Swim Meet Basics - A Parent's Guide   
Canadian swim meets are often divided by age and gender: They vary depending on the meet but often follow this format:

10 & under.
12 & under.
15 & over

The active swim season typically runs from September until June.  The coaching staff will also consider other swim meets in early July as well.  As athletes improve in their competency and skill, they may qualify for Provincial or National swim meets in July and August.  

There are two parts to a regular season:

Short Course (SC) season starts in September and runs until the end of February and are held in a 25m pool.

Long Course (LC) season is active all year with an emphasis on LC after January.  LC events are frequent starting in April and run until the end of the season, (August), and are held in a 50m pool.

Time Standards

Time standards can be found on our USC STANDARDS page and Swim Ontario website. When a swimmer makes a time standard they can progress through the different levels of competitions. The steps or goals are to achieve Regionals Standards (USC is part of Central Region CR), then Provincials, Eastern Championships, Canadian Junior Championships  and Canadian Championships or Trials.

Before the Meet Starts

Your swimmer needs to be on the pool deck (with swimsuit, cap, and goggles on ) 15 minutes prior to the start of warm-up.  Some parking lots are far from the actual pool. In order to be on time, allow extra time to walk from the parking area.

NOTE:   Parents are not permitted on the pool deck, so your child should be able to carry
               his/her belongings by him/herself.

Make sure your child checks in with the Coach when they arrive.  Warm-up or session times are assigned to each team. Coaches will guide the team where to go and when. They will give your swimmer warm-up instructions. It is very important for all swimmers to warm-up with the team. During warm-ups, timers will meet with key officials and learn their lane assignments.

After warm-up, swimmers go back to the area where the team is sitting and wait until his/her first event is called. Cheering on teammates is great.  This is also a good time for bathroom breaks, getting a drink, etc.  The meet usually starts about 10 minutes after warm-ups are over.  

Psych Sheet or Heat Sheets

A heat sheet is usually available for sale in the lobby or concession area of the pool. It lists all swimmers in each event in order of "seed time".  Alternatively for the technology oriented, there is a paid subscription mobile web app call "Meet Mobile" that is a useful tool. There is also a live web link called "Live Results" specific to the meet that can be useful to see your swimmers entry, heat and lane and eventually their result. 

When the team entry is sent in, each swimmer and his/her previous best time (up to the date that the entry was submitted) in that event is listed.  If the swimmer is swimming an event for the first time, he/she will be entered as a "no-time" or "NT". A "no-time" swimmer will most likely swim in one of the first heats of the event.  

During the Meet

Swimmers need to pay attention to the event numbers so that they don’t miss their events! Parents need to pay attention, too, or you’ll miss your child’s race!.  Most meets are computerized, so you can see event and heat numbers on the electronic timing board.  

Generally, girls events are odd-numbered and boys events are even-numbered.  You can expect at least 4-8 heats of each event. Divide number of swimmers by number of lanes in the pool for approximate number of heats; number may change if a lot of swimmers scratch. 

After each swim

Swimmers are to ask the timers (people behind the blocks at each lane) his/her time or look at the electronic timing board.  The swimmer should then go immediately to his/her coach who will debrief/discuss the swim with them.

Coaching feedback varies greatly depending on the swim and the swimmer. Often coaches will discuss some of the following process elements at that moment:

  • Positive comments or praise
  • Constructive evaluation of splits, strategy and tactical execution
  • Suggestions for improvement both in training and competition
  • Evaluation of the next step/goal
  • Cool down (if facility permits) or cool down activity on deck
  • Preparation for the next event or race

Things you, as a parent, can do after each swim

Be supportive regardless of the result.  The coaches may have many elements of the process to focus on that are important.  Tell the swimmer how great they did! The coaching staff will be sure to discuss stroke technique and race tactics with the swimmers. You need to tell them how proud you are and what a great job they did.

A swimmer may come to see you but should let the coach know if they are leaving the pool deck.  Once they visit, send them back to the team area to relax.  This is another good time to hit the bathrooms, get a drink or something light to eat.  The swimmer now waits until their next event is called and starts the procedure again. When a swimmer has completed all of their events and the coach dismisses them, the swimmer and  parents are able to go home.  

Make sure, however, that your swimmer checks with the coach before leaving in case he/she is included on a relay (usually the last events of a meet). It is not fair to other swimmers who have stayed to swim a relay that includes your swimmer if they are not there.



As per the team protocol, your swimmer needs to bring:

  • Team Suit
  • Team clothing/colors
  • Team cap(s)
  • 2 pairs of goggles
  • Full water bottles
  • 2 towels
  • A light, healthy snack (Fruit, peanut free granola bar, cheese, crackers, etc)
  • Dry clothes to wear home

For time spent in between races, it is also suggested that swimmers bring something to do like homework or reading. Flip-flops/running shoes are good too.  In our modern era of technology, phones are ever present but can be a distraction to athletes.  Coaches prefer that phones be used for communication or music, if necessary.  It is preferred and encouraged for athletes to engage in the meet, by supporting and cheering on their team mates.  Team areas are not under constant, direct supervision, so we advise against bringing anything valuable (phones, video games, etc.).

Remember that parents are not allowed on the pool deck during a meet (unless timing or working in another official capacity), so be sure your swimmer can carry his/her belongings by him/herself!


Bring chair(s) to sit on. Some venues do have bleachers, but they can fill up quickly (and they aren’t always comfortable!). 

  • Wear layers – it is usually warm, if not hot, inside. Dress for it!
  • Water & snacks – There is often food to be found during meets.

Bring something to do (& for siblings to do) - even shorter meets will have downtime.

Money and pen/highlighter – Heat sheets are available for purchase (anywhere from $3-10) and it’s helpful to highlight your swimmer’s events.  

It is very important that the Coaches know where their swimmers are at all times. We do not want any swimmers missing their events simply because they left the deck without their coach knowing.

Most Pool deck access is supervised, controlled by either the facility or competition hosts.  Parents are not allowed on the pool deck during a meet (unless volunteering to work). 

Enjoy the meet experience!