What is a Meet Form?
The meet form contains all the information you need to enter a meet, including but not limited to the time and location, events you can swim, entry fees, and deadlines. It may also tell you how the meet will be run, how you will be timed, how awards will be presented, and provide information about the hosting facility. Meet forms can usually be found on the Nova Masters web site, the SPMA web site, or the web site of the hosting team. Note that a current USMS card is a universal requirement for participating in Masters competition. You will be required to include a copy of your USMS card with the entry form, or show your card when you check in at the meet. Obtaining a USMS card only takes a few moments online, register here!
What is a deck entry?
Deck entry is the process of signing up for a meet and selecting the events you want to swim on the pool deck (hence the name “deck entry”) on the actual day of the meet. Depending on the meet, deck entry may be allowed for all events, some events, or forbidden altogether as is the case for all championship competitions. It is also common for the meet hosts to ask you to pay a surcharge to deck enter events, due to the extra administration involved. Deck entries often close an hour or more before the meet or a particular event is scheduled to begin.
What do I need to know about choosing my events?
It’s a good idea to discuss this with your coach prior to entering the meet, but as a general rule, enter those events you are good at or enjoy swimming. Pay attention to the order of events shown on the meet form, and be careful about entering too many events too close together. Giving a race 100% effort is physically taxing, and it’s best to allow at least some recovery time in order to perform to the best of your ability in each event. Note that you will usually be restricted to swimming a maximum number of events per day, and for the duration of the meet – this information will be shown on the meet form.
What is Seeding?
Seeding refers to a swimmer’s competitive position in relation to other swimmers in a particular swimming event based upon his or her submitted entry time. When you prepare your meet entry form, you will be asked to provide a time for each event that you swim. This time is best obtained during one of the regular team practices, but failing that, you can simply enter a good estimate. As you begin competing more, you can seed yourself using times swum in events at previous
What are Psych Sheets?
At some point before the start of a meet, the event organizers will distribute psych sheets, either in hard copy form or on the Internet. The psych sheets will have all swimmers categorized by gender and age group for each event, and seeded in accordance with the times they provided. The “psych” part derives from swimmers who work themselves into a tizzy, or lapse into happy complacency based upon their seeding. Neither is a good idea…
How do I check in at a meet?
Event organizers will have a check-in table set up at the meet. You check in by identifying yourself, and by presenting your USMS card if you didn’t send a copy in with your entry form. At larger meets, you may also pick up your event T-shirt and goodie-bag. Don’t just toss the goodie-bag into your car without looking in it first, as it will often contain the meet program, which provides vital information. Note that for certain long-distance swimming events (1500 meter, 800 meter, 400 meter), you may be asked to check in separately for each event. Event check-in can close an hour or more before the event begins. Again, this information is provided on the meet form.
What are Heat Sheets?
Events at a meet are swum in heats, usually of 8 swimmers at a time. Swimmers are grouped into heats based upon their seeded times, and heats for each event progress from slowest to fastest. At larger meets, men and women swim in separate heats. At smaller meets, they may simply be grouped together based upon their seeded times. Note that you will be scored based upon the time you swim in relation to other swimmers in your gender and age group, so winning or losing a heat may have no bearing on how you ultimately place in your events. Heat sheets tell you in which heat and lane you will be swimming for each event that you entered. In meets where no deck entries are allowed, heat sheets are often provided to you in the meet program. They are almost always posted on a bulletin board at the meet site as well. It is important to check the POSTED heat sheets from time to time, as it is not uncommon for them to change as a meet progresses, especially if deck entries are permitted.
Is there any way to find out at what time I’ll be swimming my events?
Meet organizers usually publish a meet timeline or schedule showing the projected time at which each event will proceed. This is only an estimate, and a meet can run behind or ahead of schedule, sometimes significantly so. You can get a good feeling for the pace of the meet by listening to announcements over the P.A. system as events are called.
Gaaack! My name appears in all these relay slots. What’s that all about?
At many of the meets, your coaches will organize relay teams. While participation is not mandatory, relays are often the funnest events in a meet, and you are strongly encouraged to swim them. You will never feel more a part of your team than when you swim in a relay, and the spirit, camaraderie and excitement make them a memorable experience.
Relay assignments are posted on the team bulletin board – they will let you know in which heat, lane and sequence you will be swimming. As do the heat sheets, relay assignments may change over the course of a meet, so make it a point to check them from time to time. Take special note, the stroke sequence in medley relays is DIFFERENT from that of individual medley events – the stroke order is Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle.
How do I warm up and stay warmed up in preparation for my events?
As you already know from your practices, warming up gets you loosened up and prepared to swim at a high level of performance. Prior to swimming your first event, take the time to swim a good warm-up. Typically, you will be practicing standard meet warm-up routines in the weeks just prior to a meet. Now is the time to use what you learned.
Warm-up is also an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the pool in which you will be swimming your races. If you have spent most of your time practicing in one pool and swimming sets measured in yards, swimming in a different pool, particularly one dimensioned in meters can seem a little strange at first. Observe any differences in lane markings, and structural features such as ledges around the edge of the pool. These can be a distraction and cause you to blow a turn if they catch you by surprise. Watch for differences in the position of the backstroke flags – they will be slightly further from the edge of a pool that is laid out in meters. The competition pool will ordinarily be available for warm-up only prior to the start of a meet. A separate warm-up pool is usually available for continuous use throughout the meet. If it’s been more than an hour or two since you warmed up or swam an event, it’s a good idea to spend a little time warming up again in preparation for your next race.
