We've Joined the Team ... now what?
By Evelyne McNamara, Veteran BAY Parent
Congratulations! We are happy to have you join the Swim South Bay family.
And it really is a family.
A competitive high school and college swimmer, Coach Marisa created the team so that her young sons could have the kind of team she’d always wanted. Her vision was a swim team that would take the whole family into consideration. When your children wants to rotate into other sports during the year, they’ll be welcomed back once they’re ready for the pool again. School projects, family trips, and other priorities? We understand.
I understand. I’m a swim mom, just like you. From the time we joined BAY until today, we’ve had our children through every single practice group, from Race Team to Senior. That doesn’t make me an expert, just someone who understands how confusing this can all be at the beginning!
When you first join a swim team, there are a lot of new things to learn. Even though we can’t answer every possible question here, we hope that this guide will make you feel more comfortable with the world of swimming at BAY. We’ll keep updating it as you come in and ask more questions. They (and you) are always welcome.
Let’s jump in with the most frequently asked questions from our parents!
What should I do, and NOT do, when my child is at practice?
Let’s be honest. Most of the time, watching practices is … well, boring. The swimmers are absorbed with pushing themselves to learn new skills, listening to their coach’s instructions, and just having fun with their teammates.
For parents, it’s mostly waiting on the sidelines until they’re done. If it’s a nice warm day, you could enjoy the downtime and read a book in the shade or catch up on your emails. Go check out the rose garden near the gym. It’s a lovely peaceful place to relax on a hot day. If it’s a cold or rainy day, you might want to wait in your car until practice is nearly over. You could even go to Starbuck’s during practice. Just be back before practice is over!
Now here’s what you can’t do.
You can’t talk to the coaches during practice. They have the responsibility to watch over all of the children in their care and we don’t want them distracted for even a minute. We take every child’s safety very seriously. Since the coaches usually go from one practice directly to another and leave immediately after the last practice, the best way to reach them is to send an email to the office ([email protected]) and we will forward it to the coach.
You can’t talk to your child during practice. During that 45 minute practice, their coach is the only person they should be listening to. You especially cannot be telling your child what they should be doing, even if you think you are helping the coach. Trust us, our coaches have a lot of experience and they know how to work with any child. Please help us maintain the discipline between coaches and their swimmers.
You can’t stand by the edge of the pool or walk alongside the pool.
Our coaches will move quickly to keep their swimmers in sight, or to call out to a child, and they cannot have someone blocking their way or taking their attention away from their swimmers. They need the space by the pool kept clear. If you want to watch your child swim, you will get a great vantage point from the bleachers on the parking lot side.
FYI, this is how my husband ended up becoming a swim official. He’s an engineer, so he tried to learn everything about swimming when our children began the sport. One of our wonderful coaches gently suggested that instead of being an amateur coach, he might enjoy supporting the sport and our team by becoming an official. I highly recommend it. The training is easy, the officials are terrific moms and dads like you, and you will contribute so much to your grateful team and coaches through your work!
2. What does he/she need every day?
Bonus! You picked a sport that doesn’t need bulky, sweaty expensive equipment like shoulder pads and hockey sticks.
There’s very little you need actually, but you should duplicate everything.
We see swimmers coming into the office every week, saying they left their goggles, hair bands, swim caps or towels at home or in the second parent’s car.
We have a couple of old goggles that we can let swimmers borrow, some rubber bands, and a few towels for emergencies, but if they need a cap, we will charge your account.
Make your life easier. Repack your swimmer’s bag when you get home and keep a second bag in your trunk for the inevitable emergency.
Your swimmer needs:
goggles that fit. Sports Basement and Norcal have a good selection year-round.
a swim cap (they get one for free on the first day of Race Team)
a nice large towel or parka to keep warm before and after practice
a water bottle - swimmers work hard and need to drink water during practice.
shoes. Even on the warmest days, we don’t want them walking on deck or through the parking lot on bare feet!
You’re not obligated to buy team gear. It’s not required and we respect your decisions.
If you do want to buy team gear, our biggest sellers are personalized caps, parkas and backpacks. These are by special order and Coach Marisa has order deadlines in the weekly emails you will be receiving. For bathing suits and other swim gear options, you can browse our team store at www.swimoutlet.com/swimsouthbay.
