Swim Meet 101

We hope that this guide will give you a general idea of what to expect at a meet. Once you get through your first meet, everything will make so much more sense!

No two swim meets ever run exactly the same. It can be the same meet that the club hosts each year, but things will be different. The most important thing to remember is to be flexible. Swim meets are large undertakings and are run by volunteers.  Please realize volunteers (and you will be one…) are doing the best they can running the meet.  Patience is appreciated.

It’s ok to be a little confused at first. Don’t be afraid to approach someone from our team to ask a question. We have the best swim parents who are more than willing to help out a new family!


Chapter 1 – The Night Before

The Swim Bag

 In addition to the routine stuff to bring to practice (swimsuit, towel, goggles and cap), you will want need a few more things for a swim meet. Here’s a basic checklist:

  • Extra-large towel or blanket for your swimmer to keep warm between races or sit on if necessary
  • Towels…two are better than one
  • Loose fitting, comfortable clothing to wear in between races/parka/robe

The “Other” Bag

Do NOT underestimate the importance of “The Other Bag”. This is the activity bag to keep your children happy and busy while they wait for their events to be called. Rest is important; here are some suggestions for quiet, yet fun activities:

  • Electronic hand held games
  • Cards, Travel Games
  • Books
  • iPod, iPad

Remember to label all your items and keep an eye on your things! You are out in public and at a large event where there are many people who are not always playing close attention. Theft can happen anywhere.


What Parents Need

While some people enjoy watching the competitors and spend nearly all of their time in the pool area, other people prefer to relax with their children in between events. You may want to consider bringing some of the following:

  • Money for admissions and concessions.  Many teams do charge admissions, so please make sure you have cash on hand.  Fox does not charge admissions (built into meet fees).
  • A comfortable folding chair (rock-hard gymnasium floors and unforgiving bleacher seats will get uncomfortable as the day progresses)
  • Sharpie marker
  • Book, paper, magazine


The Cooler

If you opt to pack food/drinks, here are some good and bad swim meet food choices:


  • Water, juice, sports drink (fluids are VERY important) NO SODA
  • Bagels (hold the cream cheese)
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • Fruit – grapes, bananas & apples (oranges can be messy)
  • Granola bars, oatmeal
  • Plain or artificially sweetened yogurt

Think natural energy. Easily digestible, portable foods are your best choices.


  • Candy & sweets (anything with heavy sugar content)
  • Fatty foods (takes too long to digest)
  • Greasy, heavy foods (no nutritional value)

FLUIDS ARE VERY IMPORTANT! Even slight dehydration can cause cramping and fatigue and a bad swim meet experience. Encourage your swimmer to hydrate all day long. Moderate your child’s food intake and remember less is better. Some kids think they’re hungry when really they’re bored and looking for something to do (visit “The Other Bag”).


Things to Leave at Home:

  • Pressure- Do not put pressure on your swimmer to achieve any certain level!
  • Coaching-Refrain from giving tips and extra advice. They have heard it many times from coaches, and your advice, though loving, heightens their emotions in a way that can lead to greater nervousness.
  • Comparisons-Do not compare your swimmer or their progress to other swimmers! Ever!
  • Stopwatches-Just enjoy the races. Some races may be awesome, some may be a struggle. All are learning experiences, and your swimmer’s value is not determined by the outcomes.
  • Negativity-Stay positive about your swimmer, other swimmers, the coaches, other parents, etc.!

Additional Thoughts:

Be patient with the process. The first meet may be a little nerve wracking, but that is normal. Please ask the coaches any questions you have ahead of time. We will need to attend to the swimmers at the meet. We are more than happy to help swimmers feel comfortable. We are all on the same team, and want to partner with you to give your swimmers the best experience possible.

Now that you’re all packed…tuck the kids in bed. Swimmers need a good night’s sleep. Most meets start early! Make sure you know the warm-up times and have planned to arrive at least 15 minutes prior. Check to be sure you have printed out the directions to any away meets.


Chapter 2 – The Arrival


What do I do FIRST?

