The 10 Most Important Things to Know and Understand at a Swim Meet

the 10 most important things to know and understand about swim meets for both the parents and the swimmers.

These are in no particular order.  Please, take the time to read through and understand these concepts. Many of you may already know these things but the reinforcement at the start of the season is always needed.

1. No swim meet is professionally run.

Though sometimes they are incredible events, everyone on deck running and operating the meet is a volunteer and no different from anyone watching in the stands. This is the case for every meet your swimmers will ever go to here or abroad. The volunteers simply took a step and found a way to help. We have so many options for volunteering at our meets.  Please, if you don’t know what you could or would want to do then ask around, Kathy Jackson is a great person to ask. The meets go by faster and you leave knowing that you played a big part in making all of that happen.


Please, remind your swimmers of this as well.There will be hiccups and frustrations along the way but remembering that no one is payed helps with patience. Encourage your swimmers to thank the officials, timers, and volunteers.Those words of thanks are all any of the volunteers are looking to get out of this and will certainly keep them coming back knowing they are needed and appreciated. After all that’s all any of us really want out of anything we do!


2. Swimming is a team sport.

We will do an organized cheer at the beginning of the meet and we will dress and act as one. We won’t have suit, shirt or cap orders in time for this weekend so no worries if you don’t have them. But please try and wear a red shirt. It is expected that the swimmers be engaged in the meet and show support for their teammates. I can promise that any energy put into cheering for your teammates comes back 10-fold (or in Saturday’s case could be 67-fold) when you step up on the blocks and they are all supporting you. No screens or distractions on deck. I will confiscate any book or device used for anything other than playing music before a race. These will be given back after the meet is over.


3. Relays are the most important event at any meet.

I make that statement not because of points and team scores (though I value those much higher than the individual) but because of the lessons learned from relays.  If we take away the relays and do not teach sacrifice for others, teamwork, and honor then we are missing the point of all of this.  Sometimes swimming a relay could technically take away from an individual performance. However, in all my years of coaching I have never seen anyone that has completely bought in to the team aspect and not come back as a stronger individual.  The psychological aspect of knowing the team is behind you far outweighs any physical fatigue. The best way to feel that support is to participate on a relay. Not everyone gets to participate in the relays, only the top four or however many slots are permitted for entry. It should be looked at as a privilege and an honor. This needs to be stressed and supported by the parents. Last year we had several swimmers leave early or not show up to sessions they were signed up for and left teammates stranded with no relays. Please help us teach the value of the relays. There are no relays at the Sprint meets unfortunately but usually at home meets for the 11 and over relay we make the fastest relay regardless of age for the A and then the fastest 11-12 relay for the B. The 10 and under relays are comprised of the fastest 4 for each relay.


4. All swimmers are expected to sit and engage with the team

At every meet, we will have a designated team area in which the parents are not permitted to sit. At our home meets parents need to stay on the North side of the pool. Swimmers will be allowed to visit during the meet but need to be with the team throughout.


5. All swimmers need to speak to either coach before and after every race for planning and feedback.

Parents watch your swimmers and encourage them to do so if they are not. This is an area where we could use your help especially of your swimmer is timid. We will not be able to track swimmers down after races to give them advice.  They need to come to us and make sure their presence is known. Parents remember to leave the technical and race strategy advice to the coaches. If you think we are way off feel free to approach us after the meet is over or send an email. Just give them feedback on their effort and attitude and encourage them to do their best.


6. Nutrition is important at meets.

Please read the Stingray guide for competition nutrition.  Don’t take advantage of the excuse that carbs are needed and shove candy down the entire meet.


7. Stingray shows respect for the pool deck.

It will be expected that each swimmer cleans up before they leave. Not just after themselves but every piece of trash left by anyone. Parents please have your swimmer pick up a few pieces of trash before you take them.  I usually don’t get the command in until long after and only a handful of swimmers are left cleaning up for everyone.


8. A DQ is not a measurement of success or failure

DQ slips are not handed out to the individual swimmers, if a swimmer truly wants to know they need to ask coach Neil or myself. No one technical slip up is going to change the process and progressions of our programming. Eventually we get to everything with the swimmers. We remind them of the rules but there is no need to spend an inordinate amount of time on legal turns when we can’t yet balance in the water. Coach Neil and I sort through DQ slips and look for any patterns and of course if everyone is getting the same one it is something we will address. Also, the DQ effects nothing but placing and points, two things that serve as motivation but should never be the focus.


9. The only two things coaches look for are EFFORT AND EXECUTION.

I can honestly say I never know the place an athlete comes until I look at the results a few days later. As coaches, we are looking at the execution of a given race strategy for our swimmers.  The more advanced the swimmer the more detailed the strategy. You may see us upset with swimmers that just dropped significant time and won. This is because they missed one of two key components. What you didn’t see were the 3 kicks instead of 6 off the wall, the breath at the 15-meter mark that should have been at the 35, or the bottom hand crossover instead of top. All the details we gave them to execute were expected, we don’t ask anything of them they cannot do. The time and place have nothing to do with what is important.


 10. Sportsmanship needs to be taught and encouraged by the parents.

This is another topic we as coaches need your help.  Watch your swimmer’s responses to their races and help them understand their body language and the messages they are sending. We need help discouraging both excessive celebration and excessive displays of disappointment. 

Celebrating with class and respect for the opponent can be taught without taking away the satisfaction and pride of a job well done. Swimmers should feel good and be happy with a great race and even celebrate after. However, it should not be done as an individual in the pool in the face of the opponent, even if the intention wasn’t to gloat, it is. Encourage your swimmer to wait till they get back to the team area to celebrate. Then they can get high fives cheer and receive encouragement from the entire team. Celebrating big on your own sucks the excitement of your race out of everyone and discourages them from celebrating with you. Besides, it feels way better to have other people tell you your awesome than telling yourself. Waiting to celebrate with the team takes you away from the person who just lost and puts the energy into your teammate who is up next and inspired by you.

On the opposite end of the spectrum we have had swimmers demonstrate disappointment in their races showing little class and poor sportsmanship. We need to teach critical analysis of disappointing races rather than emotional reactions. Disappointment and a sense of failure are healthy psychological responses to a poor performance, however not controlling emotions and learning from the experience is a horrible waste and very unhealthy.Throwing a cap and goggles in frustration is unacceptable as a Stingray swimmer and will have consequences (likely an apology to the head ref and opponent). The volunteers to help you have a great experience, the swimmer who just performed great next to you, and the coaches and teammates that gave their time to help you don’t deserve to see an ungrateful display that shows excessive dissatisfaction in the event. Again, wait until you get back to the team and talk to the coaches. We know you are upset, and we are here to tell you why it happened and how to make sure it gets better. Besides, it probably isn’t your last race and certainly your teammates still have races to go.You never know when things will turn around and you don’t want your negative energy effecting your teammates or your next race. True champions bounce back.