A home-grown formal competition can be a big boost to your club
Swim meets give athletes a way to measure fitness and fine-tune racing skills/strategies. Meets also provide coaches with feedback to improve training programs. Informal intrasquad meets and competition in practice can offer many of the same benefits, but the stakes seem higher when there are touch pads in the pool and white-shirted officials prowling the deck. Hosting your own U.S. Masters Swimming–sanctioned swim meet is a great way to bring tangible rewards to your organization.
- Choose a schedule that is convenient for your swimmers. Entice them with the comfort and familiarity of their own pool.
- Collect entry fees to raise funds above the cost of running the meet. The extra money could be used for a social event for the meet or for equipment or lane rental costs for your club.
- Recruit new members via publicity for your facility and your Masters program.
- Support USMS by providing additional competition within your area.
- Give families and friends a chance to get involved (timing, meet preparation, etc.)
A USMS sanction ensures that USMS rules apply, all participants are covered by insurance, and times may be considered for records and Top 10 listings. (See the USMS general information on sanctioning for complete details.) These perks attract additional swimmers to participate. Start by generating an online sanction request. The sanctions chair from your Local Masters Swimming Committee will process the application and can provide answers to any questions you might have.
In addition to the sanctions chair, your LMSC has tons of resources and experience to help you set up and run a meet. Choose your LMSC from the USMS list, and then click on the link for LMSC officers for contact info. Other resources include the LMSC officials chair, meet directors from nearby clubs, your facility’s aquatics manager, and your coaching peers. There's also a lot of information on how to run a meet in the "Meet Management" section of the USMS Guide to Operations.
In addition to someone to lead the effort (meet director), a meet management team needs people to take responsibility for each meet element. Depending on your volunteers’ individual strengths, your team may combine or divide these categories in multiple ways, but here are some elements to consider.
- Registration—Assign someone to collect entries, print heat sheets, and download events into your timing software. Seek volunteers who have worked with software solutions such as Club Assistant, etc.
- Timing—Recruit, train, and manage people to run stopwatches, as well as the electronic timing system.
- Finances—Pay for the sanction, pool and equipment rentals, hired officials and safety staff, and awards, T-shirts, etc. Collect and deposit entry fees.
- Officiating—Start each event and judge strokes to ensure all results represent legal swims.
- Safety—Hire lifeguards and other safety personnel as required.
- Communication—Design and distribute entry form, newsletter announcements, web pages, results postings, etc. Optionally obtain sponsors and publicize their contributions.
- Concessions—Optionally secure vendors to provide food and beverages or additional items for participants (T-shirts, caps, participation swag, etc.)
Designate someone to ensure that necessary equipment is available for the meet and tested in time to correct any problems.
- Venue—PA system, functioning restrooms and water fountains, spectator seating, etc.
- Timing system—Starter horn, lap horn/bell, computer, software, printer, paper, labels, etc.
- Measuring device—If the pool has a bulkhead or isn’t in the measured pools database, you’ll need equipment to certify that the pool dimensions meet rulebook parameters.
- Supplies—Timing sheets, stop watches, lap counters, awards, food, goodie bags, etc.
- Secure the venue and staff. Choose the date and time, reserve the pool, arrange for payments, etc. Recruit officials, safety personnel (lifeguards), timers and computer operators, etc.
- Design and publicize the meet. Choose your order of events and set up the registration system. Post the meet details online and have your LMSC website provide a link. You should have the date and time, including warm-up lane details; course and facility specifics, including directions, amenities (lockers, showers, concessions, etc.); event order, including breaks; and other attractions in the area.
- Run the meet. Set up the pool (including measurements if required), hold the races, celebrate with awards, and invite everyone to return next year. Clean up the pool, thank your volunteers and staff, and finalize any outstanding payments.
- Publish the results! Even if you use an online app to stream the results live, you still need to immediately submit the results to your LMSC officials for consideration of USMS Top 10 or records. Post results immediately, as well as links to those results on your team’s website, your LMSC page, and on the meet’s entry page.
- Let the task list intimidate you. It looks like a lot of work, but you’ll be surprised how quickly and easily things come together.
- Try to do everything yourself. If you don’t already have contacts who can help you with the effort, you soon will. The swimming community is full of smart and enthusiastic people who are happy to play a role in the success of your meet.
- Expect everything to go perfectly. There will be snags and glitches; embrace them as learning experiences and move on. Next year’s meet will be even better!
- Remember why you’re doing this. It’s good for you, your team, and your friends from other teams.
- Delegate. Share your vision with other folks and they’ll get inspired to invest their energy to help.
- Document your efforts. Keep a list of who’s assigned to which task and make notes about any improvements you discover during the process. Next year, you’ll have a ready-made procedure to follow for an easy and successful follow-up.
- Contact your LMSC sanctions chair if you have any questions.
- Have fun!
- Coaches Only