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Beyond Summer Swim

There are great opportunities to continue swimming in the “off” season over the fall, winter, and spring. Club teams and swim programs are available for all levels of ability and all levels of commitment. On one end, there are programs to keep your swimmers active in swimming, maintaining their swim fitness and improve their strokes. On the other end, there are programs that offer intensive training and instruction and the opportunity to compete in USA Swimming meets. We are happy to see our Sully swimmers participate in any sort of “off” season program, mostly because it means they enjoy the sport enough to do it year round! Ask the coaches, team reps, or other parents on the team if you are interested in learning about the different options available.


USA Swimming (www.usaswimming.org) is the governing body for swimming in the United States. USA Swimming follows the international governing body (FINA) rules for the strokes and for the conduct of meets. The NVSL swimming rules are USA Swimming rules with minor changes to accommodate the facilities and skill levels found in our league.


Potomac Valley Swimming (PVS) (www.pvswim.org) is the local "branch" of USA Swimming. It consists of year-round swim clubs in the Washington area. PVS conducts "Short Course" competitions (25 yard pools) from October to March and "Long Course" competitions (Olympic-sized 50 meter pools) from May thru July. PVS is the place to go if you are looking for year-round club swim teams. Note that almost all NVSL meets are conducted in Short Course 25 meter (not yards) pools, so don't get confused if you are trying to compare times between the three course types.

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Glossary of Swim Terms


Freestyle (“Free”) is defined as any means of swimming across the pool. Any stroke and kick are acceptable. The most common technique is the front crawl with a traditional alternating arm stroke, flutter kick, and side breathing. While there are not many rules to break, the swimmer may not walk or push off on the bottom of the pool or pull themselves along using the lane lines. The swimmer also must touch the opposite wall (the “turn”) in a 50 meter race before returning to the starting end.


In Backstroke (“Back”), like freestyle, almost anything goes, as long as the swimmer stays on their back. Older swimmers will learn the backstroke flip turn, which is the only time a swimmer may turn onto their front. A swimmer starts a backstroke race in the water with feet planted against the wall, and hanging on to either another swimmer’s legs or the lip on the pool awaiting the starter’s signal then pushing off on their back. One common DQ occurs when a swimmer turns onto their front (even if just a roll to being slightly more on their front than back), often right before they touch the wall at the end of a race. Another common DQ occurs when older swimmers do not execute the flip turn legally.


Breaststroke (“Breast”) is swum chest down, starting in the streamline position.Breaststroke is required to be swum as a cyclical stroke, with the arm pull and kick in an alternating sequence. First, the hands pull out and back simultaneously in the same horizontal plane and then come together in front of the chest and not beyond the hipline. The head comes out of the water for the breath. As the hands push back forward to the initial position, the kick is started. The kick is a “frog” kick with the toes pointed outward during the propulsive part of the kick and with the legs moving simultaneous to each other. Once the arms are at full extension, the swimmer finishes the kick with legs together. Turns and finishes require simultaneous two-hand touch at the wall. It is a difficult stroke to master and most DQs happen in breaststroke, often for illegal kick (scissor or flutter, instead of frog) and non-simultaneous touch or one hand touch at the wall.


Butterfly (“Fly”) is swum chest down, starting in the streamline position. There are two components of the fly: the arm pull and the kick, but with is no requirement to alternate arm pulls and kicks. Both arms are pulled back underwater and then brought forward over the water simultaneously. The kick is a dolphin kick with both legs and feet moving simultaneously. Turns and finishes require simultaneous two-hand touch at the wall. Fly can be hard to perform and common DQs are for alternating kick movement and arms that are not simultaneous or do not come out of the water.


The individual medley (“IM”) is an event in which the swimmer swims each of the four strokes in the sequence: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. The IM event in the NVSL is a 100 meter IM, which means that 25 meters, or one pool length, of each stroke is swum. In a 100 meter IM, every turn is a stroke change and stroke finish rules apply. This means no backstroke flip turns are permitted since a swimmer must finish backstroke on their back.


