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by Kris Houchens

September 28, 2009

Are we ready to host a meet? How much time really goes into hosting a meet? Can we host a meet even if our program is small? How can we prepare ourselves to host a meet?

Many of us use this time of year to recover from the long-course swimming season, get our calendars ready for the upcoming school year, and re-energize and refocus on the year ahead. So, do your busy life and the busy lives of your club members have room for a meet?

Kris Houchens, YMCA IndySwim Fit Head Coach, served as the 2009 Long Course National Championship Meet Director. She has hosted meets of various size and scope in the past and has now tested her meet director skills at one of the largest events held within U.S. Masters Swimming. Houchens has outlined her critique of IndySwim Fit’s performance in handling the championship meet, as well as offered a few pointers to anyone thinking, “I think my program could host a meet …”

Remember, Houchens chose one of the largest USMS events held. You do not have to commit your team to a big meet. Start small and host single-afternoon or even a single-event meet (maybe the mile) and take what you’ve learned and apply to larger events and competitions.

Houchens’s words of wisdom …

  • It is not an impossible task. You can do it. Make the decision to host a meet and start planning … now.
  • Surround yourself with good, knowledgeable people and let them do their thing.
  • Pick your priorities and stick with them. Don't let the lesser things consume your time.
  • Prepare, double check and triple check everything.
  • At a certain point, you must switch gears and realize that the preparation is over and the show begins. Now being able to troubleshoot and resolve issues becomes the focus. There will be mistakes, regardless of how much you’ve prepared. Focus on solving the problem rather than figuring out who’s at fault.
  • Accept compliments. If you’ve run a successful event, don’t be ashamed to receive a high-five or pat on the back.

Hosting a meet, or any other event, is no different than any other task in life. Prepare, execute, evaluate (determine successful elements and not-so-successful elements), and apply what you’ve learned to the next experience. Houchens knew that she was taking on a task of great magnitude. She prepared and executed and now shares her evaluation of her performance as Meet Director and of the meet overall.

Houchen’s evaluation of successful elements …

  • The meet was on or ahead of the timeline each day.
  • Officials were effective and did their jobs well.
  • “Relay day” received a positive response from athletes and coaches; people enjoyed themselves and there were some great races.
  • Volunteers were complimented on their knowledge and friendliness.
  • Medical staff solved problems and reacted to situations professionally and to the best of their abilities.
  • The meet included various extras that contributed to the overall experience for participants (the massage room was a crowd-pleaser and was full of athletes each day).

Houchens’s evaluation of elements to improve upon …

  • Hospitality
    • Hospitality was unprepared for the number of participants being served.
    • Relationships and agreements should have been secured in writing to avoid any misunderstandings.
    • More research regarding vendors, menu options and deals may have allowed them to provide more bang for the buck.
  • Awards
    • Medals were ordered before the total count of participants had been calculated, resulting in not enough medals for all of the deserving participants. The total number of participants should have been tallied prior to placing the order for awards.

Houchens and other meets hosts can attest that hosting a meet can be challenging for the host, the team, the facility, the coach and the community. However, if a host is willing to accept the challenge, learn from the experience and use knowledge to continue to improve, hosting a meet can be beneficial and rewarding.

So, are you ready to host a meet?

If you are, pull out your calendar, discuss your ideas with your team, your facility and your LMSC (Local Masters Swimming Committee) and get started!