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Swim Meet Basics


Our swim team competes in the Greater Charlotte Swim League, www.greatercharlotteswimleague.com. The league’s website contains rules governing meets, entries, and scoring.


Swim meets are on Monday and Thursday evenings. We typically have 6 swim meets in the season. The meets begin at 6pm and are usually over around 9:30 p.m. Swimmers will need to arrive earlier than 6 for warm-ups. Exact times to be at a meet will be sent in a message from the team reps.


  • Swim Meet: A swimming competition between individual athletes or between two or more swim teams, organized by a swimming organization or governing body. Swim competitions can be held in indoor or outdoor pools. Some swim meets also include a portion for a diving competition. The goal of competing is to complete your swimming event as fast as you can.
  • Event: An event is a portion of a meet competition broken down by distance, stroke, age, gender, and relay type. An event is the type of swim race you will compete in. You will typically swim 1-5 events during a swim meet. You will never swim every event in a swim met. Most swim meets number their events, and they typically go in a standard order unique to each swim league. You can usually follow this order from the record board that’s next to the pool. Individual events are seeded fastest to slowest, with the fastest heat swimming first. The youngest age group swims first, with girls preceding boys. Except for the 100IM, individual event distances are 25 meters (one length) for 10 and under groups and 50 meters (2 lengths) for 11-18 age groups. The order of events for all meets will be:
      • Shrimps (6 and under) – freestyle
      • Medley Relay (four swimmers each swimming a different stroke)
      • Freestyle
      • Backstroke
      • 100 IM – Individual Medley (25 meters each of butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke, freestyle)
      • Breast stroke
      • Butterfly
      • Free relay (four swimmers each swim 25 or 50 meters freestyle)
  • Heat: In each event, there can be many swimmers competing. Depending on the size of the pool, only a limited number at swimmers can race at a time. If a pool has 6 lanes, then 6 swimmers will race in the event at a time, which is called a “heat.” If there are 60 swimmers competing in the 100 freestyle event, then there will be 10 heats .Heats are seeded fastest to slowest. In each heat, the swimmers with the fastest seed times are scheduled to swim in lanes 3 and 4, which are the middle lanes.
  • Heat Sheet: The heat sheet is a list of swimmers and the events they will swim in that meet. Find your child’s name; the list follows the order of events, with the youngest children swimming first in each event and the girls swimming first in all events. Highlight the event number, the stroke, the heat number, and the lane number for your child(ren) to help make sure they are at their events on time. We do not sell heat sheets at the meet but will email the heat sheets out to the team as soon as we are able on the afternoon of the meet. We will also use the Meet Mobile app during the meet, which is an online version of the heat sheet. Download Meet Mobile from the app store. Other teams may sell heat sheets at their pool, or post them on Meet Mobile.
  • Seed Time: The swimmer’s fastest time prior to this meet. Seeding is the method of placing swimmers in lanes in order of their entry times.
  • Psych Sheets: A ranking of swimmers by event and time.
  • Lane Number: This is your assigned lane in the pool that you will be racing in, during your heat. Typically, the fastest swimmers in each heat get assigned to the middle lanes.
  • Unattached: A term used to identify a swimmers team affiliation in lieu of being officially attached to a team within the organization.
  • Relay Events: You can either compete in an individual event, where you swim a race alone, or you can compete as part of a relay. A relay is typically a combination of 4 swimmers on the same team. Each swimmer takes turns completing parts of the race, typically 1/4 of the total distance. Relays are usually either freestyle, or a medley. A 200 freestyle medley means that swimmer #1 swims 50 yards freestyle, then swimmer #2 immediately swims the second leg, then swimmers #3 and #4 swim legs 3 and 4 consecutively. The fastest swimmer is responsible for the last “leg” of the race, and the entire group’s time is the final result of the race. A medley is similar, but each swimmer is responsible for completing a different stroke of the I.M. Swimmer #1 does backstroke, swimmer #2 does breaststroke, swimmer #3 does butterfly, and swimmer #4 does freestyle. The winning relay team earns 10 points for its team while the 2nd place relay team earns 6 points for its team.
