Question of the Week Archives

Here you will find our "Question of the Week" archives, which is full of great information about swim team. This can also be referred to as "Frequently Asked Questions". The Question of the Week archives are taken from our Shark Bites, our weekly newsletter that is emailed during swim team season.

Questions About Practices and Equipment:

Questions About Swim Meets:

Questions About Team Philosophy, Policies, and What the Swimmers are Learning:


What should my swimmer be wearing to practice? (originally published 9/15/19)

We ask that girls wear one-piece suits with straps that meet or cross in the back, and boys wear jammers or brief swim suits. Swimmers should not be wearing swim shirts to practice. When swimmers are dressed in baggy or fashion swim apparel, it often weighs them down in the water and negatively affects body position. In order for swimmers to learn proper technique and cement great skills, we need them to be dressed appropriately!  Anyone with hair that gets in their eyes when wet is required to wear a swim cap. Swimmers should also be prepared with two pairs of swim goggles-- one for practice, and one backup. If you need to purchase new practice suits, caps, or goggles, please see the products in our SwimOutlet store. Make sure you see the blue bar at the top showing that you are shopping the Newtown Athletic Club affiliate account to earn money back for the team!


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What are all of these swim meet notification emails? What do I need to do?  Is my child required to attend? (originally published 9/22/19)

We’ve been slowly adding swim meets to our calendar. Every time a meet is added, you will receive an email from Team Unify to commit yes/no. You can click the link in the email to commit, or you can log into your account at and go to the events page.  We will only enter your swimmer if you declare yes. Some meets will have the option to pick events. You can leave this blank and let the coaching staff pick or choose your swimmer’s events (although these are still subject to coach review). All meets will have an entry deadline, and you must be committed by that date. These deadlines are put in place to ensure that there aren’t too many kids at the meet and that a timeline of events is put together in advance. You can change your committment if necesssary up until the deadline date.  We realize some of these are early and/or not on the weekend day you prefer. If you’re not willing to attend, that’s fine—we are just trying to offer as many opportunities to our swimmers as possible! Until the club obtains USA Swimming sanction in January, we will be limited in the meets we can offer to our swimmers.


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How do we care for the new equipment? Why do we need to bring this bag back and forth? (originally published 9/29/19)

Kids must bring their equipment bags to every practice—this is as essential as a bathing suit! If your child forgets his/her bag, he/she will not be able to fully participate in practice. Sometimes we are doing a lot of swimming with fins. We do not have many extra pairs, and we may not even have a pair that fits your child. If your swimmer forgets their fins, they likely will struggle to keep up, and everyone else in the practice will need to wait for them. This takes time away from the whole group.  It is standard practice among teams to make swimmers and families responsible for equipment, since these are your purchases! Like many other teams, we do not have a secure location for all 44 bags, and we want to make sure that no one’s equipment is lost or stolen. To avoid mix ups, please make sure all of the equipment is properly labeled, and that your swimmer checks their bag before leaving every practice to make sure they have everything.

Caring for the equipment is fairly easy. The mesh carrying bag is designed to get wet. All equipment can be stored in the bag, but the entire bag should be put in a well-ventilated area to dry between practices. Additionally, snorkels can and should be cleaned on the top rack of the dishwasher every couple of weeks.


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My swimmer has never been to a meet before. What should we expect? (originally published 10/6/19)

Meets are a great time to bond with teammates and test our skills! A helpful resource for swim meets is available on our website here:

The coaches spend time early in the season reviewing how meets work with our White and Blue practice groups, including how to line up and wait behind the blocks, what each whistle/start command means, what to do before and after your race, cheering for teammates, and sportsmanship. We often hold mock races so swimmers know what to do at meets.


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I don’t think my swimmer is ready for a meet/ my swimmer doesn’t like competing. Why do we need to attend meets? (originally published 10/13/19)

This is a swim team, not swim lessons. Meets are an important part of team bonding, and they are also necessary to gauge progress. The work we do at practice is goal focused, and without competing, we won’t know if swimmers improve! Our coaches are designing practices and providing critiques with the understanding that the goal is to improve and become more competitive. (of course while having fun too!)  For this reason, teams do not allow swimmers to only practice without competing. This takes away lane space as well as the coach’s time and attention from kids who are participating fully in all areas of the swim team. (Just like you wouldn't join a baseball team, soccer team, or any other organized sport without the intent of playing in games!) If your swimmer is nervous about competing, please encourage them that meets are fun and an opportunity to hang out with their friends! We are working hard to set everyone up for success and create a culture where effort is praised before outcome. Most swim meets that we attend are organized so that swimmers will compete with swimmers of similar abilities. As each meet approaches, we will email details regarding arrival times and any other important infomation.


