How to Pick A Lap Counter

How to Choose a Lap Counter

Written by Julie Stupp

Julie Stupp is the first athlete in NCAA history to qualify for the NCAA's in both swimming and track & field. She first competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials as a 14-year-old in 2000 and made the final of the 400m IM at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. She is an IM and breaststroke specialist and competed for Auburn University from 2004-2007, where she was an 11-time All-American. She is now an assistant swimming coach at the University of Missouri.

There are a lot of good lap counters out in the market and available at, so this guide helps you assess what’s available, their general features, and help you in your purchasing decision. This is a broad overview and can answer some key questions for those who aren’t familiar with lap counters.

What is a Lap Counter

Lap counters are used by swimmers, coaches, spectators, officials, and timers to keep track of how many laps a swimmer has completed. They can become very useful for tracking yards or meters at a swim meet or simply for recalling how much a swimmer completed during a practice. Lap counters and timing systems are usually synonymous and can be combined in the same product, but some lap counters do just as they say. Below is a description of the three different categories of lap counters: digital, analog and manual.

Digital Lap Counters: Digital lap counters and timing systems are the high-end variety and most technical products, which you will see at almost every swim meet and on-deck at any competitive swim team practice. These systems have many capabilities and functions beyond just counting laps. Digital lap counters are excellent for swim meets because they are accurate timing systems and can display more than one finish time along with a lane number. What’s great about these is some even include a horn and microphone for race starters.

Some digital lap counters have scoreboard displays, which are excellent for water polo games, as well. Most have a countdown and workout option, which is advisable for larger swim teams. The workout option is a great way for a coach to organize a practice and lets swimmers know exactly when to push off for each interval during a long swim set. The coach can manually enter the intervals they want their swimmers to complete before the practice begins and once the set begins, the clock will automatically keep everyone on track by beeping when the swimmers are supposed to go.

Analog Lap Counters: The majority of the analog lap counters available at are in the form of a swim watch. These watches have plenty of functions, including timing systems, GPS capabilities, heart rate monitors, and lap counting displays. You can read all about swim watches, including a review in this guide. Since the lap counting function is built into the swim watch, you can recall during or after your workout how many laps you have swum. This type of lap counting product is best for an individual athlete who wants to keep track of his or her own yards and workouts.

Manual Lap Counters: There are three different manual lap counters at All three are described as tally counters and can either be operated by clicking the device every time a swimmer completes a lap, or by sliding a bead over on the Aqua Tally counter. All of three of these tally counter products can be used by swimmers, spectators, coaches, or lifeguards. Most tally counter products are more convenient and useful for someone who is outside of the pool watching the swimmers complete the laps. The Aqua Tally counter system is a great way to teach younger or beginning swimmers how to count laps on their own.

How Much Does a Lap Counter Cost?

Depending on how much you have to spend for yourself or your swim team, a lap counter can cost anywhere from $8 to more than $1,800 for a digital lap counter and timing system. Lap counters come in all different shapes and sizes and, more importantly, operate quite differently. Be sure to consult with your team or pool staff before deciding on the best possible digital product for your space. On the other hand, a manual or analog lap counter is most likely based on personal preference and individual needs. Happy counting!

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