My Kid is Having All the Fun! How Can I Get Involved?
USA swim meets are run solely by volunteers, each critical to the success of the meet. No matter what your level of swim experience, there is a volunteer job for you!
TIMERS. Timers are required from all teams for every meet. Each team is assigned a number of lanes or seats they are responsible for. Those assignments are based on the number of swimmers the team has entered in the meet. The host team is not assigned timing seats as they are fulfilling the many other volunteer roles needed to run a meet, but they do provide a head timer which provides stop watch backup.
For PFL, there will be a Sign-Up Genius posted before every meet. Please step up to help! Meet officals will not proceed with competition until all the timing chairs are filled. It reflects very poorly on our club if the starter is calling for PFL timers over the loudspeakers.
Want to Dive in Deeper? Become an Official. The officials are the most visible volunteers, wearing khaki pants/shorts and white shirts and moving around the pool deck. The Meet Referee, Deck Referee, Starters, and Stroke & Turn Judges have all gone through a rigorous USA Swimming certification program for each position they fill. Many fill more than one role during the meet. It can be a long day, but also a rewarding experience to help so many young people achieve their swimming goals.
Unlike many officials in other sports, USA Swimming officials are not there to “catch” swimmers doing something wrong. They are there to “observe” and to make sure the races are conducted fairly.
Unlike the Olympics, there are not two officials at each end of the pool for each lane. Each stroke and turn judge is responsible for watching multiple lanes and may have to judge both strokes and turns for their end of the pool. Disqualifications are not viewed as a penalty, but as an opportunity for the swimmer to learn what he or she did incorrectly so that they can work with their coach in correcting the mistake.
Only coaches are allowed to approach officials to question a call, or inquire if a swimmer can be placed in a subsequent heat due to missing their race. If you have a question for an official, please speak to one of the Power for Life coaches at the meet.
Officials do have the authority to remove parents from the pool area if they are abusive or interfere with the running of the meet. Parents should at all times conduct themselves in a manner which upholds the PFL athletes' Code of Conduct and which models polite behavior for our swimmers.
Host Team Volunteers. Volunteers from the host team fulfill a wide variety of positions required to prepare for and run a meet successfully. Some of those positions are:
In December 2016, PFL hosted its first ever meet. We expect this to become an annual event.
What is the difference between "Short Course" and "Long Course?"
The swim year is divided into two seasons:
How Frequently Are Meets Held Through the Year?
USA Swim meets are offered once a month at various levels for all age groups. Our competition area is managed by Gulf Swimming, Inc. You can find out more about Gulf Swimming at their website.
USA Swim Meets take place over weekends, often starting on Friday evening. At OPEN MEETS, Saturday and Sunday events are often split into two Sessions with a group warm up at the beginning of each session. Right now younger swimmers can expect to compete in the afternoons and older swimmers in the mornings. This may change from year to year, however. Open meets do not have finals.
CHAMPS MEETS and SECTIONALS MEETS, which require qualifying times, have preliminary sessions in the morning and qualifying finals in the afternoon.
How Do I Know Which Meet My Swimmer Will Attend?
The meet level your swimmer will attend is decided by their fastest official USA Swimming Times and their age. OPEN MEETS are available to all swimmers including those with no official recorded times.
First-time USA Swimming competitors will be entered with an indication of No Time (NT) for each event they swim. Experienced competitors will be placed in heats based on their fastest recorded official time.
Swimmers compete within an age category, against their own gender, based on their age on the day of the meet. A swimmer may change age groups mid-season and will begin competing with the higher age group at the next available meet. Age groups are:
Can My Swimmer Pick His or Her Favorite Events?
Your swimmer’s coach will determine which events your swimmer will compete in. This decision may be done with or without input from the swimmer. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the swimmer is competing in appropriate events for their personal development, During the course of the season, coaches work with swimmers on age-appropriate technical aspects of competing. It is critical for the swimmer’s development that he/she be able to apply those aspects during competition, not just at practice, if he/she is going to be able to swim at their full potential at their end of season championship meet.
Unlike summer league swimming, USA swim meets leading up to the season championship meet are not focused on “winning” and “placing” but rather on technical improvement. Technical improvements result in faster swimming, but not always right away. Swimming fast is important, but so is technique, endurance, and race strategy.
A case in particular is the first meet of the season. At this first meet, all swimmers compete in their age specific, USA-sanctioned, IMX events.
At all meets, swimmers are limited to three events per day, excluding relays.
For more information, visit:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an IMX or IMR Score?
IMX is a motivational program that allows swimmers across the nation to compare themselves to the thousands of other athletes in their age group. All you have to do is swim a combination of events, at least one time per season, and USA Swimming will automatically give you your ranking.
IMX stands for "IM Extreme" and IMR stands for "IM Ready." During each season, whenever you swim an event the time is registered on the USA swimming web site. Then a score is calculated on the web site and the score is compared to other swimmers of the same age
Learn more about how IMX/IMR points are calculated at the USA Swimming Powerpoint Calculator.
How Does My Swimmer Sign Up For Meets?
