This is a work in progress and the coach and meet officials always have the final word regardless of what is said here. Please send us corrections, comments, and suggestions!

General Swim Team Questions

1. What is the swim team and why would I want my child to participate?

It's fun. It's great exercise. It builds confidence. It's a great way for your child to meet other kids in the neighborhood. It's a great way for you to meet other parents.

2. Who can answer my questions about the swim team?

Wendy Seidman + Avery Giordano coordinates the swim team efforts. They can answer most of your questions or direct you to a person who can. You can contact them at [email protected]

3. What strokes do the swimmers use in competition?

Freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly.

4. What swimming strokes does my child need to know to join the team?

If your child is 4-7 and cannot yet complete a full lap of freestyle they should join the Traning Squad. If you child is 6 to 18 and can swim a lap of the pool then they should come to swim team practice and have the coach evaluate them for the team.

5. I just want my child to learn how to swim better. Do they have to swim in competition?

You should discuss this with the coach.

6. I see that there are different age groups for the swimmers. How does that work?

The age groups are 8 & under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-18. Every other year your child will have an "up" year when they are the oldest in their age group and a "down" year when they are the youngest in their age group. The system generally works well.

7. Does Willowdale have an Olympic size pool?

No. The length of Willowdale's pool is 25 meters. An Olympic size pool is 50 meters. A 25 meter pool is sometimes referred to as a junior Olympic size pool.

8. What is Tri-County?

The Tri-County Swimming Association is an organization representing 36 summer swim clubs in three counties (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester.) Willowdale is one of the 36 swim clubs. You can visit the website at for more information.
Tri-County is also used a shorthand for the "Tri-County Championship Meet" that is held at the end of the summer swim season. To attend Tri-County a swimmer must qualify by swimming a fast time in the particular event. The times required to qualify for each age group and stroke are listed on the swim team bulletin board and at the Tri-County website.

Swim Team Practices

9. How often and when is practice?

The practice schedule is available under the Swim Team tab.

10. Should I stay and watch a swim practice?

You're welcome to watch. Please refrain from talking with the coach during practice. Practice is when the coach spends time with the swimmers. Please hold you questions for the coach until before or after practice.

11. What happens if we have a conflict and my child is not able to attend practice?

Discuss this with the coach.

12. Does a child have to swim in a particular number of practices during the week in order to swim in a meet?

Discuss this with the coach.

13. Does my child need to wear the team swim suit during practice? During a meet? What brand and where do I buy it?

Not during practice. In fact, to reduce wear-and-tear the swim team suit should only be worn during meets. The swim team suit changes from year-to-year. Swimmers who do not wish to purchase a new suit are welcome to wear a black or dark blue suit. The Swim Team tab has information on the suit for this season.

14. My child attends a summer day camp. Can s/he still participate?

There are special camper practices. You can check the Swim Team tab for more information on the practice times and also be sure to talk with the coach about your schedule.

Swim Meets

15. What is a dual meet and what other kinds of meets are there?

A dual meet is held between two swim teams. One swim club is the host team and the other is the visiting team. Willowdale participates in five dual "A" meets and three or four dual "B" meets. The schedule is posted at the swim team bulletin board and is available from the Swim Team page.
There are two main championship meets that Willowdale participates in: Cherry Bowl (13 teams) and the Tri-County Championship Meet (36 teams). Each is discussed more below.
There may be additional meets offered by other clubs and advertised at

16. What is an "A" meet and what is a "B" meet?

"A" meets are competitive and the results determine what division Willowdale will swim in next year. At the end of the swim season the team with the best record moves up a division and the team with the worst record moves down a division.
"B" meets are not as competitive and the results have no effect on Willowdale's standing in the division. This does not mean that the kids swimming in B meets are any less talented and often you will see swimmers from the A meet swimming strokes that they are not able to swim in an A meet because their times are not as competitive. The B meets are also limited to 14 and under swimmers.
"A" meets are held on Saturday mornings and have 66 events that include all age groups. "B" meets are held on Wednesday evening and are generally only for swimmers ages 12 and under. "B" meets have fewer events and tend to be less structured (and more chaotic) than "A" meets.

17. Can a child swim in both A and B meets?

Yes. This is up to the coach. You should let a coach know if you have a specific request or concern. The coach will have more flexibility in putting your child into a B meet and has less flexibility with an A meet.
If a swimmer has qualified for the Tri-County Championship Meet in a particular stroke they can't swim that stroke in a B meet.

18. How do we know which meet my child will swim in?

The coach will tell you what event(s) your child will be swimming in the day before the meet. The "meet sheet" is posted on the morning of the meet.

19. How many meets will my child participate in?

It depends on a variety of factors including your child's swimming ability, the availability of other children within the age group, and coaching strategy.
The summer swim season is relatively short (five weeks) with only five dual meets. At most a swimmer would participate in Cherry Bowl and then Tri-County, so the season is at most seven weeks long.

