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This page should help those new to swimming, especially parents, to understand some of the language related to swimming that is likely to confuse them. Let us know if there is something that confused you that is missing.

The information here is provided purely as a guide for those new to swimming and may not be 100% accurate by all interpretations, but hopefully it is close enough without being too difficult to understand.

Accredited Meet

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


Amateur Swimming Association, the national governing body of swimming in England.

Consideration Time

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.


The most common reasons why a swimmer is disqualified are that a swimmer has not touched the wall properly when turning or has not used the proper stroke technique.


A Drill is an exercise/practice which is designed to strengthen or enhance some part of a stroke. For example rib tickle is a front crawl drill where the thumb of the hand that is recovering out of the water is dragged along the side of the body from the thigh to the armpit, this drill causes a "high elbow" recovery which is a desirable characteristic of good front crawl technique. Some other drills are - kicking, finger trail, catch up, single arm, two kicks to one pull etc.


Short for butterfly stroke.


Short for freestyle or front crawl.

Graded Meet

The strongest swimmers in the club are given ample opportunity to swim competitively through events like the mini league, West District meets etc. Other swimmers are given an opportunity to swim through graded meets. Each swimmer chosen to swim in an event at a graded meet must be able to swim faster than a specified time AND be slower than a cut off time for the event. If a swimmer swims faster than the cut off time they will be awarded a "Speeding Ticket” or “Swam Too Fast Certificate”.

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.

Heats and Finals

Occurs when there are too many swimmers for them all to compete in one race, the event will be split into heats with the fastest swimmer(s) from each heat going forward to the final.

Individual Medley or IM

A race comprising all four strokes in the following series - butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and frontcrawl.

Kick Sets

Lengths using legs only


A flat rectangular piece of foam used in kick sets

Long Course

Any competition held in a 50m pool.

Marshalling Area

The area where the swimmers meet ahead of their race.

Mini League

The Clyde Coast Mini League is a competition between twelve West District affiliated clubs competing in three rounds with a swim-off for the six highest scoring clubs after round three. Three clubs compete at each meet, points are awarded for the first three places in each event. The Mini League is for swimmers of swim age eleven and below and is their main competitive forum.

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.

Open Meet

At an Open Meet swimmers are required to meet qualification times in order to compete.

Over the Top Starts

This means that swimmers stay in the water until the next heat 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.


Flat pieces of plastic worn on the hands, usually during pull sets.


This is an abbreviation of Personal Best, it is the best time that a swimmer has achieved for an event. Swimmers should know their PB for each event and keep a PB chart of their times so that they can follow their improvements.


A piece of foam that goes between your legs and helps you float whilst doing pull sets


Shorthand for repeat, so 5 reps of 100 backstroke would mean swimming 100 metres backstroke five times.


Scottish Amateur Swimming Association, the national governing body of swimming in Scotland.


Seasons Best, the best time a swimmer has achieved in a season.


The method of arranging swimmers who have entered an event according to their submitted time. Usually the fastest swimmers are allocated the middle lanes and the slower swimmers the outside lanes.

Short Course

Any competition held in a 25m pool.


A set is a group of related swims, for instance a swimmer may be given a kick set of 4 x 100 metres backstroke kick with 15 seconds rest between each 100. This would be written as 4x100 BS K R15. A training session is divided into a number of sets including some or all of the following - warm up, kick, technique, drill, main, swim down etc.


Sheep are swimmers who have not listened to the coach and then do the wrong thing - because they are copying the swimmer in front - who is also doing the wrong thing.


Finding some, usually spurious, excuse to stop swimming. Examples are - needing the toilet (this excuse may be tried several times during a session), leaking goggles, loose cord on swimming trunks, costume chafing, recovering some item of kit from the changing room, cramp, feeling dizzy etc.

Spare Lane Swim

A spare lane is a lane which has not been allocated to a swimmer, i.e. there are not enough swimmers in an event to fill all of the lanes. These lanes are often used to give swimmers an extra opportunity to swim and be timed in a competitive event, however the spare lane swimmer will not be awarded a medal if they are placed and the swim will not be counted in any point scoring system.

Speeding Ticket

A "Speeding Ticket" is awarded to a swimmer at a graded meet who swims faster than the cut off time for an event. A swimmer who gets a “Speeding Ticket” will not get a medal if they are placed, this means that a swimmer can be awarded first place in an event even though another swimmer swam faster than them.

Split Time

A "Split Time" is the time taken to complete some portion of a swim, for example if a swimmer is swimming a 400 metre event then the times taken to swim the first, second, third and fourth 100 metre segments of the race are taken. These would be the 100 split times.


The squadron is a team in which swimmers from each age group, or squad, in the club are selected to swim as a team. Usually the youngest swim first and the oldest last.

Starts and False Starts

At the start of a race the referee will blow three times to notify the competitors that the run is about to begin. The referee will then give one long blow which tells the swimmers to mount the starting block or, in the case of backstroke, to enter the water. The referee will then hand over to the starter who will say 'take your marks'. Once all swimmers are ready, the starter will either fire a starter gun or press the electronic starter button. In the event of a false start, the starter will press the starter button again and/or the false start rope will be dropped into the water.

Swam Too Fast Certificate

A "Swam Too Fast" certificate is awarded to a swimmer at a graded meet who swims faster than the cut off time for an event. A swimmer who gets a “Swam Too Fast Certificate” will not get a medal if they are placed, this means that a swimmer can be awarded first place in an event even though another swimmer swam faster than them.

Swim Age

A swimmers "Swim Age" depends on the rules of a meet; it can be:-

  • The age that they are on the day of a competition.
  • The age they will be at the end of the year.

Swim Down

An easy swim at the end of a session that is designed to relax the muscles, slow the heart rate and respiration and help to work off any toxins built up during the session.

Swim Off

A swim off occurs when two or more swimmers have achieved identical times in heats. These swimmers will compete against each other for a place in the final.


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.

Warm Up

A swim at the start of a session which is designed to warm up the muscles, raise the pulse and prepare the body for training or competition.