New to swimming as a sport? It's normal to have a LOT of questions about swim meets! We've compiled the most common questions here, along with coach-approved answers. After you've scheduled your first meet, check out the Swim Meet Guide to walk through a typical swim meet step-by-step.


Making Plans

Is my swimmer ready to attend a meet?
All Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Senior group swimmers on the team are ready to start attending meets. To make this new experience more accessible, you may sign up for just one day of the swim meet.
What about the nerves?
We understand the jitters as a sign of excitement and a normal part of the process. Plus, the adrenaline is helpful in a race! Please communicate with your coach about any circumstances that make participation difficult for your swimmer, so that you can develop an action plan together.
How do I know which meets my swimmer should attend?
Review the upcoming Team Events on the website and read the descriptions to find the right fit. A good meet for a novice will have the following characteristics. 
  • No Qualifying Times. Look for meets with “ABC” in the description. These meets have no qualifying time requirements, so they include everyone from novice to experienced. “BC meets” would also be appropriate because they include novice and intermediate swimmers.
  • Appropriate Age Groups. Make sure the meet includes your swimmer’s age. The description might say “all ages” or “14 and under,” for example.
  • Convenient Location. Find the pool address and confirm that the destination will work for you.
How do I know which events my swimmer should choose?
It’s a good idea to begin with the shortest distances and then work up to longer distances gradually at subsequent meets. For swimmers aged 8 and under, that means starting with 25 yards/meters. For older swimmers, that means starting with 50 yards/meters. Swimmers may have their own opinions about which strokes they prefer, and appreciate the opportunity to choose their own events. The selections will be subject to coach approval.
Exactly how do I register?
Start by reviewing the list of upcoming  Team Events.
  1. Scroll through the list to find the meet that interests you, then click on the event name to open the Event Details window.
  2. Click the Edit Commitment button at the top of the window.
  3. Click the name of the swimmer you want to register.
  4. Click the Declaration dropdown and select “Yes, please sign [My Swimmer] up for this event.” 
  5. Enter any Notes you want the coach to see.
  6. If you see a list of events, check the boxes for those you want your swimmer to enter. Choose events under only one blue session heading if you want to attend only one day.
  7. Red times indicate your swimmer is not qualified to enter those events.
  8. Events you choose are subject to coach approval.
  9. If there are no events listed, don’t worry. This only happens when you register before the host team delivers the events file. Proceed to the next step and consider returning to choose events at a later date, closer to the registration deadline. Coaches will assign your swimmer to events if you do not.
  10. Be sure to click the Save Changes button in the bottom right corner of the screen.
How much time should I block off on my schedule?
Open the Event Details window described in step 1 above, then scroll down to the Forms/Documents section. Look for the Meet Information PDF. This document includes a rough outline of the schedule on the very last page(s). These details will help you determine the day of your session and whether you should block off the morning, afternoon, or evening.

Preparing for a Meet

How do I know if I’ll be allowed to stay and watch?
Review the Meet Information PDF described above. This document describes the pool in detail, and it often includes notes about spectator rules and seating. Sometimes it includes a map of the facility. If this document does not mention any limitations on spectator seating, then you can expect to watch.
What if my swimmer gets sick or our family plans change?
If plans change before the registration deadline, you may withdraw from the meet by updating your declaration. If plans change after the registration deadline, please email the coach to share your update. PAC pays the meet fees at registration, and the payments are no longer refundable after this point.
Why do we need to arrive so early if the first event isn’t until mid-morning?
Swimmers should plan to arrive 15 minutes before the warm-up start time to check in with their coaches. This procedure gives the coaches time to plan relay teams. Swimmers participate in warm-ups to get to know the pool, and they will not have this opportunity after the meet begins. They count the number of strokes from the flags to the wall, try out the starting blocks, and learn about any unique features like the depth, gutter location, surface texture, and touchpad stability. If the meet location includes multiple pools or extra lanes, swimmers may also have an opportunity to warm-up prior to each event. Please communicate with the coach before the meet if your swimmer cannot make it in time for warmups.
Where can I find a timeline of events?
Check the Forms/Documents section of the Event Details window again in the days before the meet. You may find a Session Report or Timeline PDF that provides a more detailed schedule than the one shown in the Meet Information PDF. The night before the meet, the coaches often add a Heat Sheet. This document includes all the details needed to chart a plan for the day.

