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Swim Team Manual (A Must Read for New Parents)

Welcome to the Brandywine Swim Team! 

Brandywine is a member of the Northern Virginia Swim League (NVSL), an organization of over 100 community pools dedicated to developing swimmers' “advanced aquatic skills, teamwork, good sportsmanship and a love for the sport.” With the exception of paid coaches, it is an all-volunteer program, which abides by the official United States Swimming rules. At Brandywine, swimming is a team sport, an individual sport, and a family activity. The season begins just after Memorial Day and ends in late July/early August.

Our Goals are:

  • To become the best swimmers that we can be;
  • To be competitive and win meets in our division;
  • To demonstrate good sportsmanship and team spirit;
  • To have a fun summer!
  • Team Membership
    A swimmer must be a member of Brandywine Pool. He/She must be 18 years old or younger. Swimmers unable to swim multiple lengths of the pool will practice with the Mini-Barracudas (see separate information about our Minis program).

    "A" Meets and "B" Meets
    There are often two meets each week beginning in mid-June: NVSL "A" meets are on Saturday mornings and "B" meets (also called Developmental Meets) are on Monday nights. The eligibility rules and the intent of the two meets are different, ensuring that every team member may swim in several meets regardless of ability level. There is also a mid-season Division Relay Carnival and Individual Medley (IM) Carnival and a Division Individual Championship Meet at the end of the season.Qualified swimmers might also participate in All Stars and All Star Relays.

    NVSL Meets ("A" Meets)
    Dual meets are held on Saturday mornings, from 9:00 am to around noon. The 100+ teams in the League are divided into divisions of approximately six teams each of comparable competitive level. The teams in each division compete against one another to win the division trophy.

    The meets are highly competitive as each team tries to get the 202 points necessary to win the meet. Individual events in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly, and relay events make up each meet. Boys and girls swim separately according to age: 8 & Under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, and 15-18. Swimmers may compete in a maximum of two individual events and a relay. The coaches select the swimmers for the meet according to their times and reliability and the strategy for the meet. The coaches assign the swimmers to events based on the need for points: 5 for the first place, 3 for second place, 1 for third place, and 5 for each relay win. Recognizing that a team effort is needed to win, swimmers willingly compete as the coaches ask even if it means swimming a least favorite stroke or competing in an older age group. Several days before a meet, the team representatives exchange their line-ups for the meet. Once an exchange is made, no changes may be made except in the case of sickness, injury or absence, and then, only a slower swimmer of the same age or younger may be substituted. Ribbons are awarded to those swimmers who place in each individual event and to each swimming relay team.

    The meet sheet for the Saturday meets is read at the team meeting on Friday morning or communicated to the swimmers via e-mail. Even if a swimmer’s name is not read, he/she should attend the meet in case a substitute is needed and to cheer for his/her teammates. Because of the strict rules governing meet sheet changes, a swimmer must notify the coach if he/she is not planning to attend the Saturday meet. Notification must be made by using the Swimtopia website no later than the Tuesday night prior to the meet.  It is recommended that meet attendance be entered at the beginning over the summer into the Swimtopia site.

    Monday Developmental “B” Meets
    These meets are meant to give all swimmers an opportunity to swim regardless of their skill level. Monday meets are basically the same as Saturday meets except as follows:

    • All children may swim 2 strokes. If the swimmer placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd at an A meet the prior Saturday, they may not swim that stroke at the B meet.
    • There is a six and under competition in the Freestyle and Backstroke.
    • There is an 8 & Under competition in the Butterfly.
    • IM events are added for 10 and Unders, 11-12s, 13-14s, and 15-18s.

    There are usually multiple heats of each event for the swimmers.

    Relay Carnival
    This is an event that is held in mid-July. All the teams in our division enter relay teams in each age group and in a mixed age group for freestyle relays. In addition each age group competes in medley relays (25 back, 25 breast, 25 butterfly and 25 freestyle; 8 & Under do a 25 freestyle twice). The winners of the most relays will win the meet and receive a trophy. If their time meets the cut for all-star time, they will participate in the All-Star Relay Carnival the following week to determine the relay team winners in each age group for all of the NVSL.

