SHORT COURSE VERSUS LONG COURSE
You will hear these terms often. "Short course" means the athletes are swimming in a pool that is 25 yards long (sometimes this is measured in meters, and will be noted if so). 25 yards is an excellent distance for younger swimmers just starting out and is also the distance used for high school and college swimming. Most of the competitive pools in Florida are 25 yards long.
"Long course" means the athletes are swimming in a pool that measure 50 meters long. This is the distance used for most national and international competitions, and thus is often referred to as an Olympic distance. Long course pools are quite expensive to build and maintain, and so you will often see multiple teams renting space at the same long course pool.
While club swimming is year round, it is divided into two seasons. Short course season typically runs from September to March, and most meets are swum short course leading up to the short course championships in February/March. Meanwhile long course season runs from April through August, with the long course championship meets happening at the end of summer. So during these months is the teams look for a long course pool to train in, as swimming long course versus short course takes different strategies and training.
SWIM MEET SESSIONS
Typically swim meets are divided into two sessions per day: 12-and-unders compete in one session while 14-and-older will compete in another session later in the day. No session is supposed to last longer than 4 hours, but sometimes--due to delays or poor planning-- a session might run over. For a swim meet that has prelims and finals, the swimmers will compete in the morning trying to qualify for the finals that night.
Your child must swim within his age group, unless the Meet Announcement states otherwise. For example, anyone under the age of 13 can swim in an event labeled, “12 & Under” – even if they are 5! The same is true of any event labeled, “Open” (unless a minimum time requirement is also listed). Your coach will most likely be choosing your child’s events but it’s still good to understand what is going on!
SIGNING UP FOR YOUR FIRST MEET
Once your coach announces that the Blue Dolfins will be attending an upcoming meet, you will need to know if it is one your child is eligible to enter. If it is, look for the link on the Blue Dolfins website for where to sign up or go directly to the MEET SIGN UP site here. (You must be registered and sign in to access.)
Once you know where and when the meet will be held and how to sign up for it, locate the Meet Announcement online. This may be found on the host team’s website or on Florida Swimming's website.
Much of the information may seem like it’s written in a foreign language; however, the verbiage will soon become familiar. Even if you don’t understand all of it, the Meet Announcement will give you a framework for how the meet will be run, the timing of the events, and any information particular to the host pool such as available seating, parking, etc.
If your child has any special needs that should be accommodated, have this brought to the attention of your coach as well as the Meet Manager (listed in the Meet Announcement) as far in advance of the meet as possible.
PSYCH SHEET AND HEAT SHEETS
The week before the meet, you will probably hear other swim parents talking about the Psych Sheet. This is a list of all the swimmers participating in the meet, ranked by seed times, based on their previous official swim times. You will find this on the same web page that you found the Meet Announcement. Usually this is posted a few days before the meet. You will want to double-check your child's name on the psych sheet to be sure he or she is entered in the correct events.
If this is the first time your child is swimming an event in a sanctioned meet, regardless of ability, your child will most likely be ranked close to last, based on him being a “NT” (“no time” – meaning he has no previously recorded official time).
In addition to the Psych Sheet, there is often a Timeline posted. The Timeline is an estimate as to what time your child will swim his events and is always subject to change. It does provide a good guideline to understanding when your child will swim and how much time your child will have between his events.
Lastly, if you are lucky, the Heat Sheet might also be posted online in the day or two prior to the meet. The Heat Sheet lists the order of events for the day and is your guide to knowing when your child will swim. Ordinarily, Heat Sheets are sold at the meet for anywhere from $2 to $20 (cash). If it is posted online, you can certainly print it ahead of time and bring it with you to the pool.