AQUASTAR Swim Team FAQ

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Can my child try AQUASTAR without cost to see if he/she likes it? What if we can’t join AQUASTAR just right now?

Swimmers need to be registered with USA swimming to participate in team practices.  If your swimmer is currently registered with another USA swim team, they can attend our practice for 1-2 days to see if they like it, because they are already covered under the USA swimming insurance.   If your swimmer is not already registered with another USA swim team, we do have to get all of the paperwork and payment for swimmers to participate in practice so that they will be covered under USA swimming insurance.  To begin swimming please contact us to schedule a tryout.   AQUASTAR understands that you may have other commitments that prevent joining as the swim seasons start [see #13 below]. We welcome new swimmers at any time of the year.


Do I have to be USA Swimming-registered to swim? 

Yes, we require all participating swimmers to be USA-registered. The fee for 2019-2020 fiscal year (August to July) is $150. Forms are available from the coaches at practice or on our website.  To find our registration forms on the website, click on the”Swim Team” tab, and then click on “Join the Team”   USA Swimming is a non-profit organization based in Colorado Springs, CO. It is the national governing body for competitive swimming in the United States and selects the Olympic swimming team and its coaches. Becoming a registered member of AQUASTAR automatically makes you a member of USA Swimming. Gulf Swimming is our LSC (Local Swim Committee) of USA Swimming that is the governing body for competitive swimming in southeast Texas. All Houston-area USA Swimming teams, including AQUASTAR, are members of Gulf Swimming.


What are AQUASTAR’s training fees? What does AQUASTAR do with the fee money?

To see our current training fees, click on the “Swim Team” tab and then click on “Swim Groups”.  AQUA uses the money we collect for training fees to maintain and rent practice pools, pay coaches’ salaries, and purchase equipment for the team.


How do I know which training group is right for my child? What if my child doesn’t know how to perform all of the strokes well?

Training intensity and duration varies by skill level, age, maturity, etc. The coaches will help make this assessment. Everyone was a beginner once. Our coaches remember that and will help your child improve his/her technique.


If I have children in different groups, will I have to go to different locations for practice?

Currently our Clear Brook High School location offers all the groups at the same pool.  At Clear Lake High School we offer Red and White groups (beginner groups) and 5 minutes away we have our Oakbrook West pool where the Aqua group and above practice.  Practices are stacked so that parents can drive from one pool to the other easily and get everyone to and from practice in time.  We aim to make it as easy as possible for families with multiple swimmers that are in different groups to practice. 


Will my child be required to attend swim meets?

We don’t force enter the swimmers into meets.  Although, we do strongly encourage meet participation once it is appropriate.  Red Group swimmers must attend a meet in order to be certified as eligible to move to the White Group.  Aqua Group and Glue Group times must be earned in meets in order to qualify for those groups.  Blue Group and above are required to attend meets as a part of the regular and championship seasons. Participating in meets is also required because of the many benefits of meet attendance.  
 
First and foremost, most swimmers find they really enjoy the challenges, excitement and fun of competitive swimming.  They enjoy the thrill of improving their swim times from one meet to the next, the fun of socializing with their teammates between races, and the enthusiastic support they receive from their teammates during competitions.  Second, our coaches have found that swimmers who regularly attend meets improve more rapidly and get more out of swimming than those swimmers who only attend practices.  Coaches use meet performance to evaluate progress and establish plans for individual improvement as well as determining progression within the team training groups.  Finally, attending meets rewards swimmers for their hard work.  Swimmers who attend meets are recognized for their achievements on the AQUASTAR website, in the team newsletter, as well as in local and national news outlets.  There really is no better way for a swimmer to set and achieve goals than through swim meet participation. 


Will my child swim with others his/her own age?  What would they do during the season?

AQUASTAR is a team of approximately 200 swimmers ages 5 -18, so chances are very good they will swim against similarly-aged swimmers.  At practice sessions, they will be coached by certified coaches who strive to improve their swimming skills and endurance.  They will practice with other swimmers of similar ability. At meets, there is the opportunity to compete against swimmers from other Houston-area USA Swimming teams. The emphasis is on EACH swimmer’s improvement in their technique and speed. Unlike summer league, a child’s age on the date of each meet determines the age group in which he will compete for that meet.


My child knows how to swim, but is not experienced as a competitive swimmer.  Is AQUASTAR right for him/her?

Yes.  AQUASTAR will not only teach your swimmer stroke technique, but also racing strategies and prepare them for swim meets.  You can communicate with your swimmers’ coach to know when they are ready for their first swim meet.  


My child cannot swim currently.  What can AQUASTAR do to help?

AQUASTAR requires swimmers to be water-safe and to be able to swim the length of the pool under 1:00 without assistance. You and the coaches should determine if outside swimming lessons would be a more appropriate first step before joining the team.  AQUASTAR does offer swim lessons in the summers.  Click on our Learn to Swim Program tab for more information.