    Individual Medley (IM) Carnival
    Towards the end of July but before Divisionals the teams of our B Meet League will meet to compete on an individual basis for medleys which include back, breast, butterfly and freestyle. Special ribbons are earned for those who place in this event. This is an event that can be swum at Divisionals.

    The Individual Divisional Championship Meet is held on the Saturday after the last dual meet. Usually the fastest two swimmers in each age group in each stroke compete against the fastest swimmers from each of the other teams in the division. Swimmers may be selected to compete in up to two events. Choices are made by the fastest swimmers first and continue in order of the fastest times. There will be a seeding meeting several days before Divisionals. At that meeting many of our other swimmers may be able to have the opportunity to swim in this meet. Just because your child is not the fastest swimmer does not mean they will not swim at Divisionals. Often other teams don’t have enough swimmers to fill the lanes so other teams can "bid in" for those spots. The Team Rep and Coaches make the final decisions as to who will compete in each event. Fastest time is the major consideration. However, a swimmer’s dedication and team spirit are also considered. No team scores are kept. Plaques are awarded to the first through sixth place finishers in each event. Unlike the dual meets, this meet has events for 8 & Under butterfly and individual medley events for 9 though 18 years old.

    All Stars
    The League Relay All-Star Meet and Individual All-Star Meet are held the week after the Division Relay Carnivals and the week after the Division Individual Championship meet respectively. The eighteen fastest swimmers League-wide in each event and the twelve fastest relay teams League-wide in each event return to compete in the two All-Star meets. All competitors who qualify for the All-Stars receive patches. Those swimmers who place first though sixth receive medals.

    All officiating is done voluntarily by the swimmers’ families and friends. The League conducts two training clinics in early June. The first of these is devoted to those adults who have volunteered to act as starters and referees during the meets; the second, to all other officials (stroke and turn judges, and clerk of course). Training is essential and everyone is urged to attend the clinic appropriate to their position. Each swim meet requires the following volunteers:

    1 referee 2 Time Recorders 1 Starter 2 Ribbon Writers

    1 Announcer 1 Chief Scorer 1 Chief Timer 4 Scorers

    1 Assistant Chief Timer 1 Time-in-Water Recorder 18 Timers

    8 Relay Take-Off Judges 2-4 Stroke/Turn Judges 2 Clerks of Course

    Snack Bar Staff 1 Runner

    From Memorial Day to the time school closes for summer, practice is held in the late afternoon. After school closes, practice is held Monday through Friday in the mornings and Tuesday through Thursday in the evenings. 

    Developmental Group (Minis) will meet Monday through Thursday beginning 6/27 after school gets out in the morning and three evenings a week.

    On Friday, the coaches read the meet sheet for Saturday’s meet and give awards for the previous week’s meets.

    We expect daily attendance when possible. Recognizing that some swimmers have other summer commitments that present conflicts, we would appreciate swimmers notifying coaches when missing practice is unavoidable. Swimmers who miss practice are responsible for checking with the coaches, in their emails, and on the bulletin board for information passed along at practice. Occasional team meetings will be called. These are important and attendance is required.

    All communication is exchanged verbally at practice and through the Swimtopia website.  Please be sure to read the swim team emails.  If a swimmer misses practice, he/she misses information. It is important to have email addresses of each swimmer's family so we can communicate through the website.   Please check your email frequently.

    If you have questions about swimming, practice, or the meet sheet, ask the coaches. You can talk to the coaches between or at the end of practices or by email. Please do not interrupt them during practice. If you have questions about the general program, rules, or the coaches, ask the Team Representative. Feel free to email the Team Reps. Suggestions and new ideas are always welcome, especially if they come with a volunteer. With everyone’s help and contributions, the program continues to improve itself.

    Brandywine Swim Team is a community activity and great effort is taken to make every Barracuda feel important and needed by the team. At the end of the season, there is a team banquet. There are awards for effort, talent, team spirit, attitude, and sportsmanship, as well as other fun awards. Ribbons earned at meets are distributed weekly. Awards include ribbons, medals, and trophies.

