Time Standards Explained

There are many beautiful things about the sport of swimming. One of them is the objective nature of the results.  Once you touch the wall, there it is in black and white: the time it took you to cover the distance of the race!

TIDE Swimming is a member club of the National Governing Body, USA Swimming. USA Swimming publishes “Motivational Times” by event and by age group to encourage swimmers to step their swimming up to the next level. These time standards guide a swimmer from just starting out in his/her age group to reaching his/her highest potential.  The standards change every 4 years based on how many swimmers in that age group achieve the standards. The standards usually get faster every update.  Ideally our swimmers use these times to help set short and long term personal goals and track their progress.  What we hope they all learn is that the more they practice and work hard, the closer they get to their goals.

Time standards are broken down into age group and level. Age groups are divided into 10&U, 11/12, 13/14, 15/16, and 17/18 year old categories. Eight and under swimmers do not have standards as this is an introductory age and the focus is on teaching strokes and having fun.   Each category has a B, BB, A, AA, AAA, and AAAA level.  Swimmers can begin at a B level and work their way up each level. 

Championship meets use time standards to help divide competition in a fair and stepwise progression.  A new swimmer with B times will race against others in the same age/level, while an advanced, experienced competitor may swim a different meet requiring AA standards within their specific age group.

When swimmers move up an age group bracket, the times they achieved to date still count toward a standard.  Standards for older age brackets get more challenging as swimmers age up a level. These more challenging standards help encourage swimmers to move into the next level of swimming.

Every year the Virginia Swimming Age Group Championships are held in March (short course – 25yd) and July (long course – 50m).  These are the state championship meets for our 13/14, 11/12, and 10 and under athletes that qualify. The time standards to qualify for Age Group Champs are published at the start of each competition season. Also in March (short course) and July (long course) there are the Virginia Swimming Senior Championships that has one set of qualifying times with no age grouping.  These are the state championship meets for our high school age athletes (and above) that qualify. 

Beyond Age Group Championships and Senior Championships, there are national level competitions with their own time standards:

USA Swimming Junior Nationals: This is the USA Swimming sponsored Junior Nationals meet. This meet is held in December using a short course yards (25 yd) format and in August using a long course meter (50m) format.  This meet provides athletes with the opportunity to swim against the nation’s best 18 and under athletes as well as the opportunity to swim in front of many college coaches. 

USA Swimming National Championship:  This is our country’s National meet.  This meet has time standards second only to Olympic Trials and allows athletes to compete against the country’s best swimmers. 

US Olympic Trials:  This is the meet in which athletes compete for an opportunity to represent our nation on the Olympic Team. Simply qualifying for this meet is in an honor; it gives athletes a chance to earn a position on the USA Olympic team.  The time standards to compete at this meet are slightly faster than US Nationals.  In order to make an Olympic team an athlete must be top 2 in non-relay events (every event except the 100m Free and 200m Free) or top 6 in relay events (100m Free, 200m Free). 

For those of you new to the sport, you can see there is a progression of achievement based on time standards within the sport of swimming.  Our goal at TIDE Swimming is to help each athlete get to whatever level he or she sets for him/herself by providing the resources and coaching.  The athlete (and frequently the parents as well), however, must provide the most important ingredients to achieve his/her goals – commitment, hard work, and sacrifice!

Current Time Standards for USA Swimming's Futures, Junior Nationals, and National Championships are posted on the USA Swimming website under "Times".

Current USA Swimming Motivational Times for age group swimmers can be found on USA Swimming's website.