Virginia Gators of Charlottesville

Since 2000, the Virginia Gators of Charlottesville has offered high-quality swim training from beginner to elite with a focus on balancing physical, social, and emotional development in assisting swimmers to reach their personal goals. Head Coach JJ Bean, in his 23rd year leading the Gators, is committed to providing a personal approach to helping every swimmer improve every day. 

This Fall we will begin practices on September 6th at Fairview Pool until September 18th. We will then move to the Key West Swim Club outdoor, heated pool until September 30th and finally to our fall indoor home at Crow Pool on Rose Hill Drive in Charlottesville until the Fairview renovations are completed and our Bubble goes up again. 

Frequently Asked Questionss

Can you tell me more about the Virginia Gators swim program? Who can join?

Any child who can swim 25 yards of the pool unassisted may find an appropriate developmental group in our program. We offer our Age Group Prep and Age Group 1 programs for swimmers who can complete a full length of the pool but may not have full competitive strokes yet. Our Age Group 2 and 3 programs are for more experienced young swimmers who want to improve their competitive abilities. Our Junior program is for typically middle school-aged swimmers who want to swim competitively or recreationally as a multi-sport athlete. Our Senior program also offers options from the more multi-sport minded swimmer to the high level college swimming focused athlete. 

Do we have to be Fairview members to join the Gators?

No. While many of our athletes also compete for Fairview's summer league team, many more swimmers belong to other summer league teams, or do not swim for any summer league team. The Virginia Gators is not related to the Fairview Swim Team, but rents the Fairview facility from September through May.

Is there a place for me?

If you want to swim just for fun, to do better in the Jefferson Swim League, to improve for your high school team, swim for fitness, or to train to be an Olympian, we have a place for you.

What about school?

Not only does swimming develop the body, it also develops self-esteem, self-discipline, goal setting, and good work habits. Many of our athletes represent Honor Rolls and Gifted Programs from a variety of school districts and private schools.

What about fun?

Yes, there is work involved, but there is also a lot of fun! You make new friends and share many new experiences with them.

How flexible is the practice schedule?

Young swimmers are offered more practices than they are expected to attend, and are encouraged to participate in other extracurricular activities. As swimmers get older and more experienced, the expectations and commitment level gradually increase.

What is USA Swimming?

USA Swimming is the National Governing Body for competitive swimming in the United States. USA Swimming was conceived in 1978 with the passage of the Amateur Sports Act which specified that all Olympic sports would be administered independently.

As the National Governing Body for the sport, USA Swimming is responsible for the conduct and administration of swimming in the United States. In this capacity, USA Swimming formulates the rules, implements policies and procedures, conducts the national championships, disseminates safety and sports medicine information and selects the athletes to represent the United States in international competition.

How is USA Swimming Organized?

International: The international federation for the aquatic sports is the Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA). USA Swimming is affiliated with FlNA through United States Aquatic Sports (USAS), which is made up of the four aquatic sports: swimming, synchronized swimming, diving and water polo. National: USA Swimming is a Group A member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and has voting representation in the USOC House of Delegates.

Local: Within the United States, USA Swimming is divided into 59 Local Swimming Committees (LSCs); each one responsible for administering USS activities in a defined geographical area. Each LSC has its own set of by-laws under which it operates.

A House of Delegates with representation of athletes, coaches, members of the Board of Directors and clubs is responsible for managing the business affairs of each LSC.

USA Swimming is a non-profit organization made up of very dedicated volunteers. Interested individuals donate their time, energy and expertise at every level from the national Board of Directors to the local swimming clubs. All policy decisions are made through a chain of committees reporting to elected vice presidents.

The USA Swimming House of Delegates meets once a year at the annual USAS Convention and determines the rules and regulations for swimming for the following year. Between yearly meetings of the House of Delegates, an elected USS Board of Directors is charged with the responsibility of making decisions for the Corporation.

What is Virginia Swimming, Inc. (VSI)?

VSI is one of the 59 Local Swim Committees (LSCs) of USA Swimming. VSI is responsible for USA Swimming competition within the geographical boundaries of the state of Virginia, except the counties of Arlington and Fairfax, and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church. VSI also includes the counties of Camden, Curituck and Pasquotank in the state of North Carolina.

See the VSI website for more information.

I hear people talking about USA Swimming, YMCA swimming, summer league swimming (JSL), etc., but I don't know how they all relate. Can you help me?

The Virginia Gators is a USA Swimming member club. All Gator swimmers are required to be members of USA Swimming, even if they do not compete, as USA Swimming provides insurance coverage. Gator swimmers are eligible to compete in all VSI/USA Swimming competition for which they qualify, and the competition is held in accordance with USA Swimming Rules and Regulations. In addition to age-group and senior level swimming, USA Swimming also runs competition such as the National Championships and Olympic Trials.

