New Swim Team Parents’ Guide to Swim Meets:  Just the Basics


Eleven things to consider when PLANNING FOR THE SWIM MEET:


1.       Bring some cash.  You may be charged admission as a spectator (usually under $5 per head); you may not.  It depends on the meet.  Most meets also sell “heat sheets”, which are a kind of program for the swim meet.  More on that later.  It can be helpful to go ahead and get one, especially for your first meet, so you can decide whether or not it’s useful to you for future meets.

2.       Bring a Sharpie marker, a pen or pencil to write times on the heat sheet, and a highlighter.  You also may want a clipboard for your heat sheet.  More on what to do with the Sharpie, pen and highlighter later.

3.       Spectator seating at swim meets is usually in bleachers.  If you want some cushioning or back support, you’ll most likely need to bring yourself a stadium seat.

4.      Don’t plan for your swimmer to sit with your family.  Swimmers belong with their teams during the meet. 

5.       Don’t plan on going over to where the team is sitting to visit with your swimmer.  Only coaches, timers, officials and swimmers are allowed “on deck” (the area around the pool and where the swimmers are getting ready to swim) at meets. 

6.      If you want to take pictures, keep in mind that the flash from cameras interferes with the timing equipment, so flash photography is definitely not permitted at starts.  (It’s a good idea to figure out how to avoid using a flash during the whole meet, to keep it simple.)

7.       Swimmers need to stay hydrated and fed during meets.  Pack protein and high-quality carbs, not junk- those bodies are working hard.  Water bottles are necessary. 

8.       Concessions are available at most meets.  (That cash comes in handy again!)

9.       You may be walking on wet tile floors; wear shoes that will help keep you sure-footed.  Keep that in mind for your swimmer(s), too.

10.     It can get pretty warm and humid at meets, even mid-winter.  Wearing layers is a good idea.  Even better: wear layers in NPAC colors (green, white, & black)!  Your swimmer needs to have warm-up clothes to wear between their swim events, too.  Don’t forget a towel!

11.     IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE OR CAN’T MAKE IT TO THE MEET FOR WHATEVER REASON:  Call the coach if you can’t make the meet after you’ve signed up.  You should keep the coach’s cell phone and/or pool numbers handy.  Call if you are running late or something comes up at the last minute and your swimmer can’t make it to the meet.

 ONCE YOU ARE AT THE MEET: Getting ready for the meet to start


1.       Punctuality is a virtue.  Warm-ups usually start an hour before the meet- it’s important for swimmers to be there ready to get in the water right when warm ups begin.  The coach will decide if the swimmers will be swimming the entire warm-up period or for a shorter time; whatever the decision by the coach, swimmers should be available to swim when warm-ups begin.

2.       OK, back to that heat sheet and the highlighter.  Heat sheets list the individual swim events, the participants in each event, what heat they are in, what lane each swimmer will occupy, and if the swimmer has a history of swimming that event, what his/her previous best time swimming in that event was.   To keep track of when your kid is swimming, going through the heat sheet and highlighting each of your swimmer’s events can be useful.

3.       Now for the Sharpie marker.  Swimmers don’t have heat sheets, so how do they keep track of what events they are swimming in?  By writing on themselves, of course.  Each swimmer will need to have on their arm or leg a grid showing the event number, the heat number, the lane number, and the stroke/distance.  Using a waterproof marker is kind of important to this process.  The example below has the swimmer participating in 2 events.  In Event 22, Heat 3, Lane 4, she will be swimming the 50 Freestyle.  In event 35, she will be swimming in the first heat in lane 2 for the 200 individual medley.  The swimmer can keep track of what event number is in progress by watching the scoreboard. 
















1.       The purpose of the pen or pencil is to record the time your swimmer achieves in each event they swim on the heat sheet.  Your swimmer can use this information to assess their performance in the meet.  The scoreboard will show lane number and time. 

2.       Be prepared for hearing that your swimmer has “DQed”: disqualified.  The people you see walking around the pool with clipboards wearing white shirts and navy bottoms are swim meet officials.  One of their jobs is to make sure the swimmers follow the rules.  When a swimmer is disqualified, this means the swimmer is not eligible for an award in that event, and their time is not recorded.    Hearing that they have DQ’ed can be really tough news, especially for a new swimmer.  As a parent, try to help them keep things in perspective and a DQ is just part of learning all the rules and technique of swimming. 

3.       Cheer on your swimmer and their teammates!  No, your swimmer probably can’t hear you cheering them on while they are swimming.  It doesn’t matter.  Cheer them on anyhow!  Keeping the team’s energy pumping is a good thing.  Remember that the swimmers need to be able to hear at the start though, so shhhh at the start, then go ahead and show them your support!

4.       Awards:  At each meet, there are different awards structures.  All finishers above a certain place may receive ribbons; those in the top may get medals.  Check the heat sheet for what the meet awards are, and what the rules are for collecting the awards.  Some meets will not send awards home with coaches if the swimmers don’t pick them up at the meet.

5.       So how do you know where your swimmer placed in an event?  Results are usually posted out in a hallway on the wall after events.  Usually there is a table set up not too far away where you or your swimmer can pick up awards.  You’ll need to be able to tell the people at the award table what event number you are picking up the award for.