MEET TIPS FOR SWIMMERS AND PARENTS
If you are new to the sport, you may be going into your first swim meet not knowing what to expect. The meets are what all those long hours and laps at practice are for. But, just knowing where the pool is might not be enough. Here are a couple of things to expect when attending your first meet.
BEFORE THE MEET
The night before a swim meet, pack your backpack. It should include your swim suit, goggles, cap, team sweat suit (if you have one) or something to wear between races (or a change of clothes if you are wearing these to the meet), two towels (one will be drenched before the meet is over), shampoo and soap, your lucky charm (we all have one), something to do between races (book, music, phone, etc), and a deck of playing cards, a list of your meet events written on your hand, and a pen. You may also want to bring with you a blanket (something to sit on while you wait for races) and a couple of folding chairs if it is an outdoor meet or a meet where we have access to a gym. Parents may want to bring folding chairs too! Before you get to the meet, write on your hand (or have mom or dad do it) your event number and what the event is like "#25 - 100 Free," that way, no matter where you are, you know what your races are. If, during the meet, they begin to fade, that is what the pen is for. Parents make sure you have a full tank of gas and some healthy snacks for the day. Sometimes there may be concession stands available.
When you get to the pool, the first thing you will want to do is find out where the team will be hanging out during the meet. The BIG clue is the White Water Swim Club banner. Just look for the orange banner, and you will find your team. If your lucky, you will run into a fellow swimmer or Coach on the way and they will point you in the right direction. Some of the indoor meets may be held at high schools. For these, the gym is normally where they stick the swimmers. Other meets, swimmers will gather around the deck area or in a grassy area for outdoor meets.
Report to the meet when warm-ups start. We will be in a lane warming up together. Your coach will have a designated warmup routine to complete but it will be crowded. Be sure to warm up all the strokes you are swimming that day. For backstroke in a short course yards pool, the flags are set at 5 yards from the wall, in a long distance pool (50 meter), they are set at 5 meters from the wall (a little farther). This can really mess up a swimmers timing when it comes time to turn or finish. Count your strokes and gauge the distance. You don't want to get disqualified for a bad turn (it has happened in the past). Some time during the warm-up, there will be a set period where an outside lane (1 or 8) will be designated as a sprint lane (one lap with a start from the blocks). If Coach wants you to do sprints, he/she will let you know.Once the warmup is completed, return to your seat (gym or pool deck) get dry and stay warm.
There will come a time when you will end up behind the block of the lane you will be swimming in. Normally, there will be a couple of heats before you. So, while you wait, it is a good time to do a little bit of stretching and focus on what you are going to do. Stretch your legs and arms a little and get lose. Take one last look at your hand/time card so you know what race you are swimming (kids have dove into the water and started swimming the wrong thing), and by the time you step up to the block, you're ready to go. While this is a competition, your biggest competitor is the stop watch and you aim to improve your personal best times. Remember to do your starts and turns (flip turns for freestyle and backstroke) like Coach taught you. After your race, find Coach and ask them how you did. They will give you advice and guidance for your next race.
More often than not, you will have time before you have to report back to the Clerk of the Course for your next race OR report directly back to the blocks. This is great for "team bonding." Some swimmers will take little naps, read, listen to music, or play games. Sometimes, there is a card game going on as this always helps pass the time. Jump on in and have a good time, but pay attention. Normally by megaphone or loudspeaker, they are calling out race numbers. Pay attention for yours. When they call it out, drop what you are doing and head to the Clerk of Course or to the blocks. Don't do anything that will spend a lot of energy. You gotta save that for your race. Interact with the other swimmers and you will have a good time while your dropping your times.
Eats and Drinks
There is usually a concession stand or something that is selling food and drinks. While it all looks good, you may want to avoid the greasy, salty, oily foods until after the meet. The sweets and nachos may sound good now, but in the heart of a race, you are going to wish that you never ate them. Eat lightly during the meet with things like crackers, fruit, granola bars, PowerBars gold fish, light sandwich, bagel, yogurt, etc. Drink water or sport drinks, no pop!! If you get hungry eat, but don't eat junk. Remember, your gunning for your best times at these meets. You can't do that with a stomach full of pop and potato chips.
That's just about it. If you have any questions, seek out a Coach and they will be able to help. Best wishes and good luck to you in your first meet. Swim Hard!!!
A special thanks to Dave Maynard for the tips to swimmers and parents.