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Swim Meet 101

This section is for families who are new to summer swim or The Coves.  Here we will go over everything you need to prepare for a meet, what to bring and where to go.  Most families have a dedicated bag just for meets with all the essentials.

What to pack

  • A $1 bill for a Heat Sheet. (The heat sheet sales people like singles)
  • A highlighter for finding and marking your child's events on the heat sheet
  • A Sharpie for marking your child's arm (more on that to follow)
  • Snacks: granola bars, fruit, water, Gatorade, crackers. Coolers are allowed
  • Extra towels & face masks
  • Camp chairs and/or a picnic blanket
  • Activities to occupy younger swimmers between swims
  • Pop-up tents or umbrella tents, where space allows.  (These are only allowed in the crash area only, not on the pool deck or patio)
  • Sunscreen & bug spray (some pools are notorious for their mosquitos)
  • Swim cap and goggles (a spare pair of goggles is a good idea, too)
  • Dry clothes for after they are done swimming
  • Cash or credit card for the concession stand

How meets operate

The swim season starts around 1st week of June and lasts 7-8 weeks ending in a Conference Championship (usually the 3rd Monday - Wednesday in July).  Meets are typically on Thursday evenings, with the meet beginning around 6pm. Home team warm ups are typically 4:45-5:15pm with away teams warming up from 5:15-5:45pm. We usually have 3 home and 3 away dual meets with a timed final system.  

8 & Under swimmers swim 25 Meter lengths (one length of the pool).

Swimmers 9 and over swim 50 Meter lengths for individual strokes.

Pre-Meet Preparation:

  • The Coach will inform swimmers of the events in which they are swimming on or before the day of a meet.
  • Directions to away meets may be found on the website. CLICK HERE
  • Pack swimmer’s gear.
  • Pack parent’s gear.

Arriving at the Meet:

  • Get to the pool on time. Allow extra time for parking and walking to the pool.
  • Check-in with the Coaches to let them know you are there.
  • For $1 you may purchase a Heat Sheet that lists the names of swimmers and the event in which they’re entered for the meet, conference qualifying times, and the fastest time for your child to-date.
  • Parents check-in with Volunteer Coordinator.

During the Meet:

  • Parents, especially for younger swimmers, can help with getting their swimmer to the Clerk of the Course on time to avoid missing their event. (The Clerk of the Course area is similar to being "on deck" in baseball. Look for a row of benches or folding chairs, where swimmers are being checked in by the volunteer in charge.)
  • Swimmers may be notified if they have been disqualified or “DQ'd” in an event.
  • Swimmers are encouraged to check with the coaches after they swim an event to receive helpful tips and pointers, but may not sit at the coaches table.
  • Concessions, including bottled water, soda, and snacks will be available for purchase at all pools, both home and away.
  • You can follow the team (and your child's) progress during the meet through the SwimTopia app as times are posted.  CLICK HERE to learn more about the app.

After the Meet:

  • Pick up team and pool area
  • Volunteers will be asked to help put away equipment.
  • We must leave the pool as we found it for use the next day.
  • After home meets pizza may be purchased during the 1st half of the meet and will be served once the pool deck is back in order.  
  • For away meets we will let you know where the team will go.

Plan on the meet lasting 3-1/2 to 4 hours.

Events allowed per swimmer

All swimmers are allowed to swim up to three individual events. All 9&Up swimmers will be able to swim Individual Medley (IM) as one of their 3 swims.  Coaches may place swimmers in up to two relays. You must declare your swimmer as "available for relays" each week when you declare each swimmer online.

Strokes and events

The four competitive strokes are:

  • Freestyle is characterized by an alternate overhand motion of the arms and an alternating up and down flutter kick.
  • Backstroke consists of an alternating motion of the arm while on the back using a flutter kick.
  • Breaststroke requires simultaneous movements of the arms on the same horizontal plane. The hands are pulled from the breast in a heart-shaped pattern and recovered under the surface of the water except at the finish. The kick is a simultaneous somewhat circular motion similar to the action of a frog. On turns and at the finish, the swimmer must touch with both hands.
  • Butterfly consists of a simultaneous overhand stroke of the arms combined with an undulating dolphin kick. In the kick, the swimmer must keep both legs together and may NOT use any other kick. On turns and at the finish, the swimmer must touch with both hands.

The following events are in addition to the above strokes:

  • Individual Medley (I.M.) features all four strokes. The swimmer begins with the butterfly, then changes to the backstroke, then breaststroke and finally freestyle. This event is only for swimmers ages 9 and older.
  • Medley Relay consists of 4 team members swimming one leg each of the four strokes. The first swimmer swims the backstroke, the second swimmer swims breaststroke, and third swimmer swims butterfly and the last swimmer swims freestyle.
  • Freestyle Relay consists of 4 team members swimming freestyle for each leg.

Most young swimmers start out swimming freestyle and backstroke before progressing to breaststroke and butterfly. It is not essential to know all strokes before joining the team. Strokes will continue to be taught and improved upon during practice.

Order of events

The order of events will be the same for all dual meets through out the season.  Watch for some events being combined (typically relays or events with only a few swimmers).