How can I get involved with AQUASTAR as a volunteer?

One of AQUASTAR’s greatest strengths is its large group of talented parent volunteers. We welcome new additions with open arms. For more information contact a board member or the head coach.  

 


Who are AQUASTAR’s coaches?

AQUA has a group of coaches with a great depth of swimming experience up to and including NCAA Division I. All coaches are USA Swimming-certified.   All have coaching experience with age-group swimmers in USA Swimming, summer leagues or both.


Does AQUASTAR require fundraising?

AQUASTAR does encourage families to participate in fundraising activities and programs, although it is not required.  


How long does AQUASTAR’s season last?

AQUASTAR practices year-round. The swim season is divided into two parts. "Short Course," where the meets are held in indoor 25-yard pools, runs from August through March.  "Long Course" meets are held in 50-meter Olympic-size pools and the season runs from April through July. 


Where does AQUASTAR practice?

AQUASTAR practices at Clear Lake and Clear Brook High School pools within the Clear Creek Independent School District and also at the Oakbrook West pool in Clear Lake. During long course season we use the Hometown Heroes pool in League City for long course practices on Sunday mornings.  Practice times and locations may change from season to season.  See directions page for maps.


How often does my child have to practice?

We do not enforce attendance requirements for Red, White, and Aqua groups. I would recommend 3 days a week for Red and White group and 4 days a week for Aqua group.  But, really it is whatever works for your family.  We do enforce attendance requirement for Blue, Gold, and Senior groups.  Blue group is expected to attend at least 60% of practices each month.  Gold and Senior groups are expected to attend at least 70% of practices each month.  


Who manages AQUASTAR?

AQUASTAR is managed by a Board of Directors consisting of swimmers’ parents that volunteer their time. The board hires the team’s coaches and takes care of the administration of the team.


Can my child be a member of AQUASTAR and still swim for a summer league team?

Yes. Like your child, most AQUASTAR swimmers began swimming competitively in summer league. Many of them still swim for their summer league team. Most summer league coaches are happy to have USA Swimming athletes as part of their team. We do encourage you to do both AQUASTAR and summer league during the summer league season as our swimmers sometimes regress in their technique and endurance when they only do summer league. 


Can my child swim for AQUASTAR and still play soccer and basketball, do dance or gymnastics and play piano?

Yes, he/she can!  Many AQUASTAR swimmers are active in other sports and activities. How much you decide to practice is your decision. And because most swim meets have events on both Saturday and Sunday, you can even swim one day of the weekend and do another activity the other day.


Does AQUASTAR issue PE Waivers for use at school? 

Yes. Beginning with intermediate school, when a grade is needed to be sent to the school, the parent must request that the head coach send that grade.  That request should include the name of the counselor receiving the grade and the fax number of the school.  In addition, the parent’s request must include the practice attendance record of the swimmer. 
P.E. waiver grades are calculated as follows:

  •     90% of the grade will be practice attendance (each school determines the number of hours/week required)
  •     10% of the grade will be meet attendance (1 meet required each grading period)

Where are meets held?

Most meets are in the Houston area.  Occasionally, the club travels to an out of town meet.  The best way to get an idea of exactly where meets are held during a typical season is to look over the schedules on our website.  


When are the meets held and how long do they last? 

There are on average about one meet a month for each age/skill level.  They are usually scheduled for Friday night (6:30-9), Saturday and Sunday (8am to noon or 1pm to 5pm). The sessions are usually divided by age groups. These times are approximate. Sometimes the meets are only Saturday and Sunday. The events scheduled for Friday night are usually longer distances for older kids (500 Free, 400 IM, etc.).  Although the start times are pretty consistent, the finish times vary widely depending on the number of swimmers entered. Like summer league, swimmers are usually allowed to swim only three to four events per day. You do not have to swim all three days.


Can I use my best summer league times when I enter a meet?

No, you can only use times from a sanctioned USA Swimming meet or meets utilizing protocols conforming to USA Swimming rules.  You are generally allowed to enter a meet without an entry time if you’ve never swum the event.  It’s referred to as entering with a "no time" (NT).


How much does it cost to enter a meet?  

Typical costs for a Gulf Swimming-hosted meet is about $6 per individual event if you enter ahead of time.  There is usually also a swimmer surcharge of $5-10 for the meet.  If you wait until the day of the meet and "enter on deck" you will be charged double.  Fees are typically slightly higher for championship meets.


Where do my seed times come from that are on the heat sheet? 

The team keeps a database of all times swum by each swimmer.  When the events you’ve chosen for a meet are entered into the computer, it selects your best time for that stroke and distance to use as your seed time.  If you’ve joined AQUASTAR but have USA Swimming times from another team, you can include them when you turn in your entries and they can be manually entered.  AQUASTAR’s meet entry chairman will be responsible for proof of that time if required by the meet host.


What’s the difference between a pre-seeded meet and a deck-seeded meet? 

