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Fundamentals of Swimming

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Before your child jumps into the pool, it’s helpful to understand the basics of the sport and what to expect.



While competitors can technically use any stroke in this style of competition, the front crawl is the most common. Swimmers will be face down in the water, breathing to the side, and alternate their arms over the surface of the water while adding a flutter kick. Some part of the swimmer must touch the wall during turns and finishes; most swimmers choose to do a flip turn.


Swimmers compete on their stomachs. They push their arms out in front with hands together, then push them out to the side and bring them back in a heart-shape motion. Their legs move simultaneously in a circular motion, almost mimicking a frog. When swimmers finish and turn, they must touch the wall with both hands at the same time.


A swimmer competes on their stomach using circular arm motions from front to back. They will also perform a dolphin kick where they are not allowed to separate their feet or legs at any point. Swimmers must touch the wall simultaneously with both hands during turns and when they finish.


As the name suggests, competitors lay on their back while in the water and then swing their arms out of the water, over their head, and back into the water while adding a flutter kick. When a swimmer turns, some part of them must touch the wall. Turns are the only time they may switch to their stomach,—they must be on their back when they finish the race.

Pool Standards

Water Depth

Lanes should be two meters (six feet and seven inches) deep throughout the course. However, many local pools have deep ends that are used for diving, and shallow ends for inexperienced swimmers to practice.

Pool Length

Long courses are 50 meters (164 feet and ½ inch), and short courses are 25 yards or 25 meters (82 feet and ¼ inch).

Pool Width

Pools must be able to fit eight or 10 lanes in the pool, with each lane measuring a minimum of seven feet (2.13 meters) for competitions.

Pool Markings

Lane markings on the bottom of the pool will be a minimum of 10-inches (25 centimeters) wide, and has a dark contrasting color (preferably black). Each lane will have a marking running down the middle of it, uninterrupted the length of the pool.

Pool/Air Temperature

Water temperature will be between 25-28 degrees Celsius (77-82.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The air temperature should not fall below 76 degrees Fahrenheit, with relative humidity maintained at about 60%.


Freestyle Relay

Four swimmers per team. Each individual swims one-fourth of the prescribed distance using any desired stroke, which is usually the front crawl.

Medley Relay

Four swimmers per team. Each individual swims one-fourth of the prescribed distance in the following order: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle.

Mixed Gender Relays

Must consist of two males and two females.

Relay Rules

No swimmer may swim more than one leg of a relay. Each swimmer must touch the wall at the end of their lane when they finish their leg. The next swimmer up is not allowed to enter the pool until the swimmer before them touches the wall—if they leave early they can be disqualified. Each team member must leave the water immediately after finishing their leg, except for the final racer.

Age Group Events

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