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Chap 3: Organizational Stuff

This chapter covers a few organizational items, just to make sure we’re all in sync.

Dominion Hills Pool

The Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association (DHARA), of which we are all members (or renting someone else’s membership), owns the facility that we use. Although each member of the swim team pays a fee in order to be on the team, the pool membership at large funds more than half of the cost of these teams. The Association is governed by a 15-member Board of Directors, of which one Director is designated Chairman of the Water Sports Committee which oversees the swim and dive programs. To be a member of the swim team, your family must own a membership or rent a membership and meet other NVSL criteria described in the NVSL Handbook, a copy of which is made available to each swim team family who wants one.

Team Reps and Coaches

The people you’ll run into the most in your swim team dealings are the Team Reps and the Coaches. The Team Reps are volunteer parents who were new to swimming at one time just like you are today. The Team Reps are responsible to the Association Board for managing every aspect of the swim team and represent the Dominion Hills pool to other swim teams and the NVSL. It’s a job that is impossible to do successfully without help from a great many parents. 

The Northern Virginia Swim League (NVSL)

In 1956, eight Northern Virginia pools founded the NVSL. Today, the NVSL has over 17,000 swimmers on 102 teams and is the largest summer swim league in the United States. Obviously, with this many teams, there has to be some division of teams. During the off season, the NVSL ranks each team from 1 to 102 based primarily on swimmers’ times the past season, and then divides the teams, based on these rankings, into 17 Divisions of six teams each. This means that the fastest (and typically largest) teams are in the lower numbered Divisions and the less competitive (and smaller) teams are in the higher numbered Divisions. The other teams in our division and the meet locations are in the NVSL Handbook, on the DH web page, and listed on the schedule given to each swim team family. Directions to the pools are provided prior to the meet, but can also usually be found on the NVSL website.

Time Trials

Time trials are traditionally held the Saturday before the first NVSL Saturday meet of the season. As a practice for real meet conditions, time trials are held just like a real meet complete with all the trappings of starter, judges and timers, all dressed in blue and white. Times are recorded for each event for each swimmer and used as a base time for the swimmer to improve upon during the season, and as a basis for selecting swimmers for the Saturday meets. Swimmers are encouraged to compete in all events they can. Times from Monday night meets and prior Saturday meets will also factor into Coaches’ decisions for Saturday morning placements.

Dual Meets

The six teams in each division swim the other five teams, one at a time on five consecutive Saturdays, in a series of Dual Meets, so called because there are two teams competing. Based upon the results of these five meets, a division champion will be crowned.

Relay Carnivals

Another NVSL event is the Divisional Relay Carnival, which takes place on the Wednesday between the third and fourth weeks of the season. All six teams in each division converge on one pool for an evening of relay races. These include both Freestyle relays (each swimmer swims the Freestyle) and Medley relays (each swimmer swims a different stroke). The Carnival is scored, and the winning team for the Division receives a trophy. The next night, all the Division Coordinators meet and relay teams are selected to swim at the All-Star Relay Carnival the following week. The sole criterion for selection to the All-Star Relay Carnival is to have one of the eighteen fastest times in events swum at the Divisional Relay Carnivals.


On the sixth Saturday of the season, each Division has an Individual Championship meet, commonly referred to as “Divisionals”. Each team is allowed to enter two swimmers in each event, but a swimmer can enter no more than two events. If a team does not have two swimmers for an event, other teams can “bid in” their swimmers to fill the empty lanes. This is strictly an individual meet and is not scored.

All Stars

After Divisionals, all the Division coordinators meet to select swimmers for the All-Star meet the following Saturday. The sole criterion for selection to All-Stars is to have one of the eighteen fastest times swum that day in an event in the Divisional meets. All Stars can be overwhelming for a first-time swimmer as approximately 600 swimmers, plus parents, coaches, and officials, converge on a pool for a meet that takes about six hours. If your swimmer is fast enough to be named an All Star, it is a thrill they will never forget.

US Swimming

US Swimming is the governing body for swimming in the United States. US Swimming establishes rules for the strokes and for the conduct of competition. The NVSL swimming rules are US Swimming rules with minor changes to accommodate the facilities and skill levels found in our league.

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