Do I need one of those special swimsuits or special goggles?
Your regular swimsuit is fine for swimming in meets, but be sure it fits properly. Having it wind up around your ankles after a dive is an unneeded distraction, both for you and the meet spectators. Your regular goggles are also fine, provided they fit well. Nothing can ruin a race more certainly than having your goggles come off or fill with water during a start. If you need new goggles, get them and try them out at practice prior to the meet. The day of a meet, particularly your first one, is not the time to be fooling around with new equipment.
Can I pull that 800 freestyle? And can I use fins for that 50 fly?
Nice try, but no, you can’t. USMS regulations prohibit the use of any device that assists with buoyancy or propulsion. You are also forbidden from wearing or utilizing any device that can assist with pacing during competition, and that includes many wrist watches.
How are the events timed?
Events are usually timed using electronic timing systems that utilize touch pads at the end of each lane. The results are automatically recorded on a computer, and shown on a large display board. The starting official initiates the timing system at the beginning of each race. Your splits are recorded and displayed at each turn, and the timer is stopped when you touch the pad for the final time at the end of the race. Additionally, two timers with stopwatches attend to each lane, in the event that something goes wrong with the electronic timing system. The timing system touchpads are fairly large, but it’s not impossible to miss them due to a bad turn or finish, which is one reason it’s a good idea to spend at least a little bit of time warming up in the competition pool before the meet begins. The touchpads are visible – practice a few turns and stops so you get a sense for how they’re located. Avoid grabbing the top of the gutter at the finish. Instead reach for a finish just under the water’s surface.
How does the starting process work?
You should be waiting behind the timers in your assigned lane, ready to swim, when the heat before yours is swimming. AFTER the race before yours finishes, check in with the timers to make sure they have your name on their time slips to verify that you’re in the correct heat and lane, and move into position next to the starting block. DO NOT MOUNT THE STARTING BLOCK AT THIS TIME!
When your heat is ready to proceed, the starter will give a series of short blasts on his whistle. You have just a few seconds remaining to adjust your swim cap or goggles if you need to, before the starter gives one long blast on his whistle, at which point you are expected to promptly mount the starting block. The starter will issue the command: “Swimmers, take your marks”, at which point you assume your starting position on the block. The starting gun will sound shortly thereafter.
Backstroke events are started in the water, and the sequence is slightly different. After the initial series of short blasts, the
starter will give one long blast, which is your signal to promptly enter the water. A second long whistle is your signal to assume the starting position in the water, before the command “Swimmers, take your marks” is issued, and the starting gun sounds. Who are those serious-looking people walking back and forth along the side of the pool? Those are the referees. They’re watching your starts, turns, finishes and stroke technique to make sure you swim a legal race. In the unlikely event that you do something to get yourself disqualified, one of these serious-looking people will be waiting for you at the finish of the event, and will tell you what you did to get disqualified. No official time will be recorded for your race.
I’m absolutely wiped out. Can I use that ladder over there to exit the pool?
Yes, you can, but under no circumstances do you cross into other lanes while an event is still in progress, or you may be disqualified. Also, take special note of exit procedures during relay events. If you can, exit the pool promptly after you finish swimming. If not, stay to one side of the lane, well clear of the touchpad, until all the swimmers on your relay team have finished. The touchpad is reset 15-20 seconds after each swimmer finishes, in order to record the time of the following swimmer. If you make contact with the touchpad while exiting the pool after the touchpad resets itself, it stops the timer again, recording an invalid time for that swimmer, and fouling up the timing for the rest of your relay.
Do I need to warm down?
Warming down is a good idea, particularly following intense, longer-distance events, in order to work accumulated lactic acid out of your muscles, and keep you from stiffening up or getting cramps. An easy 200 yard swim, freestyle or mixed stroke, makes a good warm-down.
How do I find out how I did in my event?
A short time after all the heats for an event have been swum, the meet organizers will post the results on a bulletin board. The results are categorized by gender and age group, and swimmers are ranked by the time that they swam in the event.
I can’t believe it – I actually placed in an event! Where do I pick up my ribbon?
The meet form usually explains how medals and ribbons will be awarded. Each meet will have an awards table set up where you can go claim your winnings.
What if I want to change my events?
Check with the event organizers. It may or may not be possible, depending on the meet rules and timeline. In championship events, you may not make changes after the entry deadline.
What if I want to scratch an event?
Begin by checking with your coaches, so they have the opportunity to talk you out of it. If you still decide to scratch, you simply don’t show up at the starting blocks for your heat in that event. You are not penalized, nor does that preclude you from swimming later events in the meet.
Should I be eating and drinking during the meet?
Swimming races is highly demanding and burns a lot of energy. It is very important to stay properly hydrated and nourished during a meet, particularly if you are there for the entire day. It’s easy to forget about this in the excitement of the event, especially if you are spending your time between races socializing with your teammates or watching other swimmers compete.
If you suddenly find yourself feeling unusually tired, low on energy, and irritable, there’s a good chance you’ve gone to long without eating and drinking something, or you aren’t eating enough to keep up with your body’s demands. Having the hamburger platter 15 minutes before swimming a 200 IM is obviously not a good idea, but any time you have an hour or two between events, eating small, easily digestible snacks such as yogurt, fruit, crackers or a peanut butter sandwich will help to keep your energy level up. You should be drinking water or sports drinks at fairly frequent intervals
throughout the day. Food and drink is usually, though not always available for sale at the meet location. Bring the snacks and drinks that you like to the event with you.