Masters Swimming


going to your First Swim meet

Deciding to compete in a first swim meet or even going back to a competition after several years away, can be a little daunting. Swimmers are stepping off into the unknown world of competition full of protocols, procedures and rules.

Finding is meet is the first step. Consult with club members and coaches about upcoming meets, where they are and who might be participating. The Swimming Canada upcoming meets page  lists all listed and sanctioned meets by month. Filters may be added for the province and season. Clicking on the MEET TYPE will sort them by type grouping all Masters meets together. Clicking on the MEET NAME will take you to the meet page and the meet resources including the meet package.

The meet package will give you the details of the meet concerning location, warm-up and start times, entry fees, entry deadlines and the meet schedule. There may also be information on the entry process. Competitions are swum in both short course (25m pool) or long course (50m pool), this information will also be included in the meet package.

Select the events in which you wish to compete. Consider your fitness and skill level. You may not be ready for a 400 IM yet. Select events that give you time between races to recover. Your coach can guide you through choosing events and the entry process.

Meet day, what to expect

Nerves will most likely accompany you for the first while, enjoy the journey, embrace the feelings but don’t forget that you are there to have a good time, to challenge yourself. Try to arrive at the pool with someone from your Club who can guide you along. Find a place to put your bag down on deck. In it you should have all your equipment, no need for hand paddles and fins but include cap and goggles, nose plug and ear plugs if you use them in training. Water, hydration is important, a refillable bottle is your best friend. Include dry clothes to wear between races, the pool deck can be chilly after a race, you’ll be walking around in a wet bathing suit for several hours so a few changes of t-shirts, sweat shirt or sweat pants can be helpful. Deck shoes or sandals and socks are also nice at some pools.

Warm-up. Just like in a workout there is a period to limber up, get the kinks out and familiarize yourself with the pool. Lanes are generally by speed with slowest swimmers in the outside lanes. Look for a lane that is at your swimming speed and is not overcrowded. Get in gently, without diving. There are safety marshals present on the pool deck to make sure you get in properly, respect numbers of swimmers in the lanes and control lanes for diving from the starting blocks. Take the time to test the wall for your turns, the walls may be slippery or of a different texture than you are used to. The line on the bottom may be different from your home pool. There will be a period where you will be allowed to dive from the starting blocks, try them out, the distance from the top of the block to the water is the same but the height of the top from the deck may vary, there may be funny steps to climb to get up. Remember, you may always start from the side of the pool or from in the water if you don’t want to use the starting blocks.

Race time. Printed programs are either circulated or posted in the pool area. This is where you will find out when you are swimming and in which lane, you will be in the pool at the same time as people of similar abilities as you. Sometimes the meet runs with men in one pool and women in the other. If only one pool the events will commonly run for the women first and then the men. In some competitions men and women swim together. The events are numbered sequentially and then raced by heats. Heat 1, heat 2 and so on. You will be assigned a heat and a lane to swim in. Present yourself to the timers, who are behind the starting blocks, a few heats in advance of your race. They will have a list of who is swimming in their lane and confirm your name when it is your turn to swim. Remember to breathe and try to keep relaxed during this time. Everyone has nerves before their race; they may not show it but they do.

When it is your turn to step up to the blocks, finally, race time. When the previous heat is finished swimming the timers will step back from the edge of the pool. The referee, the official in charge, will blow their whistle. This is your signal to step up onto the blocks, step to the edge of the pool or get in the water for your start. The starter will then give the command ‘take your marks’ this is your instruction to take your starting position and remain immobile until the start is given. The start signal will be a beeping sound. Go!!

Swim the distance of your race in the required stroke and be certain to touch the walls. At the end of your race you may be asked to clear the pool before the next heat or wait until the next start is given and then exit the pool without disturbing the swimmers now racing. You may ask your timers for your time, they may have it noted.

Congratulations! You have competed for the first time. You may want to walk around slowly to bring your body back to resting or ‘swim-down’ if a pool is available. This will help you prepare to do it all again in your next race.

Results are published in a variety of ways. You will be ranked with swimmer from your five-year interval age group. Results will be published in the coming weeks on the Swimming Canada Meet Results page.

Image courtesy Robert Borris – Photographie