Swim Parent 101


Welcome to the Northumberland Aquatic Club (NORAC) and the exciting world of swimming!

This section has been prepared with the goal of acquainting you with the sport of competitive swimming and the club policies and member commitments.

There are many benefits to participating in the sport of swimming:

  •  Meeting terrific people and building lifelong friendships
  • Incredible fitness levels – core strength, exceptional cardiovascular and overall fitness
  • Life skills – time management, self-discipline and sportsmanship
  • Fun- competitive swimming is fun, exciting and rewarding
Not every swimmer becomes an Olympic champion, but everyone can benefit from his or her swimming experience!


Competitive Swimming Basics

Like all sports, swimming has rules unique to the sport. The following is a general overview of the basics. Familiarizing yourself with the basics will not only help you understand the focus our coaches need while they work with your swimmer, but will also help you as you begin your officials’ training.

The official and specific rules of swimming can be learned with the completion of the Strokes and Turns Judges Clinic. Please consult our “Officials” tab of the website to learn how to enroll in officials clinics.

Four Competitive Swimming Strokes
The four competitive swimming strokes are freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. The combination of all four strokes is called individual medley.

In the freestyle, the competitor may swim any stroke he or she wishes. Most swim the front crawl, as it is traditionally the fastest stroke. It is characterized by the alternate stroking of the arms over the surface of the water surface and an alternating (up-and-down) flutter kick. The freestyle is swum over 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 metre distances.

In the backstroke, the swimmer must stay on his or her back at all times. The stroke is an alternating motion of the arms. On turns, swimmers may rotate to the stomach and perform a flip turn and the swimmer must touch the wall with some part of the body.

Swimmers must surface within 15 metres after the start and each turn. Backstroke race distances are 50, 100 and 200 metres.

Perhaps one of the most difficult strokes to master, the breaststroke requires simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. The hands are pushed forward from the breast on or under the surface of the water and brought backward in the propulsive stage of the stroke simultaneously. The kick is a simultaneous thrust of the legs called a frog or breaststroke kick. No flutter or dolphin kicking is allowed. At each turn a swimmer must touch with both hands at the same time. Breaststroke races are distances of 50, 100 and 200 metres.

One of the most challenging strokes, the butterfly features the simultaneous overhead stroke of the arms combined with the dolphin kick. The dolphin kick features both legs moving up and down together. No flutter kicking is allowed. Both hands must touch the wall simultaneously on the turns and the finish. The butterfly was born in the early 1950s due to a loophole in the breaststroke rules and became an Olympic event in Melbourne, Australia in 1965. Butterfly races are swum in 50, 100 and 200 metre distances.

Individual Medley
The individual medley, commonly referred to as the I.M., features all four competitive strokes. In the I.M., a swimmer begins with the butterfly, changes to the backstroke after one-fourth of the race, then the breaststroke for another quarter and finally finishes with the freestyle, which is typically the front crawl but any stroke that is not backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly is allowed. The I.M. is swum in 200 and 400 metre distances.

Freestyle Relay – 4 swimmers participate taking turns swimming a particular distance (50m, 100m and sometimes 200m).

Medley Relay all four strokes are swum by four different swimmers. No swimmer may swim more than one leg of the relay, which is swum in backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle order. The medley relay is 400 metres -or four by 100 metres.

Starts and Turns
Many races are won or lost in starts and turns. In the start, the swimmer is whistled onto the block by the Referee. Once the swimmers are settled the starter calls them to the starting position by saying “Take your marks”. Once the starter is satisfied that all swimmers are still the race is started by an electronic tone.

Quick turns are essential to a good race. In all events the swimmer must touch the wall, but in the freestyle and backstroke the swimmer may somersault (flip turn) as he or she reaches the wall, touching only with the feet. In breaststroke and butterfly, the swimmer must touch the wall with both hands before executing the turn.

