Welcome to the world of
competitive swimming, a fantastic sport and great experience for
anyone. Still, we recognize that many aspects of our sport
are difficult for newcomers to understand. Hopefully this
page will help answer any questions you may have.
United States Swimming
United States Swimming is
the national governing body for the sport of swimming.
Participants all NSAC youth swim programs must be members
of this organization. Membership is renewed in the fall of each
year. Membership provides limited, co-benefit accident and
liability insurance for swimmers participating in supervised
workouts and swim meets.
Swimming Inc. (MSI)
Minnesota Swimming is the Local
Swim Committee (LSC), or administrative division, that handles our
geographic area which includes all of Minnesota, and a few select
counties in Western Wisconsin. MSI grants annual
charters to clubs like NSAC, making them a part of the USA Swimming
family. MSI also administers all USA Swimming sanctioned
meets that take place within their jurisdiction.
The competitive swimming year
is sectioned off into two seperate competitive seasons, each with
their own set of championship meets. The first season starts
in early September and runs through March. This season is
typically referred to as the Short Course Season because
all competitions during this time, with the exception of the Spring
National Championship Meet, take place in a 25 yard, or "Short
The second competitive season
runs from early April through early August, and is usually referred
to as the Long Course Season due to the fact that meets in
this season are (whenever possible) held in 50 meter, or "Long
Course" pools. The Long Course format is used for all USA
Swimming Senior National Meets, as well as most major international
meets such as the World Championships and the Olympics.
Because USA Swimming uses two
seperate formats (Long Course vs. Short Course) throughout the
year, swimmers who swim year-round will have two different sets of
best times, just as the club has two different sets of club
records. Swimmers, coaches and parents will often try and
"convert" times so that races and times in different formats can be
compared, and there are several tools for sale at meets that will
help with conversions, but parents should be aware that Long Course
/ Short Course conversions are rarely accurate. Instead, it
is more helpful to view each season, and the times achieved in
the season, separately.
One of the many things that
makes swimming such a unique sport is the fact that swimmers
compete in a variety of different strokes. Races are swum
at various distances (depending on the age group) in each of
the following strokes: Backstroke, Breastroke, Butterfly and
Freestyle, as well as in an Individual Medley in which each
swimmer competes a specified distance of each of the strokes.
Relays are also done in which one swimmer from each team swims each
of the 4 strokes. Although your child may have learned other
strokes such as the elementary backstroke or the sidestroke, in
swimming lessons, these 4 strokes are the only ones competed in USA
Swimming meets. More information on each of the strokes is
This stroke is easily identifiable as it
is the only one done on the back. It is done using
an alternating arm motion combined with a flutter kick and
good hip, shoulder and trunk rotation. Backstrokers may
flip onto their stomach to change direction at the walls,
but it must be done in a continuous motion, with no more than
one stroke permitted on the stomach. Race finishes must be
done on the back.
Breastroke is done using a two-arm
simultaneous stroke and underwater recovery along with a strong
"whip kick" which is sometimes called the frog
kick. Balance in the breastroke is attained through a
"teeter-totter" motion in the water, which has swimmers
alternating putting preasure on the upper and lower body,
rotating over the short axis. Usually considered the slowest
of the 4 strokes, Breastroke is also one of the most difficult
strokes to do correctly.
Butterfly is done using a two-arm
simulateous stroke with an above water recovery along with a
"dolphin kick". Using the same "teeter-totter" motion
as the breastroke, butterfliers appear to move through the
water with an undular, or wave-like motion. Rythem, timing
and strength are the most important factors in a fast
In all freestyle events, swimmers may
use whatever stroke they would like to get from one end of the
pool to the other. Typically, however, swimmers will use the
front crawl during freestyle events as it is the fastest.
Because of this, coaches, swimmers and parents often use the word
"freestyle" in exhange for "front crawl".
