Surviving A Swim Meet – especially for first timers

A swimming meet can be both exciting and exhausting for the entire family – not just the swimmer!

For your sanity, here are a few tips to help you get through the weekend.

  1. Feed your swimmer a nutritious meal the night before.
  2. Go to bed early – it is recommended that the swimmer sleeps at least 8 hours every night.
  3. Take note of the warm up time – this is given at the swim meet briefing by the Coach and Team Manager, a few days before. If in doubt – ask! Arrive at the swimming pool to ensure that you have enough time for stretches and warm up.
  4. If this is a pool that is new to the swimmer – he or she should be aware of the strokes for turning from the underwater T or from the flags for the back stroke. The swimmer should check his or her stroke count and be comfortable with the turns. All pools are different!
  5. Wear the PSC Swim Team tshirt – the colours are determined during the meet briefing.
  6. Pack extra goggles, swim caps, swim suits and towels. You may wish to invest in a microfibre towel for the swimmer, as those dry quickly. Also a sarong to change under is very useful because of limited changing rooms. Extra googles, swim caps and swim suits are necessary as equipment break or tear. You do not want to be scrambling around looking for a replacement. It makes the swimmer nervous and stressed out, which causes a bad race. Flustered athletes are not good competitors.
  7. The swimmer should have a book to read, homework to do, games, cards (UNO is always popular) or a tablet. They need something to do in between races or they will get bored. Be warned that a child with an electronic device becomes oblivious to everything around him or her and will forget to report for the race. As the parent, you are responsible for reminding your child that they need to report to the Marshalling Area at least 10 heats before their race. Once a race is missed, the swimmer is usually not allowed to swim the rest of the events for that day.

What to Pack:

  1. Pack a variety of health snacks for your child to eat between races. These might include fresh fruit, wholemeal bread sandwiches, dried fruit and nuts, muesli bars, etc. You do not want to feed them a heavy meal with lots of spices and curry, as they will have indigestion and cannot swim. Do not give them carbonated, high sugar or caffeinated drinks. Please remind them to drink lots of water in between races, so that they will stay hydrated. Swim meets are very hot places – we do not want the swimmer to suffer from heat stroke or dehydration.
  2. The parent will need pens, a highlighter pen to use for the heat sheets (or event book), something to do, a comfortable chair to sit on and some snacks.
  3. You may also want to have a yoga mat for the swimmer to lie down to nap, a cooler box to keep chilled drinks and fruit, a foldable chair to sit in. (You can buy lightweight foldable chairs from Ace Hardware in Queensbay Mall).

When you arrive at the meet:

  1. Check in with the Coach.
  2. Sit with your team.
  3. Check the event book and highlight your swimmer’s events. Take note of the event numbers, the heat and the lane which your swimmer is swimming in. You may wish to write all this information down on the swimmer’s hand, so that they will not forget. A permanent marker is ideal for this, so that the swimmer can check when they are in the marshalling area. You are not allowed in the marshalling area.
  4. The swimmer should stay with the team and not wander off. There are hundreds of people are these meets and the Coach, Team Manager and Chaperones will not be able to keep track of your swimmer.
  5. Please keep the team area clean and tidy. Rubbish should be disposed off properly. Do not leave litter everywhere. Food containers must be disposed off after the meal. Food that is left behind will mean that the swimmer will not be getting meals the next day. Water bottles should be labeled.
  6. The swimmer’s belongings should be labeled clearly and all items stored in the bag. There are many people at a swim meet and items can be lost or stolen. Do not become a victim!

Marshalling of Events:

  1. There is a big board, at the side of the swimming pool or the marshalling area, where giant numbers are put up. These are the events which are being called for marshalling. Make sure that the swimmer knows what their event numbers are and keep an eye on that board.
  2. When the swimmer’s event number is put up on the board, go and see the Coach for final instructions for the race. Check in with one of the Chaperones to be marked off.
  3. Go to the marshalling area and report to the Chief Marshall. Then sit down where they tell you and wait for your race to be called.

After Your Race:

  1. If there is a warm down pool, go and swim a warm down.
  2. Talk to your Coach about your race.
  3. Drink water and eat something light to replace the energy used up. Bananas have nutritional benefits that can help you fuel your muscle glycogen stores and replace potassium. Bananas also help moderate glucose absorption and prevents hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar.


Warm Down by Kelsey Savage Hays with Kristin Hill, the Head Coach of Boise State Swimming. (Taken from
Warm down gives hard-worked muscles the chance to prepare for the next practice or race. Swimmers should aim to get their heart rate under 100 beats per minute before exiting the warm-down pool. While a 200-300 yard (182m to 275m) set with some drills and easy swimming is usually enough recovery after practice, races require a little extra strategy. Here are five tips for getting the most out of warm down:

After a race, warming down should be the immediate focus. A long wait between competition and recovery gives the body more time to tighten, making it harder to flush out the lactate acid built up in muscles.

Start with a relaxed 300 yards before doing a short interval set; Kristin suggests doing 6×50 yards on :45 seconds. The slight increase of intensity hastens the removal of lactate acid by increasing blood circulation. Finish with some more easy swimming, or, if there isn’t much time between races, start preparing for the next event with drills and pace work.

Hydrate with water between events or with a recovery drink if it’s the final warm-down of the session. Fluids, especially those including carbohydrates and protein, can greatly aid recovery, but stick to drinking something you’ve already tested during practice. Keep your choice beverage on the side of the pool and sip it during your warm down.

Most swimmers need 600-800 yards before their heart rate settles, but some might need longer. Don’t shortchange your body with too little recovery; leave the warm-down pool fresh for the next race.

Stretching after warming down can also loosen the body, if it’s already part of your routine. Don’t push yourself into stretching in ways you aren’t used to. Stretching not only helps the muscles relax, but it gives a swimmer a few quiet minutes to prepare for the next race.


Final Checklist:

  1. PSC Swim Team tshirt – in the right colour.
  2. Swimsuit – extras, in the event it tears.
  3. Goggles – extras, in case of breakage.
  4. Swim cap – extras, in case of breakage.
  5. Float board – for warm ups and to use as a pillow for naps.
  6. Towels.
  7. Change of clothes – things get wet.
  8. Soap and shampoo to shower.
  9. Water.
  10. Healthy Snacks.
  11. Some things to do – a book to read, homework to finish, games, cards, music to listen to.
  12. An iPad or electronic tablet – valuables should be your own responsibility.
  13. Permanent Marker Pen.
  14. Highlighter Pen.
  15. Pen.


Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

Winning medals and achieving personal bests are the goal of any swimmer in a swimming competition. However, you must also enjoy the sport and have fun! Do not be so focused on winning that everything else is not important.

If you did not do as well as you have targeted, go back and think about your swim. Talk to your Coach and set achievable goals and targets for the next Swim Meet. Then work on your swim during training. It is what you do every day during training that determines your performance at a swim meet. If your training is below par, then the results will not be there.