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STAS Meet Volunteers

Swim Meet Jobs

Spare Time Aquatics Sharks

Welcome STAS swim parents!  You have already considered all the benefits that STAS and a USA Swim Team provide and taken the plunge!  Those benefits go well beyond training and conditioning the swimmer; they bring many benefits to the family as well.  Swim meets remove the parents from the distractions of the home and your children are not in front of the television or the computers; there is more family interaction at successful swim meets.  It is perhaps the only sport where the whole family, regardless of age and gender, can be together and have everyone "play" rather than possibly sit on the bench.

A quality USA Swim Team is a true community effort.  The team cannot be successful without consistent support from the families that enjoy the benefits.  This includes volunteering at "away" swim meets, working at home swim meets, and supporting fund raising events.

Home swim meets are our top fund raisers.  They fund the special needs of the team that help make STAS unique.  It takes many volunteers to make a meet successful.  Only once or twice a year will you be called upon to help with a meet held by our own team at our own pool.  It is work, but it is rewarding for all. 

Throughout the rest of the short and long course seasons, your swimmer will likely attend several “away” meets.  As a team, we must make our volunteer contributions to those events.  We typically need to contribute lane timers and judging officials. Although lane timers are (strictly speaking) meet officials, the job is relatively simple and involves no special instructions aside from those given at each event by the head timer.  In general, a team of our size at a typical area meet would be responsible for providing three to six timers for one to two lanes of the pool.  Depending on length and type of meet (and number of volunteers available), we strive to have each volunteer only work one “shift” (usually 1 to 2 hours, morning or afternoon). The coordination will be handled mostly via email and through our team website starting about five days prior to the meet. The volunteer coordinator keeps a print out of job assignments at the meet, but it is the responsibility of all parents to be aware of their shifts and to show up on time.

Secondly, we need to contribute judging officials.  The number we contribute is based on a formula relative to the number of swimmers from our team entered in the meet.  Frequently, we contribute more than the minimum to provide good coverage, allow for everyone to take breaks, and to cover for the many smaller teams who are not required per se to provide officials but nonetheless contribute enough swimmers to warrant the coverage.  Remember, the whole point of this activity is that your child will swim a nationally recognized race at an officially sanctioned event, observed by trained and certified swimming officials.  Thus, after you and your swimmer grow into the program, "get your feet wet," and become accustomed to the routine, we encourage you to consider becoming a swimming official.

This job does require specific training and certification.  The process for the first step in your swimming official career is to become a stroke and turn judge.  Further training and certifications include starter, deck referee, chief judge, and others.   To start the process, you will first attend a two-hour clinic and join USA Swimming as a non-swimmer.  The approximate yearly cost for this membership is $60.  The clinics are held fairly regularly by popular demand within the general area (Folsom, Sacramento Roseville, Vacaville, Stockton, etc).  Most are held in the fall (the start of short course season and the typical starting point for a year-round swimming commitment).  We anticipate sponsoring a clinic each year at our own site in the fall, but you are free to attend any sponsored clinic in our area at any other swim club.

Next you are required to complete six on-deck training sessions at regular swim meets under the guidance of selected officials working there.  During or near the completion of the deck sessions, you will also complete an online technical exam and must obtain a passing score.  You are then eligible to be a contributing volunteer at swim meets!  Please note the job also requires a specific (but not expensive) uniform (navy blue shorts, pants or skirts, white polo shirts, and white tennis shoes).

Each year thereafter, you will need to “re-up” your USA swimming membership and attend the clinic.  Every other year, you will also need to re-take the online exam (which will not be the same test; the questions change and move around).

In 2011, one more requirement was added for all swim officials (including folks like meet directors, travel chaperones, coaches, etc).  USA swimming is running a criminal background check on all such volunteers, at the expense of the volunteer.  Currently, the cost is approximately $40 for the first two years.

Richard Levin is our current meet director for home swim meets. Lee Simpson and Melissa Serrao are our parent jobs volunteer coordinators. Lee can most easily be reached by email at lsimpson@csus.edu. Melissa can be reached by email at melissa@cerraodesign.com. Both are also poolside during most evening and Saturday practices. Lee or Melissa will post all job openings on the STAS website prior to each meet. Parents need to login to the website and then sign up on a first come, first served basis for shifts. As our parent camaraderie has improved, timing at most meets has become relatively painless. Most of us check in with the timers regularly to see if breaks are needed. We truly have embraced the idea that many hands make light work!

Make sure you let either Lee or Melissa know about any swim meet experience you may have already, including officiating for a "rec" swim league, Hytek software operation, computer skills in general, Colorado starting system operation, and food service experience.