Swimming is a sport of personal best times and goals
From being in a precompetitive program through to being nationally/internationally qualified, swimmers are constantly learning and improving on technique and racing strategies. This is competitive swimming but as much as your child might want to compete with other swimmers in his or her group or other clubs, the best competition is always the clock. Beating a previous best time is the goal. There will always be someone faster or someone slower, so the focus should be on self-improvement. Improvements can happen suddenly, but it can also be a gradual climb. Every swimmer progresses at a different pace, which is why our coaches put so much emphasis on personal goals.

Time Standards

As your swimmer progresses, time standards, may, begin to play an important role in setting goals, not only to qualify for specific meets, but to also move up the group ladder. Success depends solely on self-improvement, hard work and achievement of your child’s personal goals. Goals will be discussed and set individually with each swimmer.

Swimmers in the beginning stages of their competitive swim career typically compete in local 1 or 2 day swim meets with no qualifying standards. Coaches choose events for each swimmer dependent upon individual skill level and goals. As swimmers improve and achieve qualifying times or certain standards, opportunities to swim at regional, provincial and national swim meets open up. There are also meets that post de-qualifying times meaning some swimmers may be “too fast” to be able to enter a certain meet. There are various standards for some meets which are set by Swim Ontario and Swimming Canada.  For current standards click here http://www.swimnorac.com/swim_std.php

NORAC Team Information

Club Communications
Rule #1 to knowing what is going on in the club: check the website regularly and read all emails from the club. If you are aware that you have not received an email that you think is relevant to your swimmer please bring it to the attention of the person sending the email. Technology is imperfect at times (as are humans) so please know that you may not have received the email through some error that we need to know about so that we can correct it. Parents have a responsibility to check the website regularly to ensure they remain informed regarding schedule changes, meet information, etc. We are also connected through Facebook so check us out.

Website – www.swimnorac.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/swimnorac

Photo Gallery –

Club policies, organization, Fees and Registration

Northumberland Aquatic Club is a non-profit organization providing professional swim instruction, training and coaching for children and adults of Northumberland County. The operations of the club are overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors elected annually by the membership.

We are always looking for swim parents to play important roles on different committees. Please contact our President Terry Teno should you wish to volunteer for any committee position.

The club runs both a pre-competitive (Swim School) program, a competitive (novice, youth, youth plus, junior development, senior development, elite) program as well as a Masters program. More information regarding our programs can be found on our website www.swimnorac.com

Swim Meets

Meet Schedule
Please check our website regularly for meet information.

Meet Fees/Entry Fees are managed separately from your registration and fundraising fees. As your swimmer participates in meets throughout the year you will be provided with the meet fees required at the time you indicate your swimmer will be participating in the meet. All meet fees are payable to NORAC. Fees can be paid before the deadline for each meet or a lump sum can be paid into your “meet fees account” a couple times throughout the year. Each family can discuss how they would like to pay for meet fees with the club’s Registrar to ensure their swimmer won’t be ineligible for a meet due to non-payment of meet fees.

Meet Entries
There is a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes putting entries together for swim meets. Part of every meet is not only posting relevant information about the meet, but more importantly, we need to know if you swimmer is attending or not. For each meet, you will receive an email invitation to attend. It is imperative that you review the invitations and dates, and indicate if your swimmer is attending before the entry deadline/cut off. If this process is not done, then we are unable to determine if your swimmer is competing.  If your swimmer is eligible and is invited you must “Accept or Decline” the meet. After the entry deadline has been reached, your coaches will create individual event entries for each swimmer. Parents do NOT choose the events for your swimmer, your swimmer’s coach will choose the events your swimmer will be entered in.  If your swimmer is not available for the meet please “decline” before the deadline. If you “accept” the meet but for some reason your swimmer does not attend the meet, you will be obligated to pay the meet fees anyway as these fees are paid well in advance of the meet. Rule #1 for swim meet entries – read all emails and accept/decline before the deadline.

Meet Package

Attached to the invitation to attend a swim meet will be a Meet Package.  This provides all the information about times, location, fees etc that both the swimmer and the parents need to know about the swim meet. The package can also be found on the website of the club hosting the swim meet. It is a good idea to check the package on the host club’s website in the week prior to a meet since warm-up times and session times can often change. It is the parent/swimmer’s responsibility (not the coach’s) to know when they have to be at the pool for warm-up.