The YMCA also has a very active swim program. YMCA swim clubs may exclusively compete in YMCA sanctioned competition which is separate and apart from USA Swimming sanctioned competition. Conversely, some clubs may participate in both USA Swimming and YMCA competition. The Charlottesville branch of the Virginia Gators is not YMCA affiliated, and thus Charlottesville area swimmers do not participate in YMCA swimming.

Summer league swimming is similar to recreational league baseball or soccer. The rules used by summer leagues may be modified from those used for USA Swimming competition. For example, swimmers in the Jefferson Swim League are disqualified after two false starts, while in USA Swimming competition, disqualification occurs after the first false start. Unlike many swimmers that compete under USA swimming who train year-round, summer league swimmers train for two to three months during the summer.

None of the swim options should be judged as better or inferior to other options. What is important is that depending upon the needs of the swimmer and the swimmer's family, there is likely to be a viable alternative for the child that wants to swim part-time, to the athlete with Olympic aspirations.

What do "short course" and "long course" refer to?

Swimming competition from September through April of each year is conducted in pools that measure either 25 Yards or 25 Meters in length. These pools are referred to as short course pools.  Swimming during late spring and the summer of each year is conducted in pools that measure 50 Meters in length. These pools are referred to as long course pools.  Thus, we have short course and long course seasons, and we have short course and long course competition.

How do swimmers get entered into meets?

Approximately 4-6 weeks prior to a meet, the information, including the entry deadline, will be posted on the Gator website.  It will also indicate any eligibility requirements such as qualifying times. If the swimmer does not understand whether or not they qualify for a particular meet, please speak with the coach.

It is important to understand a couple of things about meet entry deadlines. First, they are usually very strict, and submission of entries following the deadline date may result in the club's entries not being accepted. Because putting together meet entries is a time-consuming task, and because the entries are generally submitted within a few days of the sign-up deadline, it is critically important that everyone sign up on time.

A second thing to keep in mind is that the club must submit the meet entry fees along with the meet entry report. These fees are not refundable, even if the swimmer does not swim in the meet. Because the Gators pay these fees up front, the swimmer's family is obligated to pay these fees regardless of whether or not they participate in the meet. These fees will appear on your monthly bill.

Once the swimmer indicates that they will go to a meet, the coaches select the individual events that will be swum.

What should a parent expect at a swim meet?

You may find you first meet a bit overwhelming without a little knowledge going in. Perhaps the best piece of advice we can give you is to "hang out" with parents who have been through it before. We've all been in your position before, and would be more than happy to show you the ropes!
- Find out when warm-ups start and arrive 10-15 minutes early.
- Expect bodies, and lots of them. 400 plus swimmers may be entered in a meet, and combine that with parents, siblings, etc., and you've got a crowd.
- Depending upon the swim venue, you will likely want to bring folding chairs, blankets, or sleeping bags. A lot of your time will be spent waiting between your child's events, and comfort is a consideration. Parents generally sit together as teams, and create their own encampments in the stands, lobby, or overflow rooms.
- Many parents bring food and drink to meets to cut down on expenses. Alternatively, the host team frequently sells a variety of food and drink.
- Something to do. Bring a book, magazine, cross-point, etc. There's plenty of time to get something done.
- Pens and highlighters are great for keeping track of where your child is swimming (see next item) and their results
- Buy a "heat sheet" or "meet program." Both refer to the same thing. At a minimum, the heat sheet will list each of the events and the swimmers that are to swim in each of the events. This is usually broken down into individual heats with the swimmers listed by lanes (note: for a variety of reasons meet officials might move a swimmer to a different heat or lane, so pays to stay a few heats ahead). With the exception of distance events, heats are usually swum slowest to fastest, starting with the girls.
- Distance events (400 Meters/500 Yards or greater) are frequently handled differently from the shorter events. First, the swimmers may not be pre-seeded into heats, but are simply listed in order of times (sometimes referred to as a psych sheet). Swimmers may even be required to check-in in order to swim the event. After seeding, the heats are usually swum fastest to slowest, while alternating heats of girls and boys.
- If it is an away meet, expect to be asked to help with the timing. If it is a home meet, volunteers will be required for countless tasks. Remember, it takes a huge number of volunteers to run a swim meet and no one, except the coaches, is paid. The greater the number of volunteers, the less any one person has to do. Volunteering has additional benefits as well. You frequently have a better view of the meet, you meet other parents, you learn more about the sport, and time passes more quickly.
- In addition to learning how to swim an event according to the rules, young swimmers also have the opportunity to learn about responsibility. While you may be tempted to keep track of them at every moment, shepherd them to the clerk of course and/or blocks, and make sure that they don't miss an event, these are also opportunities for the swimmer to interact with other swimmers and their coaches, and to make it to their race on their own. A missed race isn't the end of the world, and the swimmer just may realize that they, and not you, are responsible for making it to their event on time. We'll teach you how to write their events/heats/lanes on their arms, you can point them in the right direction and at the right time, but beyond that it's not a bad idea to let the swimmer take responsibility (of course your mileage will differ depending upon the age and maturity of the particular child).
- After each race, the swimmers are expected to go immediately back to the coach for feedback
- Away meets are also social events. Parents and swimmers carpool together, go shopping, to the movies and out to dinner or lunch. Hanging out with the crowd will help your family with getting involved with these activities.

