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Meet information

 Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

About Being a Swim Team Parent . . . But Were Afraid to Ask

From: Carolyn Canterbury
Experienced swim-team mother of 2 year-round swimmers

Sooooo... your child has shown an interest in swimming, and you have no idea, having never been a swimmer yourself, what to look for, what to do with yourself at meets, or even what kind of bathing suit to buy for your swimmer. Well, then, jump in!

What is that thing that looks like some kind of program that I see everybody looking at and writing on?

First of all, you can always tell the novices when they ask if there are any programs for sale. These are called heat sheets. Heat sheets aren't commonly used by anyone other than coaches and officials at small summer league meets, because there aren't that many events to keep up with. However, at larger meets, one needs to have a program of sorts to keep up with the many events.

The reading of one's very first heat sheet could be compared to opening and attempting to read a Greek novel, written entirely in Greek. They usually cost $10.00, and the money made on these sheets goes to the host team. These were typed, printed and stapled by parent volunteers. They contain a listing of all participating teams, a listing of all the events on one of the first pages, lists of all event numbers, heat numbers, all swimmers in each heat along with their times, and lots and lots of ads sold to local businesses and parents supporting the swimmers, all sold by parent volunteers by the way. You will need to buy one of these upon arrival, find and mark your child's events (with a highlighter - look around - that's what everyone else is doing!) You will also need an indelible ink pen to record times on the heat sheet and (this is why an indelible ink pen) to write your swimmer's event, heat number and lane number on their hand. That way, they can more easily keep up with it.

I hope some of this information above, coming from a “parent” perspective, will help you with preparing to enter the great family sport of competitive swimming. I think you will find that the benefits of competitive swimming, both in and out of the water, will be an extremely positive and lifelong experience for you and your child as it has for so many of us that have been involved over the 40 years of the City’s Swim Team.

COME JOIN US FOR A GREAT EXPERIENCE

What should swimmers eat to perform their best?

The coach will be telling the swimmers what and when to eat, but in general, they need to load up on carbohydrates, and avoid meat and sweets before a meet. Proper eating is essential the entire week before a big meet. When tapering (easing off on training), calories should be cut back too, to prevent weight gain. Eating small portions of food often seems to work better than eating large amounts at meals. Drinking the proper amount of fluids is important as well, during this time, especially. Dehydration can leave your swimmer feeling tired and achy.

Distance swimmers need to stock up on more carbohydrates than do sprinters. It is a good idea to eat a large meal the night before a meet and go light on breakfast the next morning. During the meet, snack on foods such as pretzels, bagels, energy bars, or crackers.

Sports drinks are a must, as is a water bottle which they can fill and take to practice and to meets.

Stock up on magnesium before a big meet. Magnesium helps your body convert food into energy more efficiently. Women in a USDA study were found to consume 15 percent more oxygen while exercising when they weren't getting enough magnesium, than they did when they were eating enough. Their heartbeats were much higher as well, requiring their bodies to work harder during workouts. Some foods rich in magnesium are artichokes, avocados, baked potatoes, broccoli, flounder, halibut, spinach, and plain yogurt.

Another hint: Studies show that intense training suppresses the immune system for as many as three hours after a workout, which explains why it often happens that swimmers train for weeks for a big meet, then get sick right before it. The suppression makes them vulnerable to viruses like colds and flu. During this period of training, swimmers should get plenty of rest, take in plenty of fluids, and stock up on zinc (zinc can bolster the immune system, and is available in foods such as poultry, fish, and whole grains.)

Do we dare attempt an out-of-town meet? We haven't had a lot of experience traveling to all these places?


Out-of-town meets are a great experience for the swimmers. Meets are held all over the state of Florida, although most are only a few hours away. There is also some competition with towns in Georgia and Alabama. The coaches will send home Meet Sign-Up sheets for you to fill out on the events for which your swimmer is interested. Remember to make a copy of these sheets or record the warm-up and starting times, address of the facility, and other information you will want to remember.

These larger meets usually last two days, although some begin on Friday night for the long-distance swimmers. Hotel reservations must be made in advance, and the whole team tries to stay at the same hotel, since we get discounted group rates. You are responsible for making your own reservations, and you need to call during the day in order to speak to the designated contact person who was responsible for giving us the discounted rate. Be sure to get a confirmation number.

Most of the time we try to stay in motels that provide a continental breakfast for free. You might also want to take a cooler with food for other meals, or at least, snacks and drinks for the meet. There are concession stands at all the big meets, but you can end up spending a lot of extra money on snacks you buy there. Most swim families own a variety of different size coolers for these purposes.

