source of food energy used by athletes. Refer to a nutrition manual or the parent drop box on the CDSC website for more information.

Championship Finals
The top eight (or 10 in a 10-lane pool; pre- determined by the sanction) swimmers in a Prelims/Finals meet who, after the prelims are swum, qualify to return to the finals. The fastest heat of timed finals swum either at the start or finish of the heats when swimming slow to fast or fast to slow.

Parent volunteers who accompany the swim team at out-of-town meets and are directed by attending Head Coach as to their role. These volunteers must have a valid criminal record check on file with the club and are responsible for ensuring swimmer safety in the hotel and travel to/from the pool. Chaperones also organize food (food safe) for the swimmers including deck side snacks and water. Lastly, chaperones conduct bed checks to ensure all swimmers are accounted for and lights are out by a time specified by the coach.

Chase Meet (Double ended)
Occasionally long-course meets may be run as "chase meets" for events 100 m or more. Starting blocks are located at each end of the pool (usually referred to as the shallow-end blocks and the deep-end blocks). Swimmers for the shallow end race start from the shallow end blocks, swim to the other side, turn and head back to finish on the shallow end. Swimmers of the next race at the deep end step up to the blocks after those swimmers make their turn. As the shallow end swimmers near the last quarter or so of their race, officials will start the swimmers at the deep end starting blocks. At this point there are two swimmers in the land, one "chasing" the other. The shallow end swimmers finish their race and quickly exit the pool. The deep end swimmer continues his/her race. Another shallow end set of swimmers will begin their race before the deep end swimmer is done.Circle Swimming
Performed by staying to the right of the black line when swimming in a lane to enable more swimmers to swim in each lane.  In practices, lanes usually alternate either (right-left or left-right) in order for a more cohesive flow to the lanes.

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 usually, with the fastest swimmers being in the inside lanes, (i.e.) Lane 4 in the final three heats.

A scheduled meeting for the purpose of instruction, (i.e.) Official's clinic, Coach's clinic.
Closed Competition
A swim meet which is only open to the designated members of an organization or group depending on the host who requests the sanction. For example, summer club swim meets are considered to be "Closed Competition."

A registered swim team that is a dues-paying member of Swim BC.

Code of Conduct
A Code of Conduct that swimmers and parents are required to sign at the start of the swim season. The Code involves proper behavior particularly for out-of-town, overnight travel and daily conduct on the pool deck.

Consolation Finals (B Finals)
After the fastest eight swimmers or four swimmers, the next eight swimmers or 16 swimmers in a Prelims/Finals meet who, after the prelims are swum, qualify to return to the Finals. Consolations vary depending on the meet information and after multiple heats are held and are conducted before the Championship (fastest) finals heat.

Designated distance (length of pool) for swimming competition. (i.e.) Long Course (LC) = 50 meters / Short Course (SC) = 25 meters. SCY = Short course Yards.

The Canadian Swim Coaches Association. The professional organization for swim coaches throughout the nation. Certifying coaches and offering many services for coaches' education and career advancement.  Coaches have to have a certain level of qualification from the NCCP and may also be Chartered Professional Coaches registered with the Canadian Association of Coaches (CAC).

The date meet entries must be received 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. There is also a deadline for meet consent forms to be handed in to team coaches – failure to meet this deadline will result in the swimmer not being entered in to the meet – determined by the deadline of the host club entries deadline.  The deadline might also include the deadline for scratches at meets. – Which means that a club has a time limit to declare scratches for finals following heats in the morning.  If the swimmer does not show up for finals and has not met the deadline for scratches, s/he might then either be fined or scratched from the rest of the finals, including relays for the night or for the meet!

The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials and coaches. No one but an "authorized" Swim BC member may be on the deck during a swim competition. Parents who are not officiating or chaperoning at a designated meet must not be on deck at any time. 

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

The abnormal depletion of body fluids (water). The most common cause of swimmers cramps and sick feelings. Water is the best source of hydration and should be drunk about 30 minutes before racing.  It is important in the body’s ability to flush toxins and maintain the blood circulation.

