A Buckeye Parent’s Guide to Swim Meets
Swim meets are a new experience for many Buckeye swimmers and parents. The following information will help make that experience more enjoyable.
Swim meets are a great opportunity for swimmers, parents, and coaches to see how all of the hard work during the season is paying off. For parents, it’s also a time to meet other parents and have fun interaction while the swimmers are spending time with their teammates and making new friends from other teams. The entire swimming community is great and this is your chance to be a part of it all.
As your swimmer ages and progresses, more meet opportunities become available. There are several types of meets in which Buckeye swimmers may participate. We’ll cover those meets later and provide additional information regarding qualifying for those meets and special procedures that will apply to your swimmers for those meets.
Swim meets often have 200 to 500 swimmers entered in a meet. Pool deck space is limited so we ask parents and swimmers to arrive early (15-20 minutes at minimum). Swimmers should locate the BKYS team area on deck. Spectator seating is often limited so we ask that swimmers remain on deck or in the “crash area” with their teammates and coaches. Parents should plan to arrive early to get seats in the bleachers. BKYS parents try to sit together in one location to cheer on the team together.
Swimmers are to see their coach before and immediately following their event.
In order for corrections/praise to be effective it needs to be given while the event is still fresh in the minds of both swimmers and coaches.
Coaches and officials make every effort to see that swimmers are in the correct heat and lane. However, it is up to the swimmer to be at the correct place at the correct time and pay attention once they are behind the starting blocks. Parents are not allowed behind the blocks unless they are a timer (more on that later). Some, but not all, swim meets have a staging area called the “Clerk of Course”or “Bull Pen”. The event name and number are announced in the gym and pool deck. Swimmers should then report to the Clerk of Course. The Clerk of Course will organize and place swimmers in the proper heat and lane.
Pictures may be taken but NO flash photography is allowed at the start. The starting system uses a flash and a sound signal to start the swimmers. Camera flashes can cause the swimmer to “false start” (moving before the system flash / sound), resulting in a disqualification.
Buckeye parents and swimmers have a reputation for being one of the most supportive and polite teams in our area. We lead by example and take pride in being a positive role model for all teams.
What to take to the meet:
- Directions to the pool and your event entry sheet posted on the Active web page several days before the meet. If this is an “away” or out-of-town meet, hotel information will also be available.
- Swim gear – team suit and Cap, team shirt – we’re proud of our swimmers and want everyone to know they are BUCKEYES, goggles (take a spare pair just in case), 2 towels, deck shoes (old tennis shoes are great for this since they cover the entire foot and help prevent injuries), something warm for the swimmer to wear between events. Most meets have a vendor selling various swim gear, T-shirts, goggles, suits, etc. – so don’t panic if your swimmer forgot something.
- Snacks – apples, oranges, breakfast bars, cheese sticks, crackers, sandwiches
- Drinks – water, sport drinks (Water is the best option. Please limit sport drinks to one bottle per meet session)
- Sleeping bag or blanket for swimmer to lounge on in crash area between events
- At larger meets there is often plenty of “down-time” between events. Help your swimmer plan ahead by packing: a book, homework, small games, deck of cards to keep them busy between events
(Please secure high cost items such as i-pods or leave them at home)
What happens at the meet?
Do not be late for warm-ups for several reasons:
- Coaches are required to turn in a “Scratch Sheets” during warm-ups (late arrivals risk being dropped from the meet with NO REFUNDS)
- Coaches need to know who is available for relay events
- Swimmers hate being late. Starting off the meet in a panic will not help your swimmer achieve the best results. Of course things happen so please let someone know if you’re going to be late (text or call another parent or coach so everyone knows you’re on your way).
What are Warm-ups?
Warm-ups are the first thing that happens at meets. It’s madness, it’s mayhem, it’s fun! This is a bit of “practice swimming” to get everyone loosened up for the meet, a chance to get familiar with the pool and the starting blocks, and allows coaches to make sure everyone is there. Warm-up times will be posted on our web-site the week of the meet. Warm-up periods are often divided by age-group, gender, team, or a combination of all three.
To ensure the safety of your swimmers, there are specific procedures for warm-ups. The coaches will make every effort to make sure swimmers understand these procedures and follow them.
