So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and become a swim team family! Swim team is a great way to meet new people and make new friends at West Side! This parent swim team handbook will help answer some of your questions and allay some of your concerns.  Whatever is not covered in here can be answered by a veteran swim parent or a coach.

Swim Team Requirements:

To become a member of the WSSC Team, a swimmer must be five years of age and must be able to swim two lengths of the pool in any style with a 3 minute break If your swimmer does not meet this requirement, they may be interested in “Little Dolphins”.   Little Dolphins is a  program at West Side, specifically developed and designed for swimmers 4 years and older, who are not yet ready to swim for the entire duration of their age groups’ swim team practice. This program, however, does require that the swimmer be able to swim across the length of the pool without assistance (any stroke is fine!).  Little Dolphins will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays during the 8 & under practice, and will be coached by our older “junior coach” swimmers.  “Little Dolphins” will also be able to attend swim team functions, wear the team suit, and can compete in special races at our home meets!

Swim Team Orientation and Parent Meeting:

Swim team begins as soon as the Madison School year ends.  However, we offer you the opportunity to sign up for swim team, purchase your team suit, if you’re interested, and meet with other parents a few weeks in advance at Simply Swimming, 6649 University Ave, Middleton.    Staff will be available to assist you in making sure you purchase the correct size suit for your swimmer.

Swim team sign up is online this year, but we’d still love to see you at Simply Swimming!

We also hold a  swimmer/parent meeting just before the first practice . The coaches will be there to answer your questions and give you updates on the season schedule. This year’s swimmer/parent meeting is TBD.

Swim meet and volunteer sign-up is on-line this year.


WSSC has a well earned reputation for running efficient (and fun) dual meets thanks to our wonderful volunteers. Thus, it is a requirement of swim team participation that every family assist at home meets. We start on time and take advantage of combining events to keep the meet moving along smoothly.

We would not be able to host meets without the assistance of our parents.  There are numerous ways to help.  Below are the various jobs that are required to run a successful meet.  The more parent help available means shorter shifts for all.  We are happy to train you so don’t be afraid to jump in and get your feet wet!

  • Timers
  • Runners
  • Announcers
  • Concessions
  • Clerk of course
  • Officials
  • Photography
  • Awards
  • Heat Winner Ribbons
  • DJ

TIMERS:  Timing is a very easy job. In addition, you have the best possible view of the meet!   There is also very little pressure as the job is done in pairs.  While both timers keep time, only one records the time from both watches on the time sheet. Your feet will get wet, so go barefoot or wear shoes that can get wet.

Timers need to be able to use a stop watch in order to be successful.  You clear the time at the start of each race, start the stopwatch when you see the light flash on the starting equipment, and stop the watch when you see any part of the swimmer’s body touch the wall.    The only difficulty is making sure you’re paying attention to the number of meters the current race is.  That information is announced prior to the start of the event and is also listed on the lane timer sheet on the timer’s clipboard.

There is always a Timer’s meeting before each meet, and all of the above information is reviewed.   Timers make a commitment to the whole meet, however this could change if we get more parents to work as Timers.

RUNNERS:  The Runner takes the timing sheets from the Timers after each EVENT (not after each heat), and the event slips from the Officials.  Please make sure you check with the officials on the sides of the pool.  Those timing sheets are taken to the office where the scorers tabulate the times and enter them in the computer.

ANNOUNCERS:  If you’re comfortable using a microphone and you have an engaging personality, this could be the job for you!  The Announcer is responsible to announce the current event, the swimmers in each lane, and the event numbers currently staging, as well as any other announcements made during the meet.

CONCESSIONS:  Parents who work this job sell the food and drink items that have been purchased with the Concession fee charged to each family.  Taking money and making change are all that is required.  Heat Sheets are also sold at the Concession area.

CLERK of COURSE :  If you are enthusiastic, organized and love kids, Clerk of Course is for you.  Clerk of Course organizes (stages) our swimmers aged 10 and under in the baby pool area (under the Funbrella). The swimmers are arranged in order according to lane, heat, and event, and are guided to the blocks (or end of the pool for 8&U relays).

Swimmers 11&Over are responsible to get themselves to the blocks. A reminder to swim team parents that the coaches do their best to make sure all the swimmers get to their designated lanes for each event; however, it is  the responsibility of the swimmers and their parents get the younger swimmers to Clerk of Course.  This allows the coaches to focus their time and attention on swimmers in the pool.

OFFICIALS:   Our officials are essential to running a meet.  Officials start each event and  watch swimmers to make certain they are performing strokes and turns correctly.  It takes a little training but we have parents who can train you and you cannot beat the great view of the meet you get when you’re an official!   If you are interested in becoming an official or would like to know more about officiating, contact the head coach.

PHOTOGRAPHERS: if you like to take photos, this is the job for you.  Candid photos during the meet are always a big hit.

