Your swimmer has worked their way through all of our levels  at Goldfish, mastering all their skills and working their techniqueThey are a member of Swim Force, love the water and look forward to our quarterly swim meets. Now what?

“What am I getting myself into?” is a very common thought parents have when their child mentions they want to join a competitive swim team. Many have been there, sitting at the first parent meeting, sweating while sitting on the bleachers as the coach runs through a list of DOs and DON’Ts for the season ahead.

The coaches may talk about parent volunteer commitment and making sure your children arrive to practices on time. They may touch on the practice schedule and expectations for swim meets or even the team suit and gear that needs to be purchased, but what about everything else?

Here are some vital tips to know prior to entering the abyss of the swimming world.

Don’t Forget the Essentials

It doesn’t matter if the swim team you select is large or small or has multiple practices based on age group or ability, all swimmers will need the same essentials for practice.

Swimmers should wear a practice suit (not their team suit), a good pair of goggles and a swim cap. And don’t forget a towel! Some teams require a specific training bag to hold additional training items such as a kickboard, fins, pull buoy and paddles. Don’t run out and purchase a training bag before you wait to see what exactly is needed.

Always send your swimmer armed with a water bottle and, if you live in a cooler weather climate, a hat for after practice. Throwing a pair of flip flops in the bag is always a good idea as well. The best investment is an actual swim bag – keep it all in one place. Swim bags are specially designed to hold all the items above. Everything will smell of chlorine! Label everything (we all know things can easily get transferred from one kid’s bag to another or get left behind)!

What about swim meets?

Always arrive early. Swimmers must check in with their coach upon arriving to the swim meet, prior to warm-up. This is essential for coaches to put together relays as well. Bring double of everything – that means a team suit and cap and a spare of each. Occasionally goggles can break, so having a backup pair is always a good idea.

You can never have enough towels. (And swim meets don’t have a Treasure Island like we do at Goldfish!)

Although the spectator area is literally roasting, the pool deck can be chilly. Packing a team parka, team sweatshirt or extra items can help keep the swimmer’s muscles warm. Pack a small cooler with healthy snacks and water. Meets can be long and you want to ensure your swimmers is staying hydrated and energized.

The pool deck is one crowded place with bags everywhere. Somehow swimmers just make it work! Just the same for parents, the bleachers are usually pretty crowded too. Dress in layers (remember that roasting pool deck?) and be comfortable.

Bring cash. Parents will need to purchase a heat sheet upon entry to a meet. A heat sheet is a printed document of swimmers’ seed times in the events being held that day or weekend. It’s a great way to see what heat and lane they’ll be swimming in and gauge how long you’ll be at the actual meet. Parents usually highlight their child’s races; it just makes it easier to follow. In addition, you’ll need to pay an entry fee. It wouldn’t be a swim meet without purchasing snacks from the concession stand, either!

Bring a sharpie. Why? Depending on the age of your swimmer, they may find it helpful to write their event numbers, races, heat and lanes on their hands. This is a swimmer thing. So is writing with the sharpie on your arms and legs too! Get ready for swim terms such as “Eat my bubbles.” (Not our Bubbles, of course!)

Our most important advice? Take a deep breath and enjoy it. Parents help parents. There is no shame in asking. The team website is a great way to gather information and stay on task for practice changes and upcoming meets.

Prepare with Goldfish

If your little fish loves the water – or you have hopes of getting them into the sport – come test the waters at Goldfish Swim School. Find a location near you to get started today!