3. Do I need to stay at the pool during practice?
Once you are comfortable with the routine, there is no reason you need to stay if you don’t want to, or if you need to run quick errands. It’s entirely up to you. Your child’s coach will have him in her care until the end of practice. So, by all means, do what you need to do. Just please be sure we have your cell phone number on file for possible emergencies and be back before the end of practice. Our staff cannot leave to go home to their families until every child has been safely picked up and they are not paid to stay past practice time.
4. Are there mandatory volunteer hours?
We do not have mandatory volunteer hours. However, we really need the help of our parents at swim meets. Every team is required to provide a certain number of timers throughout a meet. Without timers, the meet can’t go on. This is really easy and pleasant work and we rely on our parents to help us.
5. Oh, since you brought it up … I have a lot of questions about meets!
What if my child is not competitive and doesn’t want to enter meets?
We want swimming to be fun. If a child is not ready or really doesn’t enjoy competing, that is perfectly ok. Meets are a lot of fun, but if a swimmer is not ready, we won’t require them to enter. They’re welcome to come watch a meet, though. Once they see what all the fuss is about, they might want to join in!
How do we enter meets
All you have to do is go to the Swim South Bay website, click on Events and sign up your child for the meet you are interested in. If you can only enter one day (most meets are Saturday and Sunday), be sure to indicate that. Also be sure that you sign up before the RSVP deadline. That’s it! Your child’s coach will enter them in the events.
What meets does my child qualify for?
If you look at the meets listed on our website (you’ll find them under “Events”), you’ll see if your child can enter a meet or not. For example: Looking at a summer dual meet, the notes read Who: all BAY swimmers. That means anyone from race team on up is able to enter. If you look at a more specialized meet like Junior Olympics, the WHO says very clearly: swimmers with qualifying times. That means only swimmers who have Junior Olympic times, or better, can enter. So to begin with, look for the meets that say all BAY swimmers can enter.
What happens at meets? Where do we go? What do we do?
The small home meets, like Friday Night at the Races or the SVSL dual meets in summer, are cozy and very easy. They’re the perfect introduction to meets. You just come to the Presentation pool, have your child check in on the entry sheets and relax. Note the event numbers for your child’s races and listening for the starter to call event numbers. Coaches are available to help kids get to their lanes. During Friday Night at the Races, the coaches even group and take the race teamers to where they need to be. Parents can help timing or just relax and watch your children race!
Bigger meets are basically the same, just much bigger! They are usually 8 am to 2 pm, Saturday and Sunday, and swimmers have to be checked in and ready to warm up with coaches in the morning. Although it seems like all day is a long time, your child will only swim 2-4 times during the day. The rest of the time is spent eating, sleeping and hanging out with their friends and other families. We try to set up our camp area so that everyone is together and it’s a lot of fun. When your child is done with their last race, you can go home.
Do we need to buy a tent and all the other paraphernalia?
At the beginning, no. BAY families are friendly and most people will welcome you to join them in their tent. Bring your own chair, cooler and whatever else you might need during the day. Younger children always appreciate playing, so board games or other things they can share with their teammates is a great thing to bring. There is usually food available for purchase, but occasionally not. Swimmers are always hungry, so bringing food will keep them happy and be easy on your wallet.
What does it mean if my child is disqualified?
What are A and B times? Junior Olympic times? What does it all mean?
SO many new terms and definitions! When you look at a swim meet sheet, you’ll see times listed at the top for a number of different categories. These are the minimum times a swimmer has to swim to earn that level. Then, next to your child’s name and event, you’ll see a submitted time (ENTRY) and standard marking under STD (A, B, BB, AA, JO, etc.) OR - if your child is new to competing, you’ll see the letters NT, for No Time. Here’s a snapshot of a race team swimmer’s entry at a recent meet:
These entries are for a 9 year old Race Team swimmer. She is signed up for 2 events on Saturday, the 100 Free and the 50 Breast. She has never swum these event before (or if she did, she was disqualified so she didn’t get a time), so the ENTRY says NT, or no time.
SCY stands for Short Course Yards. Don’t even worry about it. You will learn more about that when your child is older and swimming long course meets.
Let’s look at the 100 Free. This swimmer’s goal is 1:30.69 or a B time. In other words, to earn her B time, she has to swim the 100 Free in that time or less. Her goal for the 50 Breast is a B time of 53.59.
