Why Swim

Competitive swimming is an ideal activity for young people as it meets the goals for children’s organized sports cited by many experts:

  • Learning motor skills
  • Increasing physical activity levels
  • Learning social skills
  • Learning good sportsmanship
  • Having fun

Swimming is considered the ideal physical activity because:

  • Swimming is a low impact activity that reduces stress on joints – it is the most injury-free sport
  • Swimming develops coordination by requiring complex muscle movement involving all parts of the body
  • Swimming builds cardiac and respiratory fitness and develops aerobic endurance
  • Swimming promotes muscle development and burns calories
  • Swimming can be continued for a lifetime
  • Swimming is a sport where children with disabilities can participate

In addition to the extensive physical benefits, competitive swimming also benefits young people by:

  • Providing a supportive, wholesome social outlet
  • Teaching a strong work ethic—swimmers learn that hard work equals success
  • Learning sportsmanship, including dealing with winning and losing
  • Developing team camaraderie and close friendships, many for life
  • Time-management—competitive swimmers are always among the top students
  • Learning goal setting, self-discipline and self-confidence
  • Learning to “compete”—swimmers will learn by competing with the best, which stimulates them to do their best

Aside from the physical, social and developmental benefits, competitive swimming is a FUN and EXCITING sport for young people. With professional coaches—not volunteers— children get expert training from coaches that devote their life to competitive swimming.

Praising Swimmers

How often do you think about the amount of and type of praise you offer your child? The wrong kind of praise, or praise used too frequently or infrequently can cause difficulties. Sometimes we think that it is not possible to over praise a child because constant praise will build a child's self esteem. However, there is a real world for the child outside of the home and a child's peers may not always be as praise giving as his or her parents. Other children are usually quite truthful and blunt about the feats of their peers. Children constantly praised at home may feel themself placed on a pedestal only to be knocked off outside the home. In a Parents Magazine article, educational consultant Fredelle Maynard listed the dos and don'ts of praise.

First the Don'ts:

  • Don't praise by comparison ("You're the best athlete on the team"). It may encourage unnecessary competition or fear of failing next time.
  • Don't praise constantly. If everything a child does is terrific, wonderful, the best, you will run out of superlatives and the child will become blasé about applause.
  • Don't praise indiscriminately. Children who are veteran competitors know when a performance is good or bad. Parental ecstasies over mediocre performance can either make children cynical or cause them to feel like frauds
  • Don't praise so extravagantly that children feel pressure to go on shining. Over enthusiastic applause destroys a good motive for activity (to please oneself) and substitutes a poor one (to please parents).
  • Don't use sarcastic or "backhanded" praise. "Well, you did all flip turns for a change." "You didn’t false start. I can't believe it." The best praise to use is encouragement. Encouragement helps build a child's confidence and autonomy while praise can be more manipulative, emphasizing what the adult wants. Encouragement allows kid to "own" their accomplishments and to find within themselves the strength and desire to do their best.

Now the Do’s:

  • Do be specific. Instead of using words that evaluate ("What a great race"), describe in concrete terms what you see: "You kept your technique during that race.”
  • Do describe the behavior and its consequences. For example, "Thanks for getting dressed and out of the locker room so quickly. Now we have more time to go shopping for the new equipment you need."
  • Do focus on the child's effort, not the product. "You practiced hard for this meet and it really paid off."
  • Do point out how your child has progressed. "You couldn't have done that last year!"
  • Do give control back to the child. Let the child do the evaluating. Rather than say, "I'm so proud of you," say, "You must feel so proud of yourself.” Instead of "I like the way you helped that relay," try, "You were able to help that relay."

Adapted from “News for Swim Parents.”  Published by the American Swimming Coaches Association. 

First Swim Meet

The first swim meet can be overwhelming for kids and their parents but with these helpful tips we are sure your first meet will go smoothly for you and your child.

What to Pack

  • You should pack a small cooler with snacks and drinks.  Fresh fruit, granola bars, fruit bars, yogurt, and sandwiches are good choices.  Keep snacks simple and healthy. 
  • Water!!!  It is important to stay hydrated.
  • Swim gear: remember your Swim Melbourne cap, goggles, swimsuit(s) and towels. It's always good to pack an extra cap and goggles in case one breaks. Extra towels are important also (one for after warm up and one for after events, especially in colder weather).  In the colder months it is important to bring a parka or warm clothing that can slip over the swimmers suit, socks and a blanket.
  • Sunscreen!!!
  • Chairs for you and your family. The team sits under tents together. It adds to the fun of the day having the kids/parents socialize during the down times. The team tent space is for the swimmers first. At most swim meets there will be enough room to accommodate parents but this is not always the case.  Cards, games, books, etc. are also a good way to pass the time in between events.

