Partners & Links
Guide to Swim Meets

Guide to Swim Meets

Read on to learn everything you need to know about registering for and attending swim meets.  Also, watch your email for pre-meet, event-specific information from coaches throughout the season.

Quick links:

Meet Registration

Minnetonka Swim Club determines the meets to attend near the beginning of each season (short course and long course); these may change slightly throughout the season. 

Meet Registration Policy - We have a reverse signup policy. Athletes must decline prior to the deadline if they do not wish to compete in a meet.  Athletes who are committed or have not declined will be entered in the meet, pending their eligibility or allotted space. As soon as you know that you will or will not be attending a meet, please go in and accept or decline for your athlete to avoid this automatic entry process. 
  • Every meet has a registration deadline; all registrations are handled via the website.
  • ‚ÄčEntries will be sent out the day after the meet closes for review or edits. If your athlete was entered and you do not wish to attend, this is the only window in which you have to get them removed.  After this time, you will be responsible for fees incurred from the meet.
  • As a coaching staff, we will have the final say in the events that the athletes are entered in but the staff is always open to suggestions from athletes.
  • Expectations for meets may vary slightly for each training group but attending at least one meet per month and attending the highest level championship meet in which athletes qualify for is the general expectation.  The group lead coaches may suggest idea meets to attend during the season; if the coach does not, don’t hesitate to ask your coach the races in which your swimmer should be competing. 

‚ÄčEvery meet has an Event Page that provides details including host team, meet type, location, timeline, awards, entry limits, amenities, fees, registration deadline and hotel information for away meets. A few days before the meet, PDFs will be posted at the bottom of the Event page:

  • Entries - if something is incorrect, please contact your group lead coach to see if changes may be made.  Once Final Entries are posted (usually 10 days prior to the meet start), the meet is set and no more edits can be made. 
  • Relays - These may be posted separate from the individual entries.  It is important that you review the entries to see if your swimmer is on a relay to show up on time to avoid redoing them at the meet.
  • Timelines - Confirm warm-up times and race times so you know when your swimmer needs to be at the pool and approximately when he/she will be racing.
  • Heat Sheets - Often times the meet program is share with the families prior to the start of the meet.  At some meets, this will be purchased as you arrive at the meet.
  • Psych Sheets - Some meets will have a psych sheet, indicating how your swimmer is seeded when compared to everyone else in the race.

Back to Top

Why Swim in a Meet?

  • It’s the culmination of the hours of hard work put in at practice
  • Provides proof of improvement
  • Helps swimmers learn to face challenges
  • Helps build a team
  • It’s fun!

Back to Top

Types of Meets

There are several levels and types of meets.

Meets are conducted in school and community pools and can last from one to four days.  Our Club attends “sanctioned” meets that are sponsored by USA Swimming clubs and are run according to the rules established by USA Swimming and Minnesota Swimming, Inc. (MSI).

Typically spectators do not pay an entrance fee at a local meet (although some invitationals and all zone and above meets will have spectator fees).  There are costs associated with registration:

  • Meet entrance fee, plus a per race fee
  • Parking (at some pools)
  • Transportation
  • Meet programs (optional)
  • Event T-shirts (sold at some meets; optional)
Meet level
Who attends?
Olympic Trials Swimmers who achieve an Olympic Trial time. The highest national-level meet. Held every four years.
National /
Jr. National Championship
Swimmers who have achieved a qualifying time standard for one or more events. One of the highest levels of competitive swimming; swimmers are chosen for national teams from the National meet level.
Sectional Championship Time standards vary for the spring and summer meets. We most often attend when Speedo Sectionals are held at the University of Minnesota.
Zone Championships Swimmers who have achieved a Zone time. These times are equal to the NAG AAA times. Swimmers represent and compete for Team Minnesota. USA Swimming divides the country into four Zones – Eastern, Western, Central and Southern – and each of these Zones holds at least one Zone Championship each summer.
State Championships Swimmers who have achieved a "Champ" time. These times are unique to MN. State meets are held once at the end of the Short Course season and once at the end of the Long Course season.
Regional Championships Swimmers who have achieved a A/BB/B times. These times are based off the NAG time standards. Regionals are held once at the end of the  Short Course season and once at the end of the Long Course season.
Achievement Championships Swimmers who have an established time but have not yet achieved a B time. Achievements are held once at the end of the Short Course season and once at the end of the Long Course season.
A+ Meets Swimmers who have achieved a A time and higher. A regular season meet.
ABC Open Meets All abilities levels are welcome. These meets are great for the whole team to attend.
BC Novice Meets Swimmers who have achieved a B time and lower; there are also no minimum time standards for this type of meet. This type of meet is great for beginners or athletes trying new events.
Invitational Ability levels vary. A regular season meet that include multiple invited clubs.
Intrasquad All swimmers invited. Includes swimmers from our team only.