- No diving in the pool during general warm-ups
- During warm-up enter the pool feet first - one hand on the deck
- Starts, which are conducted at the end of general warm-ups, are the only time you are allowed to dive in under coach control). Swimmers can be removed from the meet for not following safety procedures
Heat sheets: This is a list of all of the swimmers in the meet sorted out by the heat and lane they will swim in for each event. Heat sheets are typically sold at the meet. Most parents highlight the swimmers from their team so they can cheer the Buckeyes on from the stands. Heat sheets are posted for swimmers in the “crash area” to help swimmers be at the right spot at the right time.
Younger swimmers often write their event number, heat, and lane assignments on their arm. We ask that swimmers age 11 and up learn to read a heat sheet and refrain from this practice.
If your child entered the meet after the host deadline, they may not be listed in the program as these are printed 3 to 5 days ahead of the meet. Late entered swimmers will need to check with their coach for their heat and lane assignments.
The races: Swimmers will compete against others of the same age and gender. They will be “seeded” into heats with those who have similar times. New swimmers with “no times” (NT), will all swim together, usually at the beginning of each event. For most meets, each heat gets faster. This is a great opportunity for the coaches to have new swimmers watch more experienced athletes demonstrate skills that we may have worked on in practice – parents can learn something too so watch as much swimming as you can!
Events alternate girl/boy throughout the meet. There is usually an announcer letting swimmers know where to be and when, but parents can help make sure their swimmers get where they need to be prior to their event.
Swimmers are to see their coach before and immediately following their event.
In order for corrections/praise to be effective it needs to be given while the event is still fresh in the minds of both swimmers and coaches. (Yes, you’ve seen that before – good catch!).
Who are the guys and gals in white tops and navy bottoms?
Those people are dedicated volunteers. They serve several functions during the meet so you’ll see them everywhere. They “marshal” warm-ups to ensure safety, they start each race, they observe the swim strokes and turns in each lane to ensure that the swimmers are “legal” as they swim.
Legal? Yes, “legal.” Each stroke has a set of rules for how it is to be swum: specific arm motion, specific kick, specific turn, and even a specific finish. These are all things we work on in practice so your swimmers know the rules. Sometimes they get excited and “forget.” It is the job of the official to keep an eye on all of this so that everyone is under the same rules for competition and things are kept fair.
Disqualifications are handled by the officials. They don’t enjoy disqualifying swimmers. Officials take the time to explain to the swimmer and coach what the problem was so we know what to work on in practice.
Please do not confront or argue with an official or judge as this can result in your removal from the meet. If we become “unglued” our swimmers miss the opportunity to learn from their mistake and how to do it correctly next time. We, as coaches, probably take it more personally than you as a parent. Let us handle it. You can help best by helping us teach everyone to exercise good sportsmanship: no arguing with officials, throwing goggles, temper tantrums (and that goes for the swimmers and coaches too!).
What happens after the event has been completed?
All of the swimmers times are compiled and placed in order fastest to slowest. There may have been some shuffling around since swimmers may “drop time” (go faster) or “add time” (go slower) than their entry time.
Your swimmer may add time (go slower) than they did the last time they swam the event. Relax – we may have been working on a specific technique in practice and we want to spend this event reinforcing that technique in “race conditions” with your swimmer. They may add time but have perfected something we’ve been working on for days or weeks. These little adjustments are what we feel will pay off in the end for your swimmer.
Event results are posted in public areas for parents and swimmers to view. The times posted are usually accurate. Electronic touch pads are very sensitive and are confirmed with two stop watches. When there is a large discrepancy between the touch pads and stop watches, the computer alerts the meet manager and an average is taken to determine the time. If you feel there is an error, let one of the coaches know and we will take care of it.
There are often awards at meets (ribbons, medals, plaques) based on times swum during the events. If your swimmer has received an award these will be picked up by the coaches at the conclusion of the meet and distributed to swimmers at practice during the week after the meet.
How can I help my swimmer improve?