A classification of meet or competition that is usually held early in the season. The purpose of a developmental meet is to allow all levels of swimmers to compete in a low-pressure environment.


A swimmer's performance is not counted because of a rules infraction. A disqualification is recorded by a Swim BC trained official and submitted to the Referee for approval. Typically, swimmers are disqualified for an illegal stroke, turn, or finish. The benefit of the doubt is always given to the swimmer.          

Dive Tank
A separate pool or a pool set off to the side of the competition pool. This pool has deeper water and diving boards/platforms. During a meet, this area may be designated as a warm-down pool with proper supervision.

The extra clothing swimmers may wear to create resistance while practicing, often in the form of shorts, t - shirts or multi-layered suits.

The exercises and various strength building programs swimmers do out of the water under supervision of their coach.

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 by the host of the Meet. This varies depending on the type of Meet. There may also be Swim BC fees or facility improvement fees as well.

Entry Limit
Each meet will usually have a limit of total swimmers they can accept (depending on their sanction) or a time limit they cannot exceed. Once an entry limit has been reached, a meet will be closed and all other entries returned. There may also be an entry limit placed on swimmers which allows them to enter only a prescribed number of events in the meet.

Electronic Timing
The timing system usually has touchpads in the water, junction boxes (plungers) 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 lane number, place and time.

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 makes a forward motion on the stating platform before the horn. 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.

False Start Rope (Recall Rope)
A recall rope across the width of the racing pool for the purpose of stopping swimmers when an official error has occurred or the referee has deemed it appropriate. The rope is about 50 feet from the starting end of the pool.

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.

Money paid by swimmers for services, eg.  training fees, registration fee, Swim BC membership fee, etc.

Federation Internationale de Natation - the international rules-making organization for the sport of swimming.

FINA Points
FINA points are accumulated by each swimmer for each event swum in a sanctioned Meet. The FINA Point scoring assigns point values to swimming performances: more points for world class performances (typically 1000) and fewer points for slower performances. Canadian Senior National Times typically hover around 700 points. The FINA Point scoring allows comparison of results among different events. Point values are assigned each year for both Long Course and Short Course events.

The final race of each event.

Final Results
The results of each race of a swim meet once approved by the meet officials.

Large rubber flipper-type devices that fit on a swimmer’s feet. Used in swim practice, not competition.

Backstroke flags placed 5 meters from the end of the pool or 5 yards in SCY meets. They enable backstrokers to execute a turn more efficiently by counting their strokes to the turn instead of turning around to look.

Flutter Kick
The kick used in the freestyle stroke. The legs alternate, moving up and down.


One of the four competitive racing strokes. Freestyle (aka Free) is swum as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the I.M. Racing distances are 50 meter, 100 meter, 200 meter, 400 meter, 800 meter and 1500 meters.

The short- and long-range targets set by swimmers to achieve success in the pool or daily goals which swimmers should set for workouts such as stroke counts, kick counts, breathing patterns, split times needed to do to ensure goal times at swim meets.

Plastic type devices worn by swimmers to keep their eyes from being irritated by the chlorine in the water.

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 Sheet (Program)
The pre-meet printed listings of swimmers' seed times in the various events at a swim meet. These are available at the beginning of the meet and are usually offered for sale.  They may also be downloaded to phone aps if allowed.

High Point
An award given to the swimmer scoring the most points in a given age group at a swim meet. All meets do not offer high point awards; check the meet package for information.

A sounding device used mainly with a fully automatic timing system.

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 swum of each stroke. Distances offered: 100 meters (SCO), 200 meters, and 400 meters.

Invitational Meet
A meet hosted by one club who invites members from several other clubs to participate. Usually there is no limit on the number of swimmers that clubs can enter, but certain entry restrictions are usually applied, and the total entries accepted are governed by the number approved in the Swim BC sanction. The number of heats of each event is determined by the number of entrants for that event.

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. This results in a team disqualification.  

Kick Board
A flotation device used by swimmers during practice.

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

Lane Ropes
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.

