You are thinking about participating in your first swim meet! Here is some information as well as some tips to follow so that your first meet experience is a great one! Always remember to talk to your coach about the events you should be entering. Please advise your coach if you will not be attending and keep in mind there is always a deadline for entering the events.
What is a Swim Meet?
Swim meets are an important part of competitive swimming. They are the reward for all the hours of training, especially the early mornings. Swim meets are not just about competing against other swimmers; they are a yardstick to evaluate your own progress. Swimming may be termed an individual sport, but the spirit of camaraderie and team is an enormous part of "the experience". Depending on the meet there may be up to 13 different individual events and up to three different relay events for boys and girls at a swim meet. Swimmers will generally compete in up to seven individual events and up to two relays in either a two or three day meet. Some meets swim “timed finals” only. That means the swimmers race the event once. Other meets have heats and finals, where the top eight swims from heats swim again in the evening for the medals/ribbons.
The Racing Season:
In most jurisdictions, the competitive season is broken into two halves; Short Course (September - March) and Long Course (March-August). The length of a short course pool is 25 meters and the length of a long course pool is 50 meters. Most pools have eight lanes and each lane is usually 2.5 meters wide. Long course is where the "real action" takes place. All major international events, including the Olympics, are swum in long course pools.
OK, So What's a Time Trial?
A time trial is an opportunity for our club to get together for an abbreviated swim meet. We set up various events (for our youngest to our most experienced swimmers) and encourage everyone to become involved. We make this a low-pressure situation so everyone's introduction to racing is a positive one. Even though our time trials are relatively small events, the times swimmers make are “official” and can count as qualifying times for other events. There are no awards given out for time trials.
What races are usually held at swim meet/time trials?
Freestyle events: in the freestyle, the competitor may swim any stroke he or she wishes. The usual stroke used is the front crawl. The freestyle is swum over 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 meter distances.
Backstroke events: in the backstroke, the swimmer must stay on his or her back at all times. The stroke is an alternating motion of the arms. Backstroke race distances are 50, 100 and 200 meters.
Breaststroke events: perhaps one of the most difficult strokes to master, the breaststroke requires simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. The kick is a simultaneous thrust of the legs called a frog or breaststroke kick. Breaststroke races are distances of 50, 100 and 200 meters.
Butterfly events: the most physically demanding stroke, the butterfly features the simultaneous overhead stroke of the arms combined with the dolphin kick. The dolphin kick features both legs moving up and down together. Butterfly races are swum in 50, 100 and 200 meter distances.
Individual medley: the individual medley, commonly referred to as the I.M., features all four competitive strokes. In the I.M., a swimmer begins with the butterfly, changes to the backstroke after one-fourth of the race, then the breaststroke for another quarter and finally finishes with the freestyle. The I.M. is swum in 100, 200 and 400 meter distances. During the freestyle portion, backstroke, breaststroke and fly may not be swum.
Medley relay: in the medley relay all four strokes are swum by four different swimmers. No swimmer may swim more than one leg of the relay, which is swum in backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle order. The medley relay is 400 meters - or four by 100 meters. During the freestyle portion, backstroke, breaststroke and fly may not be swum.
What time should I be at the pool for a swim meet/time trial?
The coaches usually give out an information sheet to all the swimmers a few days in advance of a meet, outlining when the warm-ups and competition start, reminders for things to bring, etc. Meets usually begin around 8:00 a.m., with warm-ups starting as early as 6:30 a.m.
What should I bring with me?
Be sure to bring the following:
• a warm pair of sweatpants and top for wearing on the deck (preferably WGB clothing)
• Glacier Bears T-shirt
• deck sandals
• swimsuit, 2 pair of goggles, and 2 swim caps (it is important to have spares)
• several towels (it is nice to have a dry one after a race)
• healthy food, or money to buy some
• lots of water
• note pad to record your times
• playing cards, books, games, etc.
• born to race attitudes!!
What should I do when I get to the pool?
As soon as you arrive at the pool, head to the direction of team and the coach. At meets that are located out of town, it is important that you stay with the team and keep your belongings in a central location. The coaches are always pumped before the racing starts. They will likely be found sipping their coffee and pouring over the upcoming day’s “heat sheets”. These sheets show all the swimmers entered in an event and their times. This is where you find out how the competition stacks up.
Start by waking yourself up by swinging out your arms and doing a general stretch. When it's time to hit the water, head over to the lane assigned to your club. Your coach will meet you there and tell you what to do for warm-up. Usually warm-ups consist of some easy swimming followed by some fast sprints. Warm-ups last about 45 minutes to an hour.
Going to marshalling (NOTE: Marshalling is becoming less common at meets):
On the event sheet your coach gave you, each race is assigned a number. The meet organizers will call out this number when it's time for you to go to marshalling. Marshalling is the area where swimmers are organized into their heats in preparation for the race. Listen carefully to the announcements. When you hear the event before yours being called, go and see your coach for your pre-race pep talk. After your pep-talk, go straight to marshalling. Where there is no marshalling, it is up to you to keep track of the meet's progress so that you do not miss your swim. When you see the event before yours is taking place, then go find your coach!
After the race:
After you're finished swimming, go straight to your coach for your post-race talk. Your coach will talk to you about what went well in the race, and what you still need to work on. After your talk, it is important to do a “cool down” (there is usually an area of pool space set aside for this purpose). When you have completed your cool-down, you are free until your next event.
After the event, your time (and the times of all other swimmers in the event) will be posted near the pool.
Awards vary from meet to meet. At most meets, ribbons are awarded to swimmers who finish in the top six places. If the meet is held in an eight-lane pool, seventh and eighth place ribbons are also awarded. At some meets, aggregate and runner-up trophies, plaques or ribbons are awarded to the swimmers in each division who have the best overall results at the meet. Swimmers generally receive their awards after the first practice session following the meet. In compliance with Swim Canada rules, there are no awards handed out at time trials.
Coaches select swimmers for relays based on past performances and personal best times. A list of relay swimmers will be posted on the wall near your club area.
Strategy tips for swim meets/time trials:
The sprint races (50 and 100 meters) are an all-out burst of speed from start to finish. The slightest mistake can cost precious hundredths of seconds and the race.
The 200 meter events require the swimmer to have a sense of pace as well as the ability to swim in a controlled speed.
The 400, 800 and 1500 meter freestyle require the swimmer to constantly be aware of where they are in the water and how tired they are becoming. Swimming the first portion of the race at too fast a pace can sap a swimmer’s strength. Swimming the first portion of the race too slowly can separate the swimmer from the pack and make catching up impossible.
There are two ways to swim a distance race. Swimmers may elect to swim the race evenly (holding the same pace throughout the race) or they may negative split the race. A negative split occurs when the swimmer covers the second half of a race faster than the first half.
Starts and Turns:
Many races are won or lost in starts and turns. In the start, the starter who visually checks that all swimmers are still, calls the swimmer to the starting position. Then, once the starter is satisfied, either a gun or electronic tone starts the race.
Quick turns are essential to a good race. In all events the swimmer must touch the wall, but in the freestyle and backstroke the swimmer may somersault as he or she reaches the wall, touching only with the feet. In the other two competitive strokes, the swimmer must touch the wall with both hands simultaneously before executing the turn.