What to Expect at a Swim Meet (or Everything You Wanted to Know About Swim Meets but Were Afraid to Ask, Part I)

Swim meets are a great family experience! They're a place where the whole family can spend time together.

Swimmer and Clock Graphic

This is the first of three FAQ pages about swim meets and it deals with the "nuts and bolts" of a swim meet.  A second page deals with the various volunteer "jobs" that our parents will need to fill at all our meets.  The last page covers some of the situations that may arise in dealing with how your swimmer performs at a meet. These pages cover some very in-depth guidelines geared to help you through your first couple of swim meets. It may seem a little overwhelming, but we tried to be as specific and as detailed as we possibly could. If you have any questions, please ask your coach.

Go to the Swim Meet Volunteer Positions

Before the Meet Starts:

When should we get to the pool?

Arrive at the pool at least 15 minutes before the scheduled warm-up time begins. This time will be listed in the meet information listed on our web site and also posted at practice.

What should we do once we get there?

Upon arrival, find a place to put your family's chairs or blanket, swim bags, cooler, etc.  The team usually sits in one place together, so look for some familiar faces.

You should also make sure your swimmer checks in with his or her coach! Your swimmer should now get his/her cap and goggles and report to the pool and/or coach for warm-up instructions.

What is "warm-up" and why do we do it?

It is very important for all swimmers to warm-up with the team. A swimmer's body is just like a car on a cold day - he/she needs to get the engine going and warmed-up before he/she can go all out.

Why do the coaches get upset when we are late for warm-up?

With our team being so large, it is very hard to get everyone an adequate warm-up when we usually only have 3 or 4 lanes to warm-up over 100 swimmers in 30 minutes.  This is best accomplished by everyone starting the warm-up together and progressing through it step by step.  When you try to get in in the middle of the warm-up, you not only upset your war-up routine, but you interfere with everyone else's.  For this reason, if you are late, you may be asked to wait until the group in the pool (that arrived on time) is finished before you are allowed to begin your warm-up.

What should parents be doing while the team is warming up?

While your swimmer is warming up, you may want to obtain a meet program or heat sheet. If you are scheduled to work the first shift as a volunteer meet worker, please listen for announcements as to when and where to report for your job. You can also use this time to "nest" in your family's chosen area and to find out where the locker rooms/lavatories and concession stand are, where the clerk of course will be, etc.

What is a "heat sheet"?

Most RCSL Dual Meets and the Championship Meets are "pre-seeded". When the team entry is sent in, each swimmer and his/her previous best time (up to the date that the entry was submitted) in that event is listed. If the swimmer is swimming an event for the first time, he/she will be entered as a "no-time" or "NT" (a "no-time" swimmer will most likely swim in one of the first heats of the event). Swimmers are placed into heats and lanes based on these submitted times and the meet software will prepare a "heat sheet" or meet program that lists these heat and lane assignments by each event in event number order.

You and your swimmer can find heat and lane assignments by purchasing a heat sheet that list the actual events, heats and lanes a swimmer will be competing in.  These programs are usually available for sale at the pool gate or concession area of the pool. It may be a good idea to write or have the swimmers write each event number, heat number and lane number assigned on his or her hand in ink. This helps them remember what events they are swimming and what event number to listen or watch for.

After warm-up, what's next?

After warm-up, your swimmer will go back to the area where the team is sitting and wait there until his first event is called. The team will also have a brief meeting for the swimmers to receive any last minute general instructions and give the team cheer.  after the cheer is a good time to make sure he/she goes to the bathroom if necessary, gets a drink, or just gets settled in. The meet will usually start about 5-10 minutes after warm-ups are over.

Once the Meet Starts:

How do the swimmers know when they are to compete?

it is important for any swimmer to know what event numbers he/she is swimming (again, why they should have the numbers on their hand). He/she may swim right away after warm-up or they may have to wait awhile. At all RCSL meets, a swimmer's event number will be called, usually over the loudspeaker, and he/she will be asked to report to the "clerk of course" or “bullpen”. Swimmers should report with his/her cap and goggles and without much else as they will go from the clerk straight to their swim.

Is there a pattern to the event numbers?

Generally, girls events are odd-numbered and boys events are even-numbered. Example:  "Event #26, 10-Under Boys, 50 freestyle, report to Clerk of Course." The events will from youngest to oldest age groups by event type/stroke with the exception of the 6 & Under events.  The 6 & Under events are sometimes run right at the beginning of the meet or mixed into the first 20 events; either way, the little guys are usually done before the halfway point of most dual meets (and, therefore, those parents should usually volunteer to work the first shift at the meet).

What is the "Clerk of Course"?

The "Clerk of Course" or “bullpen” area is usually located near the starting end of the pool - have your swimmer check with his/her coach if they are not sure where this area is. The Clerk of Course is used for all age groups at all meets. The Clerk will usually line up all the swimmers and take them to the starting area in correct heat and lane order.

Sometimes, due to swimmers being absent, heats may be consolidated by the Clerk and this is why it is imperative that all swimmers report to the Clerk immediately when called.

What should happen after the swimmer swims his or her race?

After each swim, the swimmer should ask the timers (people behind the blocks at each lane) his/her time and then go immediately to his or her coach. The coach will discuss the swim with each swimmer at this time.  Generally, the coach follows these guidelines when discussing swims - positive comments or praise followed by suggestions for improvement before ending with more positive comments.

Things you, as a parent, can do after each swim:

  • Tell your swimmer how great he/she did! The coaching staff will be sure to discuss stroke technique with the swimmer - you need to tell them how proud you are and what a great job they did.
  • Take your swimmer back to the team area and relax.
  • This is another good time to check out the bathrooms, get a drink or something light to eat.

What happens between my swimmer's events?

The swimmer now waits until his next event is called and starts the procedure again. When a swimmer

as completed all of their events, they and their parents get to go home.

Make sure, however, you, as a parent, check with the coach before leaving to make sure your swimmer is not included on a relay. It is not fair to other swimmers who may have stayed to swim on a relay where your swimmer is expected to be a member and he/she is not there.

How do we know where our swimmer finished in their race?

Another thing you can do between races is check the results for your swimmer's races. Results are usually posted somewhere in the facility. If you believe there is a mistake in your swimmer's results, please let their coach know and they will get it corrected.

After the Meet is Over:

When will my swimmer receive any awards they may have won in the meet?

With the exception of the 6 & Under events, where the ribbons are handed out to the swimmers as they exit the pool from their swims, the awards are usually gathered for a team and given to the coach at the end of the meet. The coach will give the awards to the swimmers at a later time, usually at the next practice following the meet.

Where can I see how my swimmer did in the meet?

If you weren't able to check the posted meet results during the meet, we post every meet's results on our web site, usually within a few hours of the finish of the meet. You can get to the meet results from inside your family account or through the "Events" tab at the top of every page.

As with viewing the results at the meet, if you think there is a mistake in the results, please let your swimmer's coach know and we'll double check the results.

What do we do for fun after the meets?

Singing Chicken Graphic

After most of our dual meets, we try to find a fun spot to go for a meal and fellowship as a team.  If you plan to go out after the meet, please try to go with the team as these meals provide a good chance to build team spirit and friendships.  In some cases, we also use these activities as fund raisers as our hosts will donate part of the proceeds for the night back to the team.

We also have a big "Championship Afterglow" event the Sunday evening of Championships.  

All of these events are usually included in the meet information we post on the web site so you can make your plans to attend.