    Social Activities
    Brandywine Swim Team is a community activity. To strengthen team spirit and rapport, we will have several social functions planned. We will have weekly Friday night Pep Rally parties. Other activities might include movies, bowling, roller/ice skating, rock climbing, water parks, miniature golf, adventure parks, and anything else you can think of that would be a great time. Your ideas are welcome. The quality and quantity of these activities depends on the generous volunteering of time and energy of the swimmer families. Attendance is not required though it is encouraged. Sometimes a financial contribution is required for an activity. We have a good time every year and expect this year will be terrific!

    All swimmers and family members are expected to abide by the pool rules and the coaches’ rules at all times. If at any time a coach believes a violation of rules jeopardizes anyone’s safety, the coach will have the offender(s) sit out.  Swimmers are expected to show respectful and responsible behavior at all times, especially in the meet areas during meets.  Older swimmers need to be role models for younger swimmers. 

    Swimmers are responsible for their own transportation to and from all practices, meets and functions. Sometimes swimmers and drivers meet at the pool parking lot at a designated time and caravan to a meet. Directions to the meets are posted on this website. If for some reason transportation is a problem, let the team rep or coach know so carpooling can be arranged.

    Teams visiting our pool for a meet are our guests, and we behave as the host, making them feel welcome.Conversely, when we swim at other pools, we are the guests, and we observe their rules and traditions. After every meet, Brandywine swimmers will clean up their team area before leaving the grounds. Brandywine swimmers and families present themselves at all times in a manner that reflects well on the Brandywine community.

    Who Are All These People Dressed in White?
    Your first swim meet can be a bewildering experience as you encounter a vast horde of adults dressed in white and navy. USS Swimming rules specify white as the color to be worn by all officials. This is also practical as white is a good color to wear on a hot humid summer morning. NVSL requires all officials to wear white tops and navy shorts (no jeans). The rule is extended to timers and relay take-off judges as well.

    • Clerk of Course:  The Clerk of the Course is the “gatekeeper” for all swimmers in our meets. The people who perform this function get the swimmers to the right lanes for the correct race. You can’t run a race without swimmers and the Clerk of Course makes sure the right swimmer gets to the right place at the right time.
    • Referee:  The Referee is the chief official for each swim meet. He/She is responsible for the conduct of the meets and is the final authority on the interpretation and enforcement of all swimming rules. Prior to the start of each race, the referee insures that all deck officials are ready, and the blows his whistle to signify the starter can start the race.
    • Starter:  The Starter is responsible for insuring that all swimmers are given a fair and equitable start. The starter will inform the swimmers of the stroke and distance to be swum and then instructs them to “Take your mark”. After all swimmers are ready and still, the Starter will start the race, using a “Colorado System” (so called because it is built by Colorado Timing Systems). This system consists of a public address system, a horn, and a strobe light.  Occasionally, if a race hasn’t been started correctly, the Starter will recall the swimmers using a recall signal on the Colorado system (you’ll know it when you hear it). This can be because a swimmer never was ready (and the Starter should not have started the race), or a “False Start” has occurred. Any time that a swimmer moves after taking his/her mark, but before the starting signal, it is a false start and the Starter recalls the race if the water has been entered by any swimmer. The swimmer who false started is then disqualified from the race due to the false start. Sounds simple. Remember where the Referee has absolute authority? The Referee can unilaterally disqualify a swimmer for a false start. However, in summer league meets, the Referee and Starter usually will caucus and disqualify the swimmer only if they agree that a particular swimmer has false started. Mitigating factors can be considered such as crowd noise or a swimmer being drawn into a start due to another swimmer’s movements.
    • Stroke and Turn Judges:  Once the race has started, the Stroke and Turn Judges are responsible for insuring that all swimmers obey all the rules for the stroke they are swimming. These people are always at the ends of the pool for starts and finishes, and they walk the sides of the pool as best they can within the physical constraints of the pool. If a Stroke and Turn Judge sees a violation of the rules, he raises his hand to signify that an infraction has occurred. A disqualification is recorded on a DQ slip, which the Referee reviews and approves, and then forwards copies to the Table Workers and the Team Rep.
    • Relay Take-Off Judges:  During relays, you’ll see Relay Take-Off Judges at each end of the pool. Their job is to insure the swimmer touches the wall prior to the next swimmer in the relay leaving the deck. Infractions are noted as described above for the Stroke and Turn Judges.
    • Timers:  The Timers are the most important people to every swimmer. They determine each swimmer’s time for each race. Being a Timer is a good entry-level position for new parents to help out in. Some parents have been Timers for years and wouldn’t see a swim meet from any other viewpoint. If you can start and stop a stopwatch, you can be a Timer. We’ll even provide the stopwatch. Timers start their watches on the strobe light from the Colorado System, and stop their watches when the swimmer touches the wall. There are three Timers per lane and all three times are recorded. The middle time is the official time. The Chief Timer collects the time cards from the Timers, reviews them for accuracy and completeness, and forwards them on to the Table Workers.
    • Table Workers:  The time cards from the Timers and any DQ slips go to the Table Workers who determine the order of finish for each event, score the meet, and prepare ribbons for the participants. Several people from each team perform these functions to insure that errors are caught before the results are announced.
    • Team Rep:  The Team Rep is the designated recipient of all DQ slips for his/her team and is the only person with any official standing to challenge any decisions made by the Referee. It sounds easy. But remember, most of the Team Rep’s job is done before the meet starts.
    • Coaches:  During the meet, the Coaches’ primary responsibility is to encourage and praise the swimmers and to make sure that they get to the Clerk of Course in time to swim.
    • Other Very Important People:  It would be impossible to host a swim meet without a number of people in Other Very Important Positions. These people set up the pool before and after swim meets, and sell concessions. They also announce the results, run social activities, act as Marshals in the team area, and do other jobs that need to be done. We need the help of every family in order to have a successful swim season.

