Your first swim meet can be a nerve-wracking experience. But it doesn’t have to be! And, in fact, why do something that’s not fun? You have a lot of--if not total-- control over whether your first swim meet is a fun experience. You can make the meet fun by getting into the right mindset, first of all. And then try these 10 strategies for maximizing the fun quotient of your first competitive experience.
[step1][steptitle1] Bring Some Entertainment[/steptitle1][stepcontent]
There’s a lot of sitting and waiting for your races at most meets. Bring a game, some music, something to read, and some people you like to hang out with. For some athletes, the down time between races is the best part of swimming meets!
[step2][steptitle2] Check the Weather [/steptitle2][stepcontent]
And bring layers, so you are prepared to stay warm (or cool, as the case may be) regardless of whether your meteorologist got the forecast right. Even if the meet is at an indoor pool, bring layers. The air conditioning may be turned up too high, or it may be poorly ventilated and stuffy. Also, bring more towels than you think you need: at least one for each race, plus one for warm-up.
[step3][steptitle3] Mentally Practice Your Race(s) [/steptitle3][stepcontent]
In the weeks and days before your first meet, imagine your races in every little detail. Count your strokes at practice, and then before you go to bed every night, visualize each stroke (and every turn) of each race you plan to swim. If you have mentally rehearsed what you are going to do, you’re less likely to succumb to nerves and anxiety, which is decidedly un-fun.
[step4][steptitle4] Know What's Supposed to Happen [/steptitle4][stepcontent]
The referee will give several short whistle blasts. That’s your cue to stand behind the blocks, with goggles on, ready to race. Before you step forward, you should have shed your shoes, towel, and sweatshirt. Then the referee will give one long whistle blast. Step onto the blocks, set your feet, and relax. The starter will say, “Take your mark.” Grab the blocks. At the beep, the race is on!
[step5][steptitle5] Know What Might Happen[/steptitle5][stepcontent]
Sometimes things don’t go as planned at the blocks. Maybe the timing equipment is malfunctioning. Maybe someone in your heat false started, or took their mark but was still moving. There are any number of reasons why the starter might tell you to “stand up” or “step down” from the blocks at any moment, even after you’ve taken your mark.
[step6][steptitle6] Get a Meet Program[/steptitle6][stepcontent]
You can learn a lot by watching others swim and meets are more interesting if you have a program to follow the events. It’s fun to see who’s getting best times and to know the names of the fastest swimmers. Plus, following along will help you anticipate when your next race will be. Use the entry times and the number of swimmers entered in an event to estimate how long each event will take. (Just remember to count on some swimmers scratching out of each event. It’s better to underestimate the time an event will take than overestimate!)
[step7][steptitle7] Go to the Bathroom [/steptitle7][stepcontent]
When you go to check your heat and lane assignment, also take the time to go to the bathroom. If you don’t, you are likely to find yourself standing behind the blocks doing a little dance and praying for the officials to run the meet faster.
[step8][steptitle8] Get to Your Race Early [/steptitle8][stepcontent]
Arrive behind your lane several races before yours so that you can listen to the Starter’s instructions. Simply observe what can, should, and does happen at the start and finish of each race.
[step9][steptitle9] Get Ready Early [/steptitle9][stepcontent]
Don’t wait until the short whistle blasts to start putting on your cap. You want to avoid having to make frantic last-minute adjustments to your gear. You’ll have more fun if, in the moments before your race, you are thinking calmly and happily about how well you’ve prepared for your race and how you are going to have fun racing. Yes, there’s always the possibility that your cap or goggles will break right before the race, but if you discover that three heats before your turn, you still have time to get your backup gear from your bag.
[step10][steptitle10] Bring Some Friends [/steptitle10][stepcontent]
What’s more fun than knowing that you have a fan club (and a loud, outspoken one at that)? Remember to smile and wave to your fans before and after your race.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you have other ideas for how new swimmers can have fun at their first swim meet? Or, what made your first meet fun? Share your thoughts below.