Help! My Child is on the Triton's Swim Team! Now what?

YMN Tritons


A Guide for Bewildered Parents of New Members of the Triton's Swim Team


Every parent, at his/her first swim meet, has wondered, "What am I doing here at 7am on a Saturday morning, and what is going on?"  This booklet will try to answer those questions and more.  Your coaches and fellow swim parents all want you to understand and enjoy the summer swim program.  Welcome to the Tritons!  We are glad to have you with us!

The Triton's Swim Team is a part of New England YMCA, a competitive summer swim league (

Our goals are to practice hard, to try to do our personal best, to make friends, to show exemplary sportsmanship and, most importantly, HAVE LOTS OF FUN!

Expectations of Swimmers:

  • Keep your commitments - Team members are expected to attend all practices and meets, if at all possible.  If you cannot attend a swim meet, you need to notify your coach in advance.  Simply ‘not showing up' will create problems for both coaches and other swimmers, so please notify a coach in advance.
  • Pay attention to the coaches - Disruptions aren't fair to the other swimmers.
  • Do your best - It is a lot more important than being the best.
  • Demonstrate good sportsmanship at all times, win or lose.
  • Have Fun!

Where you can find all of this and more information:



Practices are held at the Melrose YMCA pool and Torigian Peabody YMCA pool.  All swimmers must attend the pool and practices they were assigned.

Swimming apparel & gear:

Swimmers should wear a swimsuit that does not restrict their movement in the water. Swimmers will need goggles - get ready to buy more than a few.  A swim cap is necessary for all boys and girls, unless their hair is very short.  Team suits and swim caps can be ordered through YMCA.  

Swim Meets:

YMCA meets - all swimmers may participate

USA meets - swimmers need do an extra registeration for USA.  We recommend swimming for a good year before trying USA.

There are three meets that are somewhat different:

  • 8 & under meet: This meet is for 8 & under swimmers only.
  • Specialty Meet: This meet will take place three days 
  • Championship Meet: Must have attained a qualifying time in an event

More information will be available on these meets as the time approaches.


The swim meet schedule is posted on the website.  Any printed schedule is subject to change. The most current information will be provided by the coaches in their briefings before the practice.

Swim meets are generally scheduled on weekend.  Starting times are posted on the schedule on the website. This is the time when warm up begins.

Please let your coach know if your child will not be attending a swim meet, as coaches plan the events and relays ahead of time.


  • Towels
  • Swim suit, goggles & swim cap
  • Extra goggles and extra swim cap (just in case)
  • Plenty of water to drink
  • Pen and paper: To write events and times down.
  • Entertainment for children: (i.e., books, games, cards), as meets run anywhere between 3-5 hours in length.  Don't forget entertainment for yourself as well!

Opportunities to volunteer abound at swim meets:

The swim meets require the participation of as many volunteers (parents, older siblings, grandparents) as possible.  While we understand that parents chasing toddlers around the pool, and those chaperoning 8 & under swimmers, or helping to get younger swimmers to their events in time, may not be able to help, please consider helping out if you can.  Timers are always needed (for both home and away meets for the lanes in with Triton swimmers swim).  In addition, at home meets we need help with set up and take down of equipment, ribbon table staffing, stroke and turn judging, announcer, finish judge, runner, etc...   If you are not familiar with these terms and/or other swimming jargon, just ask around. There are many knowledgeable parents around the pool and they would be happy to pass on their knowledge to you - because that means there will be more volunteers to go around!  These "jobs" are relatively easy, and your commitment is only for one half of the meet (first  or second half).


Email is the preferred form of communication.  Group emails (with new information and updates) are sent out as necessary via TeamUnify.  We encourage all team members to get acquainted with TeamUnify, as this is the most efficient and effective way to stay informed.  


Many social events (Mom's night out, Dad's night out, informational clinics, such as Timer's clinic or Stroke & Turn Clinic) will usually be held during evening practice times. The schedule for these events can be found on the team website.

"My kid says he's suppose to swim like a butterfly."

While the Stroke & Turn rules may seem complicated to us, the coaches make sure that they explain them in a manner that is simple enough for a 5 year old to understand.  However, as we adults may be less gifted at grasping these rules, we will briefly describe each stroke, as modified for use in the NE YMCA League.  Please note that other leagues (High School, USA Swimming) may have slightly different rules.


The freestyle is defined as any means of swimming across the pool.  Any stroke or kick is acceptable.  There are, however, a few "don'ts" associated with this stroke:

1. The swimmer cannot walk on the bottom of the pool.

2. The swimmer cannot use the lane lines to pull themselves ahead.

3. In a 50 yard (or meter) race, meaning two pool lengths in short course racing, a swimmer must touch the wall with some body part - hand, foot, head - at the 25 yard (meter) end before touching the wall at the 50 yard (meter) end. 

4. A swimmer must finish the race in the same lane that he/she started in

Causes for disqualification: 

It is hard to get disqualified in freestyle, but it does happen every once in a while.  Apart from the above, a swimmer can get disqualified, for instance, for swimming under the lane line into another swimmer's lane and interfering with that swimmer.


Like the freestyle, almost anything goes with the backstroke, as long as you stay on your back.  Backstroke starts are different because the swimmer is in the water with feet planted against the wall, hanging on the edge of the pool or off of the blocks.  The backstroke flip turn is the only exception to staying on your back and can be used only as a part of a turn.  The backstroke flip turn is optional, so if your child has not learned it yet, do not panic.  The coaches will make sure that they learn it when they are ready.

