Swim meets are a lot of fun for the swimmers! They get to visit with their friends, play games, meet kids from other teams, and cheer on their teammates. More importantly, they get to compete with other swimmers, and see how much they've improved from all the hard work they've put in at practice.
However, swim meets may seem a little overwhelming to new swimmers and their families. The following information is geared toward helping you through your first couple of meets. Once you have attended one or two meets, this will all become very routine. If you have any questions, feel free to ask a UNAC coach or more-experienced parent.
This is a competitive swim club. Therefore, all swimmers are expected to participate in swim meets.
Signing Up for Meets
Information about specific meets (sessions, times, events, etc.) can be found in the sign-up sheets that are posted at the pool a week or two before the meet. Swimmers with questions about what events to enter should talk to the UNAC coaches, who know the swimmers' strengths and weaknesses.
Relay teams are determined by the UNAC coaches, based on the number of swimmers signing up for the relay event. (Swimmers may not always be placed in a relay.) The order of swimmers in a relay is also determined by the coaches.
If entry fees are required, please make your check out to UNAC when signing up. Host clubs will only accept payment from other clubs, not from individuals. Because of the logistics involved in organizing a meet, swimmers must sign up by the deadline posted in the meet info.
Please note that swimmers cannot participate in a meet unless they are registered for the swim session in which the meet occurs. The only exception is UNAC's annual Sertoma Summer Invitational. Swimmers who are not registered for the Summer session, but were registered for the previous Fall, Winter or Spring sessions, are eligible to participate in the Sertoma meet.
Entry fees for competitors are charged by swim clubs hosting meets. (This is one way for clubs to earn money to offset the costs of their swim programs.) Entry fees generally range from $3 to $5 per individual event, $8 to $12 per relay event (paid by UNAC), and a deck fee of $4 to $6 per swimmer.
The entry fees for Southern Tier Swim League (STSL) meets are already included in the UNAC fees for the session, so there is no extra cost for competing in these meets (other than for STSL Championships).
Most of the meets at which your swimmers will be competing are "Timed Finals" meets. Swimmers only swim one race of a particular event, and the order of finishing (1st Place, 2nd Place, etc.) is based on the swimmers' times.
Niagara LSC Championships and Championship Qualifiers are "Preliminaries & Finals" meets (although "Timed Finals" are utilized for relays, distance events, and all 10 & Under swimmers). At these meets, preliminary heats of each event are held during the day, and the top 6 or 8 swimmers (depending on the pool size) of each event and age group compete in the finals during the evening.
Swimmers in a particular event are placed in heats based on their prior best time (seed time) in that event, with the faster competitors swimming in later heats. Swimmers are also placed in lanes based on their seed times, with faster swimmers in center lanes. Swimmers with no seed time ("NT") in an event are seeded last. The following table is an example of seeding 30 swimmers in a 6 lane pool (with 1 being the fastest seed time and 30 the slowest):
|Seeding Example – 6 Lane Pool|
|LANE 1||LANE 2||LANE 3||LANE 4||LANE 5||LANE 6|
Circle Seeding is used in the preliminary races of meets utilizing "Preliminaries & Finals" format, and it only affects the last three heats of the event. In a 6 lane pool, the swimmers with the three fastest seed times swim in Lane 3 of the last three heats, the swimmers with next three fastest times swim in Lane 4 of the last three heats, etc. The following table is an example of circle seeding 30 swimmers in a 6 lane pool (with 1 being the fastest seed time and 30 the slowest):
|Circle Seeding Example – 6 Lane Pool|
|LANE 1||LANE 2||LANE 3||LANE 4||LANE 5||LANE 6|
Swim meets generally have two sessions, one in the morning for certain age groups and one in the afternoon for other age groups. (Meets with "Preliminary & Finals" usually have a third session in the evening for the finals.) The start times for sessions sometimes change, based on the number of swimmers entered, so it's a good idea to check the latest times on the Calendar page before going to the meet. Sessions often last 3 to 4 hours, depending on the number of competitors entered. Families with swimmers of different ages are sometimes at a meet for the entire day.