  1. Find positive check in and check in your swimmers.  This is critically important.  IF YOUR ATHLETE DOES NOT CHECK IN AT EVERY SESSION THEY WILL BE SCRATCHED!!!!!
  2. Pick out your “camping” spot. In a gym, set up your chairs and put out your blanket so your swimmer has a place to hang out while waiting for their next race.
  3. Make sure your swimmer(s) know the races they are swimming today and have events written on their hand (event # and event – add heat and lanes later (see #5 below). Sharpies are perfect!
  4. Have swimmers get ready with cap, goggles and towel and head to pool for warm ups
  5. Find meet on MeetMobile. Once positive check in closes, the meet will be updated on MeetMobile and you can either purchase the heat sheet on MeetMobile or purchase hard copy of heat sheet (not always an option).  Once your swimmer returns from warm ups update their events on their hand/arm with heats and lanes.
  6. Stay in the area of the bullpen or with team.  Your child remains either on the pool deck or in the gym where they can hear the bullpen workers call the event numbers. They will not wait on a swimmer who is not on the block when it is their time.


Chapter 3 – The Meet

If this is a meet we are hosting, head to your volunteer post. Just keep an eye on your child’s event numbers so you have plenty of time to watch their swim. Don’t worry, your volunteer coworkers all have the same idea – we work together to make sure we don’t miss our children’s events.

If we’re at another team’s hosted meet, this is a great time to scope out their facility a bit. Make sure you know where the bullpen is, the restrooms and of course the pool area, and finally how to get back to your camp.

Make sure that your swimmer stays warm and hydrated. The body uses energy to warm itself and energy is something to conserve before events. Make sure that they keep up with their cap and goggles – there’s nothing more nerve wracking than searching for caps and goggles seconds before its time to report. If they keep their caps on and goggles pulled down like a necklace, they’re less likely to lose them.

Your main job at this point is to make sure your child stays nearby between events as opposed to wandering the facility.



Bullpen is a staging area where children are gathered and put in an orderly fashion to enter the pool area. This is critical to making certain kids are lined up for the right heat and the right event. Bullpen is staffed by parent volunteers from the host team. The staging area might be on the pool deck or in the gym. It will consist of several rows of chairs and very hard working parents calling out swimmer names and lane assignments over and over again.

Bullpen workers will continually announce the next event. When your child hears FIRST CALL for an event number…they should check their arm to see if they are swimming this event. This is a skill they should be taught early in their swimming career. If your child is not paying attention to the calls, they could miss an event and will be extremely disappointed. When your child’s event is called, they should head to Bullpen and find the seat that corresponds to their heat and lane. Once a child is seated in Bullpen, they should remain there until they are escorted into the pool area.

Okay, I know what Bullpen is; my child is sitting in there now, where do I go?

Head for the pool to finally see what you came for – YOUR swimmer in the water!

People are constantly moving in and out of the pool area and you will notice there is a lot of activity going on. Resist the temptation to go see your child. After the race, your swimmer will head back to your spot where you can meet them and give them their much-deserved kudos! Remember that as a parent you are not allowed behind the blocks, to discuss time with the timers, or approach the stroke and turn judges. If there is a question or problem, you should ask your coach who will then handle it for you. Note: It is very important that your child speaks to their coach immediately after their race. This is a great way to get immediate feedback during a race setting.


Swimmer Disqualifications

It takes time and lots of practice to master the technical aspects of competitive swimming. Throughout your child’s swimming career, they will increase their knowledge and improve their starts, strokes, turns and finishes. During a sanctioned meet, officials and judges monitor the competition to ensure that starts, strokes, turns and finishes are done in accordance with rule requirement.

ALL kids will at some time in their career, experience the disappointment of being disqualified (DQ’d) in an event. Remember that this is a learning opportunity and the DQ is an excellent tool to help your child. Though it may be disappointing, you can help your child by offering support and encouraging them to always do their best.


Race Results

Head back to your spot and get ready for your next event. After a couple of events, you can go looking for where the computer operators are posting the results or look for results on MeetMobile. The results usually run a few events behind due to processing time. This is where you will find out what your swimmer’s time was and how they fared among all the swimmers in their age group. The results are listed by event and show the swimmers in order of finish.