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Does my child need to wear a cap for practice? For meets? (originally published 10/20/19)

Swim caps for meets are mandatory as it is a part of our “team uniform”. In addition to decreasing drag, swim caps also make it easier for our coaches to watch your swimmer in the pool during warm ups and during their events. Unified caps promote team spirit, identify us as a team, and have better visibility. It will also be easier for you to pick out our swimmers at a meet when they all have the same cap!   Remember that Meet caps should be reserved only for meets!

For practice, your child may choose to swim without a cap only if their hair is short. Any swimmer, boy or girl, who has hair that gets in the eyes or face must wear a cap for practice. Any style of cap can be worn for practice, although lycra (fabric) caps are not recommended.


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What is USA Swimming? What does it mean now that we are a USA Swimming sanctioned club? (originally published 10/27/19)

We are now members of the Middle Atlantic Local Swim Committee (MA LSC), our regions branch of USA Swimming which serves approximately 150 teams in Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Delaware. Over 11,000 swimmers of all abilities compete within the MA LSC.  This new sanction will allow our swimmers to compete at a larger number of local meets, including USA Swimming Championships (Bronze, Silvers, and Junior Olympics). As members of USA swimming, our swimmers can compete in any USA-sanctioned meets in any LSC, although they can only participate in championship meets in their home LSC. USA Swimming offers meets at all levels, from developmental to elite.  Your swimmer will now be entered in the USA Swimming national database, where you can look up their times and track their progression!


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How often should my swimmer be attending practice? Why is regular practice attendance important? (originally published 11/10/19)

While our team does not have an attendance requirement, we suggest that swimmers in White attend 2-3 times per week, swimmers in Blue attend 3 times per week, and swimmers in Black attend 3-4 times per week if they want to improve.  Because swimming is not natural for humans, missing too many practices results in a loss of “feel for the water”, meaning swimmers can lose ground on progress they previously made. Usually, this starts to happen when a swimmer is out of the pool for 4-5 days. After 7-8 days, they start to lose fitness. Our practice schedule is set up to avoid too much time out of the water for any group. While we certainly want kids to be able to attend other activities and for families to take vacation, etc, it’s important to understand the relationship between regular practice attendance and improvement.


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Why do the swimmers learn and compete in all of the strokes? What if my swimmer doesn't like a stroke? Does he/she still need to swim that event? (originally published 11/17/19)

Swimming is a great sport in that it offers multiple events and allows for full-body development. It’s important to learn all of the strokes (and some events, like an individual medley combine them all into one event) to develop well-rounded swimmers. Being able to do all of the strokes also allows for swimmers to rest and work specific muscle groups, which helps if a swimmer is ever injured and can’t do one of the strokes. Additionally, because kids’ bodies are always developing and changing, they may go through plateaus with one stroke only to find success in another. Swimming research suggests that swimmers do not need to specialize until well beyond puberty (late HS or college), and that the best thing for swimming development is to learn and become proficient in all strokes. My dad can confirm that I started out as a backstroker only to later become more of a butterflyer/freestyler! It’s a good thing I swam all of the strokes as a young kid—if not, my success would have been limited.

The coaching staff will never set up your swimmer to fail, so if they are in an event, it’s because we think they’re ready for it! For the Lightning meet, which is scored, we may also have tried to maximize points. All events are chosen with swimming development in mind—if you have any questions, feel free to email the coaching staff.


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Why might my swimmer's times change from meet to meet, and what's the difference between a meet held in meters and a meet held in yards? (originally published 11/24/19)

There are 3 “courses” in swimming—short course yards (25 yard pool), short course meters (25 meter pool), and long-course meters (50 meter pool, like the Olympics). All of our meets are in short-course pools, mostly in yards with a few in meters. The NAC pool is meters, and so is the Lawrence Lightning pool. Many indoor high school pools are yards, and most USA meets we swim will be in yards. Usually the course is listed on the meet entries, or in the Meet Mobile events.

This is important because times will be different in a yards pool vs a meters pool (as you may remember from school, meters are longer than yards by about 11%). There are conversion factors that take into consideration the extra distance (and for long course pools, the impact of having fewer walls to push off of). The conversion factor is approximately 1.11. For example, if you swam the 50 meter freestyle in 45.5 seconds yesterday, that’s like swimming a 40.99 in yards (45.5/1.11= 40.99). Long course—which we do not currently swim on the NAC team—has its own system depending on event.