Although swim meets utilize automatic timers with touch-pads, two backup timers with stopwatches are also needed for each lane. The host clubs generally require that visiting clubs provide timers for each session. (The number of timers per club is determined by number of swimmers entered.)
Swim meets cannot proceed without all of the backup timers, so please volunteer when UNAC is required to provide timers. Don't hesitate just because you've never done it before – it's not difficult and you'll catch on quickly. More than one person can split the job, so that neither person has to do it for the entire session. Also, be prepared to get a little wet!
According to USA Swimming regulations (because of insurance purposes), parents are not allowed on the pool deck unless they are serving in an official capacity (i.e. as a timer). Similarly, all questions concerning meet results, an officiating call, or the conduct of a meet, should be referred to the UNAC coaching staff. They, in turn, will pursue the matter through the proper channels.
What to Take to the Meet
- Swimsuit, goggles, and UNAC cap if your swimmer uses one. These are the most important items to bring.
- Towels. Remember, your swimmer will be at the meet for a while, so bring at least two.
- Blankets, sleeping bags, camp chairs or something else comfortable on which to sit on the floor. Your swimmer will be spending a lot of time on them between events.
- Extra goggles, because straps occasionally break.
- T-shirts and sweat suits or warm-up suits. It's sometimes cold in the area in which they're hanging out between events, and your swimmers will be wet.
- Cooler with food and drinks. Even though there's usually a concession stand at swim meets, the lines may be long and the food may not be the most nutritious. It's better to bring snacks such as fruit, granola bars, yogurt, cereal, and sandwiches, and drinks such as fruit juice or Gatorade.
- Games to play, books to read, or other diversions to pass the time. Swimmers usually spend a lot of time waiting between events.
- Special Parent's Note: The pool area is usually very warm and humid, so make sure you dress appropriately. Also, sandals or flip-flops may be a good idea if you're going to help out as a timer.
Before the Meet Starts
- Arrive at the pool at least 15 minutes before the scheduled warm-up time begins. This time will be included in the meet information at the sign-ups. Since session start times occasionally change, make sure you check the Calendar page for the latest times.
- Upon arrival, find a place to put your swimmers' blankets, swim bags, etc. The UNAC team usually sits in one place together, so look for some familiar faces. Find the locker room and have your swimmers get changed into their suits.
- Have your swimmers check-in with the UNAC coach, to let the coach know that they're there. Some meets require that swimmers check-in with the "Clerk of the Course", especially for distance events. Ask a coach if your swimmers need to do so.
- If you want, purchase a Heat Sheet, which lists the swimmers' events, heats, lane assignments and seed times. Heat Sheets general cost a dollar or two, and are usually available in the lobby or at the concession stand.
- Once checked-in, use a Sharpie pen to write the event, heat and lane number on your swimmers' hand, arm or leg, for each event in which they're competing. This helps them remember their events and not miss a race.
- Your swimmers will then get their caps and goggles and report to the pool for warm-up instructions from the UNAC coach. (Typically, specific warm-up lanes are assigned to specific clubs.) It is very important for all swimmers to warm-up with the team. Swimmers' bodies are just like cars – they need to get their engines going and warmed-up before they can go all-out.
- After warm-ups, your swimmers will go back to the area where their towels and blankets are, and sit there until his or her first event is called. This is a good time to make sure they go to the bathroom if necessary, get a drink, or just get settled in.
- The meet will usually start about 10 to 15 minutes after warm-ups are over.
During the Meet
- It is very important for your swimmers to know their events, heats and lanes (that's what the Sharpie's for), and to listen carefully to event announcements.
- While an event is being run, the announcer will call for all swimmers in the next event to report to the starting blocks of their appropriate lanes. It is the swimmers' responsibility to make sure they're at the correct lane for the start of the correct heat of the correct event. (The backup timers at each lane often check if the correct person is there, but they don't go looking if your swimmers aren't there.) If your swimmers miss an event, the meet goes on without them and they do not get to make it up. (Unfortunately, this sometimes happens to experienced swimmers at championship meets.)
