What’s a Swim Team Anyway?

May 5, 2021

Every year I’ve coached, I’ve had brand new swim families come up to me with questions like, “how does this work?” “What should I expect?” or even stating “I have no idea what we’re doing.” And that’s okay. Each year, we work with new athletes to get them comfortable in the water and prepare them to compete.

As youth coaches, we understand the variety of athletes we’ll get. Some athletes will come in with years of competitive swimming experience, while others will come with 2 to 3 sessions worth of lessons. Our goals as coaches is to provide each athlete with an experience that makes them love and understand our sport. And while they get the opportunity to live it first-hand, their parents don’t.

Swimmer Jargon

Swimming World Magazine has a fantastic Dictionary of Words and Phrases Lost on Non-Swimmers I’d recommend every new swim parent check out, but I’ve also compiled a list of commonly used terms on our own pool deck to help you get acquainted to what you’ll hear at practice.

  • On The Top: Commonly used to refer to the :00 or :60 on the workout clock. Usually for designating when to leave. Also used, on the bottom (:30), left (:45), or right (:15).
  • First / Second / Third / Fourth / Fifth Gear: These are training gears, just like in a car. 1st is easy, 5th is fast. These will commonly come into play with the Gold or Senior groups.
  • Pull: Isolating the arms from the legs, using a pull buoy, to focus on the pulling technique instead of the full swimming technique.
  • Kick: Isolating the legs from the arms, using a kick board (or streamline position) to focus on building the legs.
  • Clerk of Course: Used at Meets for our 10 and under groups to organize swimmers into their respective heats and lanes
  • Heat: A like group of swimmers swimming the same event. Faster swimmers swim in higher heats.
  • Lane: The individual lane a swimmer is using for a practice and/or race.
  • Heat Sheet: The lifeblood of a swim meet! The heat sheet outlines all heats and lanes for swimmers at a meet.
  • “Write my events on my arm”: For our younger (and some older athletes) we use a permanent marker to write their Events on their arms. This is typically outlined as Event / Heat / Lane where you write the Event Number (E: 1 – 86), Heat (H: 1-X) and Lane (L: 1-6). The event list would look similar to this:
    • E: # / Heat: # / L: #
    • Note: Some parents will write the event number and name (e.g. #1 200 Free / 1 / 2)
  • “What am I swimming?!?”: The most common question you’ll hear. Remind your swimmer to check the heat sheet (or their arm) and be ready to go when the time comes.

Swim Meets

Now we’ll get into the meat of the post and answer some of the most important questions:

  • What is a swim meet?
  • How do I know when my child will swim?
  • And…”wait…we’re at this thing for HOW LONG?”

Meets are long, there’s no denying that. A typical high school meet can last around 2 hours (and we only compete in 22 events, and everyone’s the same age). And we can look at even longer events such as the Olympic Trials (or games) that compete over a period of a week with 2-3 meet sessions per day.

Luckily, summer swim meets don’t last that long. However, our meets can last upwards of 4-hours, or even be an all day event (such as at the SEISA Championship meet on June 26). That being said, all meets are completed in a single-day.

What is a Swim Meet?

Simply put, a swim meet is a competition between two or more teams where we race. Swimmers are entered into events (up to 6, with 4 individual and 2 relays) and compete with their friends, teammates and competitors.

Events are divided into heats, and each swimmer assigned a lane. The youngest swimmers compete in 25’s of each event, at BMP they race to the rope, while at a 25-yard pool they will race to the STARTING end of the pool where the touch pads are and will only compete in Freestyle and Backstroke. Our older swimmers will swim 50’s of each stroke, and a 100-yard (160 at BMP) Individual Medley. While our oldest swimmers will also add the 200-yard Freestyle for an added challenge.

There are 86 events, and each event is contested.

Of these, a portion are also relays. We compete in a 160-yard relay at home for each age group and a 100-yard or 200-yard relay (depending on age) in a 25-yard pool. Each meet includes a 4×50 Medley (Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly and Freestyle) and a 4×50 Freestyle relay.

SEISA scoring is different than other swim meets as we can only score two relays and three individuals. This season, all athletes will compete for a scoring spot in an individual event.

At the end of the day, the coaches are looking for two things: enjoyment and improvement.

How do I Know When my Child Will Swim?

Meets will be OPT-IN, which is different from previous years. Swimmers and parents will need to commit to attend a swim meet the week prior to entries being due. This is to ensure we are entering athletes into relays that we know will be there.

In terms of knowing when a child will swim AT the meet, that’s where Heat Sheets come into play. You’ll scour the sheet (or the event lists from the coaching staff) to find your athlete and their event numbers, heats and lanes.

As a reminder, most events are short 25-yards to 50-yards and it’s easy to miss your event! By writing the event list on your child’s arm and using the clerk of course and announcers we can ensure your swimmer is where they need to be.

Ok…that all makes sense, but how long is this meet?

As stated previously, our SEISA Championship will be all day. Swimmers are required to be there for their session, only. If they swim in the morning shift, they’ll likely only be there until about 11:30 or 12:00am. The afternoon session will go from about 1:00 until 4:00pm.

Our dual meets last less time, as there are less teams present and therefore less heats involved per event.

One of the biggest things to keep in mind as we start the meet cycle is to let your kids enjoy the experience. Yes, they’ll miss events (or you will). But ultimately let them have some fun, learn to swim (better) and engage in a sport that teaches them a valuable life skill.

We know sitting at a swim meet for 4-hours to watch 90 seconds of swimming isn’t ideal, but engage with other parents, cheer on the TEAM and be there for one another and we know this season will go off without a hitch.



Competitive and recreational swimming program with over 60 years of history.

© Batesville Swim Team, Inc.