20. When are the meets?

"A" meets are Saturday morning. The coach will tell you when to have your child at the meet for warmups.
"B" meets are on Wednesday evening. Again, the coach will tell you when to have your child at the meet for warmups.
A schedule of the meets can be found from the Swim Team page.

21. How long does a meet last?

"B" meets are usually 2 to 2.5 hours.
"A" meets are usually 2.5 to 3 hours long.

22. What teams will we swim against?

It depends on the division. The teams in each division are listed at the Tri-County website:
A schedule of the meets can also be found from the Swim Team page.

23. Where can I find directions to the swim club we are visiting?

Directions to the swim club for an away meet will be posted on the swim team bulletin board or you can find directions to all the clubs at the Tri-County website ( Often the team will meet at Willowdale and drive in a caravan to the opponent's swim club.

24. What can I do to help prepare my child for a meet?

Have your swimmer eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, bring a water bottle to the meet, and have them to the meet on time. Advise them to listen to the coach and to have fun! Cheer them on too!

25. What are the events in a meet?

The events in a "B" vary some; however, there are 66 events (Swim Meet Order of Events) in an "A" meet.

26. What is a "heat"?

An event may be divided into multiple "heats." Usually a dual meet will only have one heat in each event with 2 to 8 swimmers depending on the number of swimmers and the size of the pool. The championship meets with multiple teams often have multiple heats of each event to accommodate the large number of swimmers.

27. What is a relay? And what stroke(s) do the swimmers use?

Relays consist of four "legs" with a different child swimming each leg. The distance varies with the age group from 100 meters (four lengths of the pool) for the younger age groups to 200 meters for the older age groups. You can review the full list of events to get a feel for where the relays occur in the meet.
There are two types of relays: medley and freestyle. The medley relay has four different legs: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle. The freestyle relay has four legs of freestyle.

28. How is it determined what swimmers will be on a relay?

The coach makes this decision. There are a variety of factors involved.

29. How is the winner of a dual meet determined?

The fastest swimmers in each event earn points for their team using the following scale:
Individual events: 1st = 5 points, 2nd = 3 points, 3rd = 1 point
Relay events: 1st = 7 points, 2nd = 0 points

30. What does DQ mean?

Disqualification - this can happen for a variety of reasons including starting early (false start), leaving the diving block early in a relay, performing an illegal stroke, performing an illegal turn, not touching the wall with two hands during a breaststroke turn, etc. If you'd like to learn more, see the Swim Meet Officials section below.

31. Are kids DQed a lot?

No. The younger swimmers, especially the 8 & under age group tend to have more problems early in the season, but you'll see a DQ from time to time in every age group.
If your child is disqualified try not to get upset about it. Your swimmer will be unhappy enough about it without having your emotions adding to the situation. If you think there was an error made, then discuss it calmly with the coach. Do NOT discuss it with the officials. Let the coach do that if it is appropriate.

32. What does it mean when my child is "swimming up"?

The coach may determine that the team (and perhaps the swimmer) can best be served by having your child swim in an older age bracket. This is a complement to the swimmer because it shows the coach feels that the he or she can swim effectively and will make a significant contribution to the team.

33. Does my child have to participate in every meet? What happens if my child has a conflict for a meet?

Without consistent participation the team will have a poor season, but conflicts happen. Let the coach know in writing as soon as possible if your swimmer will not be able to attend a meet.

34. How do swimmers earn ribbons and medals at meets?

In dual "A" meets, ribbons are given for the first four places in individual events and first place in the relay events. In "B" meets, ribbons are given to all participants.
The policies vary with championship meets and are usually posted at the websites associated with the championship meet.

35. What is Cherry Bowl? When and where is it?

Cherry Bowl is the championship meet with the 13 Cherry Hill swim clubs. The hosting of the meet is rotated between the clubs so it varies with each season.
Swimmers are allowed to swim in one individual event and two relays at Cherry Bowl.

36. What is Tri-County? When and where is it?

The Tri-County Championship meet (36 teams) is held in early August. The Tri-County Web Site will have the details. It's an amazing event and you should encourage your swimmer to go if they qualify.
Swimmers may participate in at most two individual events and two relays.

37. How are the results of the meet posted?

The team results will be announced at the end of the meet.
Individual times are posted at the Tri-County web site within the week. A ranking of the best times is kept over the course of the season and is used for seeding (determining the order that swimmers compete in) the championship meets (Cherry Bowl and Tri-County).