Encourage your swimmer to “Do your best” every time they hit the water. Swim meets are competitive, but the main purpose is to show swimmers that all their hard work at practice is paying off for them personally. The best thing parents can do for their child is support them regardless of how they perform at a meet. Some will get great times, others not so great and everyone gets disqualified at least once in their swimming career. Just hug them and be proud of them for getting out there and doing their best.
- Don’t compare your child with another on the team or worse with a sibling (each child learns at their own pace).
- Avoid the temptation to coach or give your child last minute tips, the coach has specific technique tasks that they will give your child and too much coaching will only lead to confusion and disappointment.
- DO NOT BRIBE YOUR CHILD. Payment or rewards for time drops or performance sends the wrong message to your child. Tell them you are proud of them even when they come in last or are disqualified. It is all about the journey not just one race.
- Don’t participate in negative conversations or gossiping about other swimmers, parents, coaches. If you have concerns or issues please speak to your coach after the meet or between sessions.
- Focus on the positive – Imagine you’re the swimmer in the back seat on the way home from a meet and imagine what you’d like to hear from your parents. “Wow, you really had a great start in that backstroke event!” or “I can tell you’ve been working on your flip turns at practice.”
- Encourage their enthusiasm about swimming, but remember that the children are there to have fun.
- Get them to practice as often as possible.
- Make sure they’re getting enough rest and eating well.
- Volunteer to help with team events. Our swimmers work hard, so they deserve to have well-run meets, fundraisers and fun activities. These only happen when parents step-up to make them happen.
- Let the coaches do their jobs.
- Learn as much as you can about swimming to share the sport with your swimmer. Go to www.USASwimming.org and click on the “Parents” section for resources and tips.
- Consider becoming an official – You’re at the meet anyway! It’s cooler on deck, you get a free heat sheet, and you usually get snacks during the meet!
Still have questions about meets?
Ask another parent or coach. If you have questions about what’s happening at the meet, please ask a “veteran” parent or one of the coaches. They’ll be happy to try and help. Jot down any questions that you have and bring them to practice – you might not be the only one with that question and we can let everybody in on the secret!
During and after the meet:
- Please police your area in the stands (throw your discards in the trash can, make sure you or your neighbor didn’t forget something – camera, purse, pen, etc). We’ll remind the swimmers to do the same thing on deck and in the “crash area.”
- Cheer for your child as well as their teammates and friends. Swim meets are a lot more fun when you’re cheering for more than one swimmer. If you’re at a football game you have to cheer for everyone – and there’s no quarterback in swimming…
Types of Meets:
Dual Meet: This is the most informal of meet formats. Two teams swim against each other for points. These meets are usually a quick morning, afternoon, or evening contest.
USA Invitational Meet: This is the meet most attended by Buckeye athletes. These meets are hosted by local clubs and offer a wide variety of events over the course of a weekend.
- Open Invitational – any swimmer may enter regardless of their time in the event(s)
- Time Standard Requirements – swimmers are permitted to enter the meet if they have a “qualifying time” in each event they enter
- Timed Final Meet – every swimmer swims his/her events entered once and is then ranked accordingly
- Prelim/Final Meet – every swimmer swims his/her event once in a “preliminary session.” After preliminary swims, the swimmers are ranked and a predetermined number of swimmers is invited back to swim the event again in a “finals session” (Typically a consolation heat and a championship heat. The number of swimmers returning for “finals” is determined by the number of competition lanes available – 6/12, 8/16, 10/20). Specific rules apply to prelim/finals meets in regard to “scratching” from the finals session. Please talk to a coach prior to the meet to become familiar with these procedures.
- Championship Meet – swimmers must achieve specific “time standards” to attend these meets. Championship meets are offered by Ohio Swimming, Inc. (a sub-governing body of USA Swimming), the USA Central Zone, and USA Swimming. Please ask your coach if you are uncertain as to whether you have met the requirements.
USA Deck Pass is a great tool for parents and swimmers. Create an account, download the app and get started! Click on the link below for more information and to sign up for your own Deck Pass account. FREE!
Meet Mobile - Get meet results as soon as they become available while the meet is running and look up previous meet results. It does require a subscription, but the cost is minimal.
HELPFUL INFORMATION FOR PARENTS AND SWIMMERS