At the Olympic Trials, Nationals, Sectionals, and Grand Prix meets, all swimmers compete against each other.  At the local/state/zone level, swimmers compete by age group and by skill level.

The age groups are divided in the following categories for boys and girls:
  • 8 & Under
  • 9-10
  • 11-12
  • 13-14
  • 15-16
  • 17 and Over (Seniors)

Back to Top

Time Standards

Age group meets are designated A, B, C, with the "time standard" for entry being the differentiating factor.  A swimmer qualifies for meets based on how fast he/she swims.  If you have questions about your swimmer’s qualifying times, ask your coach.  At a swimmer’s first meet, he or she may be registered with No Time (NT); after your swimmer races, his/her best time achieved in each race becomes the qualifying time—or the seed time—for every meet thereafter until he/she achieves a new “best time” in that race.

Qualifying times are by individual race.  For example, a swimmer who has an A time in the 50 Breaststroke but a B time in the 50 Free can swim his/her 50 Breaststroke at an “A” meet, but can only swim the 50 Free at a “B” meet (including an A/B meet or a B/C meet), or an invitational that allows all times to compete.

If your team is the meet host, your swimmers may be allowed to swim beyond their level—that is, a swimmer who has achieved a “B” time may swim that race at an “A” meet hosted by his/her club, with the coach’s permission.  This does not apply to championship meets.

Finally, if your swimmer achieves a time in a short course race, he/she can swim that time as a converted time in a long course race and vice versa (e.g. an “A” time in the 50-yard Free race achieved on the short course can convert to an “A” time in the 50-meter Free to be swam for a long course race).  Registrations on our website will allow swimmers to sign up using the off-season time when applicable.

Back to Top

What to Bring to a Meet—Swimmers

  • Your team suit, cap, 3 pack t-shirt and other team apparel  -  It is a good idea to have two pairs of goggles and two caps.
  • Extra clothes  -  Since it can be chilly at some pools—especially at outdoor meets during the summer; bring sweats, warmup jacket and pants, parka, crocs or flip flops for on deck, etc.  Also have two or three towels, since you’ll be in and out of the pool several times.
  • Food  -  Although there often is a concession at the meet that offers food and drinks, it is a good idea to pack some nutritional snacks like granola bars, fruit snacks, yogurt, fruit, cereal, bagels, and non-carbonated drinks.  Don't forget your water bottle.  It is particularly hard to stay hydrated in a pool environment, so bringing water is extremely important for everyone.
  • Activities  -  At some meets there can be a lot of time between events.  Bring things to pass time: i.e. schoolwork, travel games, coloring books, books, magazines, iPod, etc.

Back to Top

What to Bring to a MeetParents

  • Your swimmer!  -  Each family is responsible for their own arrangements and transportation costs; consider carpooling to get swimmers to warm-ups on time.
  • A meet program  -  Programs may be purchased at most meets; for our intrasquads, we put the programs online and you can print them before you come.  Highlighters, pens, and Sharpies are helpful.
  • Comfortable clothes  -  Indoor pools are heated; so is the air around the pool.  Dress in layers to stay comfortable.
  • Seating (some meets)  -  Most pools don’t have much spectator room, so get there early and be prepared to exit to hallways or a gym in between your swimmer’s races.  Some pools may let you bring a chair or bench seat…most bleachers are concrete and hard to sit on for three to four hours.  Sometimes, it's good to bring blankets or mats for the swimmers/siblings to sit/lie on.
  • Folding lawn chairs, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and water bottles. (Outdoor meets)

Back to Top

The Day of the Meet

Your swimmer should get a good night’s sleep, eat a nutritious breakfast, and bring healthy snacks to the meet.

Arrive early so your swimmer can check in with his/her coach 10 to 15 minutes before warm-up. 

  • Warm-ups typically last 50 minutes before the first race.
  • Teams are generally assigned lanes and times for their warm-up sessions. 

Coaches will arrange a place where the swimmers can sit together as a team; wearing the team’s shirt helps identify our swimmers.  Swimmers should bring their bags with them when they check in with their coach, and will leave it in the swimmer's seating area.  After warm ups is a good time to have your swimmer come to you so you can mark their arms with their race information (event, heat, lane, stroke).  A Sharpie is good for doing this. 

Meets are often pre-seeded, so the program lists the swimmers by event (the stroke/distance), heat (the grouping of swimmers), and lane (the specific lane in which your swimmer is expected to race for that event).  You can keep track of your swimmer's and their friends' performances. 