There are two kinds of relays: the freestyle relay and the medley relay. Both involve a team of four swimmers, each swimming one quarter of the total distance, which is 100 meters or 200 meters in the NVSL, depending on the age group. In the freestyle relay, each swimmer swims the freestyle. In the medley relay, the sequence is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle. In all relays, each swimmer must wait until the previous swimmer touches the wall prior to leaving the deck. Running starts or pushes from teammates are not allowed.


Division of swimmers according to age. The NVSL age group divisions are: 8 & under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-18. In addition, WFDL adds a 6 & under age group for B meets.


The swimmer who swims the final leg in a relay.


The flags suspended over the water near each end of the pool. They aid swimmers in timing the turn and finish in backstroke. Usually, a swimmer counts how many strokes it takes them to reach the wall once they see the flags.


The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches.


Short for “disqualification”. A swimmer disqualifies themselves when they do not swim within the rules of the race. A DQ is given whenever the swimmer commits an infraction either at the start, while performing the stroke, at the turn (if applicable), or at the touch at the end of the race. A DQ is a learning experience as it lets the swimmer and the coach know what needs correction. The Team Rep is the only person allowed to discuss or dispute a DQ with the referee.


A scored “A” meet between two teams where the team with the highest point total is declared the winner.


A race of a stroke over a given distance. One event may consist of multiple heats or races, especially in a B meet.


A false start occurs when a swimmer moves after the starter has asked for swimmers to take their mark or when a swimmer anticipates the start horn and dives in ahead of the start. A false start results in a disqualification.


The turn a swimmer performs at one end of the pool when swimming 50 meters in backstroke and freestyle. The swimmer approaches the wall on their front, tucks, does a forward flip, and pushes off the wall with their feet.


One race of many in the same event. Since there are only so many lanes, multiple heats of the same event may be held, especially in B meets and Divisionals. If there are 24 swimmers in an event and six lanes are used, then four heats must be held. A swimmer may finish first in their heat and but still not place in the event because swimmers in other heats have faster times.


Individual Medley. Swimmers swim each of the four strokes one length of the pool. The strokes are swum in the order of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.


The list of swimmers ordered from fastest to slowest in each event. The ladder is kept by the coaches and team reps to help determine how to place swimmers into individual and relay events for A meets, Relay Carnival, and Divisionals. Parents may request to see the ladder to help them decide what events their swimmers should swim in B meets.


Continuous floating markers attached to a cable dividing the lanes.


One length of the pool. In almost all NVSL pools this equals 25 meters.


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


A swimmer whose lower legs serve as a handholds for a fellow swimmer at the start of a backstroke race.


A swim competition against another team or group of swimmers.


Northern Virginia Swim League. The league that Sully competes in for A meets, Relay Carnival, and Divisionals.


The turn a swimmer does at one end of the pool when swimming 50 meters in breaststroke and butterfly. The swimmer approaches the wall on their front, touches the wall with two hands, turns around, and pushes off the wall.


A swimmer’s best time in an event. Setting a personal best is a great goal for an event or a meet.


Coming in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in a given event.


What position a swimmer has in an event based on their fastest time in that event. Lane assignments are determined by seed time.


Backstroke (back), breaststroke (breast), freestyle (free), butterfly (fly).


The moment the swimmers are lined up in their respective lanes ready for the race to start.


A position where the swimmer’s body is as straight as possible with hands together reaching forward and legs straight back. The position is used to reduce drag and maintain speed from a dive (at the start) or push off the wall (at the turn).


In an A meet, when a swimmer is asked to swim in an older age group than they would normally swim in. There are a number of reasons a coach may ask a swimmer to swim up. In all cases, they are trying to give opportunities to swim events to as many swimmers as possible and to help the team score points.


A swimmer's time on a specific stroke and distance (20.56 seconds for 25-meter freestyle, etc.).


An event swum only for time at a B meet. The swimmer cannot place or earn a ribbon (other than a personal best).


Preparation before swimming (same as stretching before exercising), usually consisting of swimming laps. The 30 minute warm-up period before a meet is extremely important and should not be missed.

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