What to Expect at a Swim Meet


As a swim team parent, I know that the very first meet can be overwhelming. The most important thing is packing a bag and getting there on time. The following is what I have learned from our swim team. Not everything will be the same for all swim meets. However, this should give you an idea of what kinds of questions to ask.

What to Pack for a Swim Meet

  • Patience – Swim meets last FOREVER
  • Towels
  • Cover-ups, robes, sweats, sweatshirts – when the sun goes down, it gets chilly sometimes!
  • Goggles – always pack extras…goggles seem to break at swim meets!
  • Swim Cap
  • Extra Swimsuit – some moms throw an extra suit in the bag just in case
  • A Black Sharpie Marker – events are written on swimmer’s arms and cheers/chants will be written on their backs
  • Water and Snacks – you never know what will be available at the concessions
  • Games or Something to Do – there is a lot of down time between events and kids get bored
  • Blankets and/or Chairs – the pool deck chairs go fast and grassy areas are used, so if you want to guarantee something to sit on, bring it!
  • Sunscreen – depending on time of day
  • Bug Spray – the sun goes down and the bugs come out!
  • Concession Items – for our home meets, swimmers are asked to donate a dish to the concessions
  • Concession Money

Theme Nights

Sometimes swim clubs have designated “themes” for each meet. Last year our swim team had a Warrior Night, a Rockstar Night and a Hawaiian Night. It was a lot of fun. Not everyone dresses up. The only night I participated was the night I could grab Andy’s Hawaiian shirt and wear it. The girls had some of my Tahitian dresses in their dress-up bin and grabbed those as well.


The Black Sharpie

Most people will have one. However, it’s nice to keep one or two in your bag. DO NOT write on your swimmer’s arm until you arrive. For every swim meet last year, one thing changed during the day of the event and I would have written the wrong thing on an arm. Confirm once you arrive for the meet.


Keeping Kids Busy

Most swimmers are just excited to be at the pool with their friends and neighbors. However, swim meets can be long and the time between events even longer. It’s not a bad idea to pack a board game, some cards, coloring books, or even a movie. Especially when younger siblings are along for the evening.



So…Now What Happens?

Meets typically start at dinner time. My kids eat a large mid-afternoon snack on swim meet days. Usually the swimmers will arrive early to warm up in the pool. Then the team will meet together and do some cheers. The final events are posted and the meet will begin. Pay attention. You want to make sure your swimmer is in the right place at the right time. You do not want to miss their events. I usually make sure they are in the right spot to start the race and then head down the side of the pool to greet them when they finish. Other parents and the coaches will help you understand the order of events, where they need to be, etc. After their first event, my kids are hungry. They either eat the snacks I brought along or split a burger or piece of pizza at the concession stand depending on what is available (each club offers different items). I want them to eat something, but not an entire meal before the next event.


Sometimes events get canceled due to weather. It’s always best to go get ice cream if it cancels when you are already at the pool. Since you are out of house and everyone is disappointed…ice cream cures all.

So do donuts! Our swim meets are followed the next morning by DONUTS! After the next swim practice, the swimmers have a chance to buy one donut. Everyone loves DONUT DAY! Especially the little siblings if there are extras left over for sale.


What About the Ribbons?

At our swim meets no one goes home with a ribbon. You pick up your ribbons in your family folder the next morning. And the ribbons depend on the hosting swim team. Some swim clubs give ribbons for EVERYTHING. Even if you are dead last. Other swim clubs limit ribbons. So your swimmer could come in 8th place three weeks in a row and get an 8th Place Ribbon, a Participant Ribbon and no ribbon at all.



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What did I forget to mention about swim meets?

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