Swim Meets 101

A Comprehensive Guide for Parents and Swimmers

Structure of Our Sport

USA Swimming: USA Swimming, Inc. (USA-S) is the National Governing Body for amateur competitive swimming in the United States. At its headquarters located at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, the USA-S staff interacts with 59 Local Swimming Committees (LSCs), to provide a variety of services to over 300,000 registered athletes, over 20,000 non-athletes, and 2,500 swim clubs. As the National Governing Body of the sport, USA-S is charged with the responsibility to formulate rules, conduct national championships, disseminate safety and sports medicine information, select competitors to represent this country in international competition, and insure the development of its member clubs and age group swimmers. USA-S swim meets are designed to protect the swimmer, provide fair and equitable conditions of competition, and promote uniformity in the sport so no swimmer shall obtain an unfair advantage over another. All athletes must pay an annual registration fee of $61. Great benefits are offered to USA Swimming members who create a “My USA Swimming” account on the USA Swimming website at ORCA is a member of USA-S.

Southern California Swimming: Southern California Swimming (SCS) is our Local Swimming Committee (LSC). It is one of 59 LSC’s that are part of USA-S. It is the organization that governs the local meets that your swimmers participate in. SCS is made up of five Sections: Coastal, Eastern, Olympic, Metro, and Orange. ORCA is part of the Orange Section. Of the five sections, the Orange Section has the most swimmers, despite having the smallest geographical area. The SCS website is

Orange Section: ORCA is one of over 35 teams which make up the Orange Section. The Orange Section is made up of teams primarily located in Orange County. Most of the competitions that our team participates in are with other teams in our section.

Swim Meets

It is an ORCA requirement for swimmers to attend at least one swim meet per month with our team. Most swim meets are held locally here in Orange County on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) and are divided up into four different sessions; two morning sessions for 10 and under swimmers and two afternoon sessions for 11 and older swimmers. Swimmers are expected to participate in both days of the meet. Each session runs about 4 hours long. Sessions are divided up by age group and offer different events on each day. A meet information sheet providing all of the information about the meet will be posted to our website under the Swim Meets link as it becomes available from SCS. It can also be found directly on the SCS website.

Time Standards: To allow for equal and fair competition, SCS has created time standards for each gender and age-group. These time standards are also great for goal setting purposes.

There are different swim meets available to swimmers who meet different time standards. Some meets may only be for swimmers who have met a particular standard (level), others may allow for two or more levels to compete at the same meet. At a multiple standard swim meet, results will usually be based on the standard in which the swimmer entered the event at. This allows swimmers to be awarded at each of their respective levels, again providing for equal and fair competition between all levels of swimmers.

Swimmers who have never competed in an event begin that event as White ‘W’ level. As they compete in meets and achieve faster times in a particular event, they advance from White ‘W’, to Red ‘R’, or Blue ‘B’, etc. The achievement of time standards is by individual event, not over-all as a swimmer. In other words, a swimmer may be at different standards/levels in different strokes and distances. The time standards for every event for each age-group and gender can be found on the SCS website at or in the SCS Swim Guide which you can purchase through SCS or at most swim meets.

When entering swim meets, swimmers can only enter events in which they have met the minimum time standard the swim meet is based upon. For example, if you have Red times in the 50 breaststroke and 50 freestyle, you can swim those events in a ‘RW’ (Red/White) meet. You would not be able to enter those events in a Blue’ B’ meet.

Following is a list of different meets you may see on our meet calendar:

September Dual Meet– We open our season with a dual meet against another local team in a one day, one session meet where all of our swimmers compete in the same session; regardless of ability or age. This allows for a great team bonding experience and get-together for both new and returning swimmers. 

‘BRW’ Meets– Open to all levels of swimmers.

RW’Meets– Attended by swimmers who have ‘R’ or ‘W’ times in the events they wish to swim. You could not swim an event you had a Blue time or faster in.

‘B’ Meets– Swimmers must meet the minimum Blue time standard in an event they wish to swim.

‘Invite’ Meets– Swimmers must meet the minimum ‘Invite’ time standard in an event they wish to swim.

Junior Olympics– Swimmers must meet the minimum ‘Junior Olympic’ time standard in the event they wish to swim.

‘Senior’ Meets– At this level swimmers no longer compete in events divided by age. All events are ‘Open Men’s’ or ‘Open Women’s’. Different meets will use different time standards. Typically if you qualify for one or more event, you may also swim one or two “bonus” events.

Sectionals, Jr. Nationals and Nationals– These Senior meets are only open to swimmers who meet the time standards established for each event.

Entering Swim Meets: Click on the Attend/Decline button next to the meet at the bottom of the main page of this website or under the Events tab.  From there, click on the athlete you want to declare for and select YES to attend or NO I cannot attend.  If you select YES, select the sessions you are available to attend and then click SAVE.  Your coach will enter you in the events he/she would like you to swim.  If you have special preferences, be sure to put notes in the NOTES box.  You will be automatically billed for these events through the auto-billing feature of this website at 12.01 AM on the first of every month.

Team Suit & Cap Policy: It is important that all swimmers show their pride and represent our team by wearing their team gear at swim meets. Both male and female swimmers are required to wear their ORCA team suit and ORCA team cap for every event at every meet. Team suits are available through our vendor, Swim Depot. Caps are available for purchase through our team Administrator.

What to bring to the meet:

Aside from your ORCA suit and cap, you should also bring a couple pair of good racing goggles, a few towels (one for warm up and each event if it is cold outside), chairs, and although there are concession stands, you might want to bring some of your own healthy snacks and drinks. You should also consider small activities, books or hand held video games for downtime, sunscreen, extra clothes for appropriate weather, parkas, jackets, sweats, t-shirts, etc.

