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Swim Meet Basics

Swim Meet Basics

- Please be sure to check with your swimmer’s coach for specifics that may be different from the examples below.


Swim meets are a great family experience. They're a place where the whole family can spend time together.


Listed below are some guidelines geared to help you through your first couple of swim meets. It may seem a little overwhelming, but we tried to be as specific and as detailed as we possibly could. If you have any questions, please ask your coach.



  1. Arrive at the pool at least 15 minutes before the scheduled warm-up time begins. This time will be listed on the website on the meet event page.
  2. Upon arrival, find a place to put your swimmer's belongings. The team usually sits in one place together, so look for some familiar faces. At some meets there is room on deck for the athletes to sit together and at other meets we end up spread out. When it is possible we would like the swimmers to sit together.
  3. Make sure your swimmer checks in with his/her coach. Usually, parents are not allowed on deck so this will be the responsibility of your swimmer. 
    • Check-in is required at some meets (not usually in Colorado though...just for the 500 free and Mile typically) so that the people running the meet know who is actually at the meet. After check-in, the meet administrators "seed" the swimmers into heats. Heat and lane assignments will be posted and given to coaches before those events.
    •  You and your swimmer can find heat and lane assignments for all other events by purchasing a program.
  4. Use your program to find the heat and lane assignments, write or have the swimmers write each event-number and his or her heat and lane on his or her hand in ink. This helps him/her remember what events he/she is swimming and what event number to listen or watch for. Most parents bring a pen to write this information on your swimmer's hand or arm. You should look ahead of time on Team Unify to find out which races your child is in so you don't miss any in the meet program. If you are unsure how to do this just ask any other team parent and they can show you. 
  5. Your swimmer now gets his/her cap and goggles and reports to the pool and/or coach for warm-up instructions. It is very important for all swimmers to warm-up with the team. A swimmer's body needs to warm up.
  6. After warm-up, your swimmer will go back to the area where his/her team is sitting and wait there until his or her first event. This is a good time to make sure he/she goes to the bathroom if necessary, gets a drink, or just gets settled in. 
  7. The meet will usually start about 10 minutes after warm-ups are over.
  8. According to USA Swimming rules (because of insurance purposes), parents are not allowed on deck unless they are serving in an official capacity. Similarly, all questions concerning meet results, an officiating call, or the conduct of a meet, should be referred to a coach. If a coach has a question on an official's call he/she will take care of that. Coaches only question a call when they do not agree. Most of the time calls are not questioned.  
  9.  Heat Sheets. A program or heat sheet is usually available for sale in the lobby or concession area of the pool. It lists all swimmers in each event and their heats and lanes. When the team entry is sent in, each swimmer and his/her previous best time (up to the date that the entry was submitted) in that event is listed. If the swimmer is swimming an event for the first time, he/she will be entered as a "no-time" or "NT". A "no-time" swimmer will most likely swim in one of the first heats of the event. At some meets coaches will make up an entry time that they feel the swimmer can achieve so the timelines are more accurate for the meet host. 


  1. It is important for swimmers to know what event numbers he/she is swimming (again, why they should have the numbers on their hand). He/she may swim right away after warm-up or they may have to wait awhile. Swimmers report to their coach prior to swimming. They should report at least 15 minutes or so before their race. Coaches will give some tips and encouragement prior to the race.
  2. Most meets are computerized. There is usually an electronic scoreboard that shows what event the meet is currently running.
    • A swimmer usually reports directly to his/her lane for competition a number of heats before he/she actually swims. Check with your swimmer's coach for specific instructions.
  3. The swimmer swims his or her race.
  4. After each swim:
    • He/she is to ask the timers (people behind the blocks at each lane) his/her time. At most meets it will be displayed on the board, but sometimes with newer swimmers they do not hit the pad hard enough or correctly and the display time will be incorrect. There are at least 3 back up times so the swimmer will get a correct time. 
    • Depending on the coaches instructions, the swimmer may be asked to do some recovery swimming if a "warm down" pool or lanes are available.
    • The swimmer should then go immediately to his or her coach. The coach will discuss the swim with each swimmer. Some coaches may wish to talk with the swimmer before her recovery swim (especially younger swimmers).
  5. Generally, the coach follows these guidelines when discussing swims:
    • Positive comments or praise
    • Suggestions for improvement
    • Positive comments
  6. Things you, as a parent, can do after each swim:
    • Tell him how great he did! The coaching staff will be sure to discuss stroke technique with him. You need to tell him how proud you are and what a great job he did. Remember effort is the most important ingredient for success long term. A lot of swims will not be best times, but they can still be great swims for other reasons.
    • Take him back to the team area and relax.
    • This is another good time to check out the bathrooms, get a drink or something light to eat.
  7. The swimmer now waits until his next event and starts the procedure again. When a swimmer has completed all of her events she and her parents get to go home unless the coach has asked your child to stay for any reason (sometimes other swimmers need a counter for the 500, 1000 or mile)
  8. Results are usually posted somewhere in the facility. Awards are often gathered for a team and given to the coach at the end of the meet and sometimes at a later date. The coach will give the awards to the swimmers at practice after they receive them. Awards are usually only for the Top 8 and there can be meets with 60-70 swimmers per event so do not place too much emphasis on the awards with your child.