Weathermen aren't always accurate (I'm sure you've noticed), but when they are and you are out in the elements you have to be prepared. Weather can change drastically in a weekend. I always take clothes for both cold and warm weather, because too many times I've been caught unprepared. Weather may be hot and steamy when you leave Tallahassee, but a sudden shower and cold front can make it much colder by the time you spend the night in Jacksonville.

Swim meets aren't called off (the expression is "called") unless lightning is spotted. Then everyone must clear the pool deck and wait for 30 minutes or so before returning to the water. This means that sometimes the meet is continuing in a pretty substantial rainfall, and there you are, with all your gear, and there is a virtual flood at your feet, and not nearly enough shelter in sight for all the spectators to hover under. It is a good idea to include a few large trash bags for such emergencies. Just stick all your belongings in them and that will help keep them dry.

During the meet some parents watch every heat of every event and memorize names and times with a religious fervor, while other use the heat sheet to determine when they need to hit the pool deck to see their child swim, and the rest of the time they are browsing through the newspaper or delving seriously into a novel, far enough away from poolside to enjoy some peace and quiet. However, most parents fall somewhere in-between the two extremes. Some swimmers thrive on their parents rooting loudly from the poolside, while others would die if you did anything to call extra attention to them. You'll have to feel this one out for yourself.

Most swimmers choose to sit with other team members near the coach, and indeed, are expected to report immediately to the coach before and after each of their heats for feedback on the swim. Others prefer to sit with the parents, but you must be conscientious about keeping up with when your swimmer needs to warm-up before their heat (or they should). The announcer will call each heat when it is time to report, and the swimmer goes to the proper lane at that time. they stretch while waiting for their heat. The timers in his lane are supposed to check to see that they have the right swimmer, but often they forget to do this, and even though the swimmer is behind the blocks, they can sometimes miss their heat. they should always check with the timer who is holding a clipboard with the heat card on it, to make certain they are in the right lane at the right time. There is nothing you can do about missed heats at a big meet. Swimmers usually have to experience missing one event before they become conscientious about keeping up with it.

After reporting to the coach after a heat, the swimmer is often encouraged to go and "warm down" if the facility has a warm-down lane or another pool for that purpose. This is also a good place to keep warm or "warm-up", so to speak, on cold days at outside facilities. These outdoor pools in use during cold weather are always nicely heated, but most winter events are held in pools either enclosed in a bubble, or a permanent structure.

What if we forget to pack a suit or goggles?


At local meets, Total Teamwares normally has a representative with a booth set up at the larger Invitational meets. Retailers usually can be found at all the out-of-town meets and occasionally there will be a good deal offered on last season's suits, which are great for practice. Other supplies are available as well.

What do the parents wear and take to the meets?


Comfort is the key word, here. Always go to meets prepared for weather changes. Wear layers of clothes, even in the summer. A change of clothes is a good idea also, since one can get quickly soaked from a sudden shower at the outdoor meets. Standard dress for summer meets is a T-shirt (show your spirit with an A.T.A.C. tee) and shorts, with either sandals (rubber flip flops are particularly popular, because of their tolerance for water soakings) or tennis shoes. This is not a "dress-up" event. Sunglasses, hats and sunscreen, of course, come in handy.

Parents usually take several of the folding canvas chairs that come with their own tote bag - one each for themselves and one for their swimmer - since not all facilities have adequate (or comfortable) seating. Pack a cooler with cold drinks and healthy "power" snacks, enough for all of you. Also, it helps to bring a clipboard and a highlighter pen to use with your heat sheet - if there is no heat sheet available be ready with some paper to record your swimmer's times. Helping your swimmer keep a record of their times helps them see the progress they've made and really encourages them!

Most swimmers choose to sit with other team members near the coach, and indeed, are expected to report immediately to the coach before and after each of their heats for feedback on the swim. Others prefer to sit with the parents, but you must be conscientious about keeping up with when your swimmer needs to warm-up before their heat (or they should). The announcer will call each heat when it is time to report, and the swimmer goes to the proper lane at that time. they stretch while waiting for their heat. The timers in his lane are supposed to check to see that they have the right swimmer, but often they forget to do this, and even though the swimmer is behind the blocks, they can sometimes miss their heat. they should always check with the timer who is holding a clipboard with the heat card on it, to make certain they are in the right lane at the right time. There is nothing you can do about missed heats at a big meet. Swimmers usually have to experience missing one event before they become conscientious about keeping up with it.