  • Leg: A portion, normally one-quarter, of an individual event or relay event, of the event.
  • Short course (SCM, or SCY) Pool: The term short course (SCM) is used globally, to identify a pool that is 25 meters (27.34 yd) in length. In the United States, the term “short course” (SCY) is commonly applied to 25 yards (22.86m) in length.
  • Long Course Pool: A pool configured for swimming with a 50-meter long race course.
  • IM: Slang for individual medley, an event in which the swimmer uses all four competitive strokes in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
  • Check in: Event organizers will have a check-in table set up at the meet. When you arrive, go to the table and check in with the staff to confirm that you are present. 
  • Meet official/Referee: A judge on the deck of the pool. Various judges or officials watch the swimmer’s strokes, turns and finishes or are timers.
  • Touchpad: The touchpad is the area at the end of each lane in the pool where a swimmer’s time is registered and sent electronically to the timing system and the scoreboard. This touchpad is very sensitive and works best when you push your fingers into it aggressively at the end of your race to ensure your split is recorded.
  • Watch Time: The recorded time from a watch started and stopped manually by a lane timer.
  • Split: A split is the exact second that divides one lap from another. Split time is the amount of time that adds up between two splits. A timer can record a split after one lap — the length of the pool; two laps — down and back — or any other distance he chooses. Calculating split times in swimming is a means of calculating an individual swimmer’s or relay team’s pace over a series of laps. Recording splits and calculating times is useful in determining what legs of the race are covered in what amount of time. Example: if your final time for a 100 freestyle is 1:10, your 1st split (first 50 yards) can be :30 seconds, and your 2nd split (second 50 yards) would be :40 seconds.
  • Time Trails: Time Trials is a practice swim meet. The purpose is to have swimmers swim competitively within their age groups, trying to swim their best possible time in each stroke, or in all the strokes that they know at that time. Time Trials are fun and an easy start to the excitement of racing. Swimmers should relax with this. They should try their best but spend NO time worrying about it. It is basically a normal practice with racing events. We are getting used to the racing strokes that we will swim in the upcoming meets against another team.
  • Meet Scoring: Individual events score as follows - 
    • 1st place earns 5 points for the team.
    • 2nd place earns 3 points for the team.
    • 3rd place earns 2 points for the team.
    • 4th place earns 1 point for the team.
    • Relays: The winning relay earns 10 points; the second place relay earns 6 points. Each team can only get one place – either first or second.
  • Heat Level: Swimmers are initially placed into heat levels based on their performance at the time trial (or previous year times). This is why your child’s participation in the Time Trial is so important; it allows the coaches to place your child in the best position both personally and for the team.
    • Swimmers are divided into age categories, based on the swimmer’s age by May 31st. The categories are:
      • 6 and under
      • 7-8
      • 9-10
      • 11-12
      • 13-1415-18.
    • Swimming Up: GCSL rules regarding "swimming up" state:
      The age level of each swimmer for the current season shall be determined by the swimmer’s age on or before the May 31 that falls either during, or immediately prior to the start of, the current season. Each swimmer shall swim in his/her age level for the entire season. However, a swimmer may elect to swim in the next higher age group for the entire season. This choice must be made before the start of the season (first meet), must be indicated on the roster, and once made, may not be reversed at a later date.
  • Disqualification: Sometimes you will have a swimmer who is DQ’d which means “disqualified”. In this case the Stroke & Turn judges saw and wrote up an infringement, which is usually an incorrect stroke technique, early start, incorrect turn or incorrect finish. The team rep and coach go through each DQ and work to correct the problem. If a relay is DQ’d, the relay team is out of the event. There is nothing you need to do as the Coach will work on the problem to try and avoid it happening again
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