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

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

Log Book
A book in which swimmers record their time achieved at any given practice or meet as well as have their goals and practices written in to.  Log books are important for swimmers to allow them to reflect on things which happened.  It gives them the ability to look back at certain weeks, practices or sets which might have led to better performances.

A series of events held in one program.

Negative Split
Swimming the second half of the race equal to or faster 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. Officials The Swim BC certified volunteers who operate the many facets of a swim competition.

Olympic Trials
The SNC sanctioned long course swim meet held the year of the Olympic Games to decide what swimmers will represent Canada on the Olympic Team. Qualification times are usually Senior National Qualifying times and swimmers only having the 50 metre time standard of breast, fly or back usually would not be allowed to compete as it would only concern those swimmers whom have qualified in Olympic events.

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

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. Hand

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

PB (Personal Best)
Is also known as individual best time and is the best time a swimmer has swum for an event.

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. There is usually a designated time period that a swimmer must check in for an event and failing to do so would mean that s/he would be scratched from that event.

The scheduled workouts swimmers attend with their swim team/club.

Session of a Prelims/Finals meet in which the qualification heats are conducted. Prelims - Semis - Finals Type of meet with two or three sessions. The preliminary heats are held in the morning session. The fastest eight (Championship Heat) swimmers and the next eight fastest 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.

A meet conducted 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 organized by their entry time, fastest to slowest.

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. See 'Age Group' or 'Provincial' times. 

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 meter and 400 meter distances. 2) Freestyle relay - Each swimmer swims freestyle. Free relays are conducted over 200 meter, 400 meter and 800 meter distances.

A permit issued by Swim BC to a member club to conduct a sanctioned meet.

Sanctioned Meet
A meet that is approved by Swim BC. Meet must be conducted according to Swim BC rules. All participants, including coaches, athletes and officials must be Swim BC members.

Swim BC or CDSC list of meets with dates, meet host, meet location and type of meet. There may also be invitational swim meets which happen out of province and out of country in which the coach has designated important for swimmers to swim against others to improve their ability to race while travelling or race different and faster swimmers from other countries.

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, the swimmer can be disqualified from remaining events. If a swimmer is scratched after the entries are submitted and after the “scratch deadline”, the swimmer usually has to pay the entry fees, unless an acceptable Dr.’s note is produced (if allowed).

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

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 prior to the meet.

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

A specific segment of a daily practice, often used by the coaches to teach the concept of pacing.

SNC (Swim Canada)
The governing body of swimming in Canada.

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.

Describes the shorter events (50 and 100). In training, it means to swim as fast as possible for a short distance.

The beginning of a race. The dive used to begin a race. Stand-up
The command given by the Starter or Referee to release the swimmers from their starting position.

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.

The position used to gain maximum distance during a start and/or push-off from the wall.

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

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

An activity involving all swimmers utilized by swim clubs to raise money.

Swim BC
The governing body of swimming in BC.

Swim BC ID Number
A 9-digit number assigned to a swimmer after they have filled out the proper forms and paid their annual dues. The ID number will follow the swimmer throughout their swimming career in BC.

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.

The resting process in training. Prior to a major competition, training is completed in a rested state.

TAS Power Rankings
A list of times compiled by Team Aquatic Supplies that recognizes the top 50 swimmers in each single age group (boys & girls) by each event and distance, both provincially and nationally.

Team Records
The statistics a team keeps listing the fastest swimmer in the club’s history for each age group/each event.

Timed Finals
Competition in which only heats are swum and final placings are determined by those times.

Time Standard
A time set by a meet or Swim BC or SNC 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.  This event must apply for a sanction for the times to be ratified.

Touch Pad
The part of an electronic timing system that rests in the water at the finishing end of each lane. Times are recorded electronically as the pad is touched.

The act of leaving one club and going to another.

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.

This is usually low intensity swimming used by swimmers after a race or main practice to rid the body of excess lactic acid and to gradually reduce heart rate and respiration.  This usually would include hydration and eating to allow the body to draw stores from the proper area of the body and not the muscle.

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