Training Schedule

Training for each swim group is individualized.  Click HERE for the current year training schedule.

How does my swimmer move from group to group?
Group movement is based on the coach’s evaluation and/or qualifying times.  Some of the criteria are on our website.  When selecting for the groups we try to create the most compatible group as possible in terms of racing and training speed and age.


The basic equipment for swimming changes as a swimmer gets older. The obvious equipment for every swimmer is a swimsuit, cap and goggles. Every swimmer is expected to have a black swim suit to wear when competing at swim meets. When purchasing swim suits there are practice suits and race suits. Practice suits are less expensive and should be polyester in order to last longer in the pool. Racing suits are more expensive and only last for a short period of time. Coaches (and swimmers) will know when the swimmer is ready for a racing suit to wear at swim meets. New swimmers can wear a practice suit during practices as well as for swim meets (as long as it is black).

All NORAC swimmers are expected to purchase a set of fins and a snorkel. A tempo trainer is recommended for elite swimmers and junior and senior development swimmers.

All swimmers must have a team NORAC cap. These can be purchased from the swimmer’s coach.

Information regarding where and how you can purchase equipment as well as how to get the team discount can be found on the website – http://www.swimnorac.com/equipment.php. Team discounts are available when purchasing in store as well as online.


NORAC Team Clothing – As with every other competitive sport, NORAC has several clothing items available. Please consult our team clothing page on the website – http://www.swimnorac.com/equipment.php

Family members can also purchase NORAC clothing. Officials are required to have either a white shirt or a red polo shirt depending on their officiating position. These can be purchased through the team clothing supplier.

Getting Involved – Club Commitments

Swimming is different from many other sports. Unlike other activities that might only require parents to bring snacks, drive to team events and/or help out coaching, swimming is traditionally managed entirely by parent volunteers. When you watch an international swimming meet, the people holding stopwatches or judging were likely all at one time a parent (or still a parent) of a young competitive swimmer.

The Northumberland Aquatic Club is a non-profit organization run by volunteers and salaried/hourly coaches. There are many ways in which you can volunteer your time to help the club. Some of these positions are filled for the current season but if you have any questions or would like to volunteer, please contact donovan_js@hotmail.com

You do not need to be an experienced swim parent to be a valuable help to the club. The best way to learn about the club and the sport is to roll up your sleeves and dive in. From working at meets to helping out at special events or sitting on the board, this club cannot function without the hard work and support of all NORAC parents. As part of your membership in the club, each family is required to help out in accordance with the policy on club and fundraising commitments. As these may be modified from year to year based on our changing needs, please familiarize yourself with the requirements for the current year. Requirements can be found here.  Remember, this year marks the first year of our Family Participation Point  system so get out and help in as many areas as you can!


In order for our club to have our home swim meets sanctioned by Swim Ontario, it is essential for us to have as many members as possible registered, taking clinics and “moving up the ladder.” New and established members are required to take clinics and move towards their level I, level II and beyond.

In order to help our officials “move up the ladder” our club will periodically offer officials clinics. The first time official will begin with taking the Level I Timekeeper & Introduction to Swimming Clinic. Additional clinics can then be taken, these are:

Level 2 Strokes & Turns
Level 2 Chief Timekeeper
Level 2 Clerk of Course
Level 2 Chief Judge Electronics
Level 2 Chief Finish Judge
Level 2 Recorder Scorer

Level 2 Starter
Level 2 Meet Management

Level 3 Referee

Please visit our Officials tab for more information on how to take clinics and “move up the ladder”. Moving up the ladder is the best way to support the club and a great way to be involved in your child’s swimming career.

Coaching related questions

You know your swimmer better than anyone. If there is anything you feel the coach should know, please talk to them before or after practice or email them. Please note, while the club appreciates there will always be talk/critical analysis in the stands, we ask that you please talk to your coach first if you have any concerns about coaching.

Head Coach Trish MacNeil trish@swimnorac.com – 905-376-0402

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about swim meets but were afraid to ask!

So you have signed up and are ready for your first meet. But what should you bring?