First Half

Boys Events Event Girls Events
#1 8&U 100m Medley Relay #2
#3 9-10 200m Medley Relay #4
#5 11-12 200m Medley Relay #6
#7 13-14 200m Medley Relay #8
#9 15-18 200m Medley Relay #10
#11 8&U 25m Freestyle #12
#13 9-10 50m Freestyle #14
#15 11-12 50m Freestyle #16
#17 13-14 50m Freestyle #18
#19 15-18 50m Freestyle #20
#21 8&U 25m Butterfly #22
#23 9-10 50m Butterfly #24
#25 11-12 50m Butterfly #26
#27 13-14 50m Butterfly #28
#29 15-18 50m Butterfly #30
#31 8&U 25m Backstroke #32
#33 9-10 50m Backstroke $34
#35 11-12 50m Backstroke #36
#37 13-14 50m Backstroke #38
#39 15-18 50m Backstroke #40

Second Half

Boys Events Event Girls Events
#41 9-10 100m Individual Medley #42
#43 11-12 100m Individual Medley #44
#45 13-14 100m Individual Medley #46
#47 15-18 100m Individual Medley #48
#49 8&U 25m Breaststroke #50
#51 9-10 50m Breaststroke #52
#53 11-12 50m Breaststroke #54
#55 13-14 50m Breaststroke #56
#57 15-18 50m Breaststroke #58
#59 8&U 100m Freestyle relay #60
#61 9-10 200m Freestyle relay #62
#63 11-12 200m Freestyle relay #64
#65 13-14 200m Freestyle relay #66
#67 15-18 200m Freestyle relay #68


Ribbons are awarded for heat winners in 10 & Under events (typically handed to the winner at the completion of each heat).  Other ribbons for 1st-6th place in each individual event (typically handed out at practice the following day) and 1st place only for relays.  B & C relays are exhibition only and can not score towards the team total.

Heat Sheets

The Heat Sheet is a paper packet/program that shows all the participating swimmers and what events they will participate in as well as the heat number and lane number. Heat Sheets can be purchased at the meet for $1. The announcer will say the event and heat number. Sometimes there is also an electronic board with this information.

Pictured below is an example of a Heat Sheet.

This Heat Sheet example shows all of the entries from one team for the Boys 8 & Under 25 Meter Freestyle.

A: Event number

B: Heat number

C: Lane number

D: Seed Time is the personal best for this event

E: NT means "No Time" has been recorded previously

How to mark your child

In order to help you and your child keep track of their specific events at the meet, most families mark the events on the child similarly to the example below. First, highlight all places in the Heat Sheet where your child's name is found. Then, use that Event, Heat and Lane information to create a grid/list on your child's arm in permanent marker.

Make four (4) column headings - E, H, L, S. These stand for Event, Heat, Lane and Stroke. Go through the heat sheet and find your swimmer's name which you highlighted. For each event, write the event number, heat number, lane number and stroke in the corresponding column.

Note: For younger swimmers, write your swimmer's name in big letters on his/her arm or back. This helps the volunteers who are lining up the swimmers at the starting blocks.

In this example, the child is swimming:

Event #1, Heat 2, Lane 3, 25M Backstroke

Event #11, Heat 4, Lane 4, 25M Freestyle

Event #31, Heat 3, Lane 3, 25M Backstroke

Event #49, Heat 2, Lane 4, 25M Breaststroke

Each swimmer is responsible for their own event schedule. Listen carefully as the events are called so that you do not miss your event.  Most teams have a display to show which event is in the pool.  Familurize yourself with where that is so you can keep track of the events.

At the conclusion of the meet, the Sharpie can be removed with alcohol-containing hairspray, hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol.

Getting disqualified

Occasionally, a judge will disqualify (or "DQ") a swimmer during their event. Typically, the judge will inform the swimmer of this at the end of their race. There are official stroke rules listed on the Missouri Valley Swimming website or on the USA Swimming website. Please visit those websites for more exact rules on each stroke. Below is a list of common reasons a swimmer is disqualified.

Freestyle: Pulling on the lane line; pushing off from the bottom of the pool

Breaststroke: Improper kick; arm pull below the hips; failure to perform two-handed touch at turn or finish

Butterfly: Flutter kick instead of dolphin kick (swimmer must keep both legs together); failure to perform two-handed touch at turn or finish

Backstroke: Rolling over to stomach as the swimmer touches the wall; improper flip turn

Relays: Leaving the starting block too soon

Once a swimmer gets disqualified, they are not eligible to place in that event no matter what their time is.  Their time is not recorded.

Every swimmer has been DQ'd at one point or another! Please reassure your swimmer that it is okay and that you are proud of them. The coaches will have tips for them to improve and will go over these with the swimmer in practice.

Diving into the pool

During practices, your child will receive instruction on diving off a starting block. If they are unable to do this, they are permitted to dive off the side of the pool. A swimmer is also allowed to be in the water and push off the side of the wall to begin the event.

Conference Swim Meet

All swimmers who compete in three dual meets and meet the qualifying time (listed in each heat sheet) in an event will earn a place at the Conference Championship meet held at the end of the swim season at Tiffany Springs Aquatic Center. Swimmers are allowed to swim up to three individual events at the conference meet.

Conference is a very large swim meet, taking place over the course of three days. It includes prelims and finals, with the top 16 swimmers from prelims advancing to the finals. Bring everything you would for a swim meet (your lawn chairs, coolers and winning spirit!!). Heat sheets are $5 at conference and there is a concession stand for food and drink.

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The Coves Swim Team part of The Northland Swim Conference since 1973

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