Running a Successful Swim Meet
(Lessening potential problems and reacting to them when they occur)
Swim meets are great events.
Although the majority of the meets are considered successful, each of us has also, most likely, experienced the exception.
To help prevent "the exception", follow these guidelines designed to prepare you for the worst and to handle those situations when everything seems to go wrong.
Prepare for the Worst
Preparing for a swim meet is more than having everyone show-up. People must understand their role and how to do their assigned responsibilities. This is true of the officials (who have specific training and certification requirements) but also true of the person who is timing, handling concessions, or marshalling swimmers. Each person must know how to do their job. Don't just rely on word-of-mouth training. Document the procedures for each role. Run training sessions. Leverage the experience from other teams and the PennDel Board. Have new people "shadow" the more experienced person (even if the more experienced person is from another team). But never, never, never let a volunteer come to a meet not knowing how to do the job he/she has been assigned. It is extremely frustrating for the individual. Volunteers want to help the team, not be the cause of a major issue during the meet. Help them to be successful in their role.
No event can be successful without planning.
- Are all your roles filled by committed and trained volunteers?
- Are there any conflicts with other events at the YMCA?
- And, most importantly, make sure you contact the other coach(es).
- Do you need additional people to help run the meet?
- Have you agreed on the events to be run?
- Does the coach know how you want the team entries prepared?
- Have you agreed on the warm-up schedule? Do the coaches and swimmers know how to get to the venue?
- Is there any special consideration you have to accommodate from the other team?
- And, don't wait until the last minute to confirm all the details with the other coach(es).
Test your equipment well before the start of the meet to ensure everything is working properly. Don't rely on the fact that it worked last week. Equipment that is sitting in a humid area such as the pool will stop working eventually. Check to make sure the equipment works either the day before or the morning before the meet of the day. Scoreboard, console, printer, meet computer, and all connections. And don't forget to have specific drivers installed on your meet manager computer for connections to the timing console and all printers you have available to you that may potentially need to be used.
Prepare your entries, but remember to send or bring not only the electronic copy of your entries (as agreed to by the home and away coaches) but a printed copy of the entries. If technology fails, you always have a printed copy.
Get your entries to the host team early. They can be sent the day before, or you can show-up to the meet early. But, do not come to the meet at the last-minute expecting that everything will be fine. Prepare for the worse and make sure your entries are available in enough time for the computer people to react to any problems. Remember, this is one of the major reasons why meets fail to start on time.
What to do when things goes wrong
With all the planning in the world, sometimes things just go wrong. The following are several scenarios (not a comprehensive list) of the more common problems that can occur and suggestions as to how best to handle these situations.
The previous meet at the venue is running late and impacting the start time for the second meet of the day.
If competition is still in progress 30 minutes after the scheduled start of the second meet, end the first meet at the completion of the current age-group or boy-girls event set, score the meet based on only the events that have swum. And then immediately start warm-ups for the second meet.
If swimming has completed but the scoring/timing table is behind on reconciling times and generating the scores, stop their activity no later than 30 minutes after the schedule of the start of the second meet. Collect all paper work from the first meet, make sure you have downloaded the results from the console, and turn over the equipment to the second meet. Completion of the remaining activities from the first meet can be postponed until a later time (after the second meet or next day.)
The Timing Console is not working and/or touchpads are not working correctly.
If the problem cannot be fixed within 30 minutes of the start of the meet, start the meet using watch times only. Enter these times manually into the meet manager software. If you want, people can continue to work on the time console/touchpad issues while the meet continues running using manual watch times. If the situation can be corrected, then at an "opportune" time (such as at the end of an event) switch back to console times. Do not make the switch between two heats of the same event.
The Timing Console works but does not communicate with the Meet Manager computer
Run the meet using the timing console and touchpads and manually enter the times from the console into the meet manager software. Always use electronic times when they are available. Only go to watch times if the console does not function properly.
In the worst-case technical nightmare, the meet manager computer dies and there is no replacement.
Run the meet using the manual scoring with electronic times if available or watch times if the electronic system is down. Before meet manager software, the PennDel meets were run manually. Although the procedures are somewhat different, they are based on the same principles and rules as the meet manager software. On the PennDel site, there are manual scoring forms, timer sheets and instructions on how to manually run and score a meet. Although this may be challenging for the coaches and volunteers, it is better than sending everyone home.
In summary, always prepare for the worse, train your parents, check out your equipment before each meet, and plan before a crisis hits on alternatives ways to run the meet when systems fail. And, don't forget, the other team (and the PennDel Board) may have people with expertise and experience who can help you - before the meet, during the meet, and after the meet.
And also remember, how coaches and parents act and react during a meet - whether it be a smooth & error-free event or an event that everyone wants to forget - has an incredible impact and influence on our swimmers. When key role models for our children such as their coaches, their own parents, and other parents are respectful, polite, cooperative, and responsible, our children will quickly learn the value and benefits of these same traits.