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Swim Meet 101

How Does a Swim Meet work?

An “event” at a swim meet consists of a gender, stroke and a distance. For instance, the girls 25-yard freestyle, the boys 25-yard freestyle, the boys 50-yard freestyle, and the girls 50-yard butterfly are four separate events. A 25-yard race is one length of the pool, and a 50-yard race is 2 lengths.

Since there are usually more swimmers entered in each event than there are lanes, there may be several races, or “heats”, in each event.

Freestyle Relay: Four swimmers each swim freestyle. However, the distance swum per relay participant differs by age group.

Medley Relay: Four swimmers participate, each of whom swims a different stroke. The first swimmer swims Backstroke (BA), the second Breaststroke (BR), the third Butterfly (FL), and the fourth Freestyle (FR). An easy way to remember this is: BA, BR, FL, FR are in alphabetical order.

100 IM (individual medley) is an event in which ONE swimmer swims four different strokes: 25 yards of butterfly, 25 yards of backstroke, 25 yards of breaststroke and 25 yards of freestyle, in this order.

All competition is age-group competition which means that children swim against others of the same age and gender. There are two point-earning or “live” swimmers for each individual event per age group and gender; and there are two point-earning freestyle relays and two point-earning medley relays per age group and gender (except 6 & unders who do not swim the medley relay). Non point-earning individual swimmers and relays are entered into the meet as exhibition as indicated by an “X” in the meet program.

Swimming is both an individual and a team sport. Each swimmer should thrive to better their personal times from previous meets. They should also cheer and encourage their teammates because the team score is determined by total number of points, NOT by how many firsts a team wins. Please stress this to your children.

All finishes are judged finishes, which means that, the order of finish is determined by judges, NOT by times. Times for each event are used to help the swimmer and coach chart the progress of the swimmer.

What time should I be at the swim meets with my swimmer?

  • Please arrive by 4:30 pm to get settled and participate in a meet warmup.
  • Meet warm-up for home meets is from 5:00 – 5:30 pm.
  • Meet warm-up for away meets is from 5:30 – 5:55 pm.
  • Before arriving at the pool, parents must 1) write their child’s name and age group on his/her upper back and 2) write the events/heats/lanes on his/her arm.
  • Meets will start as close to 6 pm as possible (depending on the volunteers, the meet referee, and the weather).

What should I bring to the meet, other than my swimmer?

  • Swim suit
  • Goggles (good idea to bring a back-up pair as well)
  • Swim cap
  • 2 Towels (one for use during the meet and one for after the meet)
  • Water bottle- it’s hot out there. It’s important to stay hydrated!
  • Snacks* – although most pools will have concession stands, it is a good idea to bring healthier options (apples, oranges, granola bars, PB&J, etc.) for your kids as well
  • Pen/paper- you may want to write down your swimmer’s times
  • Sharpie for marking
  • Dry clothes to change into after the meet
  • On cool nights, a sweatshirt to help them keep warm
  • Sunscreen
  • Chairs for Mom and/or Dad
  • Camera/Video Recorder
  • Lots of positive energy

What should my swimmer eat, if anything, before the meet?

1-2 hours before the meet, try to feed your swimmer something with protein and carbohydrates- a popular choice is pasta with chicken or a sandwich. Also make sure that they are drinking water/Gatorade during the morning and hours before the meet!

How do I make sense of the line-up information you have emailed to me?

The line-up will come as a word document or web file. You will find your child’s information sorted by name. Please refer to the example below.

Swimmer, Jane – Female – Age: 7 – Ind/Rel: 2 / 2
#3 Girls 8&U 100 Medley Relay (2) 1/2
#25 Girls 8&U 25 Free 3/7
#37 Girls 8&U 25 Back 2/5
#67 Girls 8&U 100 Free Relay (1) 1/7

  • The first line contains the swimmer’s name and age as well as how many individual and relay events that child is entered to swim in the upcoming meet.
  • The numbers that look like fractions (e.g. “1/7”) after the event names indicate the Heat / Lane that your child will be swimming. In the example, the swimmer will be in Heat 1 and Lane 7 for event #67.
  • The time to the right of the event is a swimmer’s recorded personal best time for this event. NT stands for No Time, meaning that the swimmer does not have an official time for the stroke/dist.
  • For relays, the number in parenthesis “(#)” indicates the leg on the relay your child is swimming.
  • In a Medley relay, the order of the strokes are (1) Back, (2) Breast, (3) Fly, (4) Free. So, in this above example, “#3 Girls 8&U 100 Medley Relay (2) 1/2″, the (2) indicates that this swimmer will swim BREASTSTROKE in the SECOND leg of the relay.
  • In a Free relay, all legs of the relay are freestyle, so in the above example, #67 Girls 8&U 100 Free Relay (1) 1/7, the (1) indicates that this swimmer will freestyle in the FIRST leg of the relay.

Prior to arriving at the meet, please:

Mark your child’s name and age group on their back using a dark-colored Sharpie pen. (Sharpie DOES come off if rubbed with rubbing alcohol or acetone! Your swimmer won’t be tattooed, don’t worry!)

Also, please write your child’s events/heats/lanes on his/her arm.

  • The first column is “E” for EVENT.
  • The second column is “H” for HEAT (if there are 24 kids swimming the 50 Free in an 8-lane pool, then there will be 3 heats).
  • The third column is “L” for LANE.

What is the difference between the IM and the Medley Relay?

  • IM stands for Individual Medley. It is always swum in the following order: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle.
  • The Medley relay consists of the same strokes, but the order is different. The Medley relay order is backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle. Note that BA, BR, FL, FR is in alphabetical order.

How long will the meet last?

Three to four hours is the approximate length of a meet. Warm-ups start at 5 pm for the home team and 5:30 pm for the visiting team. Barring any delays, the meet is supposed to start at 6 and run until about 9 or 10 pm. Note: The 6 and unders swim early in the meet and are usually finished by 7:30, so parents, choose your volunteer assignments accordingly.

How will my swimmer know when to report for his/her race?

  • Each age-group will have a ‘bullpen,’ and the bullpen parent will help line up the swimmers before each race. The kids will need to stay in their age group bullpens for the duration of the meet! It is imperative that swimmers stay in the bullpen area so that the bullpen parents can easily and efficiently find your child. It is unfortunate when a swimmer misses his event because he was not in the right place to be lined up. Age Group Bullpen Parents are not babysitters. Parents need to supervise their younger children at the swim meets. The bull-pen parent position is a challenging job; let’s make every effort to make it as easy as we can for our parent volunteers.
  • At home swim meets, the away team will sit on the side of the pool closest to the diving board. Your child must sit in the bullpen area.
  • For safety reasons it is important to keep the kids out of the diving well and shallow end of the pool during the meet.

When will my child get official results/times from the meet?

Official results are sent out as soon as possible after the meet. Ribbons are distributed during practice, if your child does not receive ribbons on Wednesday, they are placed in the family’s vertical file folder.

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