At the Meet

Where is my swimmer’s coach?
The team typically sends only 1-2 coaches to each regular season meet, so your swimmer’s usual coach may not be there. When you arrive, please tell your swimmer to check in with the coaches wearing PAC shirts. They should check in again before and after each swim event. The coach at the meet will observe your swimmer and may offer tips for improvement. This is a great opportunity to hear familiar advice in a new voice, or maybe even hear some new ideas. 
Where do PAC families sit?
We are not allowed to reserve seating for our PAC spectators, so we disperse throughout the facility in small clusters. We encourage everyone to wear PAC Gear so we can find each other more easily.
How can I help my swimmer get to the right starting blocks on time?
Review the heat sheet to identify each event number, heat, lane, and stroke for your swimmer. Use Sharpie to write these details on your swimmer’s arm. Show them where the scoreboard displays the heat and event numbers, and call attention to the announcements. If your swimmer heads over to the coaches’ table one or two events before their own, they will have time for a conversation with the coach and get to the blocks on time.  
What kind of awards can my swimmer earn?
Swim meets offer many ways to win! Swimmers achieve a PR (personal record) when they beat their own fastest time. Some meets offer small prizes to swimmers who finish first in their heat, like apples, rubber ducks or instant cocoa packets. Many meets give out ribbons for the top finishers in each event. The Meet Information PDF documents the types of awards, so your swimmer can know what to expect. Note that coaches distribute ribbons at practice in the days after the meet, rather than at the meet itself.
What is a DQ?
You may see this notation on the results sheets posted on the wall at the meet. Some coaches call DQs “speeding tickets.” This means that the swimmer did not follow the rules of the event and USA Swimming will not record the time. DQs are very common for new swimmers, and are no cause for concern.  Often, new swimmers are not even aware of DQs. The officials fill out reports explaining the exact reason for the disqualification, for the coaches’ review. The coaches may or may not discuss the disqualification with the swimmer directly at the meet. They do use these reports to inform practices, so they can make sure everyone learns proper technique. Some families like to visit Dairy Queen on the way home after their swimmer gets a DQ, just for fun.
Why do my swimmer’s goggles keep falling off?
Even Olympic swimmers lose their goggles sometimes. When a swimmer hits the water at an awkward angle, this can happen more often. This will grow less common with more practice. In the meantime, make sure that the two bands of the goggles are separated at the back of the head to create a better anchor. Consider replacing the goggle straps with the bungee cord straps designed for this purpose. 
Where can I use the bathroom?
To comply with SafeSport requirements, parents are not allowed in the locker rooms with swimmers. Each facility will have at least one separate bathroom designated for spectators. Please respect the signs posted at the bathroom entrances.
When can we go home?
There is no need to stay until the swim meet ends. Swimmers may depart after their last event, but they should let coaches know before they leave the pool. Then they are free to go! Swimmers who need to leave before their last event should inform the coach of the change in plans.

Planning for Next Time

How many meets should my swimmer attend?
The coaches set different goals for each training group, listed below. These are goals, not requirements, and variation is expected.
  • Bronze: 1-2 meets every 3 months
  • Silver: 2-3 meets every 3 months
  • Gold: 2-3 meets every 2 months
  • Senior: 3 meets each season
  • Performance: 2-3 meets every 2 months
What is the IMX/IMR Challenge?
USA Swimming created this challenge to help develop well-rounded swimmers across a variety of strokes and distances. They publish a specific list of events for each age group, and challenge swimmers to complete them all within one season (either all in a short course yards pool or all in a long course meters pool). You can use the IMX/IMR Challenge as a guide when choosing events for each swim meet. Swimmers who complete the challenge qualify for recognition at the team awards banquet. Learn more on our team IMX/IMR Challenge page.
How do you register for a relay event?
Swimmers cannot register in advance for relay events. During the regular season, coaches plan most relay events on the morning of the meet after they see which swimmers arrive. If your swimmer wants to be added to a relay, be sure to arrive 15 minutes prior to warm-ups and check in with the coach upon arrival.