Swim Meet 101

Administrator Admin

Last Updated 2.10.2021


Making your way into the swim meet portion of the team can be a very confusing venture. Take some time to read up a little on how the process works. This is a LOT of information, but I get a LOT of questions on how things work. Read this over, and if you still have questions - please do not hesitate to ask. I have been doing swim meets since 2004. Sometimes I forget what a new parent needs to know!


Who Can Compete?

Any of our swimmers in the novice, age group, pre-senior or senior groups are welcome to compete at swim meets. The shortest events are 50 yards, so they are going to need to be able to swim a full lap (down & back) without stopping or touching the bottom of the pool.

What if my swimmer does not want to compete?

We do not force anyone to compete. Each swimmer is ready at their own time, and some just do not have the interest. That is fine. We coach everyone the same way, and they decide if competition is right for them, when & how often. We will encourage everyone to compete, but there are no consequences if they choose not to. If you will not be competing, please be sure to decline attendance on the event page. This helps us know if we can submit our entries earlier - which is a good thing to be sure we get accepted into the meet. (Yes, there are limits on how many swimmers may attend. So early submissions help.)

Where do I get information about the meet?

Each meet has an information packet attached towards the bottom of its event page. PLEASE read these! They lay out all the information you need to know about that specific meet. Location, fees, approximate timeline, sessions, order of events, maximum entries, etc. It is especially important to read this so you know what you will be charged for attending the meet.

Why is our team entry deadline earlier than the deadline posted in the meet information?

Entries for the meets are accepted until the meet is full and closed completely 10 days before the first day of the meet. For this reason, on the meets we anticipate will fill fast, we need to submit our entries as early as possible or we risk not being accepted into the meet.

Why don't they give specific times?

The timeframe of a swim meet is based on how many swimmers are competing in the meet, which is not firm until entries close 10 days before the meet. The morning session start time gets set, and that is about all the guarantees that can be made. The afternoon session starts when the morning session finishes.

For instance, the morning session starts at 7am with warm-ups and the meet starts at 8am. If the entries are low and it will only take 2 hours to complete the morning session, the afternoon warmups will start at 10am with the meet starting at 11am. BUT, if the morning session is big and lasts 4 hours, the afternoon warm-ups start at noon and meet starts at 1pm. And no one knows until entries are all in and the host team is able to process everything – which can also take days.

How to decline or accept attending a swim meet… (both are equally important)

On the Team Unify site, there are multiple ways to get to the same place.

  • Log into your account on Team Unify. Once logged in, you can do one of the following a) select "events & competition" on the left navigation, OR b) select "View Team Website" from the very bottom left navigation, OR c) select the "meets/events" tab on the website.
  • OK.…Now that you are there, select the swim meet you need to declare for. Read all the information available. Some meets have special circumstances and we communicate those on the event page. 
  • Once you have reviewed everything, select the "Attend/Decline" button.
  • Select your swimmer's name towards the bottom.
  • Select the appropriate declaration from the dropdown menu.
  • Notes can be added for Coach Michael & Brenda to review.
  • If yes is chosen, select the events in the appropriate day and session.
  • Click "SAVE CHANGES" and you are all set!

I don't know what my swimmer should swim…

That is fine! Just put in a note in the notes section for coach to select the appropriate events.

Event selection…

  • If you are selecting events for your swimmer, please be careful in your selections. Most meets have a 4 individual event maximum per day. Most swim meet events are broken down into age brackets (8 & under, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17 and over, senior, and open). Each meet is slightly different. The important takeaway here is that you NEED to sign up for the events in the age bracket your swimmer is in (age at the time of the meet). Senior & Open events are for the older swimmers. If a meet does not have a specific age group breakdown for your swimmer, that is when you can sign up for the OPEN events. You want to stay in your age group bracket because you are more likely to swim at similar paces as those in that group. USA Swimming requires swimmers to swim in the appropriate age bracket for that meet and cannot swim in anther bracket simply because it is more convenient.
  • As a swimmer gets older, new events open up to them to be able to swim (longer, more challenging events). On the same note, once a swimmer gets to 13, the 50s of back, breast & fly get removed as events available to them to swim for a championship time.

We cannot attend both days…

No problem! You only have to sign up for the days you can make it. If you are asking coach to select events and can only make a specific day, please indicate that as well.

What if I need to change my event selection?

You can log into your account any time before the deadline and make adjustments to the selections. Once we have reached the deadline, entries will be reviewed, approved and locked in place. No more changes can be made.

What about relays?

  • If there are enough swimmers, coach will try to create relay teams. This is an additional fee, usually the same cost as an individual swim (i.e. the meet info says relays are $20. This is divided by 4, and each person in the relay pays $5).
  • If you do not want your swimmer on a relay team, this needs to be indicated in the notes on the sign up page. If it is not indicated to be excluded from relays, they could be signed up and you are responsible for the fees.
  • **If you get signed up for a relay, please make every effort to be at the meet. The other people on the relay team are counting on you and many times we do not have an alternate swimmer available to fill in. Then the whole relay team is unable to swim and everyone is out their money.