For the swimmer
1. Team shirt, cap, warm-up suit
2. Swim suit for racing and a backup suit
3. Well-fitting goggles (an extra pair is a good idea too in case one pair breaks)
4. Towels (take 2 – 3 towels depending on the length of the meet)
5. Flip flops or non-slip deck shoes
6. A refillable water bottle
7. Nutritious snacks (i.e. oatmeal bars, raisins, grapes etc.), nothing too heavy to digest and nothing fatty (no junk food!)

For the parents/spectators
1. Money for the meet program/heat sheet. These cost between $2 – $4 and are available at the pool. They show all the races and you can check which races your child is in (and what lanes).
2. Colourful highlighter pen so you can mark off your child’s races.
3. As a spectator keep in mind that the indoor pool can get very hot inside so dress accordingly!
4. Viewing is often limited – arrive early.
5. Snacks and water – some meets have a shop with food but others don’t.
6. Very important – there is no flash photography allowed at meets.

Most meets schedule the 13 year and older swimmers in the morning sessions and the 12 year and under swimmers in the afternoon sessions. Meets that are timed finals will only have the swimmer racing at the age group session.

Meets that have preliminary and finals will require the swimmers who qualify for finals to return for the late afternoon/evening final session. Depending on the meet, finals will include anywhere from the top 8 to the top 20 swimmers typically with 2 alternate swimmers who will be eligible to swim if there is a scratch or a no-show.

Swimmers who qualify for finals but do not scratch from the event within the required time frame or do not show up will be charged a fee by the host club. The fee can be as high as $100 and must be paid before the swimmer can continue to participate in the meet. The penalty for a finals no-show is always included in the meet package.

Teams warm up in the pool, usually an hour before the first race begins. Please leave home in plenty of time to be on deck and stretching at least 15 mins before the start of warm-ups.

When you arrive at the pool:
1. Ensure your swimmer is changed and on the deck.  A NORAC coach will already be there.
2.  Look for other NORAC swimmers/parents. If seating permits, it is best to sit together as a team. Parents will not be allowed on deck. Swimming Canada only permits registered coaches and officials on deck.
3.  Buy a heat sheet (program) and look for your child’s name. Highlight the races he/she will be swimming in while he/she is in warm ups. Most meets we attend will be swum slowest to fastest. Kids with no times (NT) will usually swim in the first heat. Once they have swum that event they will get an official time so that subsequently, they will be seeded accordingly.
4. Encourage your child to cheer for their team mates!
5. Your child should talk to his/her coach before and after each race. This allows the coach to give plans and encouragement before the race and to provide feedback after the race for next time. Before your swimmer leaves the deck, make sure check with their coach that they actually done racing for the day. There may be relays at the end of the session and your swimmer may be a member of a relay team.
6. When the meet is over, please ensure that your swimmer helps to clean up any garbage around the team area. It’s a lot of work for the meet organizers to clean up the mess left at the end of a meet.

Meet Results
Encourage your swimmer to do their best and to have fun. Results are usually posted on a wall at the meet as they become available. For some meets, live results are available on the host team’s website or available on the Meet Mobile app. Results will show their official time and place for each event. The coaches usually get their times too and will tell them how they did. Following the meet you can find all the results on the Swimming Canada web site. Go to Swim Canada results. This web site shows results of all the meets nationwide.

If your child places in an event, ribbons or medals are often given out. (However not all meets have ribbons or medals). Ribbons that are given out at the end of a meet are usually given to the coach who will award them to swimmers later on. Sometimes these ribbons are mailed out so it could be a few days before they get them to you.

Swim Meet FAQs
How do I know which meet my swimmer is attending?

You will be notified by email when there is a meet coming up. You will be asked to either accept/decline your swimmer’s entry by a deadline date.

What is and where do I find the meet package?
You can find the meet package attached to the email you receive, on the host club’s website or on the Swimming Canada website meet list. The meet package will include the warm up times, events and all information regarding the meet.

How do I know which events my swimmer is participating in?
Meet entries will be available approximately 1 week prior to the meet via here.

What are psych sheets?
Psych sheets are a rank ordering of the swimmers entered per event at a particular meet.

