Iowa City Eelsswim club

swim club

Swimming 101

Consult the Glossary for more swimming terms.

Detailed Information about each practice group can be found on the relevant practice group page.
Frost Cubes Waves Morays Senior Masters Stroke Clinic College Swimmers

Check out our Practice FAQ for answers to some common questions


In freestyle, a competitor may swim any stroke he or she wishes, but the usual stroke chosen is the Australian Crawl, characterized by alternate overhand motion of the arms and an alternating (up-and-down) flutter kick. In U.S.A. Swimming, each swimmer's head must surface within 15 m of the start of the race and after each turn. In the turn, some part of the swimmer's body must touch the wall.


The backstroke consists of an alternating motion of the arms with a flutter kick while on the back. On turns, swimmers may rotate to the stomach and perform a flip turn and some part of the swimmer must touch the wall. The swimmer must finish on the back.


The breaststroke requires simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. The hands are pressed out from in front of the breast in a heart shaped pattern and recovered under or on the surface of the water. 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 at, above or below the water surface.


Some consider the butterfly to be the most beautiful of the strokes. It features a simultaneous recovery of the arms over the water combined with an undulating dolphin kick. In the kick, the swimmer must keep both legs together and may not flutter, scissors or use the breaststroke kick. Both hands must touch the wall simultaneously on the turns and the finish.

Individual Medley

Usually called the IM, features all four competitive strokes. In the IM a swimmer begins with the butterfly, changes to the backstroke after one-fourth of the race, the breaststroke for another quarter and finally finishes with the freestyle.

Medley Relay

All four strokes are swum, with four different swimmers doing one or more lengths of a single stroke. No swimmer may swim more than one leg. The order for the medley relay is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle.

Freestyle Relay

Four different swimmers swim one or more lengths of the pool in succession, and no individual may swim more than one leg.

Practice Vocabulary

  • Backstroke flags: Lines of flags placed above the lanes 5 yards (short course) or 5 meters (long course) from the end of the pool. The flags signal the backstroker that he is approaching the wall and enable backstrokers to execute a backstroke turn more efficiently.
  • Block: the starting platform.
  • Build: Increase speed throughout a swim. Easy at the beginning, building to fast at the end while still maintaining good technique.
  • Bulkhead: A wall constructed to divide a pool into different courses, such as a 50 meter pool split into two 25 yard courses.
  • Cruise: Easy, relaxed, fully controlled swimming. A pace that you can maintain over a fairly long distance (400 to 1,000 yards or meters) and still remain aerobic (as opposed to anaerobic).
  • Descend Set: This is a set in which you are asked to swim faster on each successive repeat. For example, you might see “4 X 50 descend” and you would swim #1 in 43 seconds, #2 in 42 seconds, #3 in 41 seconds, and #4 in 40 seconds. Another example might be 8 X 100, descend 1 to 4, 5 to 8. This means that each of the first four swims is faster than the last. On the 5th swim, you go back to an easier pace and then get faster on 6, 7, and 8. Generally, you need to start easy on the first repeat of a descend set, and progress to faster and faster swimming.
  • DPS or dps: Distance per stroke. The distance that you travel during one stroke. Also, our head coach.
  • Dryland Training: Training done out of the water that aids and enhances swimming performance; usually includes stretching, calisthenics and/or weight training.
  • Easy: Easy means to swim without expending a lot of effort. It does not mean SLOW. It is possible to swim easy without swimming slow. Swimming easy means that you are swimming at a pace that allows you to think clearly and swim with great stroke technique. This is a pace that gives you plenty of oxygen, that doesn’t cause fatigue or panic, and that enables you to think about your stroke, your approach to the wall, your turn, breakout, finish, etc. Most swimmers should spend a lot of time swimming easy so that they can burn into muscle memory the things they want to happen automatically with they swim fast. Swimming easy means swimming at a pace that you can concentrate on “execution” and good form.
  • Fast: Fast does not mean hard. Just as it is possible to swim easy without swimming slow, it’s possible to swim fast without swimming hard. Easy speed is the goal. Frantic movements usually equal hard swimming rather than fast swimming.
  • Gutter: The area along the edge of the pool in which water overflows during a race and is recirculated through the filtration system.
  • Lane: The specific area in which the swimmer is assigned to swim,i.e., lane 1, lane 2, etc
  • Lane markers, lines or ropes: Continuous floating markers extending from one end of the pool to the other.
  • Lap/Length: “Length” refers to one trip down the pool, from one end to the other. “Lap” refers to a round trip, from one end to the other and back again to your starting point.
  • Long Axis (LA): The axis that runs along your spine from the top of your head to your tailbone. When you swim the long-axis strokes (freestyle and backstroke), your body rotates from side to side around this long axis.
  • Pace: Depending on what the “assignment” is, this can mean your race pace or the pace at which you normally swim repeats of a particular distance.
  • Pullout: The underwater pull (and kick) in breaststroke.
  • Set: A practice “assignment” consisting of a series of rounds and/or repeats with a specific purpose, task, or challenge to be met by the swimmer.
  • Short Axis (SA): The axis that runs across your pelvic region from left hip to right hip. When you swim the short-axis strokes (breaststroke and butterfly), your body undulates up and down across this short axis.
  • Stroke Rate or SR: This is also know as turnover rate or cadence or how fast your arms are moving. Generally, a high turnover rate is reserved for short distances and racing, and in those cases it must be accompanied by great technique in order to be effective. Many swimmers believe that the only way to achieve speed is with a high stroke rate. What coaches know, and see every day, is that great technique almost always trumps high turnover.
  • Streamline: The position used by swimmers when starting or pushing off the walls designed to reduce water resistance.
  • Taper: The final preparation phase, sometimes referred to as "rest". Prior to major competitions, older, more experienced swimmers shave their entire bodies to reduce resistance and heighten sensation in the water.
  • Vertical Kicking: Stationary, vertical kicking done for several seconds just before pushing off on a new repeat... or done as its own “set.”
  • Warm Down: Low intensity swimming used by swimmers after a race or main practice set to rid the body of excess lactic acid, and to gradually reduce heart rate and respiration.
  • Warm Up: Low intensity swimming used by swimmer prior to a main practice set or race to get muscles loose and warm. Warm up gradually increases heart rate, respiration and helps to prevent injury.

