A while back I asked this question: Swimming: why can I not front crawl?

It was subsequently put on hold. The rationalisation was:

"Questions on exercise and fitness unrelated to a specific, competitive sport are 
off-topic here, but can be asked on Physical Fitness Stack Exchange."

But swimming is a specific competitive sport.

Imagine I had asked a question about tennis technique: "why can I not hit a topspin forehand?" there would be no contention surely.

This is a direct parallel.

This rationale for putting the question on hold is illogical, contradictory.

I said as much in a comment.

Checking back weeks later, I see the question was closed. It boggles my mind that five people voted to close the question after my comment that clearly exposes a flaw in the logic.

  • 4
    I commented on this when it happened. The rationale from the community appeared to be "it may be related to a competitive sport, but is more related to an activity for fitness." Running questions for the sake of running (ie, not competing or for competition) would be similar (I know that line is fuzzy, but that's what we have defined here). Here's a disagreement I had about a similar fitness/sports categorization.
    – user527
    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:25
  • Here's an attempt to further objectify the line between sports and activities...to which we are currently treating any "borderline" questions on a case-by-case basis.
    – user527
    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:33
  • The question pertains directly to a competitive sport. Whether I swim for pleasure, fitness, competition or to avoid sharks makes no difference. It is a question pertaining to technique for an activity that is classed as a competitive (Olympic even) sport. Suppose we have an amateur competitive swimmer experiencing the same problem. Their question belongs here but mine does not? That would be an absurdity.
    – P i
    Apr 20, 2016 at 12:46
  • @Pi We have a separate site for questions about fitness - Physical Fitness. Questions that are about fitness and not the competitive sport should go there. That question clearly was about fitness, not sports. Further, you'll very likely get a better answer there, we don't exactly have many specialists in swimming here. Really, swimming and running questions have a fairly high bar to be on topic here if they're about technique (and not some clearly sports-related aspect); technique just isn't our forte, and Physical Fitness covers it much better.
    – Joe Mod
    Apr 20, 2016 at 21:49
  • @Pi I think the issue in your question is that it is unclear what you are asking. It is not off-topic per se but it is unclear. Try to write more succintly, more specific question on a single thing such as technique so more relevant here.
    – hhh
    May 14, 2016 at 16:44

5 Answers 5


Obviously there is overlap between the two sites, so should be done is look at the intent of the question.

I think that while most swimming questions that could be asked would be on topic at Fitness, questions about the activity in a competitive aspect would be also suitable for this site.

Some examples that I can think of that would be more on topic here:

"Why was the S stroke in freestyle phased out in favor of early vertical forearm and catch?"

"When executing a backstroke flip turn, is there an optimal depth to aim for?"

Both of those clearly relate to the racing aspects, rather than a recreational aspect. That would apply to many activities that have both a competitive aspect and a recreational/fitness aspect. If the intent is to improve the competitive aspect, then it's probably a better fit here. If the intent is to improve in general, then probably a better fit on fitness.

For the referenced question by the OP, I would agree that it would have been squarely on topic at Fitness, and in fact, we have a few questions already about sinking while swimming and getting out of breath.

  • 1
    +1 for "If the intent is to improve the competitive aspect, then it's probably a better fit here. If the intent is to improve in general, then probably a better fit on fitness." which I understand such that a competitive swimming question is on-topic. Similarly competitive running should be on-topic -- can you guide here? Is competitive level marathon running and planning hydration over aid stations on-topic? I think it is.
    – hhh
    May 15, 2016 at 12:03
  • Can you advise on this recently placed on hold question? It fits the criteria of "if the intent is to improve in general" but I feel if we migrate it to Fitness, it would have been rejected (as it is about the technique used while engaging in a racket sport more so than exercise technique). That said, this meta question was about swimming, so I'm not sure if your answer was specific to swimming or to the dichotomy in general.
    – user527
    Oct 13, 2016 at 13:27
  • 1
    @ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ - More to the dichotomy in general. I used swimming as that was the original question. It definitely would have been closed as off topic in fitness, however. In this case, it definitely looks like the community spoke.
    – JohnP
    Oct 13, 2016 at 20:25

In my opinion, swimming, running, weightlifting, etc. are not primarily sports. Questions about them should be limited to questions very specifically about the sport itself - the rules, for example.