    My Kid Says He’s Supposed to Swim Like a Butterfly
    If you’re not a former swimmer, the strokes and their rules can be a cause of bewilderment. While the stroke rules are simple enough for a six year old to understand, most people do not have a copy of the USS Swimming Rules, so we’ll briefly describe the strokes below. The rules below are the USS Swimming rules as modified for use in the NVSL. Teams in other leagues may have slightly different rules.

    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 or pull yourself along using the lane lines, and 2) In a 50 meter race (two lengths) you must touch the wall at the 25 meter end before touching the wall at the 50 meter end. This may seem obvious, but sometimes swimmers miss the wall at the turning end of the pool.

    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 lines and wonder where they are. Eventually, they will learn to guide off the lane lines, use the overhead backstroke flags and the lane line markings to know where they’re at in the pool, and count strokes from the flags to the wall.

    Backstroke starts are different from all others because the swimmer is in the water, feet planted against the wall, and hanging on to either another swimmer’s legs or the lip on the pool awaiting the Starter’s signal.“Legs” are to be grabbed below the knee. Persons serving in an official capacity (such as Timers or Coaches) may not serve as Legs. If your swimmer is a backstroker, he or she will eventually learn the backstroke flip turn. This is the one exception to staying on your back and can be used only as part of a turn (not a finish) at the pool wall.

    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 and the elbows must stay below the water except for tagging the wall at the finish. Breaststroke turns and finishes require a simultaneous two hand touch.

    A well-executed Butterfly (or Fly) is the most beautiful exhibition of power you’ll 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. There are two components of the fly; the arm pull and the kick. The arm pull must be an over the water recovery (elbows breaking the surface of the water) with the arms moving simultaneously. The kick is a dolphin style kick with both legs moving simultaneously. Unlike the breaststroke, there is no requirement to alternate the kick and the pull. Turns and finishes require a simultaneous two-hand touch on the wall.

    Individual Medley
    The individual medley (or IM) is when an individual swims each of the four strokes in sequence; Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle. We swim a 100 meter IM, which means that 25 meters, or one pool length, of each stroke is swum. In a 100 meter IM, every turn is a stroke change and stroke finish rules apply. This means 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 Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, and Freestyle. At the NVSL Relay Carnival, swimmers 8 & Under swim a modified medley relay where the fly leg of the relay is replaced with a freestyle leg. 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 are not allowed.

