Swim meets- how do they work?

Swim meets are a huge part of life in a swim team, no less so at BPS with a busy schedule throughout the year. It is often the case that meets will take up at least one weekend per month, creating a huge time commitment for coaches, swimmers and parents.

Swim meets are a vital part of swimmers development, offering the chance to update times, learn about areas to improve as well as a whole host of social opportunities for young swimmers to enjoy. But swim meets vary; by age, ability and time of the season. So how do you decide which ones fit best?

  • It is important to remember that swim meets are long tiring events which often take up the whole weekend. This is supposed to be time where swimmers rest and recover, physically and mentally from their week at school. Therefore, regular weekend meets need to be kept in check and should only be undertaken once or twice per training cycle (a training cycle usually lasts 3-4 months eg. August-December, January- May and May-July if working on a 3 cycle season).
  • Swim meets should vary in focus too. The end of cycle meet is the one that coaches deem to be the ‘target’ meet, the one where training is geared towards. We are lucky that we host Feeding Frenzy where the majority of our swimmers can take part to end the first training cycle.
  • We also take part in ‘training meets’ which make up the majority of racing through the year. These meets should be viewed as learning meets where skills are practiced, new events attempted and (particularly for seniors) they learn to race when tired.
  • With such a busy term, it’s easy to lose sight of ‘best practice’ for swimmers. Literature has shown (recognised in all the major swim nations) that swimmers between the age of 10 and 17 should be racing once every 4 to 6 weeks. Racing more regularly than this offers little benefit to the swimmer and has been shown to be a key contributor to burnout and quitting the sport. The 4-6 week rule, gives swimmers ample time to train and develop between meets and work on areas they need to improve upon.
  • Racing suits are also a part of swim meets and one which some of the senior parents will already be coming across. Racing suits are defined as ‘costumes which provide muscle compression, with the aim of improving performance’. These suits usually cost huge amounts of money, and rarely tell you that they are only really effective for up to 6 races. After this point, the compression is no longer effective and they are little different to a training costume. As a coach, my advice would be to save them for target meets eg. End of cycle meet and championship meets. The rest of the season, they really are not necessary.
  • Finally, age… swimmers in the younger age categories will find that most meets allow them the chance to beat their PBs. They come along thick and fast, often knocking bit chunks of time off. However, this is not something that lasts forever. Most swimmers will reach an age where they begin to ‘plateau’. This is where training becomes even more essential, and knowing how the different meets work. For more senior swimmers, the target meet is where we are aiming to hit or beat PBs. At in cycle meets, there should not be the expectation to see big time improvements, instead the focus should be on improving the areas highlighted for improvement from previous meets. Training is designed to peak once per cycle and by training consistently, swimmers should find the target meet to be their main chance to race really fast.

I hope this comes in useful and helps you, as parents, see the map we are trying to create for your swimmers. Swimming is an extremely long journey, and needs careful planning to keep the ‘swimming life’ in perspective.

Coach Rich

Recent Articles


  1. Thanks Rich - great article

    Posted by Brian Taylor, 26/08/2017 at 18:32