Iowa Swimming, Inc. (ISI)

Iowa Swimming Supports Swimmers, Clubs, Coaches, Officials, Parents, and Volunteers by providing resources for excellence

ISI team names, abbreviations, locations and directions

The Iowa City Eels are a member of Iowa Swimming, Inc. (ISI), which serves as the governing body of amateur competitive swimming for most of the State of Iowa (the extreme western portion of the state is part of the adjacent Midwestern Swimming, Inc. which covers the state of Nebraska).

Iowa Swimming, Inc. consists of Group Members (swim clubs), registered annually with ISI and USA Swimming and is governed by a House of Delegates made up of representatives of each swim club in the LSC and a Board of Directors and officers elected by the House of Delegates. The House of Delegates meets twice each year. Each Member Club is represented at each meeting.

In addition to serving as the local governing body for USA Swimming, ISI sanctions competitions, registers swimmers and clubs, trains and certifies officials, conducts championship meets, provides swimmer recognition and travel funds, publishes a newsletter, maintains records, and generally promotes, encourages and supports competitive swimming at all levels in the state. All directors, officers, delegates, club officials and meet officials serve Iowa Swimming, Inc. and USA Swimming, Inc. on a volunteer basis, and all persons interested in competitive swimming are encouraged to join their efforts in maintaining a strong program for swimmers in the state of Iowa swimmers in the state of Iowa. Consult the ISI website for more information about swimming in Iowa.

USA Swimming

To inspire and enable our members to achieve excellence in the sport of swimming and in life.

As the National Governing Body for the sport of swimming in the United States, USA Swimming is a 400,000-member service organization that promotes the culture of swimming by creating opportunities for swimmers and coaches of all backgrounds to participate and advance in the sport through clubs, events and education. USA Swimming's 400,000 members come from every state in the nation, and represent every age group, ethnicity and background.

Our membership is comprised of swimmers from the age group level to the Olympic Team, as well as coaches and volunteers. Members can get involved through our more than 2,800 clubs across the nation. USA Swimming is divided into 59 Local Swimming Committees (LSC's), each with geographical jurisdiction of USA Swimming programs. Each LSC has its own set of Bylaws under which it operates.

