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Swim Meet Basics

Swim meets are a great experience. They're a place where you can watch your child gain confidence and self-reliance. Listed below are some guidelines to help you through your first couple of swim meets. It may seem a little overwhelming at first, but after a few meets you will feel like a veteran. If you have any questions, please ask your coach.

What to Bring:

For you

  • A sharpie to write your child's event on his/her arm
  • A sun shade or EZ UP canopy – Consider arranging to share with another family. Set-up space can be limited.
  • A tarp to cover any muddy areas.
  • Mosquito spray
  • A small cooler with water. Late season meets get hot.
  • Camp chairs
  • Cash – Almost every pool has a snack bar and it's helpful to by heat sheets, as well
  • Pens
  • A book, magazine, games or other device to divert your attention.

 For your swimmer

  • Swimmers dress in their competition suit
  • Something to sit on such as a towel or camp chair.
  • Towels – In early season meets it gets chilly, bring at least one towel for every event your swimmer will enter plus warm ups. Don’t forget relays. The fastest 8 to 12 swimmers in every age group will be entered in a relay.  
  • An extra set of goggles.
  • A book, games or other device to divert their attention. Only bring what you or your swimmer is willing to lose, get wet, or get stepped on.


On Meet day 

  • Arrive at the pool at check-in time. This time will be listed in the swim meet section on the website.   
  • Upon arrival, find the swimmer’s tent and place your swimmer's chair, blankets, swim bags, towels in the appropriate area.
  • Make sure your swimmer checks in with his or her coach!  Check for special posted instructions in the check-in area.
    • Parents will write the events being swum on the swimmer’s arm.  Check-in is required so the coaches know who is actually at the meet. After check-in, the meet administrators "seed" the swimmers into heats. Heat and lane assignments will be posted, so be sure your swimmer knows where to look!
    • It is important for each swimmer to know what event numbers he/she is. He/she may swim right away after warm-up or they may have to wait awhile.
  • Set up your resting/waiting area. For home meets, set up must be outside the fence of the pool  No set up is allowed inside the fence or in the bleachers.  Remember space may be limited so plan ahead to share with other team parents. Most pools have areas set aside for special uses, so watch for “no setup” signs and if you get there really early you may be asked to move.
  • Swimmers will be called by team and age for warm ups. Your swimmer should get his/her cap and goggles and report to the pool/coach for warm-up instructions.  It is very important for all swimmers to warm-up with the team. A swimmer's body is just like a car on a cold day--he/she needs to get the engine going and warmed-up before he/she can go all out.
  • After warm-up, your swimmer will go back to the team tent area.
  • The meet will start at 8:30 am.
  • Buy Heat Sheets. Heat sheets list all swimmers in each event in order of "seed time", which is the  swimmer’s best time (up to the date that the entry was submitted). “NT” indicates that the swimmer does not have a seed time.

MEET Protocols and Conduct

  • According to NWAL rules, insurance policy requirements and to keep all children safe, parents are not allowed on deck unless they are serving in an official capacity.
  • All questions concerning meet results, an officiating call, or the conduct of a meet, should be referred to a coach. The coach in turn, will pursue the matter through the proper channels. Meet officials are instructed to discuss those issues only with coaches.
  • Never use flash photography while the swimmers are on the blocks.
  • Most meets use a computer system to seed heats, track results and calculate scores.
  • An announcer will often be used to communicate meet progress.
  • A Tent Parent will gather the swimmers from the team area and remind them to get their cap and goggles.
  • The tent parent will walk the swimmers to the ready bench.
  • The ready bench volunteers will place swimmers in their proper heat and lane.
  • Usually events are swum with the fastest seed times in the final heat. 

 The actual Event

  • The Starter will use a loud speaker to instruct the swimmer to step-up on to the starting block or into the water for backstroke. In most cases the starter will call the event number or heat number, distance and stroke.  Girls events are odd-numbered and boys events are even-numbered. Example: "Event #26, 10-Under Boys, 50 freestyle.
  • The Referee will signal the starter, usually with a whistle, that the Starter is authorized to start the heat.
  • The Starter will invite the swimmers to “take your mark”.
  • When the swimmers are all ready, the Starter will sound the start annunciator horn.
  • If the start horn is followed by a rapid series of beeps; that indicates that the Starter wants the swimmers to stop swimming and return to the start.

 After the swim

  • The swimmer should ask the timer for his or her time.
  • The swimmer should then go talk to the coach. Generally the coach will provide praise and suggestions for improvement.
  • After seeing the coach, the swimmer may come over to see his or her parents. Don’t forget to tell them how great they did and avoid giving coaching advice.
  • Then the swimmer should then go back to the team area. This is another good time to check out the bathrooms, get a drink or something light to eat.
  • The swimmer now waits until his next event is called and starts the procedure again.
  • When a swimmer has completed all of their events they get to go home. Make sure, however, you, as a parent, check with the coach before leaving to make sure your swimmer is not included on a relay. It is not fair to other swimmers who may have stayed to swim on a relay where your swimmer is expect­ed to be a member and they are not there.
  • Pack up all your belongings, pick up any trash that you have and throw in the appropriate bins. 
  • Results are usually posted somewhere in the facility.  Awards are gathered for a team and given to the coach at the end of the meet. Swimmers will be able to collect their awards from the awards box placed at the pool on the Tuesday following the meet.
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