- Younger swimmers usually don't report directly to the starting blocks. Instead, they're "seated" in a waiting area by the Clerk of the Course, in the correct "seeding" order for their event, heat and lane. When it's time to race, they're brought out onto the pool deck in the proper order. It is the parents' responsibility to make sure their younger swimmers get to the "seating" area when called. (The Clerk of the Course doesn't go looking for your swimmers if they're not there.)
- Before each race, the Starter will signal with a series of short whistle blows for the swimmers to get ready, and announce the event and heat. He will then signal with one long whistle blow for the swimmers to step up onto the starting blocks (or enter the water for backstroke). When the Referee signals that all swimmers and officials are ready, the Starter will announce "take your mark", and the swimmers will assume their starting position. When all swimmers are stationary in their starting positions, the Starter will give the starting signal (buzzer and strobe), and race begins!
- At the end of the race, the swimmers wait until all of the swimmers in the heat finish, and then quickly climb out of the pool. However, if the officials are doing "Flyover" starts, the swimmers stay in water at the end of the pool until the next heat starts, and then climb out. (This shortens the time between heats, to speed things up if it's a long meet.)
- After each race, swimmers should go to the UNAC coach to discuss the race. The coaches will provide positive comments and offer suggestions for improvement.
- If a warm-down pool is available, swimmers may want to warm down, especially after distance events.
- After discussing the race with the coach and warming down, the swimmers go back to the location where they've placed their blankets, bags, etc., and "hang out" until their next event. This is good time to go to the bathroom, get a drink or something light to eat. If there's room on the pool deck, swimmers may stay and cheer on their UNAC teammates.
- The swimmers wait until their next event is called, and the procedure repeats itself.
- When the swimmers have completed all of their events, they are free to go home. Before leaving, swimmers should first check with the UNAC coach to make sure they're not included on a relay team. It is very unfair to the other swimmers, who have waited the entire session for the relays (usually the last events), if they can't swim because they're missing someone on their relay team.
What If Your Child Has a Disappointing Race
Even though hard and consistent practice leads to improvement over time, swimmers sometimes have poor races. If this happens to your swimmers and they feel bad about, talk about the good things. The first thing you say is, "Hey, that is not like you. You're usually a top swimmer." Then you can go on and talk about the good things the child did. You should never talk about the negative things.
If your swimmer comes up to you and says, "That was a bad race, don't tell me it wasn't," there is nothing wrong with him or her negatively evaluating a race. The important thing is for the swimmer not to dwell on it. You should move on to something good. "All right, you have had a bad race. How do you think you can do better next time?" Immediately start talking about the positive things.
New swimmers (and even experienced ones) may be disqualified in a race because of violations relating to their starts, turns or strokes, and it's easy for them to become upset if that happens. If your swimmer gets disqualified, try to find out what happened from the UNAC coach, and use it as a learning experience to help prevent it from happening again.
Out of Town Swim Meets
Trips to meets in other cities become an important aspect of a swimmer's career while advancing through the age group ranks. Parents are encouraged to attend out-of-town meets with their swimmers, and to chaperon other youngsters. These trips can be great fun for parents and swimmers alike, and are a rare opportunity to participate in a special way in your swimmers' careers.
UNAC has established the following policies for the safety of the swimmer and peace-of-mind of parents:
- Parents are be responsible for arranging transportation to and from a meet, and lodging if necessary. Do not ask your swimmers to handle transportation and lodging arrangements.
- A coach has too many responsibilities to the entire team to accept responsibility for an individual swimmer. Therefore, do not ask a coach to provide transportation.
- All swimmers are expected to adhere to the UNAC Code of Conduct at all times.
- If another parent is driving your swimmers, he or she should be given a medical release and emergency telephone number in the event emergency medical treatment is required.
- If another parent is driving your swimmers, an appropriate contribution is expected from each passenger in order to help defray gasoline and related expenses.