Meet Info

Swim Meet Basics For Parents

Ideas to help you and your child be better prepared and happier at Swim Meets
By John Leonard, ASCA Director

1.  Be on time.  On time means 15 minutes before warmup begins.

2.  Parents should sit together for team unity.  Bring folding chairs if the host team allows.  Bring drinks and snacks if the facility allows.  Let the swimmers be with the swimmers.  They don’t want to be with you in most cases.  They want to be with their friends.

3.   Encourage your child to get immediately to the coach for warmup.  (See below about warmups.)

4.   Be a parent.  Help them keep track of heats, events, etc. by helping them write their race information on their arms or legs.  But remember that the main idea is to teach them to handle the environment of a swim meet themselves.  This helps them “grow up.”  It’s never too early....

5.  Cheer for other people’s children on the team. Don’t embarrass your own by standing behind their blocks or up in the stands screaming. Let other parents scream for your child.

6.  Let the coach coach, so you can parent.

7.  Sometimes a child will miss an event. This happens; it’s a learning experience.  Don’t freak out.  Don’t handhold them to the next event.

8.  Sometimes a swimmer DQ’s for swimming an event incorrectly.  Do not address the official.  Ask the coach what they did wrong after the meet is over if the coach did not aleady do so.  Make sure the swimmer understands how to do it correctly.  End of story.  It IS NOT a big deal. Learn from it.

9.  The child should have a goal for every swim.  Sometimes a time, sometimes a technique. Ask what their goal is.  Don’t help set it.  That’s for the coach and swimmer.

10.  The coach will likely speak to your child before or after the event.  The “before” is to remind them of their goals and needs, and the “after” is to review the successes and weak spots of the swim. Great feedback is great coaching.

12.  Make sure they drink in hot weather.  Drink in all weather.  Water, Gatorade, etc.  NO SUGAR.  NO CANDY.  NO SUGAR,  NO CANDY.

13.  If you have an important question, ask the Coach.  Try to do it when the Coach is not doing 12 other things or during a meet.  Get real answers. 

14.  When the meet is over, the meet is over. Forget it on the way home.  Help the swimmer remember the lessons for the next time, but don’t dwell on the meet. Meet over....move!

15.  Most coaches will say “it’s not about winning, it’s about improvement.”  Know what is being improved, and measure it and help your child focus on the process and not “just” the result.  What does it take to go faster?

16.  Keep it light.  Have a sense of humor.  An age group swim meet, taken at face value, is a pretty silly thing.....don’t overplay the “importance” of it’s just an opportunity to test what you’ve been learning in practice. We repeat experiences that are enjoyable and avoid experiences that are not.

There are thousands of other ideas to add to this list. This is “just the basics." Add to your own list.


What is Warmup?

Warmup is what happens before a competition. Its purpose is several:


1.  Literally warm and lubricate the muscles for action.

2.  Increase the heart rate in preparation for race action.

3.  Getting in touch with your feel for the water and ability to swim the strokes correctly.


1.  Get into focus. We’re at a swim meet to compete.

2.  Get rid of distractions.

3.  Focus on process and good technical swimming.

4.  Prepare to race.

Most warmups at most meets are crowded and appear chaotic. Typically the coach will put all swimmers in one or two lanes, together:

  • The swimmers will do an easy swim. (“easy 300 free”)
  • Then some gentle kicking.
  • Then some drills....(“200 IM Drill”)
  • Then a “start your heart” set...(“8 x 50 free, descend 1-4, 5-8”)
  • Then some pace work relating to the specific event....
  • And a little more easy or pace swimming for the older kids).
  • Warmups can vary from Senior Swimmers who take up to an hour, to eight and unders, who can warmup in 20 minutes in some cases. 

In every case, it’s important to be ON TIME. On time means 15 minutes before warmup begins. This allows time for the physical and the mental work to be done. The coach will commonly hold a short meeting to make sure all swimmers are accounted for, organized, know their events, and get last minute reminders.

Being LATE to warmup means  your child will be inadequately prepared for their competition.  Not a good thing.  You ask them and the coach asks them, to work hard to learn in practice every day.  Then the day of the meet, you do things incorrectly. What does that teach the child? 

Be On Time, Do Things Correctly.  Have a Great Meet!