A Very Brief Introduction into Competitive Swimming
- The four competitive strokes are freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.
- In freestyle events, the competitor may swim any stroke. The stroke most commonly used is the crawl, which is characterized by the alternate overhand motion of the arms and a
n alternating (up and down) flutter kick. The crawl is swum rotating from side to side on the stomach.
- Backstroke consists of an alternating motion of the arms with a flutter kick and is swum from side to side with the face out of the water.
- The breaststroke requires simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. The hands are pulled to the breast in a heart shaped pattern and recovered under
or on the surface of the water. The elbows will remain under the surface of the water except at the finish. The kick is a simultaneous somewhat circular motion similar to the action of a frog.
On turns and at the finish, the swimmer must touch the wall with both hands simultaneously.
- Some consider the butterfly to be the most beautiful of the strokes. It features a simultaneous overhand stroke of the arms combined with an undulating dolphin kick.
In the kick, the swimmer must keep both legs together and may not flutter, scissor or use the breaststroke kick.
- The individual medley, commonly referred to as the I.M., features all four strokes. In the IM, the swimmer begins with the butterfly, then changes one-fourth of the race to backstroke,
then breaststroke and finally freestyle.
- In the medley relay, all four strokes are swum. The first swimmer swims backstroke, the second breaststroke, the third butterfly, and the final swimmer, freestyle.
- The freestyle relay events consist of four freestylers, each swimming one quarter of the total distance of the event.
- Starts, turns and finishes: Many races are won or lost by the swimmer’s performance in the start, turn or finish. In the start the swimmer is called to a starting position by
the starter who visually checks that all swimmers are motionless. When all swimmers are set the gun or starting horn is sounded to start the race.
If the starter feels that one of the swimmers has moved, left early or gotten an unfair advantage, the race will not be recalled. The swimmer will be disqualified upon completion of the race.
Under USA Swimming rules, one false start disqualifies the swimmer. (The starter and referee must agree on which swimmer(s) has caused the infraction.)
A swimmer may start from a dive off the blocks, from the side or start in the water. In the backstroke, swimmers start in the water with toes below the surface of the water.
- Flip turns are the preferred turning method for the freestyle and backstroke. The swimmers do a somersault just before reaching the wall and stretch to the wall with their feet and push off.
Both turns are the same, however, the backstroker must wait until they are one stroke away from the wall before turning on his stomach to execute the turn. The finish is a one hand touch driving for the wall.
The backstroker may not turn onto his stomach on the finish. In both the butterfly and breaststroke the swimmers must touch each wall (turn and finish) with two hands simultaneously. No flip turns are permitted.
In the IM each turn is considered the finish of that stroke, therefore, the finish rules apply. (No flip turn from backstroke to breaststroke).
- Competition pools may be short course (25 yards or meters) or long course (50 meters). The international standard (used in the Olympics) is 50 meters.
World records are accomplished in 25 or 50 meter pools. USA Swimming maintains records for 25 yards (ETHS pool), 25 meters and 50 meters.
- USA Swimming is made up of 2,500 teams from all over the country. Of these clubs, nearly half have 50 swimmers or less, and a handful of teams have over 500 swimmers.
A team may be comprised of any number of swimmers, parents and coaches.
- Participants compete in different age groups and meets depending on their achievement level and how old they are on the first day of the meet.
Traditionally recognized age groups are 10 & under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18. Many local meets feature 8 & under, single age groups, or senior events. Team practice groups are usually determined by
age and / or ability.