When you Arrive

  • Always try to arrive 15 minutes prior to the start of warm-up.  This will give you time to find the team’s tent, settle into a spot and check in with your coach.  The team tent space is first for the swimmers since they need the shade.  At most meets there is enough room to accommodate swimmers and parents but not always.
  • The swimmers do not pay at the door but the rest of the family members must pay to enter.  You will also want to purchase a heat sheet. A heat sheet is the meet program. It will list all of the meet events, each heat, and each swimmer’s lane.  You will reference this heat sheet for the entire meet.
  • Warm-ups are a team-organized activity.  Coaches will announce that the team is going to warm-up.  Warm-up usually takes 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the age and experience of the swimmers.  Coaches will be there to give instruction and prepare the swimmer to swim fast. 
  • An event is their “race.”  There are four strokes in competitive swimming:  Freestyle, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Butterfly.  There is also an IM which stands for Individual Medley.  The IM consists of equal lengths of all four strokes in the following order:  Fly, Back, Breaststroke, Freestyle. There may be times your swimmer will be swimming in a relay.  A relay is an event where four swimmers each swim an equal distance.  When the first swimmer finishes, the next swimmer goes until all four have completed their lap(s).   There are freestyle relays where all swimmers swim freestyle, as well is the Medley Relay. In a Medley Relay each swimmer swims a different stroke and the order is:  Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle.

When Meet Starts

  • Once the meet starts, you will need to keep track of the events and when to go to the starting block.  Swimmers should go behind the blocks 3-4 heats prior to their heat.  IT IS NOT YOUR COACH'S RESPONSIBILITY TO GET YOU TO THE STARTING BLOCK!  Pay attention to what event is being swum. Some of the races last less than 30 seconds so be aware of the schedule and get to the starting area well before your event begins.
  • Before your event talk to your coach. He/she will give you racing instructions, things to think about, etc. and then go line up behind the timers.  Parents sometimes are not allowed in the area behind the starting blocks. Parents: take your child to the correct lane and have him check in with the timer. If it is a meet where the parents are not allowed past a certain point, a coach or an experienced swim team member can guide them to their correct lane.  Your child should stand behind the timer's chair and wait for his heat.
  • After your race, go talk to your coach.  The coach will give the swimmer some feedback on their race and have him/her warm down few easy laps in the warm-up area.
  • After warming down, it's time to relax and get ready for your next race!  It is always fun and encouraging to cheer on your teammates when you are not swimming.

Congratulations!  The process will get easier, more routine and not as overwhelming the more meets you attend. Do not hesitate to ask the coach or fellow parents for help or information.  Racing is such a fun experience and its a great way to celebrate being part of a team.  Be proud and have fun 

Types of Swim Meets 

Short Course is the classification for a 25-yard pool and Long Course is for a 50-meter pool.  USA Swimming currently has seven classifications of swimming times.  These range from “C” through “AAAA.”  Swimmers will have the opportunity to enter these swim meets throughout the season. These different levels of meets are categorized into various types:

  • Developmental Meets.  Designed to give the novice swimmer an opportunity to compete with other swimmers of similar experience and ability.  Swimmers should be striving to achieve an “A” or Junior Olympic qualifying time in their entered events.
  • “A” Age Group Meets.  Geared for the better swimmers.  A swimmer qualifies for events in these meets by equaling or bettering the “A” time standard for each event.
  • Invitational Meets.  Open to all registered swimmers of invited teams regardless of times.
  • Senior Meets.  Open to swimmers of all ages who can equal or better the stated senior qualifying times in the events entered.

Competitive vs. Recreational Teams

Swim Melbourne is a USA Swimming competitive swim team, not a recreational (rec) swim team.  Just like in all sports, swimming provides at least two directions: recreational and competitive.  Rec teams are typically geared towards teaching the inital love and basics of swimming.  The USA Swimming club teams are geared toward the more serious athletes that want to take their basic swim skills to the next level, and show more commitment. Both programs work well together within a community because coaches will recognize the potential and effort of each swimmer and position them accordingly.  If a rec team has a swimmer that shows more commitment than the other swimmers, it may be time to look for a comp team, just as one does in soccer, baseball, softball, football, etc. And vice versa, if a swimmer is struggling to keep up with training or lacks the commitment, then the rec team may be best.  Every community needs both: rec teams and competitive teams.  And one thing is for sure—children will have equal fun in both programs, but the goals of each program are different.   

Why do you register with USA Swimming?

USA Swimming is the organization assigned by the US Congress as the official governing body for swimming in the United States.  Swim Melbourne is a member club of United States Swimming.  All of our swim team members must be registered with United States Swimming each year, regardless if your child competes at swim meets.  USA Swimming provides our club with liabilitiy insurance.  For that reason all swimmers need to be current members of USA Swimming in order to participate in daily practices and attend swim meets.