This Tip Sheet was written by parents who remember the questions they had when their children first started swim team. This sheet tries to answer the most commonly asked questions.

There is more information in the handbook. Please ask coaches or email parent reps if you have further questions.

Who decides what events my child will swim at a meet?

You and your swimmer decide what individual events your child should swim, and the coaches will set up the relays. The coaches will send an email when it’s time to sign up for a meet. Sign up online at the West Side TeamUnify website. Typically the deadline for a Saturday meet is the WEDNESDAY before the meet.  Coaches and/or parent reps will send out reminders of deadline.  For summer league swimming, your child may swim two individual events and two relays in each meet.

How is an All-City meet organized? 

Youngest swimmers always swim first and girls swim before boys. All-City league meets always run in the following order:

  • Medley Relay
  • Freestyle
  • Backstroke
  • Freestyle Relay (8 and under)
  • Individual Medley (9-10; 11-12; 13-14;15-18)
  • Breaststroke
  • Butterfly
  • 8 and under Individual Medley
  • Free Relay

Most pools have either 6 or 8 lanes so if there are 12 swimmers in an event, there will be two heats. Swimmers are grouped with other swimmers who have similar personal best times. The slowest group will be the first heat and the fastest group will be the last heat. Grouping children of similar abilities gives every child a chance to be a Heat Winner. Heat winner ribbons are given out in the 8-and-Under and 9-10 age groups.

How do Relays work?

Freestyle Relays are made up of 4 swimmers each doing Freestyle. Medley Relays are made up of 4 swimmers and each does a different stroke in this order: Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly and Freestyle. Tip to remember the order for the Medley Relay: The strokes are swum in alphabetical order! The four fastest swimmers in an age group will be on the “A” relay team. The next four will be on the “B” relay, etc. The coaches set up relays based entirely on each swimmer’s personal best time in that stroke. If you have indicated that your child wants to swim in a relay, the coaches will include your child on a relay if at all possible. If a child is not listed to swim in a relay, it may be because there are not enough children in that age group for that meet to make up a full relay team. For example, if there are seven 8-and-Under boys signed up for a meet, the 4 who have the best Freestyle times will make up the A Freestyle Relay. The other three will not be on a Freestyle relay because there needs to be 4 swimmers on a team. If there had been 8 boys signed up for the meet, there could be both an A and B relay. Sometimes an older swimmer or coach might take the place of the “missing” swimmer so the other kids can get a chance to swim.  That team would not have an official time however. If an older relay is missing a swimmer, a younger teammate may be moved up onto the relay without disqualifying them.

How do I find out if my child is on a Relay?

You will need to look at the heat sheet

What is a heat sheet?

Heat Sheets list every child who is swimming in every event along with the heat and lane that the child will swim in. Heat sheets are usually available for sale  at concessions or the pool entrance.  A copy is also usually posted somewhere on a wall inside the pool area.

An event listing might  look something like this:

#11 Girls 8 & Under 25 Yard Freestyle

Lane Name Age Team Seed Time

Heat 2 of 2

1 Paulette Perch 6 Nakoma NT

2 Mary Muskie 7 WSSC 20:38

3 Sarah Starfish 6 Nakoma 18:39

4 Sienna Salmon8 WSSC 17:89

5 Dora Dolphin 8 Nakoma 18:03

6 Sally Stingray 7 WSSC 19:45

This is the second of two Heats for Event #11. A Seed Time is the fastest time that a girl has swum that event in the past. Paulette Perch has never swam this event before so she has NT (No Time) listed. She is swimming in lane 1. Sienna Salmon has the fastest time and is swimming in lane 4.  The faster swimmers usually swim in the “inside” lanes, while slower swimmers swim in “outside” lanes.

Writing on Hands

It’s helpful, especially for young swimmers, if parents write the event information on the swimmer’s hand, arm or thigh to help the swimmer remember what he or she is doing. Usually parents write the Events, Heats, Lanes and a reminder of what the stroke is. “Grids” often look like this:

# H L S

1 1 3 MR-B, Fly

11 3 2 Fr

21 1 4 Ba

31 2 5 FR #4

This child is on the B Medley Relay (Event #1) doing the Fly which means she’s the third swimmer. Her relay will be in Heat 1, Lane 3. She is also on the Free Relay (event #31) and swims last.  She is also swimming Freestyle, and Backstroke which are Events 11, 21. For Freestyle, she is in Heat 3, Lane 2. When writing, use black Sharpie. It will stay on through the meet but will wear off within a day or two.  Tip: the writing can be removed with spray on sunscreen or alcohol based hand sanitizer.