What should a swimmer bring to a swim meet?

- Swimsuit
- Cap (Gators may swim with different colored caps in prelims/finals meets)
- Goggles (Yes, that's plural, goggles tend to break or get lost at the most inopportune time.)
- T shirts, sweat pants and shirt, socks, sandals (for a multi-day meet expect lots of wet clothes.)
- Change of clothes for after the meet
- Towels (Yes, plural again. They do get wet.)
- Snacks (bagels, muffins, fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta, energy/sports bars, sports drinks, water)
- Books, cards, games
- Homework
- A good attitude!
- Mark everything with your name and "GATR" in case it gets lost.

What can you tell me about relay events?

There are two basic types of relay races, the freestyle relay and the medley relay. In the freestyle relay, four swimmers each swim one-fourth the total race distance using any stroke that they desire.  Most often, each of the swimmers will swim the crawl stroke (frequently referred to as freestyle), simply because it is the fastest of the four competitive strokes. The second type of relay is the medley relay. In the medley relay, four swimmers each swim one-fourth the total race distance, with the first swimmer swimming backstroke, the second swimmer swimming breastroke, the third swimmer swimming butterfly, and the fourth swimmer swimming anything other than one of the first three strokes. Again, because it is the fastest stroke, the final leg of the medley relay is usually swum as freestyle.

Swimmers for relays are almost always selected to constitute the fastest possible team. This is straightforward for the freestyle relay, as it simply requires taking the four fastest swimmers in that age group. Race strategy then involves deciding who to swim first, second, third, and fourth.  Selecting swimmers for the medley relay can become a bit more complicated as one swimmer may have the fastest time in more than one event.

Please, always check with the coaches before leaving a session to find out if the swimmer is swimming in a relay at the end of a session. Nothing is more frustrating to the coaches, and unfair to other members of a relay team, than to find out at the last minute that they're not swimming because someone on the relay has left the meet early!

What's the difference between a "timed finals" meet and a "prelims/finals" meet?

Most meets in which the Gators participate are timed finals meets. Timed finals refers to the fact that each swimmer swims the event once, and their place of finish is determined by their time.

Prelims/finals meets are generally championship-type meets. Swimmers compete in a preliminary (prelims) session, with some number of the fastest swimmers moving on to the finals session. The number of swimmers moving on to finals is usually two heats worth (12 swimmers in a 6 lane pool, 16 swimmers in an 8 lane pool), although at some meets three heats worth of swimmers will move on to finals. The next two fastest swimmers also move on as alternates in the event that there is a "no show" in the slowest heat.

The session format for prelims/finals meets has the prelim session in the morning with the finals session in the evening. Older swimmers, usually 13 and above, but sometimes 11 and above, participate in prelims/finals sessions. If younger swimmers swim in these meets, they swim in a timed finals session in the afternoon.

What is the purpose of scratching in a prelims/finals meet and why is it important?

Scratching is the act of declaring your intent not to swim in the finals of an event for which you have qualified. Once the results for a prelims events have been announced, there is a 30 minute period during which the swimmers must scratch if they wish to do so.

Scratching is important from two points of view.  First, under the rules that most prelims/finals meets are swum under, a swimmer that does not scratch and then fails to appear for a race in finals, is barred from further competition in a meet. Yes, this means that if you miss a finals event on Friday, you can't swim on Saturday or Sunday.

Second, by scratching you allow other swimmers to move up into the finals session. This is frequently a problem on the last day of a session when swimmers who know they're not coming back for finals, fail to scratch because they know they can't be penalized. While this doesn't hurt the swimmer that fails to scratch on the last day, it does hurt the swimmer that could have moved up in to the finals session. Under these circumstances, scratching is common courtesy and good sportsmanship.

Because it is not unusual for top qualifiers not to come back for finals on the last day of a meet, it is especially helpful if all swimmers scratch, whether they are at the top of the list or not. By doing so, it may allow slower swimmers the opportunity to participate in a finals event that they may not otherwise have the opportunity of doing so.

What do the designations "A" time and "B" time mean?

USA Swimming has something called "motivational times" for all swimmers, ranging from "B" to "AAAA." This forms the basis for eligibility to various levels of swim meets and can help swimmers focus on a goal time for their training. Meet invitations will often specify the time "cut" a swimmer needs to enter a specific meet. Your swimmer's times will be designated as "slower than B" to "AAAA" in their OnDeck and DeckPass accounts. 

I'd like to help with timing, but I don't know how. What does a timer have to do?

Timers perform one of the most important functions at a swim meet--in short, they help to determine the official time for a swimmer. At most meets, the timers are instructed prior to the start of a session. This is a good opportunity to learn what is involved. Also, most of the veteran parents can guide you along as well.