Arriving at the meet: At the meet, look for our ORCA canopies. This will be our team area to sit during the meet. All swimmers should arrive 1 hour and 15 minutes before the start of the meet to allow time for check in, stretching and warm-up. For morning sessions that start at 9:00 a.m., swimmers would arrive by 7:30 a.m. Afternoon session swimmers will be notified of arrival time by your coach a few days before the meet; a typical afternoon arrival time is about 11:00 AM.
Checking In: When you first arrive at the meet, before warm-up, your swimmer will need to Check-in. There will be a Check-in table located near the pool. By checking in, you have informed the administrators of the meet that you have arrived and will be swimming your events. If you do not Check-in, you will not be able to swim your events.Only the swimmer can check in.
Most swimmers use a permanent marker to write their event numbers on their hand or arm. This is a great reminder. Marker pens are available at the check-in table.

When check-in first opens at the start of the meet, all events are still open for “Check-in”. About 30 minutes before the start of the meet, the first few events will be closed. When an event is closed, swimmers may no longer check infor or swim that event. As the meet progresses, events are closed typically two or three events before they are to be swum.

Warm-up: It is extremely important that all swimmers at the meet warm-up together and stay near the ORCA tents. Your coach will round up all swimmers and get them in the pool for warm-up together as a team. We kindly ask parents to leave the warm-up area during warm-up so the children can focus on their coach and the coach their swimmers. Swimmers who arrive more than 10 minutes late will not be allowed to join the team warm-up.

Posted Events: After an event is closed, the Meet Secretary ranks all the checked in swimmers in order from slowest to fastest or fastest to slowest, depending on how the meet form reads, and then assigns Heats and Lanes. This information will then be posted shortly before the event on the meet boards located near the pool deck. Heat and lane assignments are typically posted about two events before the event is to be run.

Talking to your coach:

Swimmers must talk to their coach before and after every race. Before their race they need to give their coach their heat and lane assignment, and after their race they need to report the time the timers got for them. Your coach will give the swimmer valuable feedback and encouragement during this process. This is a personal time between coach and swimmer. Parents are requested to wait away from the area to allow this personal time to occur.

Showing up to swim your event: After talking to your coach, it is the swimmer’s responsibility to know what Heat and what Lane to line up in. You should also be prepared to swim. This means making sure you have your cap and goggles on. Swimmers need to pay attention to the meet and stand behind their lane at least a few heats before their heat. It is also good to double check with the lane timers to be sure you are in the right lane. If you are swimming a 25 yard event, these events are typically “STAGED” by people running the meet. After speaking with their coach, swimmers swimming 25 yard events need to be dropped off at the staging area before their event. Once the swimmer is dropped off, the parent needs to leave the staging area. Staff running the staging area will handle getting the swimmers to their lane for their appropriate heat. After dropping their swimmer off, parents can relax and find a good area to watch their young swimmer race.

Swim Meet Order: Swim meets run in order of Event number (1, 2, 3, etc.) and Heat number (1, 2, 3, etc.). Events will run in order as stated on the meet form, with each session being a continuation of the meet; the meet does not start over each session.

Meet Timeline: Regardless of the estimated timeline of the meet, the meet will run in event order without stopping. Swimmers who are not behind their block/lane when it is time to swim will miss their event. It is a swim meet rule that any swimmer who has already checked in for an event and then misses it will not be allowed to swim their next event.

Getting disqualified (DQ’d) during an event: Nearly everyone who has ever swum in competition has gotten DQ'd in an event at some point during their swimming career. Even the best swimmers in the world get disqualified on occasion. Getting disqualified can be disappointing. However, DQ’s are one of the many learning experiences which will hopefully teach the swimmer what they need to work on in practice and the next time they race. If a swimmer gets DQ’d, an Official will come to them at the end of their race with an explanation of why they got DQ’d. It is important for the swimmer to listen to this explanation so they know what they did wrong and so they can pass this information along to their coach.

Timing Chair Assignments: Volunteer timers are needed at every meet to make sure swimmers get accurate times. All parents of swimmers entered in the meet are required to spend some time fulfilling our team’s timing assignments. This timing duty is usually as simple as pushing a button at the end of each race to stop the automatic timing system. Timing chairs are located right behind the starting blocks in the best viewing area of the meet and are typically covered for shade, so these make for great seats to watch your swimmer race. Our team timing assignments are sent out by email and posted to our website prior to each meet. Typically every parent will be required to time for one hour for one of the days at the swim meet their child is entered in.

Before leaving the meet: Swimmers may only leave a meet when they have finished their last event, have swum down, and have asked their coach if they can leave. It is extremely important to speak with your coach before you leave to make sure you are not assigned to any relay events. Relays are coach entered at the meet. Therefore they typically do not appear on our entry reports. Relays are team events where four swimmers each swim one of four "legs" of the race. These are great fun for the kids, so please check with your coach to make sure you aren't in a relay before leaving. When you do leave, please be sure to leave your area clean and remove any trash or personal belongings.

Official Results: Your official times will be posted in the postings area typically two or three events after you have swum. Your times will also be listed on our website, as well as on the USA Swimming website. Complete results of the meet are also posted to the Southern California Swimming website.

Awards: Ribbons and/or medals awarded at the meet will be collected at the conclusion of the meet by one of the coaches. Within the following day or so after the meet, they are placed in each swimmers file located at our practice facility. ORCA also gives our own Best Time ribbons and pins to swimmers who improve their time on an event in which they have already established a time in. Once they receive 25, 50, 100, 200 and 300 best times, we will also give them special Best Time trophies. Please be sure to check your file for awards and other items!