How does my swimmer know when to swim?

You can follow the action with your heat sheet.  At All-City meets, the  swimmers aged 10 and under go to an area called “clerk of course”, where volunteers line the kids up by heat and lane and escort them to the blocks.  PLEASE make sure your child gets to Clerk of Course at least 10 minutes before his or her event. Pay attention to what event is in the pool and get your child to Clerk of Course with at least 3 events still to go before your child’s event. So, if your child is swimming in Event 22, get him to Clerk of Course if you see that event 19 is in the water, or even sooner if it’s a small meet with only one heat of each event. Tip: Clerk of Course is an excellent place to volunteer if you want to be near your young swimmer and get to know the other kids on the team.

Older swimmers (11 and Up) are expected to get themselves to the blocks in time to swim.  Any swimmer who is not ready to swim when his heat is announced will be disqualified. Officials typically will not “hold” a heat for a missing swimmer.  If there is any confusion as to where they need to go, please speak to the coaches before the start of the race!

Where can I find out my swimmer’s time for the race they just swam?

Race results will typically be posted in  the pool area. Points are given for top finishers. If you see a “DQ” next to your child’s name after a race, it means they were disqualified for some reason. Don’t worry about it! Everyone DQs- even world-class swimmers.  The coaches will find out why and will work on that at practices.

Two great goals for new swimmers are to not get DQ’d (that means they’ve learned a lot!) and to get a Personal Best Time (PB). Some people call it a PR (Personal Record). Setting reasonable, personal goals is a great motivator and keeps swimming fun!

What should we bring to the Meet?

Suit, cap and goggles of course. A spare cap and goggles are a good idea. And it’s useful to have  at least 3 towels -one will be pretty wet after warm-ups; a second will be wet after 2-3 events; and that will leave a 3rd towel dry(or relatively dry) for the end of the meet. Other things to remember: Sunscreen, a team t-shirt or clothes to match the “theme” of the meet.  Depending on the weather, long pants and fleece tops or sweatshirts may come in handy- we all know summer weather in Wisconsin is unpredictable!

Shade can be hard to come by at outdoor meets- many families bring their own in the form of pop-up tents or large umbrellas that can be used to rest in between races.

All pools will have concessions for sale during a meet- you are also welcome and encouraged to bring your own food/beverages since sometimes the food offered for sale is perhaps not the healthiest choice for swimmers.

What are the best things to eat and drink at a swim meet?

Water, water, water! It  is important to stay hydrated during a meet. Good beverages to bring to a meet also include sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, Vitamin Water, etc. Swimmers do not need to drink Gatorade all day long. One  bottles a session or day is plenty and they should drink water in between. Swimmers should not drink caffeinated beverages one day before a meet.

Healthy snacks for swimmers include: bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter and jelly, granola bars, power bars, yogurt, string cheese, fruit, trail mix, raisins, carrots and celery, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which is probably one of the best and most complete meals you can eat) and any other things that you think are healthy. Low fat chocolate milk is an excellent “recovery” drink after a meet or hard practice session!  If you have questions about what you should eat, please ask your coach.

Do swimmers have to participate in every meet?

No. However, to compete in the All-City meet, your child must have competed in at least 3 meets during the summer.

How old is my swimmer?

Of course you know how old your child is, but what you may not know is how old your child is considered to be by swimming rules.  For the All-City League, your child’s “swimming age” is how old he or she is on June 1 of the competition year.  So if Sally Starfish turned 9 on June 5th, she swims as an 8 year old for the All-City League.   If Sally turned 9 on May 31, she’d be a 9 year old.

Can we leave a Meet when our swimmer is done or should we stay for the entire Meet?

It’s great to stay and cheer on teammates, but most families leave once their swimmer is done. If your swimmer has won ribbons or medals and you have to leave before those results are known, the team will take all unclaimed ribbons back to West Side.

***Important- at home meets, volunteers are expected to stay until the end of the meet.***