Questions about physical fitness activities that also happen to be sports are not on topic here if they're questions that are about how to perform the activity generally. We're just not the site for that kind of information. There's no reason to have the overlap between this site and Physical Fitness. Our experts are experts in Sports, not in Fitness.

Questions in the gray area I don't mind keeping, but it would have to at least have some relevance to sport itself, and not just technique or form.

  • 1
    I think this depends on exactly what you're doing; for instance, I don't know of anyone who does 110m hurdles just for fun - they do it because they're intending to do it competitively, so I'd say (e.g.) a question about stride pattern for hurdles would be on topic. It's longer distance running / swimming that I agree presents more of a grey area.
    – Philip Kendall Mod
    Apr 26, 2016 at 9:43
  • 1
    @PhilipKendall - 5k, 10k swimming and running events are both Olympic events, and in the case of running (grouped under the sport Athletics) have been in the program nearly since inception of the modern Olympic games.
    – JohnP
    Apr 27, 2016 at 1:06
  • I made an example about specific weightlifting, namely Powerlifting that I see to belong to the site here.
    – hhh
    May 15, 2016 at 12:00

The Sports.SE site has been around long enough for its scope to be defined. It is clearly stated that in the help center what their scope is.

Sports Stack Exchange is for participants, hobbyists, and fans of all sports and forms of competitive physical activity. We welcome questions of all levels. For a non-inclusive list of example topics, click here.

What I'm interpreting this site to be is the focus on the competitive aspects of sports. Your question is highly general, and while swimming can be competitive, I've seen no evidence in your question that is specific towards competitive swimming. Someone who would be competitively swimming should be able to do a basic front crawl.

For the Fitness site, there is overlap, and your question would be appropriate there. To quote from what's on topic for our site:

Physical Fitness Stack Exchange is for fitness professionals, athletes, trainers and enthusiasts. If you have a question about …

  • improving your exercise performance or technique
  • choosing a training program
  • nutrition as it relates to exercise
  • gear and gadgets used during exercise
  • achieving physique milestones
  • injury prevention

and it is not about...

  • the rules of a sport
  • a purchase recommendation
  • nutrition unrelated to exercise, such as food safety, nutritional needs for children, etc.
  • wellness, general health, medical advice and injuries unrelated to exercise
  • For me the question look like "Help me, I need physiotherapist: which part of my body is wrong? Posterior pelvis tilt? Bad core?" and then it tries to formulate it in terms of sports to make it sound more sexy. Any Physiotherapist site? The goal is vague at best and before further ado, it should be put-on-hold and improved. Community could guide the op and suggest improvements to the thread. There are four questions where the sinking could be explained in terms of torgue and buyancy point that could be technique specific and interesting.
    – hhh
    May 15, 2016 at 11:25
  • 2
    @hhh That's a harsh analysis, and an unfair assumption at an ulterior motive, in my opinion. I don't think the OP was making anything sound "sexy", but was only simply asking "why can't I front crawl"? and provided context. That said, for the purposes of this site, your suggestion of focusing on a goal goes a long way in determining whether it's more competitive or more general.
    – user527
    May 15, 2016 at 14:12
  • @ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ it is not harsh, correct dramatisation about thread -- it is not a question: it is a bunch of questions framed to replace PTs and proper effort to do your own homework. Far better questions would contain "How to front crawl?", "What is the effect of torso rotating on sinking in front crawl?" -- the thread is written in prose, spoken language, it is not a honest question. Before answering this kind of questions, they should be put on-hold: "Please focus on a single thing so it is possible to answer your q.", "Please do enough effort to write q.", "Less is more, can u clarify?"
    – hhh
    May 15, 2016 at 17:14
  • @hhh (also addressing your other comment, which is along the same vein) I do agree with focusing the question before reopening/migrating and your examples of "far better questions." Even if the question is unfocused, rambling, dramatized, and/or in any way hyperbolic, it's hard to call that dishonest (or, more likely than not, it would have been pointed out long ago as such).
    – user527
    May 16, 2016 at 3:32

When it comes to individual sports (running, swimming, etc) there is clearly a large overlap between Sports and Physical Fitness, as a lot of the techniques are exactly the same whether you're doing it competitively or recreationally.