In a pre-seeded meet, all of the swimmers will swim their events in a lane and heat determined by their entry time as submitted prior to the meet.  If a swimmer doesn’t show up for his/her event then the lane they were assigned to will be empty.   That is allowable.  In a deck-seeded meet, the heats and lanes are not determined until about 45 minutes before the event.  This allows swimmers to enter and scratch from events on the day of the meet.  The main purpose of this is to prevent having empty lanes in a heat which slows the meet down.  It can also be a disadvantage to swimmers who have to swim next to empty lanes.  Most Gulf Swimming meets are deck-seeded meets, so don’t forget to "circle in" (see next question).


What does it mean to "circle in" ?  

At a deck-seeded meet, the host team will post a list of all swimmers who have entered each event.  You must find your name on the list for each event that you intend to swim and circle the number next to it.  This tells the host team that you are there and you still intend to swim the event.  If you do not want to swim a particular event, then do NOT circle in for that event.  The list for each event will be taken to the scoring computer about 45 minutes prior to the expected start time.  If the number next to your name is not circled, then you will be scratched from the event.  If you DO circle in and then do NOT show up when your heat is called to the blocks, AQUA will be assessed a $5 fine by Gulf Swimming, which must be paid by the offending swimmer’s account.  


What is meant by "Short Course" and "Long Course"?

These terms generally refer to the length of a pool.  Short Course is a 25-yard (or meter) pool and Long Course is a 50-meter pool. The names are also used for the two "seasons" in USA Swimming.  August to March is the Short Course season when meets are held in (indoor) 25-yard pools.  April to July is the Long Course season as meets are held in 50-meter pools - some indoors, some outdoors.  Some 50-meter pools can be configured as either long course or short course by running lane ropes length-wise or width-wise or by inserting a bulkhead in the middle of the pool.


What is TAGS?

TAGS is the acronym for Texas Age Group Swimming (i.e., for athletes up through age 14), but the term is usually used to refer to the TAGS meet or its qualifying times ("TAGS times").  The Texas Swimming Association organizes two end-of-season TAGS Championship meets each year, one for Short Course in early March and the other for Long Course in late July.  These meets are the top championships for age 14-under swimmers in the state.  Time standards are published annually for the TAGS meets.   Swimmers must achieve the qualifying times for each event during the season in order to enter that event at TAGS.  The location of each meet varies.  Short Course TAGS meets have recently been held in Dallas, The Woodlands, and at Texas A&M.   Long Course TAGS meets are usually held at the University of Texas in Austin.  


What is an "unattached" swimmer?

According to Gulf Swimming rules, if a swimmer switches from one USA Swimming club to another, he or she must enter meets as unattached for a period of 120 days since they last competed for (not practiced with) their old club.   That means that they cannot score points for their new club or swim on relay teams.  The main purpose of this rule is to prevent swimmers from switching clubs just before an important meet so they can add to the new team’s point total.


I’ve heard people refer to "B & Under" and "A & Up" meets.  What does that mean? Are there "reserve" and "champ" times as in summer league?

USA Swimming publishes a whole series of time standards for boys and girls by age group that can be used as a scale to gauge a swimmer’s level of achievement in each event.  They are, from slowest to fastest, B, BB, A, AA, AAA & AAAA.  Trying to reach the next level in a particular event can be motivational to swimmers.  Meets are sometimes restricted to swimmers above or below a certain level to limit the number of entries.   For example, to enter an event at an "A & Up" meet, you must have an A time or better in that event.  At other meets, age is used to limit entries to a manageable number (11 & Up, 10 & under, etc.). The USA Swimming equivalent of the summer league’s Novice and Reserve meets is called the Spring Champs/Summer Champs Meet. The equivalent of the summer league’s Champ Meet are the Gulf Champs and the Texas Age Group Swimming [TAGS] Championship. At TAGS, swimmers from all over Texas compete against each other.


What is the "up/down rule"?  What is the "three event rule"?

Gulf Swimming rules are established to promote competition and meet participation. The "up/down rule" means that a swimmer entering an "A & up" meet, for example, with an "A" time in only the 100-yard freestyle, can swim the next shortest distance event and the next longest distance event of the same stroke even if that swimmer does not have "A" times at those distances; in this case, the swimmer would be allowed to swim the 50-yd. and 200-yd. freestyle events even though he did not have an "A" time at those distances and it is an "A & up" meet.

The "three event rule" means that a swimmer who qualifies in three or more events for a meet, can swim any event offered at that meet in that age group (even if he does not have a qualifying time for that event). 


How are meets structured with regard to age groups?

Unlike summer league - where a child’s age can change during the summer and he still may compete in the younger age bracket which covers what his age was on May 1 - in USA Swimming, a child’s age on the date of each meet determines the age group in which he will compete for that meet. Meet age brackets are 10-under [sometimes subdivided into 8-under], 11-12, 13-14 and 15-over.