Tips for a Stress-Free Swim Meet

Excited to Compete?
6 tips for a stress-free first swim meet

Prepare in Advance
Because many swim meets involve early mornings, pack the car the night before. To keep things simple, your child can wear his swimsuit to the meet.

Bring folding chairs, extra towels/goggles, swim cap, change of clothes, healthy snacks, cash for the snack bar, water, appropriate footwear, sunscreen, weather-specific cover-up and some entertainment. Oh, and don’t forget your coffee.

When You Arrive
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled warm-up. Locate your team’s base (usually a tent or canopy) then check-in with officials. They will confirm your child’s entry by reading off the applicable event numbers. Many kids write these on their arms with a marker. After this, your child should find the coach and warm up.

During Warm-Ups
This is the perfect time for parents to sign up as a volunteer timer. Since swim meets are dependent on volunteers, it is essential that you get involved.    

If it is your first timing experience, don’t worry, it’s simple and fun. Absolutely no knowledge of swimming is necessary. Simply report for your shift a few minutes early for informal training. If your child has an event during your timing shift, you will have a front-row view.

Heat Sheets
After warm-ups, locate the heat sheets. These should be easy to find—just look for print-outs taped to a wall, with dozens of people crowded around. Find your child’s events and note the heat and lane assignments. Your child might want to write this information on his arm, too.

Most events will have multiple heats, seeded fastest to slowest. If this is your child’s first meet, he will be entered with NT (no time) on all his events and placed accordingly.

The coach will likely request a pre-race check-in from your child, which is an opportunity to give advice and specific instructions on the upcoming event. Your job is to simply wish him good luck.

Reporting to the Starting Blocks
Listen carefully to announcements. Your child should head over to the appropriate lane early. The officials will not call out names or delay the race if he is late. Note that parents are not allowed behind the blocks and usually observe events from poolside or the far, turn-end of the pool.

After the Race
Some pools have electronic scoreboards that immediately display finishing times, but many don’t. Kids can ask timers for their results, but keep in mind that this number is unofficial. The final results are usually posted next to the heat sheets, later in the day.

Coaches also like to have a brief, post-race discussion with the swimmer, offering invaluable, constructive criticism along with high-five celebrations.

At the conclusion, experience a big, wet, hug from your child and tell him how much you loved watching him swim. Now it’s time for him to rest, drink some water, and wait for the next event.

Want to learn more? Read “Competitive Swimming 101.”


Lisa Pawlak is an Encinitas resident and mother of two young swimmers. She is a frequent contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and San Diego Family Magazine.

Published: April 2015




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