Power Aquatics has implemented a procedure for letting the coaching staff know if your swimmer is available to compete at a given meet.
First, go to the Members Only page of the website (Contact Us for instructions to find the link). Then:
1) Parent fills in the electronic form telling us which days the child will be available to swim.
2) Parent pays the meet entry either via the online PayPal link or by dropping off a check at practice. Meet entry fees are $60 per day. They go up to $80 per day if the deadline is missed and we must deck enter the swimmer. Team travel meets may be more expensive.
3) The swimmer will pick events in conjunction with the coach.
Please make your check payable to POWER.
How Do I Find Out Information About the Meets?
Meet details including dates, qualifying times, cut-offs, event limits, directions, and maps to the pool can be accessed from the Meet Invitation posted on the Gulf Swimming Website, under the “Meets” link. We also have this information on the website under Upcoming Meets.
The Wednesday before the meet, the Gulf Swimming Website will be updated with the warm-up sessions start times and lane assignments for each team, plus the estimated timeline for
each event offered. However, remember that the timeline is an estimate and that the meet may run faster or slower. You should always plan on arriving early.
What Should We Bring to the Meet?
What Do We Do When We Arrive at the Meet?
Arrive in time for the first warm-up of your session (morning or afternoon).
Generally swimmers must “Circle In” (check-in) for certain events to be eligible to swim. Check with your coach if you need clarification. Near the entry to the pool, locate the swimmer listings which are typically posted on poster board and organized by gender, then by age-group. On each age-group poster board, you will see the events of the day, with a listing of each swimmer who entered the event. The swimmer needs to circle the number next to their name for EVERY event they entered for that particular day. Lists are pulled 45 minutes before the start of the session. If you don't circle in, you will not swim. No exceptions.
Locate other Power for Life swimmers and parents to sit near. Look for the navy and gold! In some venues, swimmers sit on deck and parents sit outside or in bleachers.
Swimmers should start getting ready to warm-up. When the session is about to start, the swimmer should proceed to the pool deck and locate the PFL coach for instructions. Swimmers are not allowed to enter the pool without a coach on deck.
Parents must stay in the designated seating area unless they are timing. Only swimmers, coaches and officials are allowed on deck. While your swimmer is warming up, purchase a heat sheet if they are available. (Heat Sheets are a listing of all swimmers entered in each event.) If not available for purchase, heat sheets will be posted in an area where spectators can view them.
Check to make sure your swimmer circled in all of their events
Use your highlighter to highlight the names of other Power for Life swimmers entered on your heat sheet. This will help you not only keep track of the meet, but help you become familiar with other swimmers on the team.
When the swimmers finish warm-up, review with your swimmer what events he/she is competing in that day.
Encourage swimmer to drink or eat something if they are not scheduled to swim for at least 30 min.
What Are Heat & Lane Assignments?
Swimmers compete in their age category, against their gender, in a specific order of the events. Girls for a given age group and event compete before the boys.
Swimmers are organized into “heats” and "lanes" based on their entry time for a given event. Unlike many summer league swim programs, there are no “ready benches” or team volunteers to make sure swimmers get to their heat and lanes on time. Swimmers and parents must pay attention to the meet events.
Remember the timeline posted on the Gulf Swimming website and the heat sheet are only estimated times and the actual meet may run significantly slower or faster.
Heat and lane assignments are posted on deck for the swimmers, and usually near the seating section as well, before the start of the event. Where and how can vary from meet to meet, so ask
a veteran parent to help you identify how it is being done at your meet. Obtaining the heat/lane assignments and having swimmers behind the blocks in time for their race is probably the most stressful detail for new swimmers and parents – especially for our younger swimmers. Ask another parent and/or swimmer for help…..they were once in your shoes! But remember, parents are not allowed on deck. This is for safety reasons and to reduce the confusion behind the blocks.
Can My Swimmer Talk to the Coaches During the Meet?
YES! In fact, this is an expected and extremely important part of a swimmer's training.
BEFORE THE RACE. After swimmers get their heat and lane assignments, they are expected to talk to their coaches to get race instructions and to discuss their race plan. Only after speaking to the coach should the swimmer proceed to his or her assigned lane. Once there, the swimmer must check with the TIMER to make sure they are in the correct spot. Mistakes happen! Always verify.
When their heat is called by the starter, they should proceed to the blocks.
AFTER THE RACE. Immediately after each race, the swimmer is expected to speak to their coach to get feedback on their race. Swimmers will be told what they did correctly, and what they need to work on to improve, regardless of how well they did or did not do in the race. They will be asked about their race plan and whether they stuck to it.
Swimmers MUST “warm-down” after a race if the facility has space available (most do). Warming down (swimming slow laps) helps to loosen strained muscles and reduce the lactic acid build-up from the race. By warming-down, the swimmer’s muscles recover sooner for their next race.
Only after completing the warm-downs should the swimmer return to his or her seats and speak with parents.
Can I talk to the officials or coaches during meet?
NO. Parents may not question officials or coaches during meets. All communications with the host team, volunteers, judges, meet officials, etc. must be done through a Power Coach. Parents may only enter the deck as offical volunteers. No exceptions.