How is a swimmer seeded if he/she has never competed in an event?
Most often swimmers are entered NT (no time) and seeded in the slowest heat. This means that they will swim in the first heats of an event.  Sometimes swimmers are given estimated times by the coaches.

What are time trials?
Time trials are official competitions used to provide a race opportunity for a small number of participants. They are used for last minute qualifying for major meets (Central Regions and up) and to allow for a record attempt prior to an age up by a swimmer. They can happen 2 – 4 times per year.

What does it mean that a meet is sanctioned?
A meet is “sanctioned” when Swim Ontario has given its stamp of approval on the competition or time trial.

How is it determined which swimmers participate in relays?
The coaches will generally try to create the fastest possible relays starting with the “A” team and working back.  Ultimately it is the coaches’ responsibility to select the team as other factors such as current training participation and racing times and health of the swimmer will be brought into account.

What is a DQ?
This is a disqualification. Sometimes, the swimmer may be disqualified and often an official will tell the swimmer at the end of the race.  Although this is done to help the swimmer learn the rules of the strokes, it is often a very emotional event for the young swimmer so it is important that you let them know that this happens to most swimmers when they are starting out – even some of the world champions get disqualified. And to take the sting out of the DQ …

it’s tradition to make trip to Dairy Queen in honour of the first DQ!!!!

What are pre-requisites?
For some larger meets swimmers may need to meet certain standards in the longer freestyle and IM events. This is done to prove their aerobic fitness to Swim Ontario. It is part of the long term athlete development plan.

What is the difference between short course and long course and what time of year is which season?
The short course season (25 m pool) is traditionally September to March and the long course (50 m pool) season January to June. Long Course meets can be held during the SC season and vice versa.

10 Commandments for Swimming Parents

by Rose Snyder, Managing Director Coaching Division, USOC – Former Director of Club Services, USA Swimming  (adapted from Ed Clendaniel’s 10 Commandments for Little League Parents)

  1. Thou shalt not impose thy ambitions on thy child.
    Remember that swimming is your child’s activity. Improvements and progress occur at different rates for each individual. Don’t judge your child’s progress based on the performance of other athletes and don’t push him based on what you think he should be doing. The nice thing about swimming is every person can strive to do his personal best and benefit from the process of competitive swimming.
  2. Thou shalt be supportive no matter what.
    There is only one question to ask your child after a practice or a competition – “Did you have fun?” If meets and practices are not fun, your child should not be forced to participate.
  3.  Thou shalt not coach thy child.
    You are involved in one of the few youth sports programs that offer professional coaching. Do not undermine the professional coach by trying to coach your child on the side. Your job is to provide love and support. The coach is responsible for the technical part of the job. You should not offer advice on technique or race strategy. Never pay your child for a performance. This will only serve to confuse your child concerning the reasons to strive for excellence and weaken the swimmer/coach bond.
  4. Thou shalt only have positive things to say at a swimming meet.
    You should be encouraging and never criticize your child or the coach. Both of them know when mistakes have been made. Remember “yelling at” is not the same as “cheering for”.
  5. Thou shalt acknowledge thy child’s fears.
    New experiences can be stressful situations. It is totally appropriate for your child to be scared. Don’t yell or belittle, just assure your child that the coach would not have suggested the event or meet if your child was not ready. Remember your job is to love and support your child through all of the swimming experience.
  6. Thou shalt not criticize the officials.
    Please don’t criticize those who are doing the best they can in purely voluntary positions.
  7. Honor thy child’s coach.
    The bond between coach and swimmer is special. It contributes to your child’s success as well as fun. Do not criticize the coach in the presence of your child.
  8. Thou shalt be loyal and supportive of thy team
    It is not wise for parents to take swimmers and to jump from team to team. The water isn’t necessarily bluer in another team’s pool. Every team has its own internal problems, even teams that build champions. Children who switch from team to team find that it can be a difficult emotional experience. Often swimmers who do switch teams don’t do better than they did before they sought the bluer water.
  9. Thy child shalt have goals besides winning.
    Most successful swimmers have learned to focus on the process and not the outcome. Giving an honest effort regardless of what the outcome is, is much more important than winning. One Olympian said, “My goal was to set a world record. Well, I did that, but someone else did it too, just a little faster than I did. I achieved my goal and I lost. Does this make me a failure? No, in fact I am very proud of that swim.” What a tremendous outlook to carry on through life.
  10. Thou shalt not expect thy child to become an Olympian.
    There are 250,000 athletes in USA Swimming. There are only 52 spots available for the Olympic Team every four years. Your child’s odds of becoming an Olympian are about .0002%.  In Canada, there are 18824 registered amateur athletes thereby making your child’s chances .0027%.

