Swim Meets: What to Expect


v  What To Take To a Swim Meet

1.    Swimsuit, GSC cap, and goggles. Having an extra suit, cap, and pair of goggles packed is always a good idea. These items seem to rip and break at the most inopportune times!

2.    Towels – wet bodies everywhere, so pack at least two.

3.    Several changes of clothes such as sweatpants, sweatshirts, and t-shirts. Swimmers need to stay warm between events.

4.    The spectator area is usually very warm. Make sure you dress appropriately.

5.    Entertainment for the whole family: Travel games, cards, coloring books, books, ipods, etc.--this is especially important if you are bringing youngsters who are not swimming! Parents often bring newspapers, books, laptops, sewing...anything to pass the time!

6.    Bring healthy snacks and drinks. Some meets may have a concession stand and although they try to provide healthy choices, we recommend you bring your own. Suggestions for items to bring: large water bottle, fruit juice, Gatorade, granola bars, fruit, yogurt, cereal, trail mix, sandwiches.

7.    Sharpie marker, pen, and a highlighter.

8.    Bring cash - most concessions do not accept credit cards. Also recommend you bring small bills, such as 5’s and 1’s. 

v  Before the Meet Starts

1.    Arrive at the pool at least 15 minutes before the scheduled warm-up time begins.

Warm-up times are listed in the meet information posted on the website. Often coaches announce or post exact warm-up times several days before a meet as well.

2.    Find a place to put your swimmer’s “stuff.”

The team usually sits together in the spectator area, so look for some familiar faces and set-up camp among your new friends.

3.    Help your swimmer find the coaches.

Upon arrival, the swimmer should come down on the pool deck with all of their belongings. The team will sit together in one spot. Look for coaches on deck or sometimes in the spectator area. Forgetting to check in could cause the swimmer to be scratched from that event. Some meets are pre-seeded and do not require a check in. Please double check with the coach as soon as you arrive.

4.    Find a heat sheet to purchase, or share with another parent.

Heat sheets are usually available for sale in the lobby or concession area of the pool and generally sell for $5 to $10. However, most time trials do not charge for a heat sheet. It lists all swimmers in each event in order of “seed time”. This is where you will find what heat and lane your swimmer is in for each event.

5.    Write on your swimmer.

Write each event number, heat, and lane on your swimmer’s arm in “permanent” (i.e., waterproof) marker, like a Sharpie. This helps your swimmer remember what events he or she is swimming, what event number to listen for, and what lane to get lined up behind. This step is sometimes saved until after the swimmers are done with warm-ups.

6.    Swimmers report to the pool and/or coach for warm-ups.

It is very important for all swimmers to warm-up with the team. Swimmers’ bodies are just like cars on a cold day; they need to get the engine going and warmed-up before being able to go all out. This is a good time for parents to get a cup of coffee and highlight your child’s races in the heat sheet!

7.    After warm-ups.

Time to dry off, put on warm clothes, go to the bathroom, and write events on the arm if this wasn’t done earlier.

8.    The meet will usually start about 10-15 minutes after warm-ups are over.

v  The Meet Starts

1.    Know what events your swimmer is competing in.

It is important for swimmer to know what event numbers he is swimming. Again, a heat sheet and sharpie are a swim parent’s best friends!

2.    Listen for event announcements.

Upcoming events are usually announced over the loudspeaker, asking swimmers to report to the starting blocks or to the “bullpen, “ a staging area used at very large meets or for swimmers 8 years and younger. Swimmers should report with cap and goggles. Example: “Event #26, 10-Under Boys, 50 freestyle, first call to report to the starting blocks.”

3.    Check in with the coaches.

GSC coaches ask their swimmers to check in with them before each race. This is when coaches give last minute reminders and encouragement to the swimmers about their upcoming race. Swimmers should allow enough time when reporting to the blocks for this important step!

4.    Report to the Clerk of Course.

§  Some meets will have a clerk of course. This is an area where all swimmers in that event are assigned their proper heat and lane assignments. Clerk of course will post heat and lane assignments on the pool deck. The swimmer needs to know where these are posted. It is then up to the swimmer to go to the starting blocks a few events prior to their swim so they do not miss their event. The clerk of course will lead younger swimmers out to the starting blocks for their event. 