    What Do You Mean, My Kid DQ’d?
    In swimming the rules must be followed in total or a disqualification or DQ, is committed. This can be traumatic the first time a swimmer is DQ’d for just one mistake, but it isn’t fair to other swimmers who swim the entire race per the rules to do otherwise.

    What is a DQ?:  A DQ is any violation of the rules observed by any appropriate official. Some of the more common reasons for DQing are as follows:

    • Freestyle 
      • Failure to touch the wall at the turning end of the pool;
      • Walking on the bottom;
      • Pulling on the lane lines;
      • Exiting the pool before swimming the specified distance.
    • Backstroke 
      • Past vertical towards the breast at any time except during a flip turn;
      • Leaving the wall after a turn past vertical towards the breast;
      • Improper flip turn (older swimmers).
    • Breaststroke 
      • Incorrect kick, such as a Scissors kick or Flutter kick;
      • Non-Simultaneous two-hand touch or one hand touch at turn or finish;
      • Toes not pointed outward during propulsive part of the kick;
      • More than one stroke underwater with arms fully extended at start or turn;
      • Arm recovery past waist except on first stroke after start or turn;
      • Head didn’t break surface by conclusion of second arm pull underwater after start or turn.
    • Butterfly 
      • Non-Simultaneous or one-handed wall touch at the turn or finish;
      • Non-Simultaneous leg movement during kicks;
      • Arms don’t break water surface during recovery (judged at the elbows);
      • Non-Simultaneous arm movement during recovery.

    How Will I Know a DQ Occurred?
    Unlike football, we don’t blow a whistle and announce to the world that a rules violation occurred. When a Stroke and Turn Judge observes a violation, he raises his hand to signify that he has observed a violation, then writes it up on a DQ slip. The judge then takes the slip to the Referee, who verifies that the rule has been broken and can question the Stroke and Turn Judge to insure that he was able to see the violation that was cited. The Referee then gives one copy of the DQ slip to the Team Rep and another copy to the Table Workers. Another clue that a DQ has occurred is a Stroke and Turn Judge writing and a longer than normal pause between events.

    Disqualifications (DQ) and False Starts
    A swimmer will be disqualified (or DQ’s) if he/she does not follow the rules of the stroke or false starts.

    A Word About Officials and DQs
    Every official on the deck will always give the benefit of the doubt to the swimmer. Although the difference between legal-but-ugly vs. illegal is sometimes close to call, any violation called by an official is an “I saw” not an “I think I saw”.

    Protesting Disqualifications
    The Team Rep is the only person who can officially question a disqualification or any other call by an official. If something happens involving your swimmer, which you do not think is right, talk to the Coach or the Team Rep. The Team Rep will initiate action in accordance with NVSL rules if thought to be appropriate.

    In Saturday meets, the home team has lanes 1, 3, and 5 while the visiting team has lanes 2, 4, and 6. The fastest swimmers swim in lanes 3 and 4, the next fastest in lanes 2 and 5 and the next fastest in lanes 1 and 6. Swimmers are seeded based upon their fastest times attained in prior competition. Lane 1 is always on the right side as you stand facing the pool at the starting end.

    Meet Sheets
    While all NVSL meets have an announcer, the best way to follow the meet is with a meet sheet, which lists all the events, swimmers, and seed times. The Team Reps will email these to the teams on Friday. Brandywine is also testing use of Meet Mobile for our home meets.  Meet Mobile is an app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play store.

    In the individual events, a first place finish earns 5 points for the team, a second place 3 points, and a third place finish 1 point. Relays are scored as 5 points for the swimmer and 0 points for the loser. There are 402 points up for grabs in a Saturday meet. Unless there are one or more places not awarded in an event due to DQ or lack of swimmers, you need 202 points to win.

    In the event of a tie, the points for the places involved are equally split among the swimmers. For example, a two-way tie for second place, each swimmer earns 2 points (3 points for second place plus 1 point for third place equals 4 points, half then for each swimmer). No third place would be awarded because the next swimmer is fourth.

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