BANQUET VIDEO PRESENTATION : At the end of each season, the Swim/Dive Team has a banquet where a DVD full of photos/videos taken throughout the season is played. We need a tech savvy person who loves to make videos to  the team video for the banquet. This would be a great job for the next Steven Spielberg!  Seriously, it would be a good job for a tech savvy kid!

AWARDS: The parents working this task take the results printed by scorers, and affix them to the appropriate ribbons.  Those results are then handed to the announcers so that swimmers can be alerted that their awards are ready to be picked up.  Swimmers will then come to you to claim their ribbons.  You will also be responsible to hand out participation ribbons to all 10&U swimmers, if they ask for one. (Note that now we do not place the labels of the 15-18 event winners on their respective ribbons unless they ask for them. You will find that these older swimmers generally don’t want their ribbons and they end up being thrown away. This way, we can save the ribbons.)

HEAT WINNER RIBBONS   This is a wonderful job.  This parent hands out the Heat Winner Ribbons to the 10 and under swimmer that won his/her heat. Every heat of each event as a heat winner and that heat winner receives a ribbon!

DJ  create a fun(clean) playlist and be in charge of playing music during warm ups and while the timers “walk” before/after 8 and under 25 yard races.


Some of this goes without saying, but there are some simple rules of etiquette for your swimmers that help make the experience better for everyone on the team:

  • Come to practice.  Coming every day isn’t mandatory, but it’s encouraged.  If a swimmer wants to improve, they need to practice.
  • Sign up for meets on time.  A lot of work goes into submitting meet entries. LATE ENTRIES WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.  Numerous reminders are sent via email about deadlines for signing up for meets.
  • Arrive at the meet on time- this means, get to warm-ups on time.  The very first event is a relay and three other swimmers may be getting very nervous if their teammate hasn’t arrived by the time the meet starts.
  • Let the coaches know in advance if you’re going to be unable to participate in a meet you signed up for or are going to need to leave early.
  • Attend the appropriate age group practice.  If you have more than one child swimming, this may mean dropping off and picking up kids at different times.  In most cases it’s better that swimmers practice with their age group, but if you need to have your swimmer practice at a later time, please discuss it with the coaches to make sure there is space available.



The primary method of communicating with parents is via email (and increasingly, with Facebook and Instagram) so make sure that you have verified your email address and mobile number in Team Unify. Information about upcoming meets, changes in practice schedules and other important team information is provided in a weekly email from the coach. We may also send out last minute text messages via SMS.

We will also post updates on Facebook- but email is still the main way to communicate

Each year a couple parents take on the task of serving as ‘team reps’.  They organize team events and socials and make sure that everything is running smoothly so that the coaches can focus on coaching!

Direct questions to the parent reps.


There are 7 dual meets each swim season.  Of the seven meets, three to four meets are Home meets, meaning they are hosted at WSSC. The season culminates with the Big All City Meet, usually in early August. (See below)

It doesn’t take long to catch on to how meets run, but here are some tips to help make it a little smoother.

We don’t have a lot of parking and so we forfeit our parking to the visiting team for Home meets.  We’re nice that way!   It is one of the reasons why West Side is the best side!  Staff will be out in the parking lot at home meets directing people to available spaces near the pool.

The concessions area is funded  with donations from swim parents.

Bring money!  Your swimmer will undoubtedly find things at the concessions they’d like and you’ll want a heat sheet so that you can follow the meet, and see which lanes and in what heats your kids are swimming in.

Parents are not allowed behind the blocks.  (Unless you’re a timer which is one reason why you should consider volunteering to be a timer!)  Please wait for your child to exit the area.  The area around the blocks is very crowded and it needs to be kept clear for swimmer and timer safety.  Parents, as long as you make sure that your swimmer makes it to the Clerk of Course on time, they will get to their assigned lane and the coaches will make sure they swim their race!  It really does get crowded hear so please help us out and cheer them on from the other end of the pool

IMPORTANT NOTE!  You are encouraged and welcome to watch your child swim their event(s).  If you need to take a break from the volunteer position you are working, please coordinate with your fellow workers so that the position is not left unattended.  When your child is done swimming, please resume your post.  Easy Peasy!


Swim/Dive Team Breakfast

One of the first Fridays of practice we host a pancake breakfast.  All the pancakes, bacon, sausages, juice and milk are donated by swim team parents.  Are you sensing that food is a big part of the swim and dive teams?

Noah’s Ark

The Team plans a trip to Noah’s Ark every summer and it continues to be one of the highlights of the season.  Parents arrange their own transportation and chaperone their swimmers in the Dells and swimmers get to hang out with the coaches and their teammates in a safe and organized manner.

Ice Cream Social

Swim/Dive team members and their families are invited to attend the annual ice cream social at the pool.  Delicious ice cream and an assortment of toppings are available to make any kind of confectionery concoction imaginable.  It is another way to get to know other members of the Team and their families.  Pool is OPEN!

