Monday, May 6, 2013

10 Swim Meet Commandments

I spent long hours at a meet this weekend with every age group and saw lots of things... I saw lots of things! Some things I witnessed I could not make sense of and some of them I thought could use a reminder; while others may have been through inexperience and ignorance. Thus, to cover all bases (in an honest effort to help you) I bring you THE 10 SWIM MEET COMMANDMENTS.

Coaches are going to love this, but I'm likely to get about 50 angry emails from parents.

This is set up with the Commandment 1st, then whether it is geared towards athletes or parents, then an explanation of the commandment.

1.) Come prepared & take responsibility for your preparedness & your swimming! Athletes.
Forgetting a suit, goggles, a towel, etc is not a great way to start a meet session. Therefore, trusting someone else to pack your bag for you is not necessarily the best way to be prepared. Take ownership of your swimming with something small like packing your own bag. Think about what you will need and make sure that you have it. 
Parents: let your athletes be responsible for remembering to eat, drink, go to the bathroom and getting behind the blocks on time at the meet. This will make them better athletes.

2.) Know what you're going to the meet to swim and what you want to accomplish! Athletes.
I may have a permanent imprint of my hand on my head at the end of my career from the number of times athletes come to meets and have no idea what events they are swimming - which implies the following 2 things: a.) that they cannot possibly have prepared for the events ahead of time thus b.) they will have to recall tactics & warm-up very quickly. Most clubs give information sheets to families (events, times, facility, etc) well in advance of the meet; look at them the day before the meet. If you had no idea that you were swimming a 1500FR and showed up, surprised to be swimming it, do you think it is going to be the best possible 1500FR? 
Editor's Note: You'd be surprised how many people ask what events they're swimming after warm-up is done... I have no idea how to warm-up for the unknown.  

3.) If you're older than 12 you should not have events, heats and lane numbers written on your hand! Athletes.
I'm a big believer of allowing athletes to use their brain power and memory, not using the aid of having things written on their hands. Stay involved in the meet and you won't miss anything!

4.) Junk food is not a good way to kill time! Athletes & Parents.
I know that days get long and boring, but that should be even more reason to not allow yourself a sugar crash! Eating is not a good way to pass time anyway, but giving an athlete junk food to pass the time is a terrible idea. If they cannot stay focused on the meet, there are lots of other, less harmful, ways to fill time.

5.) Cheer for everyone and NEVER cheer against anyone! Parents.
Poor form to cheer against anyone, first off, but meets are so much more fun when you get involved. Fast swimming is fun to watch, so hope for it; cheer for it! Please do not mistake this commandment for speaking to the athletes directly ("Hey Jimmy, are you ready to go!?!?" or "Jimmy, you suck!") that is even frowned upon in professional sports. Keep your distance, let these guys race - just support & cheer for fast swimming.

6.) NEVER interrupt a focused athlete who is ready (or getting ready) to race! Parents & athletes.
This is an extension of what I have written above, but athletes need to be focused. Even if you're an official and you know the athlete 2 feet from you that is about to race, it is not okay to divert their attention from race preparation to you. 
Athletes: everyone prepares differently and you need to respect that. Just because someone is not very talkative before a race or looks angry, it has nothing to do with you and it is not your job to change their mood. 
Parents: While I understand that officiating may not be fun if the above example is one of the ways you may make it fun, please stop! You need to remember that young athletes can be sensitive and not understand why you have said what you have said to them. This changes their focus and can be a major distraction to what they are about to do - regardless of your positive intentions.

7.) Check warm-up times, plan a route to the pool & consider traffic at that time of day... do all of this WELL IN ADVANCE! Parents.
Parents, call my Mom (+Arlene Thompson) and ask her how she was able to NEVER, in 15 years, make me late for warm-up at a swim meet without such nifty tools as Google Maps, GPS or Traffic Feeds. It is doable, you just need to plan stuff in advance. 

8.) Communicate with your coach! Athletes.
Coaches are there to help you prepare, handle issues, watch the races & offer feedback (amongst other things). They are the paid (usually) professionals. Athletes should ALWAYS report to their coaches before and after races. Parents: It is okay if your child doesn't talk to you right after their race and talks to the coach first; this is part of the sport. Please let them do their jobs - do not interfere. 

9.) Treat the facility with respect! Athletes.
Trust me; the rules apply to you! When the lifeguard says "no eating on deck", it usually means that there should be no eating on deck. I was astounded how many times I had to tell (the same) swimmers this on the weekend and how much crushed up soggy food ended up on the pool deck for the lifeguards & coaches to clean up. 

10.) Even if you're volunteering at the meet, the meet is not about you! Parents.
Always remember that this is something that your athlete (in many cases, your child) does, not you. You, as a parent, may feel uncomfortably removed from the equation during meets, but please remember this: It's okay to be a spectator and/or a supporter at this time.
Even though meets are put on by the parents of the athletes, meets should always have the best interest of the athletes in mind and athlete success as it's core purpose. I know it can be boring for you; but please remember that you are doing this for your athlete and for other athletes, not for you. If, at any point, a meet becomes about an official, a parent, a coach or anything else that is not about the swimmers,  it has failed in its central purpose.