What to expect when you're expecting.....your kid to have the best meet ever!
Well folks, looks like #ReEntry may be in our future and even though it is going to take a little while to get our swimmers back in tip-top competition shape, sooner or later, we are all going to find ourselves on the competition deck.... Show of hands, how many of y'all have missed it? GREAT! Remember that in a few months when the excitement of reentry has passed and you are starting what seems to be hour 672 on deck, at a 3-day meet.....
But I digress.....
Some of our newer swim parents may not quite be the pros that others are at swim meets, so now is as good a time as any to chat about swim meets, what to expect, what to do, what to say, what to pack, etc..... This is, Swim Meet 101.
Swim meets can vary in length, from a short, one-day (or even a morning -- albeit a very, very long morning -- but morning nonetheless -- sort of -- maybe) to a four-day, grueling, prelims and final, interminable, exhausting, but crazy exhilarating, marathon-like adventure. Like many adventures, it starts with the first step: getting to the deck for warm ups. Thankfully, our coaches are pretty amazing at sending the information you will need earlier the week of a meet, to tell you when to show up. It is always a good idea to not delete anything that comes from your swimmer's coach, check your email often for updates, and be sure to know when your swimmers is/are expected on deck. A lot of meets may have different show times and start times based on the swimmers ages. We talked about age-groups a little in our previous blog, so you may remember that swimmers typically swim events assigned to their age group. A few points to remember here:
Many meets may split their days into sessions, especially if it is a multiple-day, larger meet. In this case, for each day, there will be a session for the younger swimmers (usually 12 and under) and one for the older swimmers (13 and over). Each meet is a little different - the facility and meet host sets up morning sessions and afternoon sessions; that is, unless the meet is a preliminary/finals format....What the heck does that mean? I am glad you asked!
In a championship meet, older swimmers (13 and over) will swim in the morning during the preliminary session. The top 16 or 24 (or some other number depending on a variety of criteria - it’s all made clear by your coach well ahead of time - check that email!) will then return to the pool deck in the evening, to swim at finals. In these types of meets, the older swimmers usually swim in the morning (prelims), the 12 and under swimmers then swim the afternoon session, and the older swimmers (13 and over) come back at night for finals.
If you have more than one child swimming and they are in different age groups, this could make for very, very long days. Most regular season meets, however, will probably be timed-finals, which means there are no preliminary sessions and your swimmer will not need to come back at night for finals. Again, Charlie and/or Scott will usually send an email the week of, to remind you when your swimmer(s) should show up depending on when each age-group session is assigned warm up time. Other pertinent information, such as what your child should wear, on-deck sitting, on-deck access, whether heat sheets will be provided or whether they are attached in the email will be sent before the meet.
Usually, when you arrive at the pool, your child will be expected to go find our team coaches and report to the pool deck. Our home meets are easier to maneuver in terms of access to your own child on deck; however, most other meets you will attend will probably prohibit parents access to the deck and direct you to the bleacher area, where you will sit for the duration of the competition. This is probably a good time for me to suggest you invest in a nice, padded, bleacher seat...trust me, you will thank me later! Some of these bleacher areas may get really loud and crowded. Some may have very specific rules about where you may stand if you choose to stand. Please be courteous and abide by those rules. Make sure you send your swimmer off to our coaches with a lunch box or a small cooler with (healthy) snacks and drinks. Warm-ups start an hour to an hour and a half before the start of the session -- get there on time. You wouldn’t be late for warm ups to your athlete’s soccer game, would you? There will probably be a little time between warm-ups and the start of the meet, so that will be a good time to check-in with your swimmer, make sure he/she is hydrated, and remind them of their events. You will probably notice that some of the kids on deck have markings on their arms or legs. This is a way for swimmers to know what event number (E), heat (H), lane (L) and stroke (S) they are swimming that day. Swimmers can keep track of and record that information in a small table, using a sharpie. The picture on the blog shows you an example of what that looks like.