After reporting to the coach after a heat, the swimmer is often encouraged to go and "warm down" if the facility has a warm-down lane or another pool for that purpose. This is also a good place to keep warm or "warm-up", so to speak, on cold days at outside facilities. These outdoor pools in use during cold weather are always nicely heated, but most winter events are held in pools either enclosed in a bubble, or a permanent structure.

How do we prevent damaged, green hair?

Many stores now sell shampoo make for removing chlorine from the hair. Send a bottle with your swimmer, and they can shower and wash their hair after practice. Hint: If you can convince them to wet their hair with tap water before they put on their cap, it will help keep the hair from absorbing the chlorinated water. I got this tip from a beautician and shared it with my own daughter, who was eight at the time. It was about 3 or 4 months later that I realized that she was religiously wetting her hair as I requested, but she was wetting it with pool water! She hadn't quite grasped the part about why she should be wetting it before she put on her cap.

Practice, Practice, Practice! Don't they ever have meets?
League meets are usually held on Tuesday afternoons (summer) and on Saturdays during the rest of the year. Local meets usually last only a couple of hours. Before the meet starts, there is always a warm-up session that begins about an hour before.

How do we take care of our gear?


Since chlorine is very damaging to suits, and since they are rather expensive to replace, you will see swimmers wearing faded suits (usually more than one at a time) that are not much more than tatters. They usually just attempt to keep holes from overlapping and revealing patches of flesh in strategic places. It's amazing how long they are able to make these rags last. (Hint: Never throw away a pile of indistinguishable rags found in a heap on the bathroom floor without first asking permission!)

Rinsing off the chlorine from both the caps and suits after each practice will make them last a lot longer - as will powdering the swim cap with baby powder. Latex caps tend to disintegrate rapidly without this powdering. This is a duty you need to train your swimmer to do early on, as is the rinsing and hanging up of the suit itself.

How much is it going to cost me?


U.S. Swimming registration is required for all swim-meet participants. They can't swim in a U.S.S. sanctioned meet until they are registered. The registration is good for one year and costs $58. They may, however, swim in the Summer League by registering and paying only $35.00 as a special summer registration fee. This registration is an insurance policy for your swimmer. It provides coverage for any accidents that might happen at a meet. The coach will provide you with the proper form to fill out.

That, however, is only the beginning. Let's be practical about this, though. You are investing in the future of your child. I can promise you, if you keep your child swimming through high school, and are blessed enough to end up with a dedicated team member, then your child won't have time for drugs, hanging out at the mall and getting into trouble, and won't even be upset about missing a major party because of an out-of-town swim meet. This is because he/she will be a part of a group of kids just like them, who are also dedicated swimmers, and who are as close as brothers and sisters. They work hard, but they find ways to have fun that may be a little different than what appeals to those who don't have such structured lives. Breakfast at Quincy's breakfast after a Saturday morning practice is a major social event, as is ordering out pizza and renting a movie together at a swimmer's home. I assure you, the time and money you invest in it will pay off!

Now that I've convinced you of the value of your investment, I'll return to the question at hand - - What else do we spend money on? Team suits are usually around $42.95 for girls, and somewhat less for boys ($25.95), but practice suits can be found on sale for as little as $16.95m/$35.95f sometimes. Pool shoes are usually around 415.00 to $20.00 and goggles range from $7.00 up to $25.00. Team caps are $3.00. Long thermal coats (not required) are around $80.00 to $100.00, but last many years. Buy it big.

Dues to swim with A.T.A.C. vary according to the number of swimmers from each family and what “group” they have been assigned to. You can take a look at the "Fees and Billing" page for the year-round fees. League fees are $175.00 and covers aprox. 10 weeks.

For swim-meets, each event usually costs $2.00 to $3.00 per event and may include a nominal registration fee (it varies according to what team is hosting the meet). The number of events your child may swim will be limited to from three to five per day, and that is not counting relays (relays are paid for by the team). There is no charge for admittance to meets, but the heat sheets (a program of the swimming events) are usually around $5.00 to $10.00 at the larger meets - and you really do need a heat sheet in order to keep up with when your child will be swimming (and they will have to know in order to be warmed up and ready to race on time). Final times from each event are always posted on a designated wall at the meet, and you should check for your swimmer's time and record it for future reference. People record these "official times" right on the heat sheet or in a record book meant for that purpose, depending on their preferences.

Towels can sometimes be used a second time if they are hung up promptly to dry. Otherwise they will sour rapidly. One experience with a sour towel, and you won't be so careless again!