Please note: Parents are not allowed on deck at meets, so make sure your swimmer knows where you will be sitting.  Usually, there are separate seating areas for spectators (bleachers).  Some venues allow spectators to have folding chairs. 

Back to Top

The Race

The coaches will direct swimmers to the blocks prior to their races.  It’s important they be on deck in the team area 20-30 minutes before their race.  If they miss their heat, they won't be allowed to swim in that event.  However, our coaches will help to get them into another heat when possible.

If swimmers violate a rule, they will be disqualified (DQ'd).  Everyone gets DQ’d at times—even experienced swimmers.  For younger swimmers, you should view the DQ as constructive criticism to help them learn to swim legally.  It identifies for the swimmer and his/her coach an area that needs to be worked on and improved.

During the swim, cheer for your swimmer (and their friends) and encourage the swimmer to cheer for teammates!  Good sportsmanship starts with you.  Remember that improvement and personal accomplishments are more important than winning.  When a swimmer swims poorly, continue to focus on the positive things that happened in a race.  It’s okay if a swimmer negatively evaluates a performance; just don’t dwell on it—think about improvement, and focus on fun.

When a swimmer has completed all of his/her events, the swimmer and his/her parents get to go home.  As a parent, praise your swimmer and his/her effort.  But remember, let the coaches coach! 

Back to Top

What Disqualifies (DQs) a Swimmer?

False start

  • If the swimmer jumps the start or moves forward once the starter has said, “take your mark” but before the actual start, he/she “false starts” and will be taken out of the race. 

The strokes

  • Freestyle:  Walking on the bottom, pulling on the lane rope, or not completing the distance.
  • Backstroke:  Swimmers have to be on their backs when they touch the wall and push off; they cannot pull/kick the wall once they have passed the vertical onto the breast.
  • Swimmers must finish on their backs, and cannot turn onto the breast before touching the wall with the hand.
  • Breaststroke:  An illegal kick such as flutter (freestyle), dolphin (butterfly) or scissors (sidestroke); not being on the breast; alternating movements of the arms; taking two arm strokes or two leg kicks while the head is under water; touching with only one hand at the turns or finish.
  • Butterfly:  Alternating movements of the arms or legs; pushing the arms forward under instead of over the water surface (underwater recovery); a breaststroke style of kick; and touching with only one hand at the turns or finish instead of touching simultaneously with both hands.

Back to Top

Relay Policy

At any/all swim meets, the final relay order, athlete list, stroke assignments, etc. will be based on coaches’ discretion. It is the intention of the coaching staff to put together the fastest and most competitive relays possible on any given day/session/meet. The coaching staff will consider any number of times, including times from that day of racing, to decide upon the final relay order/assignments/etc. Notification of relays to families and athletes will be done as quickly as possible and in an appropriate manner. If there are any questions regarding relays, have your athlete connect with the coaching staff.

Back to Top

Travel Meet Room Policy

As a club we do not take “roommate requests” for travel meets. The coaching staff works very hard to make sure that all of the athletes are with athletes whom they know and can relate to, and possibly even train with every day. The coaching staff is very cognizant of making sure that all teammates are getting to know each other and that everyone is included in group activities and/or leisure time while traveling. 

Please do share information with a coach about your athlete in regards to the following items; allergies, sleep conditions, medical conditions, specific needs, medications, etc. 

Back to Top

Meet Awards

There are different awards that may be made available at swim meets.  Additionally, some meets give out “best time” straight ribbons each time a swimmer achieves a new best time.  The awards for each meet are listed on the EVENT Page for that meet on our Web site.

  • Place awards
    • Given to the fastest swimmers in an event by the time category in which the swimmer was entered.   Below is what is typical (but not always a given):
      • Straight ribbons are given for C time events, rosette ribbons are given for B time events, and medals are given for A and higher events.
      • The number of place awards given out for individual events at a meet is based on the number of lanes in the pool being used.  (i.e. 6 lanes = 1st-6th places and 8 lanes = 1st-8th places). 
      • Relay awards are given out for 1st through 3rd or 4th place.
  • Time standard achievement certificates
    • Certificates are given out to swimmers who achieve a new B, A, or Championship time standard in an event.
  • Team Trophies
    • Some swim meets give points to the team for every swimmer’s place in each event.  The team or teams with the highest points earn(s) a team trophy.
  • State championship events also give out “high point” awards to the top three male and female swimmers in each age group who score the most individual points.


Once you have attended one or two meets this will all become very routine.  Please do not hesitate to ask another parent for help or information, or look for information on the Club or USA Swimming websites.

Back to Top