If she swims the 100 Free in 1:45.55, she didn’t get her B time, but at the next meet she enters, the time she did earn will be posted in her Entry time.
Swim times and disqualifications take quite awhile to learn. And you don’t have to know it all in the beginning.
For more on meets, check out “Your First Swim Meet” in the Parent Info tab of Swim South Bay’s website.
6. I don’t like it when my child’s coach shouts. Should I complain?
Let me preface my answer with my own experience. I used to scream and yell encouragement at my swimmers at meets. Then one day, I asked my sons if they could hear me as they were swimming. Nope, not a bit. Between their focus on the swim, the swim cap, the sounds from the pool gutter and crowd and just being underwater most of the time, they couldn’t hear me. So now I’m the quiet mom who watches quietly and saves her voice.
The coaches are not being mean when they call out instructions in a loud voice. They have to be loud (and sometime repeatedly call the same swimmer over and over) for the swimmers to hear them. It’s not mean or harsh, it’s just necessary. I have never seen a coach at BAY act in a mean or punitive way towards a swimmer and I’ve been a BAY parent for a long time. If you are bothered by something you see or hear, by all means send us an email so we can address it with you and the coach. We welcome your input.
7. What are Stroke Clinics? Friday Night at the Races? Movie Nights? Do I have to pay for them?
Stroke Clinics and Friday Night at the Races are held throughout the year and they’re free for our swimmers. Movie Nights are free unless they bring a friend or sibling and then we ask for $5 per non-team member.
Stroke Clinics are held on Saturdays and our coaches and some of our senior and varsity swimmers focus on stroke techniques, what is legal and what will get you disqualified. It’s a great opportunity for swimmers to get significant improvement on their stroke techniques.
Friday Night at the Races is our home version of a meet. It’s just our own team and it only lasts about an hour. Marisa will frequently have pizza and juice for the swimmers afterwards. Kids get to race, have a great time, and you take home a tired, clean and fed child. A win all around.
Movie Nights are held in one of the classrooms at Presentation on the Friday of the last week of race team. We show a G-rated movie, often Disney, and children get pizza, popcorn and treats!
8. Should I get my child private lessons even though he’s already on the team?
Yes! Many of our swimmers take private lessons to improve their stroke technique or get help with something they’re struggling with. Even advanced swimmers will get private lessons to fine-tune their performance before an important meet. Private lessons are taught by our coaches and you can schedule them from home under the Events tab on our website. Make sure to log in before clicking on the “Events” tab.
9. Can I swim while my child is in practice?
You’re welcome to join our Masters swim program. Masters swimmers have their own lanes and can swim Monday-Thursday from 6 to 8 pm and Saturdays from 10-12. During the summer, we also offer Family Swim for members and their families. Check with the office for days and times.
10. My daughter lost her goggles/cap/earrings/etc. Did you find them? Where would I look? Can you replace them for us?
We look for forgotten items at the end of swim practices and do our best to put all items where the swimmers can find them. There is a green bin against the fence where most items can be found. Parkas and caps with names on them are usually brought into the office. Jewelry is also kept in the office when found.
We sometimes have spare goggles for swimmers to borrow when they forget theirs but there are only a few. BAY also sells a small selection of goggles and they are sized for younger swimmers. We can give them new caps but your account will be billed.
11. Who decides if my child is ready to move up to the next level?
In the last few weeks of every race team season, coaches conduct a lengthy evaluation of every swimmer, commenting on many criteria that end up being part of an evaluation certificate sent home to every one of their swimmers. You can expect to see encouragement, praise for your child’s strengths, and suggestions for improvement when they come back for the next season.
This evaluation is also where you will be notified if the coaches recommend a try-out for the next level group. Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t happen for awhile. There is a lot to learn and we don’t want to promote a swimmer until they are ready to handle a more demanding level.
Coach Marisa will be the first one to tell you that one of her sons holds the record for the longest time being at one level of race team before being promoted (12 sessions in the blue group). But he eventually was and the extra time has made him a much better swimmer and competitor.
12. I still have so many questions, who do I ask?
Come into the office and talk to the Aquatics Coordinator (another name for the person behind the desk). She can answer most of your questions. If she doesn’t have the answer, she’ll get it for you. But the very best way to get a timely answer is to email us at [email protected]. We will be happy to answer any questions that come up. Don’t hesitate to ask anything.