 Swim Speak – Glossary of Swimming Terms                  

Alternate:  In a prelims/finals meet, after the finalists are decided, the next fastest swimmers other than the finalists are designated as alternates.  The faster swimmer of the two being the first alternate and the next being the second.

Anchor:  The final swimmer in a relay.

Backstroke:  Once of the four competitive racing strokes, basically any style of swimming on your back.  Backstroke is swum as the first stroke of the Medley Relay and the second stroke of the Individual Medley.  This stroke is offered provincially at 50 metre, 100 metre, and 200 metre distances.

Block:  The starting platform located behind each lane.

Breaststroke:  One of the four competitive racing strokes.  Breaststroke is swum as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the Individual Medley.  Offered provincially, racing distances are 50 metres, 100 metres, and 200 metres.

Bulkhead: A wall constructed to divide a pool into different courses, such as a 50m pool into two 25m pools.

Butterfly:  One of the four competitive racing strokes.  Butterfly (nicknamed fly) is swum as the third stroke in the Medley Relay and the first stroke in the Individual Medley.  Offered provincially, racing distances are 50 metres, 100 metres, and 200 metres.

Cap:  The latex or lycra covering worn on the head of swimmers.

Championship Meet:  The meet held at the end of the short and long course seasons.  Qualification times are necessary to enter meets.

Check 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 let the timer in the lane they are swimming in know that they are there. For finals swimmers are often required to check in with the Chief Finish Judge.

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.

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.

Closed Competition: A Swim meet which is open to a specific number of invitees.

Club:  A registered swim team that is a member in good standing with Swim Ontario

Coach: A person who trains and teaches athletes in the sport of swimming.

Consolation Finals:  After the fastest 8 or 10 swimmers, the next 8 or 10 swimmers in a prelims/finals meet who, after the prelims swim, qualify to return to the finals.  Consolations, sometimes called the “B” Finals, 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.  Long course = 50 metres, short course = 25 metres.

Cut: Slang for qualifying time; A time standard necessary to attend a particular meet or event.

Deadline:  The date meet entries must be postmarked by, to be accepted by the meet host.  Making the meet deadline does not guarantee entry into a meet since many meets are full prior to the deadline.

Deck:  The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches.  No one but authorized persons may be on deck during a swim meet or practice.

Deck Entries:  Accepting entries into events on the first day or later days of a meet.

Distance Event: Term used to refer to events over 400 metres.

DQ (Disqualified): This occurs when a swimmer has committed an infraction of some kind (e.g. one-handed touch in breaststroke). A disqualified swimmer is not eligible to receive an award, nor will the time be an official time in that event.

Dive:  Entering the water head first.  Diving is not allowed during warm up except at the designated time, in specific lanes that are monitored by the swimmers coach.

Drill: An exercise involving a part of a stroke, used to improve technique.

Dropped Time:  When a swimmer goes faster than the previous performance they have “dropped their time.”

Dry-land Training: Training done out of the water that aids and enhances swimming performance; usually includes stretching, calisthenics, and/or weight training.

Dual Meet:  Type of meet where two teams compete against each other.

Entry:  An individual or relay team roster/event list for a swim competition.

Entry Fees/Meet Fees:  The amount per event a swimmer or relay is charged to compete.

Entry Limit:  Each meet will have a limit of total swimmers they can accept, or a time limit they cannot exceed.  Once an entry limit is reached a meet will be closed and all other entries returned.

Electronic Timing:  Timing system usually has touchpads in the water, junction boxes on the deck with hook up cables, button for backup timing, and a computer console that prints out the results of each race.  Some timing systems are hooked up to a scoreboard that displays swimmers times.