Pasta Dinner

This  event happens the Wednesday before All City begins.  The swimmers come together to carbo-load and to get pumped up by the coaches and junior coaches.  Team All-City shirts are presented at this time (these are different than the Team T-shirts provided at the beginning of the season or t-shirts sold by the All City Host pool).  All Swimmers get a chance to sign the team banner that will hang at the All City meet.

Swim/Dive Banquet

This event you don’t want to miss!   Traditionally held either immediately after the conclusion of All City or the following evening, the banquet features a catered meal and the end of season recognition ceremony  It’s an opportunity for everyone to relax and congratulate all the swimmers on a job well done.  This event is also the time when the swimmers reveal themselves to their Secret Swimmer, and to share “Thanks!” for all of the gifts and words of encouragement they’d received throughout the season.

After dinner, the Swim and Dive coaches present their completion certificates to the swimmers by age group.  Each swimmer is announced individually, and also presented with a copy of the Team photo.

The evening ends with the presentation of the Swim/Dive Team video.  A compilation of photos and videos taken of the kids throughout the season is masterfully put to music.


Blocks                  The platforms from which the kids enter the pool (optional)

DQ                        Acronym for Disqualification.  Swimmers may be DQ’d for improper stroke, start or turn

Event                   Stroke of the race; Butterfly, Breaststroke, Backstroke,  etc.

Heat                     Is the order in which the swimmer is placed in the event

Heat Sheet           Is the time line of the meet.  It tells the swimmers what events they are swimming an in what order.

IM                         Individual Medley.  The swimmer will swim EACH of the 4  strokes in one event

Medley relay        Relay event with 4 swimmers where each swimmer does a different stroke in the following order: Back, Breast, Fly, Free

Staging                Getting ready to swim.  Younger swimmers will “stage” together so that they are assured to be in the correct lane.


The All City Swim Meet is the 2nd largest swim meet of its kind in the US.  Thirteen pools participate in this massive event held the last weekend in July or first weekend in August.  The order of the events is pretty much the same as a dual meet.  However, due to its size, it is spread out over three days and takes on a carnival-like atmosphere.  Each pool is given space in a large tent where swimmers can hang out when they’re not swimming.  Swimmers can bring sleeping bags, decks of cards, etc., and parents can bring bag chairs and coolers.

To qualify for participation in All City, each swimmer must compete in a minimum of 3 dual meets during the season.  The rules are pretty rigid, so exceptions are rare.

Each pool takes turns hosting this event and it is a great source of revenue for the host pool.  WSSC last  hosted All City in 2019.

All City Week is super fun at WSSC.  The week of the event kicks off Secret Swimmer gift exchange.  Each swimmer wishing to participate puts their name in a hat to be selected by another swimmer.  Each day of the week leading up to All City, gifts are left on the counter in the front of the office, for the swimmers.  These gifts are not meant to be expensive or elaborate.  The purpose of the gifts is to show support for your swimmer and encourage them to continue to swim well. Not everyone can make finals at All City.  A swimmer’s goal should be to swim their best times that summer.  It is also hilariously fun.  Some fun gift ideas are homemade cookies, playing cards, food, bubbles, candy, small toys, food, cupcakes, small toys, food, and anything Dolphin- themed.  Did we mention food?  Saturday’s gift is usually a smidge bigger, but that is not a requirement.  Keep in mind that this is supposed to be fun, not pressure –filled.  Secret Swimmers should reveal themselves at the Banquet Saturday night.

Individual events are held on Thursday and Friday.  Those swimmers finishing in the top 16 (for 8 lane pools) in their Events swim in the Finals. The Finals for individual events  are on Saturday.

Memories of All City Swim Meets will remain with your kids for years to come.  It really is a carnival like atmosphere with concessions stands, clothing sales, and more.  Don’t forget to stick around at the end for the infamous coaches relay!

All City Food Drive

In addition to providing wonderful recreational opportunities for young people, the All City League does a lot to give back to the community as well. Each year, the host team sponsors a food drive to benefit the food pantries in Dane County.  It’s a friendly competition among pools and the winning pool takes home a trophy!  Food barrels are placed at West Side throughout the season and are also at the All City Meet.  Money is also accepted.  Did you know that Second Harvest Food Bank can provide 3 full meals with every dollar collected?


Swim meets in the All-City League always run in the same order.

  • Girls swim before boys.
  • Younger swimmers swim before older.
  • The meets begin with medley relays.  The order of the swimmers in the medley relay is, Back – Breast – Butterfly – Freestyle.

8&U swim 25 meter/yard events, 9& Ups swim 50 meter/yard (unless specified by the event).

For 8&U relay swimmers, the swimmer waiting at the end of the pool must keep one hand on the wall until the incoming swimmer touches the wall.

Two strokes require a two-handed  touch on the wall to be legal; Breast and Butterfly.

To help your kids remember what events they will be swimming, it is common to write the information on the swimmers hand.  The information is written in the following format: Event# – Heat # – Lane #