If you download the On Deck app, you can view your swimmer’s best times and click to convert them by course. (Once we receive the file from Lightning, we can upload yesterday’s times.) There are some other swimming time converter apps that may be useful if you search in your phone’s app store. We sometimes convert best times for seed times in a meet (the time that determines your heat at a meet) if we are allowed to do so, but team records are consistent for the course in which they were set. Right now, we only have short course yards records posted. Coach Kristen may pull together short course meter records by the end of the season and will refer to yesterday’s results if those are created.

We hope this helps clarify any confusion as you compare times across meets going forward! Please remember that conversions are approximate, and every swimmer responds differently to the changes in distance swum. It’s also OK if your swimmer doesn’t get a best time at every meet! Developmental swimmers are still learning and are inconsistent, which is why our team focuses on the process.


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Should my swimmer be dropping time at every meet? (originally published 12/1/19)

Times are a great way to track swimmer progress, so it’s a good idea for your swimmer to ask their times and have an idea of their best times. However, times only tell part of the story, which is why our team focuses on the process rather than the outcome (if swimmers learn the correct process, times will drop naturally).

Many times, some kids swim fast simply because they are stronger or more coordinated at a certain age. Developmental swimmers in particular can be wildly inconsistent with times because they are still learning strokes and racing strategies. Additionally, sometimes learning correct techniques may make swimmers slower temporarily because they are focusing or can’t do the correct motion quickly right away (think of this as one step backwards to take two steps forward).  As swimmers get older and train harder, training cycles may also affect how fast they go in meets. This is why it’s very important for your swimmer to check in with a coach after each swim! The coach will be able to provide feedback on the race—both positive and negative—and potentially explain why a swimmer may have added time. Learning how to race is a key component of being on the swim team, which is why meets are an important part of swimmer development.

Our team philosophy is that we ask every swimmer to try his/her hardest at all times and strive for continuous improvement. Having fun and making progress in the right direction—even if it’s slow going—are the primary goals. If you ever have any concern about your swimmer’s times, please speak with a coach.


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What does it mean when my swimmer gets disqualified (“DQ’d”)? How do I know if my swimmer was disqualified? How can the coaching staff prevent disqualifications (“DQs”) and make sure the kids follow all swimming rules (“stay legal”)? (originally published 12/8/19)

At meets, there are officials to watch that swimmers follow all of the rules in a race to make sure everyone is on an even playing field. For example, if a swimmer does an extra dolphin kick on a breaststroke pullout, that gives them an extra advantage. Even things that seem like they wouldn’t be an advantage may still result in a DQ (for example, missing a wall on a flipturn means the swimmer technically covered less distance; fixing goggles or a swimsuit means the swimmer was not performing the stroke for the entire race.)

Usually, you will see an official (white shirts, walking along the side of the deck) raise a hand if a swimmer is disqualified. An official may tell the swimmer right away about a DQ, but sometimes we don't find out until later during the meet. Many swimmers think that if no time appears on the scoreboard, (dashes or blank) they have been disqualified—this is not correct. It simply means there was an issue with the touchpad, perhaps the swimmer didn’t hit it hard enough or the computer system did not function correctly.

The coaching staff tries to cover all of the rules for swimming in practice and remind swimmers regularly. However, kids are unpredictable, and sometimes they may forget to do something under pressure, or external factors (eg, goggles falling off) result in them doing something they may not normally do. Additionally, DQs often break swimmers of bad habits (eg, one-hand touches in breaststroke/butterfly) quickly! Occasionally, the coaching staff may put a swimmer in a challenging event (eg, butterfly or an IM) for racing experience, even if a swimmer is not 100% legal. While we always want to minimize them, DQs are a part of the process and happen to all levels of swimmers. Our coaching staff is committed to reviewing any reasons for DQs and using them as teaching moments.




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Why is it important to arrive at practice on time? How can we help make sure our swimmers maximize their practice time? (originally published 12/15/19)

Practice is planned so that swimmers have an opportunity to warm up before focusing on drill work and faster swimming. It is disruptive when kids arrive late. At the NAC, we have an added challenge of a limited number of changing stalls in the family locker room. So, if your swimmer is not in the first practice of the night and arrives after the previous practice has let out, there might be a 15+ minute wait for a changing stall. Unfortunately, this means that a difference of a few minutes means that swimmers miss 25-33% of their practice time. We want to make sure your swimmers get the quality practice time that you are paying for.

Going forward, we are asking that swimmers arrive to the pool in their suits if swim comes before Parisi (we have allotted time to change between Parisi and swim if Parisi’s first). This will minimize some of the challenges with the family locker room.