It is a good idea to label all articles associated with swimming (with permanent pen), in order to help your swimmer keep up with his possessions. It is also wise to invest in a bag to carry all their gear in. Again, most swimmers choose bags made specifically for swimmers, such as Speedo and TYR. The same type of bag can be purchased in the camping department of WalMart for a cheaper price.

You will need to sign up your swimmer before the meet. The coach will let you know what day - it usually is on the Friday or Monday before. Each swimmer can swim three events of their choice, with the advice of the coach, and will usually swim in at least one relay, which will be decided by the coach. Ribbons are given for each place. (Swimmers with A times are not allowed to participate in these events, so the novices have a great chance of feeling good about their swims, since competition is limited to others who are beginners also.) At the end of the Summer season, there is a championship meet among all the team in the North Florida area meeting the requirements (no ‘A” times). This is a longer meet, and results are even posted in the sports section of the Tallahassee Democrat.

For the year-round swimmers, local meets are held periodically at either Myers Park or Trousdell Aquatic Center. A.T.A.C. usually hosts these, and they offer a great opportunity to get better times for events and are great practice for the big events. The big meets, hosted by A.T.A.C. and in-town, last three days, usually with split sessions. This means that the younger swimmers will swim in the morning and older swimmers will swim in the afternoon, or vice versa. Your child will swim against others about his own age (within 2 years) and in "heats" with people of comparable ability.

You can help to keep your child attentive to their upcoming events and make them responsible for getting to the right lane at the right time - it is not productive to let the kids depend on the coaches to do this (unless they are young and their coach takes that initiative). Also encourage your swimmer to go talk to their coach before and after they swim a meet event, to get important feedback from their coach. Also, gradually begin to allow your swimmer to pack their own belongings for the meet. This is a wonderful tool for teaching pre-planning and organization skills, (2 skills that I, as a middle school teacher, greatly value and always see in swimmers who come through my classes). My own child has been packing her own bag since she was eight, and rarely does she forget anything for the meet. In fact, she prefers that I keep hands off!

Girls, especially, will need a good swim cap.

It might be hard to convince very young swimmers that these are necessary, but be persistent, as will their coach, because it will make their performance more effective in the long run (and offer some protection to their hair). Even many male swimmers wear caps. They will have the team logo on them and be the team colors. The team suit and cap are essential to distinguishing the members of a team (Team suits and caps are purchased through Total Teamwares). For practice, many swimmers opt for caps that reflect their own style. Silicon caps are much sturdier, require less maintenance, and last much longer, but are a lot more expensive than the latex ones. (There is an art to putting on caps, and your swimmer will quickly catch on.)

A good pair of "flip-flops" will come in handy for slipping on after practice. Most swimmers choose one of the different styles made by Speedo. They will last a long time and can be passed down to other swimmers as your swimmer outgrows them.


Do they need special equipment?


In the beginning, they will have access to some team equipment, such as kick-boards and buoys. As they progress in their swimming, they will eventually need their own. Hand-paddles and fins will also be required as they move up. A mesh bag, to keep all this together, is a must!

Loose fitting
Keep in mind that suits become looser when wet, and the more seasoned and serious swimmers can be seen wearing more than one suit at a time, for "drag" in the water, as they put it. Some even wear footless pantyhose for drag. Be sure that the "team" suit, used for competitions, fits tightly. Loose suits create too much drag in the water and will slow your swimmer down.

What does the well-dressed swimmer wear?

 

For practice, your swimmer will need a good quality sports suit, such as a Speedo or a TYR-brand. These can usually be purchased at a local sporting goods store or from our equipment sponsor, Total Teamwares . They are very responsive in sending out equipment. Practice suits can be more.

A good pair of goggles is a must.
The "pros" prefer Swedish goggles, but whatever is a comfortable fit for your swimmer will do. Never buy a new pair to wear to a meet (if you can help it), because the swimmer usually needs some practice time for adjusting the straps to fit them, so that they will not come off when they dive in.

Do you have a place for my child to swim for fun, (just when the weather is nice and you need to get him out of the house for a little exercise) - and can he really "get into this thing"?

Dedicated swimmers swim year round. Many of these swimmers started out as Summer League swimmers with very little swimming experience. In Summer League (or Fall/Winter/Spring Leagues), swimmers can participate for the fun of being with others and for the occasional low-key competition. Others decide that they are willing to work hard and become dedicated swimmers, and make swimming a life long sport. Others fall somewhere in-between these extremes and can participate year-round on the days they choose and for the meets they choose. Whatever the case, swimming allows for the individual who wants/needs to go their own pace, without the pressure to perform usually imposed on members of a sports team.

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