Eligible to compete:  The status of a member swimmer that means they are registered and have met all the requirements.

Event:  A race or stroke over a given distance.  An event equals one preliminary with final or one timed final.

False Start: Occurs when a swimmer is moving at the start prior to the signal.

Fastest to Slowest:  A seeding method used on the longer events at the end of a session.  The fastest seeded swimmers participate in the first heats followed by the next fastest and so on.  Many times these events alternate one female heat and one male heat until all swimmers have competed.

FINA:  The Federation Internationale de Natation (International Swimming Federation), is the international organization responsible for making the rules for the sport of swimming.

Final: The championship heat of an event in which the top 8-10 swimmers from the preliminaries compete for awards, depending on the number of lanes in the pool.

Final Results:  The printed copy of the results of each race of a swim meet.

Fins:  Large rubber fin type devices that fit on swimmers fees.  Used in practice only.

Finish: The final phase of the race – the touch at the end of the race.

Flags: Backstroke flags placed 5 metres from the end of the pool. They enable backstrokers to execute a backstroke turn more efficiently through being able to count the number of strokes into each wall.

Freestyle:  One of the four competitive racing events.  Freestyle is swum as the forth stroke in the Medley Relay and in the Individual Medley.  Offered provincially, distances are 50 metres, 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres, 800 metres, or 1500 metres.

Gallery:  The viewing area for spectators during the swimming competition.

Heats:  A division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time.  The results are compiled by swimmers time swam after all heats of the event are completed.

Heat Sheet/Program:  The pre-meet printing listings of swimmers seed times in events at a competition.  These sheets vary in accuracy since coaches submit swimmers times many weeks before the meet.  Heat sheets are usually sold at the admissions table and are used to mainly make sure the swimmer has been properly entered in all the events they signed up for.  Parents enjoy looking at the seedings prior to the race plus swimmers can tell the order the events will be conducted and get a rough idea how long the meet sessions will last.

I.M.: Slang for individual medley, an event in which the swimmer uses all four strokes in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.

Invitational:  Type of meet that requires a club to request an invitation to attend.

Jump:  An illegal start done by the second, third, or fourth member of a relay team.  The swimmer on the blocks breaks contact with the block before the swimmer in the water touches the wall.

Kick:  The leg movements of a swimmer.  A popular word to yell to encourage swimmers during a race.

Kick Board:  A floatation device used by swimmers during a practice.  A light weight object used with great accuracy by coaches.

Lane:  The specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim.  Lanes are numbered from right (lane 1) to left (Lane 6 or 8).

Lane Ropes:  Continuous floating markers attached to a cable attached from the starting end to the turning end for the purpose of separating each lane and quieting waves caused by racing swimmers.

Lap:  One length of the course (sometimes means down and back).

Lap Counter: A set of plastic display numbers used to keep track of laps during a distance race. The person, who counts for the swimmer, is stationed at the opposite end from the start.

Late Entries:  Meet entries from a club that are received by the meet host after the entry deadline.  These entries are usually returned or can be accepted at double the published entry fee.

Leg:  The part of a relay event swam by a single team member or a single stroke in the IM.

Length:  The extent of the competitive course from end to end.

Long Course or LC: A 50 metre long pool.

Take Your Marks:  The command to take your starting position.

MarshallThe official who controls the crowd and swimmer flow at the swim meet.

Medals:  Awards given to the swimmers at meets.  They vary in size, design, and method of presentation.

Meet: Competition designed to be a measure of progress and a learning experience. By implementing what has been learned in practice, the swimmers test themselves against the clock to see how they are progressing.

Meet Chair/Meet Manager:  The person in charge of the administration of the meet.

Negative Split: Swimming the second half of the race faster than the first half.

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

Official: A judge on the deck of the pool at a sanctioned competition who enforces Swimming Natation Canada (SNC) rules.

Official Time: A time achieved in a race during a duly sanctioned competition.

Open Competition:  Competition which any qualified club or swimmer may enter.