USA Swimming is also responsible for selecting and training teams for international competition including the Olympic Games, and strives to serve the sport through its core objectives: Build the base, Promote the sport, Achieve competitive success.

Membership in USA Swimming is comprised of athlete and non-athlete members. Athletes must register each year in order to compete in sanctioned events. Non-athlete members also register each year and are the coaches, officials, club officers, and other non-athletes interested in the sport of swimming. By becoming a member of USA Swimming, athletes and non-athletes receive the benefit of insurance coverage as well as team coverage when holding authorized team functions. Non-athlete members also receive a copy of the USA Swimming Rules and Regulations, the official rule book of the sport and each household receives a copy of "Splash", the official USA Swimming newsletter. Consult the USA-Swimming website for more information.

USA Swimming Levels

Age Group Swimming

Many children get their competitive start through a neighborhood swim team. Age group swimming is designed to encourage maximum participation, provide an educational experience, enhance physical and mental conditioning, and develop a rich base of swimming talent. At this level, swimmers learn and refine swimming skills and begin to compete against their peers. USA-Swimming age groups include 10&U, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16 and 17-18, but not all age group classifications are offered at every swim meet. The swimmer's age on the first day of a meet will govern the swimmer's age for the entire meet.

"National Motivational Times" At the heart of competitive swimming is the measurement of how fast a swimmer can cover a specific distance while doing a certain stroke. Within each age-group there are different nationally recognized levels of achievement based on times. Motivational time standards are designed to encourage age group swimmers to step their swimming up to the next level.

All swimmers begin as "C" swimmers. As they improve, they advance from "C", to "B", “BB”, “A”, “AA”, “AAA”, "AAAA." In some cases, a swimmer may be in a different class in each stroke, for example a "C" breaststroke time, a "B" freestyle time, and a "AA" backstroke time. Every 4 years, USA Swimming calculates the times required for each ability level each year. This permits fair, yet challenging, competition on all levels.USA Swimming collects every time swum in a sanctioned USA Swimming meet so that you don’t have to. Find your swimmer's times using Times Search and check out the "Times" section of the USA-Swimming website for more information.

"Iowa Qualifying Times" Every year, Iowa Swimming sets qualifying standards ("Q" times) for Iowa swimmers. These times are based upon the A and BB National Motivational Times which are usually adjusted every 4 years. Swimmers who meet the "Q" for their age group are eligible to swim that event in Iowa Championship meets (and may NOT swim that event in any "Q-" meet). Swimmers who meet the "Silver" for their age group are eligible to swim that event in the Silver Championships.

Age Group Competition Progression

"ISI Silver Championships" serve as the championship meet for (a) all 8 & under swimmers and (b) a championship meet for swimmers ages nine and older who have achieved an ISI SILVER time but not the ISI 'Q' time in an event. These swimmers are eligible to swim that event in the Silver Championships.

"ISI Championships" Are the championship meet for all age group swimmers who have achieved the Iowa "Q" time standard.

"Team Iowa All Stars" The top swimmers in each event for each age group and gender are chosen to represent Iowa at select competitions in the midwest. Visit the ISI Rankings page on the ISI website to see the best ISI times this season.

"Zones" USA Swimming divides the country into four Zones – Eastern, Western, Central and Southern – and each of these Zones holds at least one Zone Championships each year, usually in the summer. Currently 14 & under swimmers who have achieved the AAA time in an event for their age and gender are eligible to compete at the Central Zones meet. Instead of competing for your club, you are representing your state or LSC and might find yourself on a relay with other top swimmers from your LSC. Zone meets are the top age group meets you can compete in around the country.

Senior Swimming

As swimmers mature, the goals become a little bigger and they move into senior level swimming. This step up usually occurs around the time a swimmer is 13 or 14. At this level swimmers still refine skills, but training becomes more serious and is designed to get athletes to peak performance when they are physically and mentally prepared to do so. Athletes are still part of the USA Swimming club system, but may also compete for a high school or college team depending on their ages. If a swimmer is fast enough, a whole new level of competitive opportunities arise, including the Speedo Champions Series (Sectionals), USA Swimming Grand Prix meets, the Speedo Junior National Championships, and the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships.

Some athletes have the talent, dedication, and commitment to reach the elite levels of the sport. They compete at national and international level competitions and strive to make a national team to represent their country in the Olympics or other international competitions. Elite swimmers in the United States come out of the USA Swimming club system.

