How to Prepare for Your First Swim Meet

The first swim meet can be overwhelming for kids and their parents but with these helpful tips we are sure your first meet will go smoothly for you and your child.

What to Pack for you first meet:

  1. You should pack a small cooler with snacks and drinks.  Fresh fruit, granola bars, fruit bars, yogurt, sandwiches, ect. are good choices.  Keep the snacks simple and healthy. 
  2. Water!!!  Don’t forget water/water bottles or sports drinks.  It is important to stay hydrated.
  3. Swim gear: remember your NPB cap, goggles, swimsuit(s) and towels. It's always good to pack an extra cap and goggles in case one breaks. Extra towels are important also (one for after warm up and one for after events, especially in colder weather).  In the colder months it is important to bring a parka or warm clothing that can slip over the swimmers suit, socks and a blanket.
  4. Sunscreen!!!
  5.  Chairs for you and your family. The team sits under tents together. It adds to the fun of the day having the kids/parents socialize during the down times. The team tent space is for the swimmers first. At most swim meets there will be enough room to accommodate parents but this is not always the case.  Cards, games, books, etc. are also a good way to pass the time in between events.

When your Arrive:

  1. Always try to arrive 15 minutes prior to the start of warm-up.  This will give you time to find the team’s tent, settle into a spot and check in with your coach.  The team tent space is first for the swimmers since they need the shade.  At most meets there is enough room to accommodate swimmers and parents but not always.
  2. The swimmers do not pay at the door but the rest of the family members must pay to enter.  You will also want to purchase a heat sheet. A heat sheet is the meet program. It will list all of the meet events, each heat, and each swimmer’s lane.  You will reference this heat sheet for the entire meet.  More on the heat sheet in #4 below.
  3. Coaches will announce that the team is going to warm-up.  Warm-up usually takes 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the age and experience of the swimmers.  Warm-up is used to stretch and prepare the body to race. 
  4.  After (or before) warm-up, swimmers should find their events/race number, heat and lane assignments on the heat sheet.  You'll see parents writing the race information for their children's on their arms.  Bring a Sharpie pen to write on your swimmers arm and a highlighter to highlight your swimmers events on the Heat Sheet.     

Example:  Say your child is doing two events in one day (Event 3 - 50 back, Heat 2, Lane 7; Event 5 - 100 Free, Heat 1, Lane 2). This is how you would write that on his/her arm

  E H L
50 BK 3 2 7
100 FR 5 1 2



5. An event is their “race.”  There are four strokes in competitive swimming:  Freestyle, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Butterfly.  There is also an IM which stands for Individual Medley.  The IM consists of equal lengths of all four strokes in the following order:  Fly, Back, Breaststroke, Freestyle. There may be times your swimmer will be swimming in a relay.  A relay is an event where four swimmers each swim an equal distance.  When the first swimmer finishes, the next swimmer goes until all four have completed their lap(s).   There are freestyle relays where all swimmers swim freestyle, as well is the Medley Relay. In a Medley Relay each swimmer swims a different stroke and the order is:  Backstroke, Breastroke, Butterfly, Freestyle.

Meet Starts:
1. Once the meet starts, you will need to keep track of the events and when to go to the starting block.  Swimmers should go behind the blocks 3-4 heats prior their heat.  IT IS NOT YOUR COACH'S RESPONSIBILITY TO GET YOU TO THE STARTING BLOCK!  Pay attention to what event is being swum. Some of the races last less than 30 seconds so be aware of the schedule and get to the starting area well before your event begins.

 2. Before your event talk to your coach. He/she will give you racing instructions, things to think about, etc. and then go line up behind the timers.  Parents sometimes are not allowed in the area behind the starting blocks. Parents: take your child to the correct lane and have him check in with the timer. If it is a meet where the parents are not allowed past a certain point, a coach or an experienced swim team member can guide them to their correct lane.  Your child should stand behind the timer's chair and wait for his heat.

3. After your race, go talk to your coach.  The coach will give the swimmer some feedback on their race and have him/her warm down few easy laps in the warm-up area.

  1. After warming down, go back to the team tent and relax and get ready for your next race!  It is always fun and encouraging to cheer on your teammates when you are not swimming.

Congratulations!  The process will get easier, more routine and not as overwhelming the more meets you attend. Do not hesitate to ask your coach or fellow parents for help or information.  Racing is such a fun experience and its a great way to celebrate being part of a team.  Be proud and have fun