Potomac Valley Swimming
Level 1

Helping Athletes Succeed at Prelim/Finals Competitions

Many BLUE WAVE athletes have had the opportunity to compete at prelim/final competitions already this season and we have several prelim/final meets coming up. While the prelim/finals format offers an exciting and high level competition arena, it also requires a more invested effort in preparation and recovery. Swim parents can be especially helpful in these situations.

Athletes face the following issues at meets using the prelim/final format:

  • Extra swims. Over a 2.5 day prelim/final meet it is common for an athlete to race 14 or more times compared to a typical timed final competition where 7-9 swims is normal, and many prelim/final meets run 3 or 4 days.
  • Intense competition. Prelim/finals competitions bring out the best in athletes. Expect a heightened level of competition.
  • Recovery & Energy Management. Warming up, cooling down, stretching/rolling, snacking, eating meals, sleeping and traveling to and from the pool become significantly more important in a prelim/final meet. Inadequate recovery will manifest itself very quickly in this arena.
  • Travel. These meets are often away from home territory. Hotel rooms and eating out each day carry their own benefits and challenges.
  • Time. These meets spread swims over a much longer period of time. Where an athlete will be on the pool deck for 4-5 hours per day for a typical timed final meet, 8-9 hours per day is not uncommon for prelim/finals competitions.

Scheduling & Timeline

A traditional prelim/final format calls for preliminaries during the morning session followed by a finals session in the evening. At most meets, athletes will have several hours rest between sessions. It is critical for athletes to rest during this period if they are qualified to compete at finals. Make sure your athlete gets a good lunch and an hour to 1.5 hours of sleep (sleeping longer than 1.5 hours can have a negative effect as this is due to natural sleep cycles) and downtime in the middle of the day. Watching a movie and resting with friends are both better than spending the day walking around a mall or at a restaurant, but neither are as effective as an hour to 1.5 hours of napping.

Most hosting teams will publish meet timelines for prelim/finals competitions on their team or LSC website. Coaches can also usually provide this information if it has not been posted. Communication is key in this situation.

Hotels & Eating Out

There are many different variables in selecting a hotel, of course, but in ideal conditions selecting a suite or hotel room with separate bedrooms is a great decision. This will allow athletes to find a quiet place to rest during between sessions. On most travel trips, coaches generally recommend athletes bring familiar items like pillows and blankets from home. Many families also prefer to select hotel rooms with kitchenettes so they can avoid eating out during the competition.

When selecting restaurants, try to avoid fast or fried foods. Eating "comfortable" foods is a familiar idea. See nutrition suggestions on our website. Ordering in advance can help to reduce the amount of time spent at the restaurant (and increase the amount of time spent resting). It is common for swim families to work together, sending one parent to pick up a lunch or dinner order while another parent carts athletes from the pool to the hotel or restaurant.

During the meet itself, athletes should be supplied with snacks and drinks. The key idea here is that athletes are staying fueled for future sessions of the meet, not necessarily their current session. It is an important difference to note as athletes need to continuously fuel and hydrate their bodies over time (without over eating), particularly during preliminary competition.

For more information on what to eat check out these articles:

Last But Not Least...

Parents should view themselves as their athlete's personal manager or support staff during these longer competitions. The goal of a parent here should be to reduce the number of stress factors each athlete's experiences, not increase them. Remember that coaches, coach please eliminate talking about race strategy or swim technique during breaks. Strive to create a comfortable, stress free environment for your athlete away from the pool. 

Trust your training and have fun at these upcoming Championship meets. Go for it and swim FAST BLUE WAVE!