Time Standards

Iowa Qualifying Standards have been updated for the 2017-18 season.
National time standards are set after the Olympics every 4 years. ISI Q times, also set at this time, may be modified before the next national standards are set if circumstances warrant.

There are three sets of time standards, one for each of the course lengths. The Short Course season, which runs September - March, mostly uses the 25 yard format (SCY) as nearly all indoor pools are of that length. The Long Course season, running April - August, primarily uses the 50 meter format (LCM). There are a few 25 meter pools (SCM), but they are relatively rare in our LSC.

Goal Setting

Coaches: The goals of the ICE program are to help each swimmer to learn to enjoy all aspects in the sport of swimming, to learn the fundamentals of swimming as a form of total body exercise, and to learn life skills. The life skills we stress include goal setting, commitment, time management, personal fitness, good sportsmanship, and delayed gratification. Our hope as a coaching staff is that when swimmers leave the Iowa City Eels Swim Club, they will have developed an appreciation for the sport of swimming and a commitment to exercise as a part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Athletes: At the start of each short course and long course season, all athletes are expected to set up a 'goals" meeting with the head coach for their age group. There are two types of goals that athletes can set. Outcome Goals focus on the end result of performance such as “win" or "make finals.” Process Goals relate to the process of performance. Examples are “great technique" or "strong finish.” Athletes have much more control over Process Goals. Outcome Goals are uncontrollable since they also involve the performance of other competitors. Athletes and coaches should concentrate on Process Goals since they involve aspects an athlete can control. Coaches will help developmental athletes to set both seasonal, annual, and long term goals. More advanced athletes will bring their own goals to the meeting for discussion.

Parents: The most important thing you can do as the parent of a swimmer is to love and support your child, both in and out of the pool. This support is a key factor in fostering enjoyment and learning as well as contributing to the child's individual success in the pool. (USA-Swimming) 

Team: As a team, ICE is committed to the long term success and well being of our athletes.  ICE has over 50 years of success both in preparing our swimmers for the rigors of college and post-college competitive swimming and in placing our athletes in competitive programs with athletic (and academic) scholarships. 

Practice Time, Stretching & Dryland Training

Swimmers should be on deck and ready to start stretching at the start time listed on the schedule. All groups, from our novice Frost to our elite Seniors begin with group stretching. Swimmers will learn the warm up routines for their groups and will be able to begin stretching, even if their coach is finishing up with a previous group.

Plan for your swimmer to arrive 5-10 minutes prior to the listed start time in order to be on deck and ready to go on time. If scheduling is a problem, please speak with your child's coach. Arrangements can usually be worked out. 

When the swimmers reach Waves, an age-appropriate introduction to 'Dryland' training is introduced.  'Weight' training is not introduced before swimmers are in high school and have finished or are near the end of their major adolescent growth spurt in order to avoid serious injury to developing muscles and joints.

All Waves, Morays and Senior swimmers who regularly participate in any other sport or athletic endeavor (including weight training, Jr./Sr. High sports,) should set up a meeting with . Our coaches work carefully with our athletes in order to keep them healthy and avoid the overuse of muscles or joints.

Parents Parent . . .

  • Emphasizing and rewarding effort rather than outcome.
  • Understanding that your child may need a break from sports occasionally.
  • Encouraging and guiding your child, not forcing or pressuring them to compete.
  • Emphasizing the importance of learning and transferring life skills such as hard work,
  • Self-discipline, teamwork, and commitment.
  • Emphasizing the importance of having fun, learning new skills, and developing skills.
  • Showing interest in their participation in sports, asking questions.
  • Giving your child some space when needed. Allow children to figure things out for themselves.
  • Keeping a sense of humor. If you are having fun, so will your child.
  • Giving unconditional love and support to your child, regardless of the outcome of the day's competition.
  • Enjoying yourself at competitions. Make friends with other parents, socialize, and have fun.
  • Looking relaxed, calm, and positive when watching your child compete.
  • Realizing that your attitude and behaviors influences your child's performance.
  • Having a balanced life of your own outside sports.