38. How can I best help the team?

Support your child by bringing them to practice, preparing them for the meet and cheering for them and the team at the meets.
Volunteer to help out at a swim meet or with other swim team duties. It's an all volunteer effort and there is always something more that can be done.
Consider becoming a stroke & turn judge, starter or referee. The officiating is all volunteer and it always helps to have more people trained to step in when others have scheduling conflicts for a meet. You may also enjoy the meet more when you know the rules well.
It takes approximately 24 volunteers just to run a meet:
1 Starter
1 Referee
2 Stroke & Turn Officials
1 Place Judge
1 Head Timer
9 Timers
2 Stagers
3 Score Keepers/Records
2 Runners
1 Announcer
2 Ribbon writers
Plus we will need volunteers (4) to work the snack table. We always need people to bake/bring desserts for pasta night & other team events. We also need volunteers to help run some of the team's social events.

Swim Meet Officials

39. How is a meet officiated and who are the officials?

A swim meet will have a referee who runs the meet, a starter who announces the event and starts the swimmers, multiple stroke and turn judges, a head timer and multiple timers for each lane. You'll get the hang of the flow of events at an "A" meet very quickly. The pace is rapid since there are 66 events. The "B" meets are less formal and tend to be more chaotic, but just like the "A" meets they're fun!

40. I see some parents timing the events. Can I do that too?

Sure. At "A" meets there are three timers required on each lane. At "B" meets there are usually only two timers and one is all that is required since the times are unofficial. See the head timer if you are interested in timing. If there are already sufficient timers the head timer may take your name to have you as an alternate if someone has to leave or take a bathroom break.
If you are a timer make sure you use the strobe light instead of the horn for starting your stopwatch. This is why you may see timers craning their necks around the swimmers or other timers to make sure they can see the strobe light.
Although each lane has three timers, there will be two timers from the opposing team timing your swimmer. Likewise we will have two of three timers doing the timing for the opposing team's lanes.
Parents can also be place judges. A place judge records the order of finish and acts as a cross-check to the timings in each lane.

41. Why do the timers have to go to the other end of the pool for some events?

The 8 & unders and 9-10 groups have some 25 meter events. They dive off the blocks (or start from the wall for backstroke) and swim one length of the pool. The timers have to see them touch the wall so they are located at the opposite end of the pool from the starting blocks.
By the way, it is legal to start from the side of the pool instead of a starting block. You may see this with some of the younger swimmers who are not comfortable diving yet.
The 11-12 year-olds and older have all 50 or 100 meter events. They start and end on the same edge of the pool by the starting blocks.

42. Being an official looks like fun and/or I want to help the team by being an official. How do I find out more?

There are free clinics to teach you the rules at GCIT at the beginning of the summer. Check the Tri-County web site for more information.

43. Hey, my kid was just DQed! What can I do about it?

Talk to your coach. Do NOT talk to the officials.

44. I'm sure that kid just did an illegal turn on his backstroke, but he wasn't called for it. Who do I complain to?

It's not really a parent's place to find fault with the officiating. If you feel strongly that there is a problem with the officiating then you should talk with one of the swim team representatives or the coach. They can best decide how to proceed, but the officiating is really under the direction of the hosting club's referee.

45. That's a strange looking freestyle stroke. Is that legal?

Except for an exception or two, Tri-County uses USA Swimming rules. The USA Swimming web site has the rules, or better yet, attend one of the free clinics that Tri-County puts on at the beginning of the summer.

46. I noticed on the Tri-County web site that there is an error in the time that my child swam in a recent meet. How do I get that corrected?

Talk to a swim team representative. S/he will know best how to get the situation corrected.

47. It looks like there is a lot to do to run a swim meet. Can I help?

Yes! See a swim team representative for ideas.

Coaches, Parents, Kids

48. Who are the coaches?

Check out the Coaches page for more information.

49. How can I best help the coach help my child?

Bring them to practices regularly, prepared and on time. Be supportive and let them enjoy the sport. Let the coach do the coaching.

50. How do I let a coach know when we can't attend practice? or be at a meet?

Please let the coach know in writing as soon as possible. It's necessary to put it in writing since the coaches are trying to coordinate over 100 swimmers on the team and a verbal notice will probably be forgotten.

51. What if I have an important message to tell the coach during a swim meet?

Wait until the coach is not busy and then briefly tell them your message. The coaching staff is focused on supporting the swimmers during the meet so please leave them free to do that as much as possible.

52. It looks like there is a lot to do to run a swim team. Can I help?

Yes! See a swim team representative for ideas.

53. I can't be at the swim meets. Can I help in other ways?

Yes! See a swim team representative for ideas.

Winter Swimming

54. What options are available if my child wants to continue swimming in the winter?

There are several options in the area.

55. Do meets work the same in the winter as they do in the summer?

No, there are significant differences. There are more meets available during the winter and there are various regional and even national meets. The distances are somewhat longer usually although "short course yard" (SCY) (25 yard) pools are more common. You may see "short course meter" (SCM) (25 meter) and even "long course" (LC = 50 meter) events.