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What should we be doing this week if we can’t make it to holiday practices? (originally published 12/21/19)

The last week of December is historically a good training week for many area teams, so we hope that you can make it to at least a few practices! However, we completely understand if you can’t make it to practice this week—family, vacation, and celebrations always come first!

We do have some USA meets planned for early January, so we want to make sure our swimmers are prepared. If your swimmer can’t make it to practice, 20-30 minutes of medium-intensity aerobic work at least 3 times over the week will minimize the time out of the pool. If you’re in a hotel with access to a pool, kicking against a wall, underwater dolphin kick, and pushoff and turns practice are always a good idea!

Enjoy the time away, and those of us swimming at the NAC this week will look forward to seeing you in January!


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My swimmer has noticed that practices are getting harder. How does this fit into the overall team philosophy and season plan? (originally published 12/29/19)

Over the last few weeks, the coaches have ramped up the intensity across all groups—swimmers are swimming longer distances and sometimes expected to keep faster paces. While we still focus on technique every practice, we have moved into a training phase where we are working on building endurance and aerobic capacity while holding good technique. This will prepare our swimmers for the longer events offered in USA meets.

This also means that some swimmers with lower practice attendance may be struggling when they return. As a reminder, our groups progress based on those who attend frequently. Although we do not have a formal attendance policy, swimmers who miss time are expected to match the speed of the group and hold technique at the expected proficiency level.  We have this philosophy so that we can appropriately reward and challenge swimmers who have strong attendance.  If you have concerns about your swimmer’s current group, please reach out to the coaching staff.


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What is a “heat sheet” and how does “seeding” work at a swim meet? (originally published 1/5/20)

At invitational meets (USA, SAL, and the JCC meet), there are often more swimmers than available lanes in a given event—sometimes up to 100 swimmers in a 6- or 8-lane pool! This means that each event has several “heats”, with the fastest swimmers typically at the end of the event. In the types of meets we attend, swimmers are competing against everyone in their event, not just their heat. This is why the coaches often don’t place emphasis on the place a swimmer obtains in his or her heat. Many times, they are focusing only on NAC swimmers and may not even know the order of finish in the heat! You can usually find your swimmer’s heats, lanes, and results on the “Meet Mobile” app, available in the app store for iPhones and Androids.

Typically, the heats are categorized by seed time (“seeding”) so that swimmers of approximate speeds get to race against each other. Our coaching staff makes the effort to ensure that seed times are as accurate and current as possible, but this usually depends on when we submit entries. When possible, we take a swimmer’s best time in that event and course (SCY or SCM). If that’s not available, we may convert a meters time to yards (or vice versa) or make up a time. Swimmers who are listed with “NT” (“no time”) usually do not have a legal time in that event, but sometimes they might be very fast! NJ Swimming does not allow NTs, but some Mid Atlantic USA meets do. Coach Kristen’s made up times usually end in the year (so for 2020, a made up time might be 2:10.20).

At the beginner level, swimmers may be inconsistent or working on technique changes that temporarily result in slower times, so don’t worry if your swimmer doesn’t beat his or her seed time. At higher levels, swimmers may be in hard training and might only get a best time at the peak times during their season (ie, "shave and taper meets"). Our swimmers are working hard and obtaining valuable racing experience, and our coaching staff is very proud of them!


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My swimmer feels like this season is very long. How can we finish strong and make sure that the end of the season is a positive experience? (originally published 2/16/20)

We agree that the winter swim season is very long, especially for beginning swimmers! Our season was designed to model the other teams in the LSC and take us through to championships in March. January and February may have seemed particularly grueling due to the number of scheduled meets. 2020 is a unique year for our team since we needed to have ample opportunities for swimmers to qualify for MA Championship meets—in future years, we will have fewer meets during these months.

If your swimmer needs a day off from practice, that’s fine! We just ask that you still try to have swimmers in every three days or so. Try not to lose sight of the finish line! The kids have put in a lot of hard work improving technique and conditioning, and attending practice is the only way to preserve that. No matter your swimmer’s end-of-season meet (Lighting, Bronze, STAC Final Finale, or Silvers), we want to make sure they end strong and see the culmination of months of hard work.

After your swimmer’s last meet, they have a minimum of 3 weeks off if you are joining us for spring clinic—or even longer if you’re not! Unlike some of the area teams, we take a break after the winter championships to preserve mental health. Additionally, the break will make it easier for us to correct swimmer strokes if you’re attending our clinic! If you have concerns extending beyond mild burnout, please reach out to the coaching staff.


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