That first meet can be a little intimidating to swimmers—and their parents. Where do you go? How do you even find out where to go? What do you do? This guide is meant to allay those fears.
Tip: To help your swimmer have a good experience at that first swim meet, ask the coach to match you with a parent who is experienced with meets and whose swimmer can guide yours.
Who should swim meets?
What is a C/B/A+ meet?
How much does it cost to enter a meet?
How will I find information about an upcoming meet?
How long is a meet?
What do I need to bring to a meet?
How do meets work?
Where do we sit, and what do we do while we wait?
What happens if my swimmer gets disqualified?
Who gets ribbons and medals?
Q Who should swim meets?
A Typically, coaches like to see Piranha-level swimmers start to swim meets hosted by other teams. However, if you have an interested Tadpole, talk to your coach. LAMVAC home meets (the Red and Black meet, March Madness and Mayhem) are a great opportunity for swimmers of all levels. You don’t have to sign up for all of the meets on the meet sheet; pick the ones that work best for your schedule. You can also choose to swim only one day if you have a schedule conflict. You can let your coach know if you’d like to sign up for a meet as it approaches. But be aware that meets fill up, and registration deadlines are usually several weeks before each meet.
Q What is a C/B/A+ meet?
A C/B/A+ meets are standard, entry-level meets where swimmers are typically not required to have a time to swim an event. The “C,” “B,” or “A+” refers to the time division. Swimmers might start with a “C” time and, as they get faster, work their way up to the “A” division. Qualifying meets such as 10 & Under Championships, Junior Olympics, and Far Westerns require a minimum time to enter the meet.
Q How much does it cost to enter a meet?
A Most meets have a registration fee plus a per-event fee, and that information is available on the meet sheet provided by the hosting team. A typical meet might have an $8 registration fee, and a $4/event fee. Meet fees are separate from monthly fees for lessons/coaching. Once you indicate that you’d like to participate in a meet, your coach will give a meet roster to the treasurer, who will charge your account the appropriate meet fees. Please note that if you commit to a meet and then do not attend, you will still be charged.
Q How will I find information about an upcoming meet?
A Meet sheets (official information about each meet containing location, times, etc.) along with any other pertinent information are emailed to all registered swimmers a week or so prior to the meet. You often can download the meet sheets from the LAMVAC website. Click on the Meets tab on the home page and scroll down for your meet; meets are listed in chronological order. Meet sheets are also available on the Pacific Swimming website (pacswim.org) under the Meets tab.
Q How long is a meet?
A Meets are typically divided into two sessions: morning and afternoon, and the sessions are divided by age groups. A typical morning session would start warmup around 7:15 am and finish around noon. A typical afternoon session would start warm-up around 12:15 p.m. and finish around 4 to 5 p.m. Details for each meet are included in the meet sheet. Many swimmers stay for the whole meet and help out for the longer races, when the competitors must provide their own counters and/or timers. But unless the LAMVAC coach tells you otherwise, the swimmer may leave after the swimmer’s last event. Just be sure to check in with your coach, first!
Q What do I need to bring to a meet?
A Your swimmer should come to the meet wearing his or her swimsuit. You should bring the following:
- a cap (a spare cap is a good idea)
- a water bottle
- towels (many swimmers bring a fresh towel for each event, plus one for the warm-up, so a "towel bag" comes in handy)
It's also a good idea to bring the following:
- a change of clothes
- warm clothing for chilly outdoor meets
- a swim parka (a long, warm coat to keep your swimmer dry and warm during the wait for the next events)
- healthy snacks for your swimmer to refuel throughout their session (although most meets have a snack bar for food purchases)
- things to do to fill the time between events
- a folding chair (swimmers typically sit together behind the coaches under the LAMVAC canopy)
- additional folding chairs or a blanket for any spectators (many meets are on high school or college campuses with limited seating)
- a collapsible wagon, if you find that your family is hauling a lot of stuff to every meet
Q How do meets work?
A When you arrive, you must first check in. Your swimmer should find his or her name at the appropriate check-in table. Each swimmer must circle each event number that s/he intends to swim and then initial next to the swimmer’s name. If this process is incomplete, your swimmer might be scratched from an event and disqualified. Many swimmers choose to write their event numbers in permanent marker on their forearm so as not to forget them. As your event approaches, the heat and lane schedule will be posted on a nearby wall or easel. This is a list of swimmers in each heat of the event, along with the lane they are swimming. Swimmers report this information to their coach. Parents can also consult this list, so they don’t miss their child’s swim.
Some meets—including the two meets LAMVAC hosts annually—use Meet Mobile, an app you can download from the Apple App Store or Google Play that will update events and heat and lane information throughout a meet. (Heat and lane listings are generally free of charge; results are available for a fee.) Or a meet might post a URL with live updates. If your child is swimming his or her first meet, be sure the coach knows. The coach will pair your swimmer with a seasoned swimmer who knows the ropes.
Q Where do we sit, and what do we do while we wait?
A The swimmers typically sit together, either with the coaches under the LAMVAC canopy, or under another, nearby team canopy. LAMVAC swimmers are supportive, and you will often hear cries of encouragement from swimmers when your swimmer is in the water.
Parents can sit near their swimmers, although space directly behind the coaches is limited to swimmers. Swim meets are very social events, and the kids have fun hanging out between events. You can bring books, card games, electronics or whatever will keep everyone happy, as you pass the time. Team parents often have a gathering spot and can socialize, or, if seating is limited, you can find quiet spot to read or hang out.
A great way for parents to pass the time is to sign up as timers. Experienced parents can quickly show you what to do, and it’s a good way to earn your service hours. Also, you have a front-row seat from which to watch your swimmer’s event.
Q What happens if my swimmer gets disqualified?
A Disqualifications, or “DQs” happen often with swimmers of all levels, and your swimmer should try to learn what went wrong, fix it for the next time and not take it to heart. DQs are given for such reasons as false starts, incorrect strokes or turns and incomplete laps. If your swimmer gets disqualified, he or she will receive a DQ slip from his or her coach (written up by an official) explaining the reason. DQs result in no time or placement for that specific event.
Q Who gets ribbons and medals?
A Awards are typically given for first through eighth places in each time division, for each age group, for both boys and girls. Age groups are 8 & Under (sometimes there is also a separate 6 & Under category), 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, and 15+. Placement is determined by time recorded for the swim. Medals are given for the first “A” time achieved in each event.
Meets are a great way for swimmers to apply all of their training and put their countless hours of practice to use! Swimmers benefit tremendously from the peer support, competition and pride of accomplishment that meets offer. Sign up your swimmers. They'll have a blast!