Open Water: Any freestyle event over 1500 metres, normally conducted in a natural body of water, such as a lake, river, or ocean.

Pace: The often pre-determined speed with which a swimmer completes each segment of a race (e.g. 25m, 50m)

Pace Clock: Large clock with a large second hand and a smaller minute had, used to check pace or maintain intervals in practice (may also be digital).

Paddle:  Coloured plastic devices worn on the swimmers hands during swim practices.

Positive Check In:  The procedure required before a swimmer swims an event in a deck seeded or pre seeded meet.

Prelim: Slang for preliminaries, also called heats – those races in which swimmers qualify for the championship and consolation finals in an event.

Prelim/Final:  Type of meet with two sessions.  The preliminary heats are usually held in the morning session and the finals in the late afternoon or evening.

Proof of Time:  An official meet result.  Swimmers/Coaches must present proof of time with some entries.

Psych Sheet:  An entry sheet showing all swimmers entered into each individual event and their individual times.

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

Qualifying Time: Qualifying time necessary to compete in a particular event and/or competition.

Race:  A single swimming competition event.

Referee:  The head official in charge of a swim meet.

Registered:  Enrolled and paid member of Swim Ontario.

Relay: An event in which 4 swimmers compete together as a team to achieve a time.

Ribbons:  Awards in a variety of sizes, styles, and colours given at some swim meets.

Sanctioned Meet: All competitions in which records may be set and official times may be obtained, must be sanctioned (= approved officially) by Swim Ontario.

Scratch: To withdraw from an event in a competition.

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

Session:  Portion of a meet distinctly separated from other portions by time.

Short Course or SC: A 25 metre long pool in which most competitions during the winter are held.

Split: A swimmer’s intermediate time in a race. Splits are registered every 50m and are used to determine if a swimmer is on a planned pace. Under certain conditions, initial splits may also be used as official times.

Sprint: Describes the shorter events (50 and 100m); in training, to swim as fast as possible for a short distance.

Start:  The beginning of a race.  The dive used to begin a race.

Starter:  The official in charge of signaling the beginning of a race and insuring that all swimmers have a fair takeoff.

Stand up:  The command given by the starter or referee to release the swimmers from their starting position.

Step down:  The command given by the starter or referee to have the swimmers move off the blocks.  Usually this command is a good indication that everything is not right for the race to start.

Streamline: The position used to gain maximum distance during a start and/or push-off from the wall in which the swimmer’s body is as tight and straight as it can be.

Stroke:  There are four competitive strokes, butterfly, backstroke, freestyle, breaststroke.

Stroke Judge:  The official positioned at the side of the pool, walking the length of the course as the swimmers race.  If the stroke judge sees something illegal they report to the referee and the swimmer may be disqualified.

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 the tie stands.

Team Records:  The statistics a team keeps, listing the fastest swimmer in the clubs history for each age group/each event.

Time Card: The card issued to each swimmer prior to each race, on which splits and the final time are recorded. May not be used in electronically timed meets.

Timed Final:  Competition in which only heats are swum and final placing is determined by those times.

Time Standard:  A time set by a provincial association that a swimmer must achieve for qualification or recognition.

Time Trial: A practice race which is not part of a regular competition. Time trials may be sanctioned and used to qualify for specific meets.

Timer:  The volunteers sitting behind the starting block/finish end of the pool, who are responsible for getting watch times on events and activating the backup buttons for the timing system.

Touch Out:  To reach the touch pad and finish first in a race.

Touch Pad: A large sensitive board at the end of each lane where a swimmer’s touch is registered and sent electronically to the timing system.

Unofficial Time:  The time displayed on a read out board or read over the intercom by the announcer immediately after a race.  After the time has been checked, it will become official.

Warm-down: Low intensity swimming used by swimmer after a race or main practice set to rid the body of excess lactic acid, and to gradually reduce heart rate and respiration.

Warm-up: Low-intensity swimming used by swimmers prior to a main practice set or a race to get muscles loose and warm, and to gradually increase heart rate and respiration.

Watches: Stopwatches used to time swimmers during a competition. When totally automatic timing equipment is used, watches serve as a back-up method.


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