Wondering what to expect at your first swim meet? Review this guide to walk through a typical swim meet step-by-step. If you still have questions, check out the Swim Meet FAQs or reach out to your Pool Parent for help.

Planning Ahead

As the meet approaches, review the team website to plan ahead. Start at the upcoming Team Events list and click the name of the swim meet to open the Event Details window. Read the description for the following details.
  • Warm-up Start Time: Plan to arrive 15 minutes before warm-ups start.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Have the meet hosts created a sign-up form for volunteers? If so, you might see a link to a google doc or a signup genius in the meet description. This is a great way to get a front-row seat and earn service hours!
Next, scroll down to the very bottom of the Event Details window. Under the Forms/Documents heading, click on the Meet Information PDF. This document includes many details that will help you prepare. For example,
  • Does this meet allow spectators?
  • Is the pool inside or outside?
  • Does the facility have a locker room?
  • What kind of seating is available?
  • Will the facility sell concessions?
Your swimmer may have questions too! We recommend watching the video above with your swimmer to get a sense of the sights and sounds of a swim meet. The video follows a middle school swimmer as she packs a bag, reviews the plan for the day, and explains how meets work.

Packing Up

Swimmers need to bring or wear the following items:
  • Two of everything:  2 towels, 2 team swimsuits, 2 team caps, and 2 pairs of goggles
  • Team shirts, to show spirit
  • Layers to keep muscles warm, like a sweatshirt, team parka, or warmup jacket
  • Flip-flops, crocs, slippers, or sandals to keep feet off the deck and warm 
  • Sharpies for writing event information on the arm
  • Water bottle and nutritious snacks
You may also want to consider bringing some nice-to-have items:
  • Books, games, knitting, or crossword puzzles to help pass the time
  • Folding camp chairs or stadium chairs 
  • Sunscreen, hats, umbrellas, or tents for outdoor meets

Heat Sheets: The night before a meet is the best time to check for a Heat Sheet in the Forms/Documents section of the Event Details window (the same place you find the Meet Information PDF). If you don't find a Heat Sheet online, no worries! You can always find one posted on a wall at the meet, or in the Meet Mobile app.

These are handy documents telling each swimmer exactly when and where to swim. Think of it as the roadmap for the day. The annotated image here calls out the most important details.

Getting Dressed

Most indoor meets are warm and humid, although a few have leaky roofs and cold drafts. Outdoor meets proceed rain or shine. In general, dressing in layers is a good strategy to prepare for all of these possibilities. An experienced parent may be able to tell you more about the specific pool you plan to visit. Remember your PAC Gear to show team spirit and help us all stick together.

A few pools have limited locker room space. When this happens, the Meet Information PDF will instruct swimmers to arrive in their suits.

It's Meet Time!

  1. Make sure that your swimmer checks in with a PAC coach on arrival. This will allow the coach to organize relay teams and plan for the day. Note that the PAC coach at the meet may not be the same coach who runs your regular practice. Your swimmer can look for the PAC team shirts at the coaches' table.
  2. Give your swimmer a Sharpie to write their events on an arm, as shown in the image below. List each event number, heat number, lane number and stroke from their rows on the Heat Sheet.
  3. If spectators are allowed, look for other PAC families and try to sit near them. If you can't find a seat with a good view, it's okay. Many facilities have "transitional" seating close to the pool where you may sit during your swimmer's events.
  4. Remind your swimmer to check in with the coaches before AND after each event. This is your swimmer's learning opportunity! They should head over to the coaches' table about 1-2 events in advance. Swimmers aged 8 and under will go from the coaches' table to the bullpen where a parent volunteer will make sure that they get to the right blocks at the right time. Older swimmers will line up behind the starting blocks on their own a few heats in advance.
  5. Make sure your swimmer talks to the coach before leaving the pool. Swimmers need to stay at the pool during the meet and listen for their events until they are done swimming for the day. Parents are free to come and go as needed.


Each team must bring volunteers to every meet. Volunteering at meets is a great way to fulfill your annual service hour requirement and get an up-close view of the action. This opportunity is even more valuable at meets that limit access to the pool deck or at meets that don't allow spectators.

  • Officials: These volunteers wear white shirts and watch the swimmers to make sure they follow USA Swimming rules. They are *always* needed. We have an excellent Officials Training Program that requires no prior experience.
  • Timers: Anyone who can push a button can volunteer as a timer. And every timer has a buddy, so no one works alone. To volunteer, look for sign-up sheets posted at the meet on the pool deck. If you have time constraints, it's a good idea to sign up early as the slots can fill up quickly.
  • Relief Timers: When the announcer calls for "relief timers" over the loudspeaker, the meet will stop if no one steps forward. Please listen for these calls and volunteer if you are able.