We signed up to swim, and something came up so now we cannot make it…

If you realize this before our team entry deadline, you can remove your swimmer. Once the deadline has passed, we are responsible for payment of all entries. So even if your swimmer does not swim, you must still pay the whole amount due.

How do we pay?

Brenda will send out your fee totals after the entry deadline. They will then be added to your website account in the days before the meet and charged to your form of payment on file. This fee must be paid BEFORE the swim meet or the swimmer will not be allowed to swim.

When will we get a timeline and details?

Once the entry deadline has passed, the host team gets started organizing the meet. This process takes time. Once everything is in place, they will email Coach Michael or myself timeline details and we will distribute it to the team ASAP. This usually occurs around the Tuesday or Wednesday right before the meet.

Getting to the meet…

Each family is responsible for transportation to and from the meets. Some families choose to carpool together. That gets worked out among yourselves, not through the coaches or Brenda.

What should my swimmer bring?

  • Your swimsuit! And a backup suit!
  • Goggles & back-up goggles in case one set breaks
  • A swim cap & a back-up
  • Two towels - one to dry off between events and one for after the meet
  • Comfortable sweatshirt & sweatpants to wear between events. Keep those muscles as warm as possible!
  • Water or an electrolyte drink & healthy snacks (fruit, bagel, nuts, etc. - NO candy!)
  • Card games, a book, etc. - something to do in large gaps between events

The pool decks tend to get crowded. Swimmers should only bring their water, towel & sweats on deck. The rest should stay with a parent. Most meets have a "camping" area for families to hang out between events. Bring a chair, blanket, etc. to get comfy.

What to expect at the meet…

  • Get there early. Parking can be crazy. Give yourself time to find the locker rooms and get changed. ONLY SWIMMERS are allowed on the pool deck & in the locker rooms. No parents. This is a USA Swimming rule. When out of the locker room, the swimmer should look for one of the coaches and/or teammates on the pool deck. The team sits together on the deck. Swimmers should be on the pool deck about 10 minutes before the warm-ups are to start. No earlier. Coaches need time to get there and do their pre-meet tasks before they are responsible for the swimmers.
  • If there are large gaps (45minutes or more) between events, swimmers are allowed to come out to their family. You are responsible for following along to make sure your swimmer is back on the pool deck well before their event. The coach cannot leave the pool deck to find swimmers. If your swimmer misses their event, they may not be able to swim it at all.
  • Once your swimmer is done with their events, they are allowed to leave. Please make sure they let the coach know they are leaving with their parent so we know they have gone home.
  • PLEASE have them eat healthy snacks and foods during the meet. Big meals and sugary treats will not be good for their body.
  • Swimmers can cheer for your teammates at the end of the pool during their swims.

Do I have to be at warm-ups?

YES! And please do not be late. Warm-ups are very important, even if their first event is not for a while after warm-ups.

How do I follow along?

Programs are available. Some meets include this fee in the registration fee and then email a program in advance. Some sell them at the door. (There are generally no admission fees). These are helpful to know what heat and lane your swimmer will be in. Many teams also use the Meet Mobile app.

What heat??!!

Each event (i.e. the 100 Free) is broken down into multiple swims depending on how many kids sign up for it. Each swim of an event is called a "Heat". Generally, the slowest swimmers swim in the early heats and the faster swimmers swim in the later heats. Sometimes there is only one heat, other events have many.

My swimmer is getting DQed. Is that normal?

Swimmers get disqualified (DQed). New swimmers get DQed a lot usually. It is normal. As they are learning the starts, turns & strokes and making them "legal" - they will DQ for doing something wrong. These are great learning lessons. Please help them understand it is ok so they don't get down on themselves. If a DQ is received, the time does not count for personal bests or entering other meets.

Don’t worry… most of the time swimmers do not even realize it happened. They do not get stopped. An official will raise their hand to indicate they saw one of the swimmers in the pool do something wrong. The swimmer completes their race as usual. The official fills out a slip, it gets processed and given to the coach.


The host team will have an area where results are posted. Some meets do awards. The meet info packet will describe what, if any, awards are given out.

Time Standards; Bronze, Silver, Gold, etc - WHAT?!?!

These are categories of time standards. NT means no time. Either they have not swam the event in an official meet before, or if they have and got DQed, they still do not have a time. Bronze is the next level standard, the next fastest is Silver, Gold, and so on. There is a link on our website under Meet/Event for Time Standards. This takes you to the current MN Swimming time standards page. The SCY (Short Course Yards) Standards are the ones we go by most of the year. This shows you what time they need to achieve to make the next cut in each event and age group.

My swimmer is "aging up." What does that mean?

Aging up means your swimmer is moving into a new time standard bracket. So if your swimmer is 10, on their 11th birthday they will "age up." This simply means new events may now be available to them to swim, and some events may no longer be available to swim. And the times they need to achieve for a Bronze time, Silver time, etc are harder. They do not lose the personal best times they have. But if they had a Sliver time as a 10-11 year old, as a 12-13 year old, it may only be a Bronze time.