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Swim Meet Primer

Swim Team is a sport for the entire family. As a matter of fact, we require the parents to participate by "working" the meets. If this is your first experience, here is an overview:

The children are grouped by gender - Girls/Boys, then by age. At a single meet, a child does not swim more than three individual events that are decided on by the child, parents, and coach.  

A dual meet (a.k.a. the regular weekly meets between your team and one other) is divided into two halves. During the first half the children swim the Medley Relay [events 1 - 10], Short Free [events 11 - 20], Individual Medley [events 21 - 30], and Breaststroke [events 31 - 40]. In the second half they swim Long Free [events 41 - 50], Backstroke [events 51 - 60], Butterfly [events 61 - 70] and finally the exciting Free Relay [events 71 - 80]. Meets usually start at 5:30pm or 6:00pm and wind up between 8:30 and 9:30 (except for when they don't!).

Now this is the good part. You will have the opportunity to sign-up for a "job". Here's an attempt to describe a meet and the working positions at the same time:

When the children first arrive, they will go to the area designated for the team. This is very much a social event so unless you have a very young child you will not want to embarrass your child by hanging around here. The social director of this area is known as the Tent Parent.   The Tent Parent(s) is charged with watching over the kids in the tent area.  They also call the kids up when it is time for their races.  

When it is time for the swimmer's race, he/she reports to the Clerk of Course. The clerk and three or four helpers line the children up on a of benches. The goal here is to have all the children in a single heat lined up on the same bench in lane order - teens tend not to cooperate in this style of organization. The children move up through the benches until they end up behind the starting block, hand off their cards (hopefully still intact), and are ready to swim.

At the starting blocks you have all kinds of people. Each lane has three Timers. At a typical 6-lane pool that means 18 timers. Usually there is a Recording Timer for each lane. As if that is not enough there is a Head Timer to backup the timers and an Assistant Head Timer to back up that person - it's called redundancy and is very popular these days.

The Starter stands on a pedestal and seems to be the most important person, but actually that honor belongs to the Referee. There may also be an Assistant Referee.

Anyway, the starter announces each event and asks the "Swimmers, step up" on the block. When the head timer indicates they are ready and it is time to release the swimmers, the Deck Referee blows the whistle. This is the signal for the fans to be quiet ... the race is about to begin. The starter intones, "Swimmers take your mark," then BEEP! goes the start signal. Once finally on the way, the Stroke and Turn Judges watch to make sure children employ the proper strokes correctly.

The children wind up at the end of the pool. The times are recorded on time sheets and the children return to the tent to socialize some more, hopefully having stopped to ask their times. By now the next heat is ready to start. In the meantime, the Runner collects the time sheets and "runs" them over to the Computer Operator who enters the times into a software program where all SAIL meets are recorded. Lastly, the Computer Operator prints out results stickers to give to the Ribbons team, and they place the stickers on the backs of the ribbons that the swimmers will receive later.  

First Swim Meet Beginner Tips

What to Expect:

Swim meets are supposed to be FUN (for child and parent)!

Events are run in this order for each gender (girls first), age group,:

  • 8 & under, [events x1 (girls) and x2 (boys)]
  • 9-10, [events x3 (girls) and x4 (boys)]
  • 11-12, [events x5 (girls) and x6 (boys)]
  • 13-14, and [events x7 (girls) and x8 (boys)]
  • 15-18 [events x9 (girls) and x0 (boys)]

and stroke:

  • Medley Relay (Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle), [events 1 - 10]
  • Short Freestyle, [events 11 - 20]
  • IM (Individual Medley: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle), [events 21 - 30]
  • Breaststroke, [events 31 - 40]
  • Long Freestyle, [events 41 - 50]
  • Backstroke, [events 51 - 60]
  • Butterfly, and [events 61 - 70]
  • Freestyle Relay (each swims free) [events 71 - 80].

This means there are 80 events in a single swim meet!! There can be multiple heats in each event. Your child may swim up to three individual events and two relays. There will be a sheet at the pool or a heat sheet in the hands of the tent parent listing which events your child will be swimming. Please check this sheet to verify that your child is listed. We do make mistakes, but do not fear, we can get him in the swim meet! There will be a tent parent that will be calling out swimmer’s names in the order of events, heats, and lanes. Your swimmer needs to know which events he is swimming in, be listening out for his name, and be ready to swim (cap and goggles).

The swimmers will then move to the Clerk of Course area (benches) to line up for their races.  Please know that there are sometimes CHANGES made in Clerk of Course. This means that your child might move into a different heat or lane. No need to worry. These changes are recorded with the Referee, computer operator and records. Just as a friendly reminder, no parents (or coaches) are allowed in the Clerk of Course area or behind the blocks unless they are working the meet. So please hug your swimmer and do all your coaching before they move into these areas. Please be patient and help your swimmer know what she needs to be doing. Ask if you don’t understand!

Swimmers will be disqualified if they do not swim the strokes legally. DQ’s are not the end of the world. This just means that their times will not be recorded officially, and they might not receive an “official” ribbon for the event. As much as we try to explain this, please know that there might be tears. The best person to “pick up the pieces” is the coach. The child is more likely to “get back on that horse again” if the parent steps back from this situation … its part of growing them as a swimmer. Even swimmers in the 15-18 age group DQ sometimes.  The coaches receive a written record after the meet for each DQ given listing the reason the child DQ’d. If you need to know why, ask the coach on Friday after the meet. Do not talk to stroke and turn judges during the meet. 

What to Bring:

Swim cap, goggles (extra pair wouldn’t be a bad idea), chair or extra towel to sit on, healthy snacks, water, Gatorade, or money to buy these at concessions, sweatshirt/sweatpants in case you get cold in between events … and lots of patience! The swimmers sit together as a team. Please help your child get situated, and let him know where you will be.

Please ask someone if you don’t understand something or want to know more.

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