Video link to a GREAT video about your first swim meet


  1. Arrive at the pool at least 15 minutes before the scheduled warm-up time begins.
  2. Upon arrival, find a place to put your swimmer's blankets, swim bags and/or sleeping bags. The team usually sits in one place together, so look for some familiar faces.
  3. Check in with your coach.
  4. Once checked in with your coach, locate the “heat sheets” or program for the meet.  Heat sheets are posted several places around the pool and you can usually buy your own copy for a few dollars. Write or have the swimmers write each event-number on his or her arm. This helps him/her remember what events he/she is swimming and what event number to listen or watch for.
  5. Your swimmer now gets his/her cap and goggles and reports to the pool and/or coach for warm-up instructions. It is very important for all swimmers to warm-up with the team. A swimmer's body is just like a car on a cold day-he/she needs to get the engine going and warmed-up before he/she can go all out.
  6. After warm-up, your swimmer will go back to the area where his/her team is sitting and wait there until his first event is called. This is a good time to make sure he/she goes to the bathroom if necessary and gets a drink and/or a light snack.  Remember to check in with your coach before your races!
  7. The meet will usually start about 10-15 minutes after warm-ups are over.
  8. According to USA Swimming rules (because of insurance purposes), parents are not allowed on deck unless they are serving in an official capacity. Similarly, all questions concerning meet results, an officiating call, or the conduct of a meet, should be referred to a coach. He or she in turn, will pursue the matter through the proper channels.
  9. Psyche Sheet or Heat Sheets. A psyche sheet is usually available for sale in the lobby or concession area of the pool. It lists all swimmers in each event in order of "seed time". When the team entry is sent in, each swimmer and his/her previous best time (up to the date that the entry was submitted) in that event is listed. If the swimmer is swimming an event for the first time, he/she will be entered as a "no-time" or "NT". A "no-time" swimmer will most likely swim in one of the first heats of the event.


  1. It is important for any swimmer to know what event numbers he/she is swimming (again, why they should have the numbers on their arm). He/she may swim right away after warm-up or they may have to wait awhile.
  2. A swimmer usually reports directly to his/her lane for competition a number of heats before he/she actually swims. Check with your swimmer's coach for specific instructions.
  3. The swimmer swims his or her race.
  4. After each swim:
    • He/she is to ask the timers (people behind the blocks at each lane) his/her time as well as looks at the scoreboard for their time.
    • Depending on the coaches instructions, the swimmer may be asked to do some recovery swimming if a "warm down" pool or lanes are available.
    • The swimmer should then go immediately to his or her coach. The coach will discuss the swim with each swimmer. Some coaches may wish to talk with the swimmer before his/her recovery swim.
  5. Generally, the coach follows these guidelines when discussing swims:
    • Positive comments or praise
    • Suggestions for improvement
    • Positive comments
  6. Things you, as a parent, can do after each swim:
    • Tell him how great he did! The coaching staff will be sure to discuss stroke technique with him. You need to tell him how proud you are and what a great job she/he did.
    • Take him/her back to the team area and relax.
    • This is another good time to check out the bathrooms, get a drink or something light to eat.
  7. The swimmer now waits until his next event is called and starts the procedure again.  While swimmers are not swimming, they should rest and sit with their team. Swimmers can pass the time between events with iPods, games, reading, homework, etc.  It’s important that they are not wandering the facility, as they risk missing their next event.  Events will proceed whether the swimmer is present or not.  And the swimmer is charged, whether they compete or not. So it’s important for them to be nearby and ready when their event time arrives.  Parents will need to keep track of the events and make sure their child is ready at the right time.  The team will have swimmers competing in practically every event, therefore the coaches remain on the side of the pool during the meet to support and encourage those swimmers currently in the water.  The coaches cannot track down swimmers.  When a swimmer has completed all of her events she and her parents get to go home. Make sure, however, you, as a parent, check with the coach before leaving to make sure your swimmer is not included on a relay. It is not fair to other swimmers who may have stayed to swim on a relay where your swimmer is expect­ed to be a member and she is not there.
  8. Results are usually posted somewhere in the facility. Awards are often gathered for a team and given to the coach at the end of the meet. The coach will give the awards to the swimmers at a later time.


A note about disqualifications

Inevitably there are new swimmers who will DQ (disqualify) in every event!  It happens. If your child is disqualified in an event, be supportive rather than critical.  Encourage your swimmer by letting them know you are proud of them regardless of the DQ.  For beginning swimmers, a disqualification should be treated as a learning experience, not as a punishment. A disqualification alerts the swimmer and coach to what portions of the swimmer's stroke need to be corrected. They should be considered in the same light as an incorrect answer in schoolwork-they point out areas that need further practice. Disqualifications are necessary to keep the competition fair and equitable for all competitors. A supportive attitude on the part of the official, coach, and parent can make a positive situation out of the disqualification.

Trained officials observe the swimmers during each event to ensure compliance with the technical rules of swimming. If a swimmer commits an infraction of the rules that is observed by an official, a disqualification (DQ) will result. This means that the swimmer will not receive an official time and will not be eligible for an award in that event. A disqualification may result from actions such as not getting to the starting blocks on time, false starting, performing strokes in an illegal manner, or unsportsman­like conduct. 

DQs are also a result of technical rules violations. They include but are not limited to:  

  • Freestyle: Walking on the bottom, pulling on the lane rope, not touching the wall on a turn, or not completing the distance.
  • Backstroke: Pulling or kicking into the wall once a swimmer has turned passed the vertical onto the breast. Turning onto the breast before touching the wall with the hand at the finish of the race.
  • Breaststroke: An illegal kick such as flutter (freestyle), dolphin (butterfly), or scissors (side stroke); not on the breast; alternating movements of the arms; taking two arm strokes or two leg kicks while the head is under water; touching with only one hand at the turns or finish. 
  • Butterfly: Alternating movements of the arms or legs; pushing the arms forward under instead of over the water surface (underwater recovery); a breaststroke style of kick; touching with only one hand at the turns or finish.

For specific language on any technical rules consult the USA Swimming Rules and Regulations book. Violations of the rules are reported to the Referee. 


What to bring with you

  1. Make sure your swimmer brings extra clothes and towels.  Your swimmer will need to stay warm between events so extra dry towels or sweats to wear over swimsuits are helpful.
  2. Water, fruit juices and light snacks.  Often there is a concession stand with snacks but be prepared in case there isn’t.  Fresh fruits such as grapes, oranges, apples or watermelon are quick light snacks that won’t weigh your swimmer down.  Goldfish, trail mix and raisins are also small snacks your swimmer can munch on between events.  And the best after meet recovery drink is chocolate milk.
  3. Money for heat sheets, gear table and/or concessions if available.  You will probably want to buy your own copy of the heat sheets to keep track of your swimmers events.  Heat sheets can typically be purchased for $3.00 to $5.00.  It is also a good idea to have extra money for the gear table in case your swimmer breaks their goggles or forgets their swim cap and you need to buy an emergency replacement.
  4. Folding chairs
  5. Highlighters, Black Sharpies, pens and pencils.  You will want to highlight your swimmer’s events on your heat sheets and then write them on your swimmer’s arm with a sharpie.
  6. Parents and spectators will need to dress cool.  Yes, even in the winter.  Indoor pools are often kept warm, and will be even warmer with the presence of more people.

Example Heat Sheet and How to Mark E/H/L/S on Your Swimmer's Arm