Here at NSAC, we believe that competitions are
an important step in the progression each swimmer goes through as a
swimmer, so we therefore encourage all our members to take part in
the meets our club attends. At this point, however, none of
our competitions are required.
At all MSI meets, the events in which swimmers
compete are determined based on the age of the swimmer. Each
age group has their own set of events chosen to ensure that
swimmers compete in a wide variety of events without requiring any
athlete to swim an event he or she is unable to do (e.g. an 8 year
old will not compete in the 200 fly). Each age group also has
it’s own set of time standards designed to provide a set
progression of improvement relative to the group’s age and
physical maturity, while also ensuring that swimmers always compete
against other swimmers of like ability. The USA Swimming
designated age groups are 8 & Under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16,
At almost all meets NSAC attends, swimmers
compete only against swimmers of the same gender and in the
same age group, and seeding is done by time, which
means your swimmer will always compete in a heat of
swimmers of roughly the same ability level.
USA Swimming Meets come in a variety of
different formats, from Novice all the way through Junior and
Senior National Championships. All of these formats, however,
are determined based on time standards which indicate the
minimum (and sometimes maximum) achievements under which a
swimmer may compete in a designated meet. All MSI meets use
the Minnesota Swimming Time Standards, while regional or national
meets typically use standards based off of the USA Swimming Time
Minnesota Swimming classifies their time
standards into 5 groups: C, B, A, CH, and ZONE.
These levels represent a progression upward (i.e. B times
are faster than C times), and usually indicate the type of meet a
swimmer may compete in.
Below is a brief description of all the types
of meets you will likely encounter as a swim parent.
This is the most frequent type of meet
attended by NSAC. These meets allow anyone to swim,
regardless of ability and regardless of whether or not a swimmer
has ever competed before.
In this type of meet, a swimmer may swim
any event in which they do not have an "A" time or better.
This includes events in which a swimmer has never competed.
At "A" meets, swimmers may compete only
in events for which they have an "A" time or faster.
C Finals or A/B/C Finals
A "Finals" meet indicates it is the last
meet of it’s type of the season. Swimmers 12 &
Under have their Finals meets split into C Finals and A/B Finals,
while all other swimmer have one combined A/B/C Finals. This
is typically the last meet of the season for all swimmers who do
not have State qualifying times. This is not an open meet;
swimmers must have a provable time that meets the time standard
within the last calendar year. Swimmers will not be eligable
to compete in events with times below C, or above C (for C Finals)
or A (for A/B/C Finals). Finals meets are held both at the
end of the Winter Season in March and the Summer Season in
This is the meet that uses the CH or
CHAMP time standard. This is the end of the season meet for
Minnesota Swimming, held for the Winter Season in March, and in
August for the Summer Season. No times below CHAMP will be
allowed, but times faster than CHAMP are permitted.
For comparative and competitive
purposes, USA Swimming has divided the country into "zones".
Each LSC (such as Minnesota Swimming) is placed into a zone, and
every summer following the Summer State Championships, there is a
Zone Championship Meet, in which the LSC’s in each zone
compete against one another. Swimmers at the Zone
Championship Meet compete for their LSC, not for their home
club. What this means is that NSAC does not attend zones;
Team Minnesota attends zones, and any NSAC swimmers competing in
the meet will swim for Team Minnesota. Zones is a great way
for swimmers who have typically been rivals to come together as
teammates in a fun, competitive atmosphere. Travel to the
zones meet is either coordinated by Minnesota Swimming, or swimmers
must make their own accomodations, depeding on how MSI chooses to
organize the team. Team Minnesota has it’s own coaching
staff made up of coaches from around the state that may or may not
include anyone from the North Suburban Aquatic Club’s
USA Swimming Junior or Senior
At the conclusion of both the Winter and
Summer Seasons, USA Swimming runs a Junior and Senior National
Meet, in which the top swimmers in the country face off against one
another. Junior Nationals is open to all swimmers ages 18
& Under, and Senior Nationals is open to anyone who achieves
the minimum time standard.