GETTING TO THE BLOCKS
Now that you have your Heat Sheet and, hopefully, have found a mentor to help you decipher what is happening – you are going to worry about your child getting to the starting block on time and whether he has his cap and goggles in place! Some parents write the event right on their child's arm:
This can be useful for helping a young swimmer quickly, if they are unsure of when they are supposed to swim. This is done with a Sharpie and can later be (mostly) removed with sunblock or other remedies. The problem with giving kids Sharpies is, sometimes they don’t know when to stop. If you don’t want your child to look like he just walked out of a bad tattoo parlor, you may want to supervise. Additionally, a lot of what the kids write on one another is very boastful. You may want to consider: Do I want my child to take on that sort of attitude? How will he feel later, if his performance doesn’t live up to what the graffiti on his back purports?
If your child is sitting with his team, the coach should let him know when it is time for him to get ready for his race. If your child is sitting with you, it is up to you to send him to his coach in enough time prior to the race to be properly prepared. The coach will then send him to the starting block. At the starting blocks, the swimmer can double-check with the Timers (volunteer parents seated at the end of each lane who are providing back-up timing for the Heats) regarding when it is their turn to swim.
NOTE ON MISSING A SWIM
Ultimately, it is not your job to get your child to the right starting block at the right time; it is your child's responsibility. Swimmers have to be trained to do this on their own. For younger swimmers, please encourage your swimmer to check the scoreboard often and to listen to the meet announcements for which event and heat is coming up next. Coaches will also try to help but a coach's focus should be on the swimmer competing in the pool right then, versus hunting for your child on deck. So does this mean a young swimmer might occasionally miss a swim? Yes, it does, and while the coach might be disappointed the swimmer did not get to swim, it is not the end of the world. In fact, it will probably be a great opportunity for your young swimmer to learn to pay attention so they don't miss their next swim!
WARM UP/WARM DOWN POOL
If it has been a particularly long time since warm-ups, the coach may want the swimmer early enough for him to warm-up again, before his Event. Every coach has their own preference of how much time prior to an Event they want their swimmers to check in with them. Find out what your coach expects. Again, a seasoned parent should be able to guide you. Some meet locations do not have a second pool available for swimmers to use as a warm up pool. These locations may section off a few lanes to be used as warm up lanes or they simply may not provide any additional warm up.
If it takes a particularly long time to maneuver around the deck (such as during a very crowded meet), or the location of the coach happens to be a good distance away from the starting block, or your child is the type that gets distracted and can lose his way – your swimmer may need to start out toward the coach a bit sooner. You should also work in time for a bathroom stop, if needed. It can be difficult to gauge how much time there is until your child swims. Look at the Events preceding your child’s and note the swimmer’s times. You can add up the best times for each Heat to guesstimate how long each Event will take. Some Events, like 25s and 50s, progress very quickly; others are quite lengthy. While you don’t want your swimmer rushing to the block or missing his Event, you also don’t want him standing in line behind the block sweating or freezing for longer than necessary. In time, you will learn how to judge when your child should start out for his Heat – but you will probably never stop peering anxiously behind the block to be sure he actually made it there, prepared, before his heat!
While you might want to catch the perfect shot of your swimmer in action, be aware of designated Camera Zones. Taking pictures from a Non-Camera Zone can get you ejected from the meet and incur a financial penalty for your team. According to USA Swimming, “Acceptable ‘Camera Zones’ may include… the side courses of a pool, team gathering area, concession area, turn-end of competition course when not in use as a “start end”… Under NO circumstances will Camera Zones include the area immediately behind the starting blocks at either end of the racing course(s) while they are in use for ‘race starting purposes’ during competition and warmups, locker rooms, restrooms or any other dressing area.”
Ordinarily, the area behind the starting block is not a vantage point you would be able to access; however, you should never take a photo from this area. This is to protect swimmers from being photographed from behind, bent over. As a parent – this should be perfectly understandable to you!
T-shirts and other accessories are sold at nearly every meet and, of course, kids tend to want them! Save yourself time and trouble by scoping out what is available from the vendors and the prices before offering your swimmer a souvenir of the day. Meet tee shirts can quickly get pricey. Cost is usually based on the style of the shirt and how many decals are added. There are also usually many choices of configurations and not a lot of time to make decisions while waiting in line. If you are going to splurge , you may want to pre-select something for your child or at least narrow down the options.
It is exciting to see your child win their Heat. At some meets, kids even get ribbons or prizes for doing so. The actual results for each Event (which merges the results from ALL Heats) are usually posted in a common area a short time after the Event is completed. There is even an app called Meet Mobile that many meets use to offer real-time results.
The Meet Announcer (also usually a parent volunteer, so cut them some slack for slaughtering your child’s name) will also usually announce the top few swimmers for each Event.
For those meets that do have a preliminary session and then a final session later that night, your child will have to finish in either top 8 or top 16 swimmers in their event to qualify for the finals. The meet will also let the next two eligible swimmers know they are "alternates" in case a qualifying swimmer scratches. Swimmers who do qualify for finals,sometimes do not stay for the finals session. So, if they scratch, your child then moves up to take their place. If you are a qualifying swimmer, you need to let the coach know whether or not to expect your child to return for Finals. This is especially important, because if you do not “scratch” (remove your child’s name) from the Event qualified for in Finals, your child may be penalized by having to sit out from his first Event on the next day of the meet.