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Swim Meet 101

The Springboard Barracudas are a member of the Northern Virginia Swim League (NVSL), one of the largest swim leagues in the country. NVSL is comprised of over 100 teams located divided into 17 divisions, 6 teams each. NVSL seeds teams every year by competitiveness; Springboard is competing in Division 10 in the 2021 season. In addition, Springboard is one of 18 teams in the Springfield-Burke Developmental League, a group that organizes the calendar of B meets for its members.


Swimmers will compete in the four competitive strokes: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Events are grouped by stroke, by gender and by age: boys and girls 8 and under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 and 15-18. Swimmers 8 and under swim a distance of 25 meters, or one lap, and all other age groups swim 50 meters, or two laps (the only exception is that 9-10s swim 25 meters for butterfly).

Swimmers also compete in relay events at A Meets. The 8 and under swimmers swim the 100 freestyle relay (four swimmers each swim one lap/25 meters) and 9-10 and up swim the 100 medley relay (four swimmers each swim one lap/25 meters of one stroke: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle). Swimmers 15-18 need to swim two laps / 50 meters in the relays. There is also a “mixed age” event where one swimmer from the 9-10, 11-12, 13-14 and 15-18 age groups swim a freestyle relay of two laps / 50 meters.

At B Meets, swimmers may compete in the Individual Medley, or IM. The age groups are 10 and under, 11-12, 13-14 and 15-18. All age groups swim the 100 IM, or one lap each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.


Meet rules are determined by the NVSL and stroke and technical rules are made by USA Swimming. NVSL publishes a yearly handbook; copies are available from the team rep. A link to the USA Swimming Rulebook is available on our resources page. Lastly, the Springfield-Burke League has a few rules that are specific to how B meets are operated but largely follow the NVSL and USA Swimming rules.

Meets are conducted and officiated entirely by volunteers. Certain meet officials require specialized training: Referee, Starter and Stroke and Turn Judge. The NVSL states: “The Referee's principal function is to ensure that the meet is properly conducted, the rules are properly enforced, and, to the maximum extent possible, that the swimmers have uniformly fair competitive conditions.” The Starter gives the command for the swimmers at the starting line to “take their mark” and issues the sound and strobe to start the race. Together with the Referee, the Starter also monitors for false starts to the race. (The athlete who false starts is disqualified from the race and may be asked to leave the deck prior to the event.)

Stroke and Turn Judges ensure that the strokes, turns and finishes are done in accordance with the NVSL and USA Swimming rules, or “legally” If Stroke and Turn Judges determine that a stroke, turn or finish has been done improperly and a rule has been violated, they raise their hand to alert the Referee. The Judges and Referee review the infraction and determine if the swimmer should be disqualified. The data coordinator and team rep are notified of the disqualification. In all cases the benefit of the doubt goes to the swimmer.


There are five “A” Meets held in the competitive season, one meet against each team in the Division. A Meets are held on Saturday mornings, beginning at 9am and finishing around noon. Each team can have up to three swimmers in each event; there is only one heat per event. Events go in stroke order (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly) then the relay events are held after a short break. Points are awarded for the top three finishes – 5 points for first place, 3 points for second place and 1 point for third place. For relays, the first place team wins 5 points and there are no points given to the second place team. The points are totaled and a winner of the meet is determined. The Divisional rankings are determined by win-loss record and total overall team points are noted.

Swimmers may swim two strokes, or individual events, and up to two relay events in an A Meet. Not all swimmers on the team will be selected to swim in A Meets. The coaches determine which swimmers are placed in which events as well as the relay teams. The coaches utilize top times and potential matchups with the opposing team to place the swimmers and form the relay teams. A swimmer should be “legal” in the stroke to swim it in an A Meet. The coaches need to know if swimmers are available for the meets as this also factors in the meet seeding. The coaches set the meet lineup on Tuesdays and a draft is communicated to the team on Wednesdays. Changes must be made by Thursday evening when the lineup is locked in and exchanged with the opposing team. A meet sheet, or meet program, is distributed to the team by Friday.


There are four developmental “B” Meets over the season. B Meets are held Monday evenings beginning at 6:30 pm and conclude around 9:00 pm. Swimmers can swim two events: two strokes, or one stroke and the IM. Swimmers must be reasonably legal in their events and cannot swim the same event that they swam the preceding Saturday. There are no relays in B Meets. There may be multiple heats of each event and ribbons are awarded by heat.

Once the Saturday lineups are set, the planning for the upcoming B Meet can begin. The coaches and interns work with the swimmers (or parents of younger swimmers) to determine which events they will swim Monday night. There is no meet sheet for B Meets.


TIME TRIALS are held the Saturday before the first A Meet. Time Trials are held with another local pool as a “scrimmage” before the competitive season gets underway. The meet starts at 8:00 am and concludes around 12:00 pm and volunteers are switched after the first half (freestyle and backstroke events). Swimmers can swim up to four events (all four strokes, no relays) if they are legal. There is no meet sheet but the team rep will distribute a lineup so that parents and swimmers are aware in advance which events they will be swimming. There may be multiple heats of each event. Swimmers are swimming for practice and for a time that the coaches will utilize in seeding the following Saturday’s meet. No ribbons are awarded. This is also a great meet for officials and volunteers to shake off the cobwebs and get some practice.

The DIVISIONAL RELAY CARNIVAL is a season highlight. Held on a Wednesday evening mid-way in the season, the meet features all six teams in the Division competing only in relay events. Each age group swims both the freestyle and medley relay events. Points are awarded based on order of finish and the winning team is presented with a trophy.

The IM CARNIVAL is held on the Monday of the final week of the season (after the B Meets are finished) where swimmers only compete in the Individual Medley, or IM. It is a fun and fast meet with several local pools.

The DIVISIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP MEET, or DIVISIONALS, concludes the regular season of competition. It takes place on the Saturday morning following the final A Meet of the season with all six teams of the Division. The Division Champion Team is recognized with a trophy and the Sportsmanship Award is announced. Swimmers compete in the four strokes and IM; there are no relays at Divisionals. Each team may enter two swimmers in each event and swimmers may swim up to two events today. There are two heats of each event. Top finishers will be awarded with medals in 2018.

NVSL holds two league championship meets: ALL-STAR RELAYS (ASR) and INDIVIDUAL ALL-STARS (IAS). ASR is held the Wednesday following the Divisional Relay Carnivals and teams qualify for the meet based on their times at the Divisional Relay meet. The relay teams with the top 18 overall times in the entire league with 2 additional alternate teams are seeded in the ASR meet. There are three heats of each event. Pools can earn points based on finishes towards their overall season point total.

IAS is held on the Saturday following Divisionals. Individuals qualify for the IAS meet based on their times in Divisionals; the swimmers with the top 18 times in the league are seeded in the meet, plus the next 2 times as alternates. There are three heats of each event. Top finishers are awarded medals and the remaining swimmers are awarded ribbons.

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Springboard Barracudas Swim and Dive Team

Springboard Pool, 6500 Deepford Street, Springfield VA 22150 

Visit www.springboardpool.org for membership information or send an e-mail.

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