Causes for disqualification:

Disqualification in backstroke is most often related to the swimmer turning onto their stomach before touching the wall.  A swimmer must finish the race while on his/her back.


The breaststroke has three components: the kick, the arm pull and the glide.  The kick is a "frog" kick and the toes must be pointed outward during the propulsive part of the kick.  The arm pull reaches forward underwater - once the arms are in full extension ahead, the swimmer pauses (or glides) and waits for the legs to finish the kick, with legs together.  The arm pull and kick must be in alternating sequence and the elbows must stay below the water. Breaststroke turns and finishes require a simultaneous, two-hand touch.  For other rules, such as the underwater pull, please attend the Stroke & Turn clinic.

Causes for disqualification:

The frequent cause for disqualification is the swimmers use of a  "scissor kick" - an asymmetric kick, or any other kick that is not a breaststroke kick.  The other major cause of disqualification is a one-hand touch.


A well-executed butterfly (or Fly) is the most beautiful exhibition of power you will ever see in a swimming pool. The fly is the hardest stroke for most swimmers to perfect, and while they are learning it, they may look like they are drowning. There are two components to the fly: the arm pull and the kick.  The arm pull must be an over-the-water recovery (elbows breaking the surface of the water) with the arms moving simultaneously. The kick is a dolphin style kick, with both legs moving simultaneously.  Unlike the breaststroke, there is no requirement to alternate the kick and the pull. Turns and finishes require a simultaneous, two-hand touch on the wall.

Causes for disqualifications:

Asymmetric arm pull, asymmetric kick, any kick other than a dolphin kick.  The other major cause for disqualification is a one-hand touch.

IM (Individual Medley)

In the individual medley (or IM), a swimmer completes each of the four strokes in the following sequence:  Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle.  We swim a 100 yard IM in the Sundance League - 25 yards (one pool length) for each stroke.


There are two kinds of relays:  The Medley Relay and the Freestyle relay. Both involve four swimmers, each one swimming one quarter of the distance.  In the Medley Relay, the sequence is: Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly and Freestyle.  In the Freestyle (or Free)Relay, each swimmer swims freestyle.  In all relays, each swimmer must wait until the previous swimmer touches the wall before leaving the deck or block.  The touch must be appropriate to the stroke - for instance, two-hand touches are necessary to finish the butterfly and breaststroke portions of the relay legally, and touching the wall with the swimmer still on the back is needed for a legal backstroke touch.  The total distance of the relay depends on the age of the swimmer. Younger swimmers (10 & under) only swim 25 yards per leg of the race, older swimmers must complete 50 yards per leg of the race.



Nutrition and Rest:

Children should eat a nutritious meal before swimming.  The consumption of junk food should be avoided during the meets. Light, nutritious snacks are best (fruit, granola, etc...).   Water is the best drink during the swim meet.  It is important to get a good night's rest before a swim meet.

Who are all these people at the swim meet?

Your first swim meet can be an overwhelming experience as you encounter a horde of adults and children who all seem to know what's going on, leaving you feeling like you are the only one who does not belong.  Do not panic!  We are all a "first timer" at some point, and we are all here to help!  It is a good idea to show up on time (or even a little early) to set up your lawn chair/shade/etc... in the team common area while your child is warming up with the team. A few days before the swim meet - the schedule of events and each swimmer's scheduled swims for the day will be emailed.

Bring a pen (or two) and some paper (or a small notebook) to write down the events for each of your swimmers.  Familiarize yourself with the pool, for example, get to know which end of the pool the swimmers will start from, which side of the pool Lane 1 is on, and so forth.  If you are not volunteering, please consider helping your child and other children in your child's age group get to their respective events/lanes on time.  If you are volunteering, please check in with the volunteer desk or coordinator to let everyone know you are here and ready to help!


The Starter is responsible for making sure that all the swimmers are given a fair and equitable start.  The Starter will instruct the swimmers to "take your mark". When all the swimmers are ready and still, the starter will start the race using a "Colorado System" consisting of a loud speaker, a horn and a strobe light.


These people are responsible for ensuring that all swimmers obey the rules for the stroke that they are swimming.  There are two Stroke & Turn judges - one on each side of the pool - and each one watches about half the pool.  If the Stroke & Turn judge sees a violation, he/she records it on a DQ (Disqualification) slip and hands it to the people at the ribbon table. If your child receives a DQ slip, please remain calm. The reason for the DQ is noted on the slip. DQ slips are common during meets, and are a welcome reminder to pay attention to that particular mistake and work on it during the upcoming practices, so the swimmer does not get disqualified in an important meet, like the Finals!


Timers are the most important people to the swimmers.  Volunteering to ‘time' is an opportunity to reserve the best seat in the house-on the pool deck! Timing is a good entry-level volunteer position, and it comes with many perks, one of which is getting to know many of the swimmers.


During the swim meet, the primary responsibility of the coaches is to encourage, instruct and praise the swimmers. Please try to limit talking to the coaches at length during the swim meet, as coaches have a lot of swimmers to pay attention to.

Congratulations on introducing your child to a healthy, life-long sport.  Your child will learn valuable life lessons, organizational skills, the importance of honoring one's commitments, long-term goal setting and ownership of their actions and decisions.  Go TRITON'S!