Home Meet Job Details

The following is a more detailed list of the general areas needing volunteers for a home swim meet.  This is not training material, but rather just enough information to help you decide what area might be best suited for your skills and disposition.  We have additional special documents for the procedures for the following areas below:  Clerk, Sanction, Setup/Takedown, Check-in, Awards, Colorado, and Runner.

Clerk of Course- This is the "computer" job.  Using Hytek's Meet Manager software and the Web-based application hosted by Ome.Swimconnection.Com, we will create the swim meet database, handle the online entry process, print needed reports, and most importantly operate the meet in terms of scratching, seeding, printing heat/lane assignments, results, and awards.  There are a few post-meet reports and tasks as well.  This job is good for the computer-comfortable.  It will consist of several tasks before and after the meet for which you will have several weeks to accomplish several hours of work.  During the actual meet, it becomes a very fast-paced and stressful "heads-down" job for about two-three hours per day.  Advantages include being indoors in a temperature controlled environment and sitting most of the time and the meet director will typically not ask you to do anything else.

Sanction - This is usually handled by a seasoned person to deal with the Sierra Nevada LSC committees to bid for desired meet weekends and file for sanctions for said meets as much as 18 months prior to the actual event. While there are formal external processes, most of the negotiations take place informally between long-standing folks in the swimming world. This is typically the task of the meet director or other single designated person.  We also need to work with club site staff and management when scheduling such events. Finally, we need to work the favor and friend system to gain volunteers from outside our team for the meet referee position.

Setup / Takedown - For the purposes of planning the meet and scheduling the crews, this is two separate functions, but the tasks involved can be described together.  For a meet that includes Friday evening, the setup time will be a couple of hours Friday morning (to allow time for unforeseen problems).  For a meet that only includes Saturday/Sunday, setup will be Friday late afternoon/evening (i.e. "after work").   The entire procedure is documented in written form and typically led by a single experienced parent.  What goes where and how and in what order is all written down.  This will involve walking, light lifting, some ladder climbs, laying and connecting wires and cables, setting up tables, chairs, tents, etc.  Take down occurs immediately following the final session, again orchestrated by a single person giving directions according to an established list of task order and item destination.  Especially useful for this group are folks comfortable with setting up and taking down computer and printer configurations, carefully routing fragile cabling, and correctly connecting the components of the Colorado Timing System.

Check-in- This is a meet-only job to help the swimmers sign in prior to each session, handle deck entries, handle last minute problems related to USA Registration, create event scratch lists based on check-in, and continue that loop until approximately mid-session when the final check-in deadline passes.  This job is very busy from about 90 minutes prior to start of session until about 30 minutes after start of session, with a trickle of things to do thereafter.  Based on available number of volunteers, we often ask that the check-in crew transfer over to ribbons/awards area since the collection of these tends to increase towards the end of the session/meet.  This is a good job for someone who likes to be on their feet and working directly with the young athletes with their part of the paperwork.  We normally have check-in handle collection of money for deck entries.

Awards- During the meet, especially towards the middle and end of the sessions, the awards printouts should become available from the clerk and swimmers will (at their own discretion) come to claim their awards.  This will mean finding a certain event and swimmer on sheets of printed mailing labels and applying the label to the correct award for the swimmer.  Near the end of and immediately following the session will be the busy time for this area. 

Hospitality- Consists of both pre-meet planning and procurement and during meet walking and light lifting.  This group makes sure the timers and officials get regular water, coffee, etc. delivery as well as snacks, refreshments, and possibly meals as duration of the meet dictates.

Snack Bar- Recent and renewed county enforcement of who is authorized to do food preparation for the public in temporary facilities means that this age-old job of volunteers making everything from breakfast burritos to tacos is a thing of the past.  Our general direction now is that this job will consist of effective planning and coordinating of professional food vendors to be onsite during the meet.  This can possibly involve some fund-raising on our part since many such vendors are willing to do something like pass 10% of profits onto us.  We will need a general breakfast/lunch type setup, some specialized catering for an athlete specific menu, and possibly an "order out" situation when and if we need to feed the coaches and officials (such as a sandwich shop or taco run).  

Treasurer- This is normally handled by the team treasurer, but load sharing during the meet can help.  There are several pre-meet and post-meet minor accounting tasks to handle in coordination with the RDO Club and with Swim Connection and the Sierra Nevada LSC.  Cash handling and bank deposits are part of the job during the event.  Traditionally, this person also handles the paperwork for the relays, since it involves collection of cash during the meet and tracking of teams related to that.