Once the meet starts, things will be pretty hectic on deck, so it is probably a good idea to make sure you have said everything you needed to say to your swimmer, so they can focus on the meet. You should know that swimmers are expected to be present, and give the team their all, whether in the pool or on deck. This is part of the SMAC culture we all cherish. This means that your child should avoid being entertained by a screen on deck and focus on the sport, the team and be there for everyone. iPads are not allowed at swim meets and phones are to be used only for the three “M’s, Meet Mobile, Music and eMergencies (no, your Insta story is not an emergency.) support, encouragement, sportsmanship and team spirit. Talking about these expectations and how best to model them is a great way to have some family dinner conversations the week leading into a meet.
In closing for this week, let me share a few other tips and recommendations. You should review these and discuss them with your child before their first meet. If you aren't clear about anything, ask questions. Our coaches and the rest of us "veteran" parents are always happy to help, so please do not hesitate and ask one of us.
THE NIGHT or MORNING BEFORE
Make sure your swimmer gets a good night's sleep, approximately 8-10 hours is best.
Have your swimmer pack their own bag (if possible) the night before the meet. Believe it or not, 8 year-olds can learn to pack their own bags!
Make sure your swimmer eats well. Periodically, our coaches will share helpful tips about nutrition and we will focus a few blog posts on this topic. Pasta, whole grain bread, vegetables and fruit are a great way to fuel-up. The weekend of the big swim meet is NOT the weekend to try gas-station sushi for the first time.
It is very important to eat breakfast. Keep it light and easy to digest. If you are worried, pack light, healthy items your child may snack on after warm-ups.
WHAT TO PACK
SMAC-Snacks and drinks: fresh fruit, granola bars, fruit bars, etc. are good choices. Whatever you do, keep the snacks simple, healthy, and easy to digest.
WATER! Don't forget to pack water or sports drinks. It is so important to stay hydrated.
Swim gear: cap, goggles, swimsuit(s), towels. It's always good to have an extra cap and goggles on hand in case one breaks. Bring extra towels (one for after warm up, and each event). Do a bag check before leaving the house. Make sure you have eyes on your swimmer's goggles..... Buying a pair on deck because your swimmer left theirs at home adds up quickly!!!!
Parkas can be a great investment. Also make sure your swimmer has socks, warm shoes, sweatshirt and pants.
AT THE MEET
Swimmers should proceed to their team area on deck.
Parents will enter through the spectator area.
Heat Sheet may be purchased at the door, depending on the meet. This is the list of all the events, each heat, and each swimmer's lane. It's your program guide for the entire day.
Tell your swimmer to stay with the team. They should keep track of the events and go to the starting block well before the event is called.
Swimmers should pay attention to what event is being swum. Some of the races last less than 30 seconds so they should be aware of the schedule and get to the starting area well before the event begins.
IT IS NOT A COACH'S RESPONSIBILITY TO GET SWIMMERS TO THE STARTING BLOCK! While this sounds a little harsh, especially with the younger swimmers, you must remember that coaches have to pay attention to what goes on in the pool, have pre-race chats and post-race debriefs with swimmers. While they try really hard to make sure swimmers are ready and on their way to their races, you really need to speak to your child about being responsible to get behind the blocks.
Before each event, swimmers should talk to their coach. He/she will give racing instructions, things to think about, etc. Then they should go line up behind the timers.
When the race is over, swimmers should stay in their lane, in the water, until the next heat dives off the blocks. Talk to your child about these procedures. They should stay still and remain close to the wall so the swimmer who is diving in next is not distracted. Once the next swimmer takes off, they can get out.
*this rule does not apply to backstroke events, since the swimmer starts in the water.
After each race, swimmers should go talk to their coach. He/she will recap the race and talk about what was done well and what could need improvement.
After the debrief, swimmers must warm down. They should jump into the warm up/warm down lane (feet first) and swim easy to warm their muscles down.
After warm down, they should go back to the team's area and relax until their next event. This could be a good time to rehydrate and eat a snack.
Well folks, let's stick a fork in it and call this one done. If all goes well, we should be able to put these tips to a test soon! Here's to looking forward to a great season of racing and team spirit! See y'all on deck!