The following pages on the USA-Swimming website may be especially helpful to parents:

Are you a pressure parent? The following survey has been taken from the Amateur Swimming Association of Great Britain. If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you may be in danger of pressuring your child. 
  • Is winning more important to you than it is to your child?
  • When your child has a poor swim, is your disappointment obvious?
  • Do you feel that you have to "psyche" your child up before competition?
  • Do you feel that winning is the only way your child can enjoy the sport?
  • Do you conduct "post mortems" immediately after competition or practice?
  • Do you feel that you have to force your child to go to practice?
  • Do you find yourself wanting to interfere during practice or competition thinking that you could do better?
  • Do you find yourself disliking your child's opponents?
  • Are your child's goals more important to you than they are to your child?

Coaches Coach . . .

Let the Coach coach . . . Continual, open communication between coaches and parents is necessary to assure that we reach our club and swimmer goals. The coaches are available for parent and/or swimmer conferences during office hours or by appointment. Please call the ICE office (351-3336) or e-mail and ask the Coach to schedule a conference or leave a message on the answering machine requesting an appointment.

The period of time your child is practicing, your child is being supervised by the Head Coach and/or assistant coaches. They know your child's limitations and needs, so please respect the coaching staff for their knowledge and experience. The level of respect and courtesy you display towards the coaches directly influences the swimmers' behavior.

The best way to help your child achieve goals is through positive reinforcement. Encourage your child's efforts and point out the positive things. The coach is the only one qualified to judge a swimmer's performance and technique. Your role is to provide support.

Please refrain from approaching the coaches on deck during practices. For this period of time the coaches are focused on training your swimmers, and they should not be distracted. In addition, the Club's insurance policy through USA Swimming does not permit parents on deck during practices. If you need to discuss something with the coaches, please e-mail or call to make an appointment. The coaches want to address your questions; it is just impossible to do this during practices.

For more information about the coach-athlete-parent relationship visit the USA-Swimming website. The following pages may be especially useful:


Swimmers Swim . . .

Coaches: Competitive swimming programs provide many benefits to young athletes, including self-discipline. good sportsmanship, and time management skills. Competition allows the swimmer to experience success and to learn how to deal with defeat, while becoming healthy and physically fit. Learning about oneself while enjoying the sport is the most important part of the swimming experience. The coaching staff determines the season schedule of meets available to our swimmers.

Athletes: All swimmers, including novice, are expected to participate in swim meets. Frost swimmers should plan to attend one meet per month, Cubes and Waves 1-2 meets per month. The coaches will be happy to help you select appropriate meets for your swimmers. Moray and Senior swimmers will develop a meet list with their coach during their goals meeting. All swimmers are expected to participate in their season ending Championship meet.

Parents: Parents serve as role models and their children often emulate their attitudes. Show good sportsmanship at all times toward coaches, officials, opponents and teammates. Do not over burden your child with winning or achieving best times. The swimming environment encourages learning and fun, which will help your child develop a positive self-image.

Changing Groups

Placement into any practice group is entirely at the discretion of the coaches. In addition to age and stroke qualifications, coaches take many other factors into account. These factors include, but are not limited to, attendence at practice and meets, work ethic, and sportsmanship.

Equipment Guide

Always check with your coach before purchasing any equipment.

Frost & Cubes
  • Practice Swimsuit: Practice suits are used during workouts. Polyester suits are more durable and will last longer than a lycra suit.
  • Goggles: Swimmers use goggles to protect their eyes from the chlorine as well as to gain a clear view of their surroundings in the pool.
  • Cap: Caps are designed to keep the hair out of swimmers’ faces and goggles straps into place.
  • Team Suit: Used only for swim meets, the competition suit should fit snugly.
Waves, Morays & Senior
  • Snorkel: Finis front mounted snorkel.
  • Fins: Speedo Shortblade Training Fins. Fins are a device that fit on a swimmers feet to increase kicking speed during practice
  • Paddles: small green Stroke Maker Paddles. Paddles are a plastic device placed on a swimmers hands during practice. The paddles are used to add resistance to the pulling phase of the stroke.
  • Mesh Bag: used by swimmers to hold their training equipment.
  • Nose clip
  • Rubber duck
  • Kickboard: optional - available on the pool deck
  • Pull buoy: optional - available on the pool deck. Pull-Buoys are a device used by swimmers during a practice to enhance body position during pull sets when the swimmers are not kicking
  • Competition Suit: Please check with the coach before purchasing a technical suit. Requirements vary depending upon both the swimmer level and the meet attending.