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The Swimmer's Glossary

Whether your new to swimming or have been at it for years, there's always at least one term that is new. Hopefully the following will make time at the pool a little less confusing.


General Swimming Terms


Swim Practice & Equipment Terms

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Swim Meet Terms

Meet Program: Lists all of the events, heats, and swimmers of a meet. Two other versions are called Heat Sheets or Psyche Sheet

Event & Heat: An event is a race of one stroke at a certain distance for a specific age group of one gender. All swimmers of an event are divided into heats or groups of swimmers based on how many lanes are in a pool.

Shepherds: Parent volunteers that help organize and guide younger swimmers to their events. Swimmers are still responsible for getting themselves to the shepherding area.

Check-in: The process for letting the meet organizers know that you are in attendance for a meet. A Check-In table is positioned usually near the entrance to the facility. If you fail to check-in at a meet you may be removed “scratched” from the entire meet.

Announcer's Table: the area on the deck where the Announcer, Starter, Referee, Computer Team, and Ribbon Writers are stationed. At Heritage it is in between the diving boards on the west end of the pool.

Warm-ups: a time before every swim meet were swimmers get into the pool to swim a few lengths guided by the coaches to get used to the pool and loosen up. Older swimmers may have a dedicated lane to warm-up/cool-down in during the meet.

Starter: the Official with the starting horn that begins every race. They give instructions to each heat like “take your mark” or “stand up” and are responsible for insuring a fair takeoff.

Starting Horn: the device the Starter uses to communicate instructions to the swimmer and timers. It consists of a megaphone and strobe light. Timers with the backup stopwatch are to watch for the flash when starting their stopwatch to prevent lag from the sound. A Single horn is used to start the race. If a repeating horn is heard this signifies a False Start and all swimmers need to stop swimming and head back to the blocks for a re-start.

False Start: A swimmer that was not still on the blocks after the starter says “Swimmers, take your marks.” or that dove in before the starting horn sounded.

Stroke & Turn/Officials/Referee: The judges of a swim meet that evaluate if a swimmer is performing a stroke properly and issue DQ’s when appropriate. If there is a disagreement with a call from an official, talk to the coaching staff for them to bring the objection to official on your behalf.

Timed Trials: the first half of a day at a large/important swim meet (championships, etc) to find the top swimmers (usually 16-24) of the day

Finals: the second half of a day at a large/important swim meet (championships, etc) where the tops swimmers (usually top 16-24) race for ranking and awards.

Seeding: The method used to determine a swimmer’s heat and lane assignments for a meet.

In our dual meets, we pre-seed our meet the day before based on submitted entry times. We use “fastest to slowest seeding” where the first heat of an event has the fastest swimmers and the first heat has the fastest swimmer from each team in the center two lanes. Points are earned for a team from the swims in the first heat is the only.

In invitationals and County, they deck seed after check-in has closed. “Circle seeding” is used where the fastest three swimmers are placed in the center lane of the last three heats, the next fastest swimmers are in the next lane out and and so on. In circle seeding, the last heat has the fastest swimmer in the middle lane. Unless there are finals, the tops swims from all heats can score points.

Ready Bench: some meets have a set of benches near the starting blocks that swimmers at to gather at before their race to be organized for smooth flow of the events

Clerk of Course: is similar to a ready bench, but only used at some meets (county) where the swimmers are assigned heats and lanes the day of. This is more common at invitationals for year round Age group teams.

Scratch: To be removed from an event or entire meet while the meet is happening (illness, absence, penalty, etc) after having originally been entered. In some invitational meets, if a scratch is not declared properly, a swimmer can be disqualified from their remaining events.

Deck Entry: being added to the meet after seeding is complete. Usually done by special request by the coaching staff after everyone has checked-in for a meet. It is common to do this to replace an absent swimmer.

Timer Sheet: A piece of paper that lists all of the swimmers in all of the heats for one lane for a set of events. The recorder of each lane uses it to verify the name of the swimmer and to record the backup time for each swim.

P.B.: Personal Best - the fastest a swimmer has swam a race in one season. Our team tracks each time P.B. is “popped” or broken a swimmer earns a ticket to use at the end of the year party to enter drawings to win prizes.

NT: No Time, used to designate that a swimmer has not swum the event before the meet. Some meets do not allow a swimmer to enter a race if they have a NT. Can also be seen in meet results if a swimmer failed to show/swim an event.

DQ: Disqualification. Some aspect of a swim was swum incorrectly based on the rules of USA Swimming. This meets the swim and it’s time will not be counted for meet results or personal records.

Participation Ribbon: Younger swimmers who do not win a heat or place in the top six places.

Heat Winner Ribbon: Awarded to swimmers that finish first in a heat that is not the first heat.

Place Winner Ribbon: Awarded to a swimmer that places in the top six times of an event.

Exhibition Swim: The first heat of an event in a dual meet has equal swimmers from both teams. A swim is labeled as Exhibition (“X” in the meet program) when, to save time, an extra swimmer from one team is added to the first heat because other team does not have enough swimmers. The swimmers time still counts for the swimmers records, but does not score points for the meet.

Dehydration: not having enough fluids (water) in your body. This is the most common cause of fatigue and can produce cramps or a sick feeling.

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