Short Course vs Long Course

The Short Course season runs from late August to late March/early April and meets are held in 25 yard pools, where swimming 50 yards is two lengths of the pool.  Summer leagues, high school and USA college swimming use the short course format for their competitions.  The Long Course season is the format for USA Swimming’s summer meet schedule and major international competitions like the Olympics.  You can only qualify for Team USA camps and international competition with times from the long course format.  50 meters is one length of the long course pool.

In the summer, USA Swimming competitions are primarily long course, although the national team will focus on long course during the whole year through the TYR Pro Series.  Most teams do not have access to long course pools during the school year; however, those who do are at an advantage in training because they can get the benefits of both formats.  Most teams with long course access alternate their training format from short course to long course so they maintain the speed, power, and underwater benefits of the short course pool while benefitting from the endurance and strength needed to handle the long course pool. In the spring, most teams maintain their short course format but alter their training regimen to transition to long course swimming.

The long course season is fast and furious as meet slots are at a premium; the season is shorter, there are fewer long course pools, and everyone is trying to get a shot at posting their qualifying times.  Therefore, the long course season requires a great deal of planning to be proactive about getting the right swims at the right time and to be prepared to swim well even before the end of the school year.  The primary training focus time for long course is actually in the spring - long before school gets out.  In fact, the reason USA Swimming puts short course Junior Nationals in early December is to allow high level junior swimmers the opportunity to start focusing on the long course season immediately after the winter holidays.

The transition from short course swimming to long course swimming can be difficult if proper technique and sustainable strength are not already in place, so we tend to take only a very small break after the short course season as a mental reset, but not long enough to lose our conditioning and feel for the water.  While short course swimming is often very “wall focused,” long course favors the consistent, technically sound swimmers.  The strength gained by holding the stroke pattern through long course catapults the swimmer back into the short course season as a more effective swimmer who can then capitalize on the walls with more energy because the swimming portion doesn’t tax them as much as it did the previous season.  The physical differences and demands of the long course season make short course feel easy, so there’s more energy to give to those, all-important, short course underwaters. 

Short course and long course swimming can be quite different in many aspects, but they both work together to make our athletes better swimmers.  It is important that swimmers fully experience both formats to support their overall development.  The SwimMAC program is progressive, and we view your swimmer’s development as a “swimming career.”  Each season is meant to build on the season before as we work to help your swimmer reach their long-term potential in the sport.