Officials Coordinator- As with any meet we attend as a team, this person must work with all other represented teams to ensure the presence of adequate officials and timers to run the meet.  In the case of the home meet, this job is multiplied several times over in complexity compared to an away meet where we only need to coordinate two or three of our own officials and perhaps one lane of timers.

Referee / Head Starter- Ideally, we will procure one of each of these from an outside team to increase the credibility of fairness for our home meet.  This is conducted informally between folks who are known to each other, performing mutual favors between teams, and hopefully finding teams with referees and starters with swimmers coming to our meet.  This needs to be done well in advance of the meet.

Chief Timer- More commonly (and incorrectly) known as head timer, this person is in charge of the backup timing system.  If the Colorado is working properly, the backup timing system is one manual stopwatch per lane with the chief timer running two more watches himself in case of failure in a single lane.  If the Colorado system fails completely, then the chief timer needs to have a full backup system available which is three manual stopwatches per lane as well as a second chief timer with two backup watches.  This job takes place entirely during the meet except for a pre-meet verification that we in fact have at least 28 working manual stopwatches on deck and available at the meet for the worst case scenario.

Colorado- Known in the rules as the timing equipment operator, this is usually one person who knows how to operate the Colorado console and deal with unforeseen conditions as they may occur.  They also help organize the paper trail for each event as it completes, which consists of lane timer sheets, Colorado, printout, finish judge sheets, and disqualification slips.  They are sitting at the perfect junction in relation to these sources of paper and, along with the head runner, they are in a perfect spot to ensure everything gets properly collected.   Good job for someone who  is fine with being in one place and really paying attention.  By far the best view of the races is from here and you are out of the sun and the rain.

Runner- The perfect job for someone who likes to keep moving.  These folks keep all the paper flowing on deck continuously during the meet.  It is a constant stream of distribution and collection between the clerk (computer), starter, referee, lane timers, Colorado, heat/lane posting area, check-in table, and results posting area.  This is a good job for someone who doesn't mind the weather and can work in a fluid situation and wants to get a good round of walking instead of sitting.  While this is probably the most physically taxing single job at the meet, it does come with a great benefit as well.  Once you know the rhythm and can stay caught up, you are the only person who is legitimately authorized to be anywhere on the pool deck you want to be when it is time to pause and watch your swimmer race. 

Announcer- An important job letting everyone know where we are in the meet: which event and heat is in the water now, which events are coming shortly, have been posted, have results available, as well as many other predictable and unpredictable announcements that may be needed.  This person should have a good stage presence voice and be able to talk for three hours straight without fatigue.  They do get to sit down in the shade or out of the rain, but generally do need to be outside to keep abreast of the situation.

Marshall- This small group of folks will run parking and traffic control in the early morning, then return pool side to monitor the swimmers in and around the warmup and warmdown pool area during the meet (the coaches will be present for this task during pre-session warmups).  Patrolling the locker rooms and showers is also important.  Although much of the club is taken over by the meet, we need to ensure that areas such as designated pool lanes, showers, spa, and locker rooms remain lightly used by swimmers and that club members can continue with their normal activities.  This is generally a low-key job (mostly standing or sitting and watching), but will require you to be generally away from the competition pool (so we like to have enough people to trade off in this position).   Once in awhile you will need to intervene in swimmer behavior.  The swimmers do have their coaches and parents present so anything serious is simply passed onto them.

Timer- Especially at a smaller meet like ours will probably always be, having the visiting teams reliably provide timers can be difficult.  If none of the other jobs above feel appropriate for you, you can always help by simply being a lane timer.

Director- The list would not be complete with mentioning the meet director. While this person may not have any specific duties as listed above, he or she is responsible for making sure that all the above is being correctly handled, usually by a small committee and leader for each area.  There are also some specific pre-meet and post-meet reporting requirements to and from the Sierra Nevada LSC officers and the meet referee. These are detailed in other procedures. With the possible exception of food handling, the director normally needs to have solid working knowledge of all the jobs listed above so that he or she can make an effective leader. Clear communication to and from the club management will also be needed since this is a significant event for the club in general. The director will work closely with the team coach to develop the event plan to be used at the meet. Lastly, the director needs to be versed in the US Swim rules and the Sierra Nevada rules related to governance of sanctioned meets.  Planning for an effective meet begins in earnest a few months prior and follow up jobs extend for a couple of weeks after.  In the last week before the meet, there will be a series of corrections to make regarding USS registration of enrolled swimmers and the round of emails asking about deck entry (most of whom will not actually show up). During the meet itself (if the director has done their job correctly), he or she simply wanders about mingling with guest parents, coaches, and swimmers, being a good public relations person, and gracefully handling any mishaps (especially anything related to “customer service” for the visiting teams).