The way I'd see it is that if the question would apply equally well to recreational participants, then it's best posted on Physical Fitness, as then both competitive and recreational participants will be able to contribute answers. If the question applies only to competitive participants, for example "How to improve blocks start in athletics", then it's fairly clearly best posted here.

As such, the close in this case is correct, as the question would apply equally to recreational swimmers.

  • 2
    Based on this analysis (which does a nice job clarifying our position), it would be appropriate to go through some running questions to place close votes based on this criteria. For whatever reason, the swimming questions were brought to our attention, close voted, and here we are with this meta post. We should treat running questions with the same attention.
    – user527
    Apr 25, 2016 at 3:56
  • 2
    @ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ: before doing that, I'd like a bit more confirmation that this is actually the community consensus, and ideally also something from the Physical Fitness folks that they think the boundary is in about the same place - I don't think these are bad questions per se, just that the best home for them is Physical Fitness rather than Sports. If the Physical Fitness folks disagree with that, I'd rather keep them here than close them. I did mention this question in The Locker Room, but I don't think that room is used very much...
    – Philip Kendall Mod
    Apr 25, 2016 at 7:48
  • 2
    Thanks, Philip. I would be more inclined with your suggestion if we didn't define the general idea here, reiterated more recently here, and closed four swimming questions on top of that. However, there is some dissension here and here that could be addressed by the result of this consensus. Therefore, we shall wait on confirmation.
    – user527
    Apr 25, 2016 at 12:24
  • I'd also argue that it's possible for consensus to change, so the post you've linked from four years ago shouldn't be considered binding on us today. Even if I agree with it :-)
    – Philip Kendall Mod
    Apr 26, 2016 at 9:39
  • 2
    Never intended that to be the case...but it's important to see where we once stood/still stand, even though it was toward the beginning of beta.
    – user527
    Apr 26, 2016 at 11:31

Firstly I want to highlight JohnP's observation

"If the intent is to improve the competitive aspect, then it's probably a better fit here. If the intent is to improve in general, then probably a better fit on fitness."

that I agree. The thread is too general to be specific currently on sports. The problem with such general questions meant to physiotherapists and real trainers is that it is hard to find focus. Swimming is not off-topic but it is off-topic to ask questions where it is unclear what is asked in the sports or it is too general to apply to most practioners of the sport: general beginner level questions requiring physiotherapists councelling are such questions.

Analysis of the thread at hand (formulated as question that actually has many questions)

There are four pieces of questions on a profile asking for help. A way it could be formulated here is to make it specific, find a single thing that you want to improve such as rotation of your torso, not all things in the same

enter image description here

where the question 3 could be a separate question on breathing technique while the question 4 could be a separate question on managing the buoyancy point. As an example to the question 4, it is a disputed issue whether byoyancy or torque causes the legs to sink, more here.

P.s. I tried to reformulate the question to be more on-topic on this site, I suggest to put this question on-hold while getting rewritten.

  • 2
    "Unclear" isn't necessarily the same as "unfocused," though your point about focusing the question is valid. It's clear the OP wants to front crawl and provides context as to what the user is doing, to the best of the user's ability given we're not able to analyze in person. Are you suggesting to put this meta question on hold? This meta question doesn't only address this specific question, but a subset of questions that may be suitable for Fitness SE if general, or here if specifically competitive. It just so happens this question started this current discussion.
    – user527
    May 15, 2016 at 14:18
  • @ᴍᴀsᴛᴇʀᴍɪɴᴅ_ᴇᴅ I agree that "unfocused" is perhaps more descriptive about this thread. Anyway not good idea to move unclear/unfocussed questions or too broad questions to Fitness SE, better idea is to put them on-hold and ask for more specific questions. Proper effort should be done to make questions specific so future ops find it suffiently easy to answer questions. This thread is like prose, written in spoken language, not sufficiently well-chosen focus, let alone jargon. The Fitness has become extremely professional, even outpacing sport and gathering there our work or other's hw not good.
    – hhh
    May 15, 2016 at 17:05

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