"A - BB - B" Times Explained

A lot of you may wonder "What is an ‘A’ time?" The answer is a bit complicated but we’ll try to explain it. About 45 years ago, the magazine Swimming World started keeping track of National Age Group (NAG) records and a national Top Ten Times ranking by age group for all the standard events. While this provided many swimmers with some fairly lofty goals, when you remember that there are thousands of swimmers in each age group across the country, very few ever received any recognition.

To remedy this, the magazine developed the idea of having NAG "Time Standards" based on these NAG records so kids could see how they were doing in relation to others and to allow teams and leagues to develop their own recognition programs - "A" times were born. United States Swimming liked the concept so much that they took over the administration of the system in the early 1970s and the publication of the national Top 16 (now) lists and does so annually.

The various time standards are like percentiles in standard tests at school. The top standard, "AAAA" is the NAG record plus 2.5%, "AAA" is plus 5%, "AA" is plus 10%, "A" times (which RCSL uses as its top standard) are the NAG record plus 15%, "BB" times (new in 1996) are the NAG record plus 20% and "B" times are NAG record plus 25%. Any time slower than "B" is considered "C" or novice time. RCSL uses the "BB" standard as its "B" time. 

The times are adjusted every four (4) years after the Olympics to reflect any new NAG records that are set.  There are not NAG standards for 8 & Under events nor for the 50 Butterfly or 100 Individual Medley in the 13 and older age groups.  RCSL has developed their own standards for these events; the 8 & Under standards are ones that were used in Florida only back in the 1980's while the butterfly and IM standards for the 13 & older swimmers are derived from the longer swims (100 Fly/200 IM) in the NAG standards.

Click here if you would like to see the current time standards for all the standard events at the USA Swimming web site.

We hope this helps.