§  It is important for each swimmer to know what event they are swimming. They need to listen to the announcer as to which event is being called to the blocks or to the clerk of course. 

§  The timers behind the starting blocks often check to make sure that swimmers are lined up in the right order. However, it is always a good idea to have your swimmer check in with the lane timers to make sure they are in the right lane and heat.

§  Swimmers should cheer for each of their teammates while the meet is going on.

5.    Parents, find a seat.

According to USA Swimming rules, parents are not allowed on deck unless they are serving in an official capacity. Parents must sit in the spectator area.

6.    Swimmers, swim your race.

§  The announcer will announce the event prior to the first race in that event.  For example "Event #1 Girls, 8 and under 25 yard freestyle, there are 5 heats, heat 1".  After the 1st heat the announcer will only say the heat number until the next event starts. 

§  They will blow a whistle to let the swimmers know it is time to get up on the blocks.  Once this whistle is blown, the officials need quiet so everyone can hear the call for the start of the race.  Please be courteous and don't yell for your child until after the starting buzzer sounds. 

§  Once the swimmers are all up on the starting blocks, the announcer will say "take your mark"

§  The swimmers will assume a starting position that suits them - once everyone is motionless, they will press the starting buzzer.  Whistles are to let them know to get ready, buzzer means go.

§  Once they have started to race, cheering is acceptable.  If you are a cheering person, cheer, but many swimmers tell us that they cannot really hear people cheering.  If the mood hits you - cheer, if not, they know you still love and support them!

§  The other parents/teams are there supporting and loving their kids too.  Be kind and supportive of other teams/swimmers/families.  Kids are not swimming "against" other swimmers; they are swimming "with" them.  Make friends!  You will soon notice you see the same faces at all the races and it is fun for parents as well as the children to visit with their swimming friends outside of GSC. 

7.    Check in with the coaches...again!

§  Time to see how all that hard work in practice is going to pay off! After each race, your swimmer should go immediately to their coach. Generally, the coaches follow these guidelines after a race: a) Positive comments or praise b) Suggestions for improvement.

§  Your child WILL get DQed (disqualified) at some point.  It happens.  They are not computer programs and swimming has a LOT of rules to remember.  Let the coaches talk about the mistake....our job as parents is to be proud, say good job, and get them ready to go out there again.

8.    Check in with parents. Parents should follow these guidelines after your swimmer’s race:

      -Tell your swimmer how great they did! Coaching staff will be sure to discuss stroke technique with them. You just need to tell your swimmer how proud you are of their effort.

     -Take your swimmer back to the spectator area and relax, find something to eat, and wait for next event to be called.

  9.  Repeat above steps until all events have been completed.

10.  Final check in with the coaches before heading home. When a swimmer has completed all of his events for the day, he is able to go home. Be sure, however, to check with the coach before leaving to make sure your swimmer is not included on a relay. It is not fair to other swimmers who may have stayed to swim on a relay where your swimmer is expected to be a member and he is not there.

v  After the meet:

1.    Most meets will have an award ceremony for the high points top 3 finishers for each age group.  The ceremony will take place at the end of the session on the final day of the meet.  They do not have a ceremony for individual event winners,except at some championship meets.  It is a nice gesture to stay and cheer for our team winners when they receive their awards, but do not feel obligated to stay. 

2.    Ribbons will be handed out by coaches a couple days after the meet.

3.    The swimmers times and rankings are usually posted in the hallway leading out of the main entrance of most pools.  Remember, it is not about placing, or winning, but about self improvement, goal setting, etc.  A GSC winner is not the one holding the trophy, but the one who improved their stroke or met a goal they set with their coach. 


v  Ask for help!

If during any of this you feel lost or confused, be sure to ask other GSC parents for help!  We have all had our “first meets” and know it can be overwhelming. Once you have attended one or two meets, it will all become very routine and enjoyable.


v  Congratulations! You are now ready to be a real GSC swim parent ....relax....enjoy....be proud.