Stroke & Turn Information
Stroke and Turn Basics
If you are not a former swimmer, the events and their rules can be confusing. We'll briefly describe the events below so that everybody is on the same page. Failure to follow the stroke rules will be result in a “DQ", Disqualification, which means the swimmer receives no points or times. The judging of the strokes is performed by a trained volunteer.
The freestyle is defined as any means of swimming across the pool. Any stroke and kick are acceptable. There are, however, a few don'ts associated with this stroke, specifically: (1) you cannot walk on the bottom of the pool or pull yourself along using the lane ropes, (2) In a 50-yard race (two pool lengths) you must touch the wall at the 25-yard end before touching the wall at the 50-yard end (this may seem obvious, but sometimes swimmers miss the wall at the turning end of the pool), and (3) Once the swimmer surfaces after a start or turn, they must remain on the surface of the water (no underwater swimming once you come up off the wall)
Like the freestyle, almost anything goes on the backstroke as long as you stay on your back. Watching swimmers learn the backstroke is a perverse sense of fun as they bounce off lane ropes and wonder where they are. Eventually, they will learn to glide off the lane ropes, use the overhead backstroke flags and the lane line markings to know where they are located in the pool, and count strokes from the flags to the wall to know when to turn or finish the race.
Backstroke starts are in the water, face towards the wall, feet planted against the wall, and hanging onto the lip on the pool with both awaiting the starter's signal.
The breaststroke has two components, the kick and the arm pull. The pull and its recovery must both be under the breast and cannot extend further back than the waist area. The kick is a "frog" kick, and the toes must be pointed outward during the propulsive part of the kick. The arm pull and kick must be in an alternating sequence (pull then kick) and the hands may not go all the way to the hips. Breaststroke turns and finishes require a simultaneous two-hand touch.
A well-executed butterfly (or Fly) is the most beautiful exhibition of power you will ever see in a swimming pool. Quite frankly, the fly is the hardest stroke for most swimmers to perfect and while they are learning it many look like they are drowning or in serious pain. There are two components of the fly: the arm pull and the kick. The arm pull must be an over the water recovery with the arms moving simultaneously. The kick is a dolphin style kick with both legs moving simultaneously up and then down. Unlike the Breaststroke, there is no requirement to alternate the kick and pull. Turns and finishes require a simultaneous two-hand touch at the wall.
Individual Medley (IM)
The individual medley (or IM) is when an individual swims each of the four strokes in the sequence of (1) Butterfly, (2) Backstroke, (3) Breaststroke, and (4) Freestyle. We swim a 100-yard IM, which means that 25 yards, or one pool length, of each stroke is swum. In a 100-yard IM, every "turn" is a really a stroke change, and stroke finish rules apply to the transition. This means that the swimmer must complete a legal finish of the stroke before they begin the next stroke (i.e., no backstroke flip turns).
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. In the freestyle relay, each swimmer swims the freestyle. In the medley relay, the sequence is (1) Backstroke, (2) Breaststroke, (3) Butterfly and (4) Freestyle (note this order is different from the Individual Medley).
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 (or parents) are not allowed.