Swim Meets 101

The following is a brief summary of some of the components within a competitive swim meet.

The Pool or Course

The length of the pool for racing is divided into two types of course, short course (SC) and long course (LC). The short course racing pool is 25 metres and the long course pool is 50 metres. The pool typically has 8-10 lanes, and each lane is typically 2.5 metres wide. The short course season is traditionally September to December and the long course season January to August. Long Course meets can be held during the SC season and vice versa.

The Meet

Swim meets are used to measure your swimmer’s progression. Racing is the main purpose of competitive swimming. Meets present many challenges to swimmers and provide many learning opportunities. Coaches will communicate with their swimmers before and after each race to provide feedback and relate their racing performance to their training. For older/more mature athletes, different phases of training may elicit different competitive responses, but the goal is always to race as fast as possible at any given moment in time.

Traditionally, there are 17 individual events and 5 relay events for both males and females. These events include: 50-100-200-400-800-1500m freestyle, 50-100-200m backstroke/breaststroke/butterfly, 200-400m individual medley, 4x50-4x100-4x200 freestyle relay, and 4x50-4x100 medley relay. These are the events for which records are kept. Some meets offer unorthodox distances, or mixed relays. Not all meets offer all the events, but you will usually see all four strokes and the IM.

Heat Sheet​​​​​​​

The heat sheet shows swimmers which events they are swimming and when. It also shows where a swimmer is seeded based on previous times. Usually, swimmers are grouped by age, sex, and event, with the fastest qualified swimmers in the last heats and the fastest qualifiers in the middle lanes.

Psych Sheet

For some meets, a psych sheet is published before the competition. This is a rank ordered list of all the entries for each event, so that swimmers can see how they stack up against the competition.

The Rules

The technical rules of swimming are designed to provide fair and equitable conditions of competition and to promote uniformity in the sport. Each swimming stroke has specific rules designed to ensure that no swimmer gets an unfair competitive advantage over another swimmer. The technical rules for each stroke and other useful information may be found on the web at the following sites:



The international federation recognized by the International Olympic Committee for administering international competition in water sports.

Swim Canada


Official site for the national governing body of swimming in Canada.

Swim Ontario


Official site for the provincial governing body of swimming in Canada.

What to bring to a swim meet

For the swimmer:

  1. Team t-shirt, LSC swim cap, and other team wear as required.
  2. Swim suit for racing and a backup suit.
  3. Well-fitting goggles, an extra pair is recommended in case one pair breaks.
  4. Towels (take a couple of towels depending on the length of the meet).
  5. Flip flops or non-slip deck shoes.
  6. Refillable water bottles as refreshments are not always for purchase.
  7. Plenty of nutritious snacks (i.e. oatmeal bars, raisins, grapes etc.), nothing too heavy to digest and no junk food.

For the parents/spectators:

  1. Money for the meet program - available at the pool. This will show all the races for the session and all the details for your child’s swims (Event, Heat and Lane assignments).
  2. Pen, pencil or colourful highlighter so you can mark off your child’s races.
  3. While you are at it, mark all swimmers from the club so you can cheer for them!
  4. As a spectator keep in mind that the indoor pool can get very hot inside, so dress accordingly.
  5. Viewing is often limited – arrive early.
  6. Snacks and water – some meets have a snack bar with food available for purchase but others don’t.
  7. Very important – there is no flash photography allowed at meets.

Teams warm up in the pool, usually an hour before the first race begins. Please leave plenty of time and have your swimmer arrive on deck at least 15 minutes before the start of the warm-up period.

When you arrive at the pool:

  1. Ensure your swimmer is changed and on the deck. The team will be sitting together.
  2. If seating permits, it is best for parents to sit together as a team. Parents will not be allowed on deck as Swim Canada only permits registered coaches and officials on deck.
  3. Buy a heat sheet (program) and look for your child’s name. Highlight the races they will be swimming in while they are warming up. Most meets at most meets will be swum slowest to fastest. Swimmers with no times (NT) will usually swim in the first heats of the event. Once they have swum that event they will get an official time so that subsequently, they will be seeded accordingly.
  4. Encourage your child to cheer for their team mates!
  5. Your child must talk to his/her coach before and after each race. This allows the coach to review race strategy and provide encouragement before the race, and afterward, to provide feedback and relate their race performance to training.
  6. If your swimmer misses a race they need to speak to their coach, who will do their best to get them into another heat. It does happen as young swimmers often get distracted and miss races. It is important the swimmers know what events and heats they are in. There are always heat sheets posted on deck for the swimmers to check. When in doubt have them ask another swimmer or their coach.
  7. Before your swimmer leaves the deck, make sure they check with their coach that they are actually done racing for the day. There may be relays at the end of the session and your swimmer may be a member of a relay team.
  8. When the meet is over, please ensure that your swimmer collects all of their belongings and helps to clean up any garbage around the team area. It’s a lot of work for the meet organizers to clean up the mess left at the end of a meet.

Helpful Tip: Label everything with your swimmers name. Often at meets clothing articles go missing or get mixed up with others swim bags. If they are labelled then they can be returned.

Meet Results:

Encourage your swimmer to do their best and to have fun. Results are sometimes posted on a wall or at the clerk of course desk as they become available. The Meet Mobile app provides results for most meets. For some meets, live results are available on the host team’s website.

Results will show the swimmer's official time and rank for each event.

Following the meet you can find all the results on the Swim Canada web site. Go to www.swimming.ca. This web site shows results of all the meets nationwide.

If your child places in an event, ribbons or medals are sometimes given out. These awards, however, are usually only given out at the end of a meet, and awarded to the swimmers later on. Sometimes they are mailed out, so it could be a few days before they get them to you.

Swim Meet FAQs

How do I know which meet my swimmer is attending?

Meet schedules are sent out to each group, and meets are posted to the LSC event calendar. Swimmers will be entered by default into meets for which they are eligible. If the swimmer cannot attend a meet, the family must notify the group coach in writing prior to the entry deadline, published in the meet package. Your account will be charged meet fees if the swimmer is entered into a race, whether or not they attend, so be sure to stay on top of the meet schedule and entry deadlines.

What is and where do I find the meet package?

You can find the meet package on our website on the events page, however the most up to date meet package is always found at the Swim Canada website meet list www.swimming.ca. The meet package will include the warm up times, events and all information regarding the meet.

How do I know which events my swimmer is participating in?

Meet entries will be available following the entry deadline, via the LSC website.

What are psych sheets?

Psych sheets are a rank ordering of the swimmers entered per event at a particular meet. They can usually be found a few days in advance of the meet on the meet host's website.

How is a swimmer seeded if he/she has never competed in an event?

Sometimes swimmers are entered NT (no time) and seeded in the slowest heats. In most cases, meets do not accept NT entries, so swimmers are entered with estimated times.

What are time trials?

Time trials are official competitions used to provide a race opportunity for a small number of participants. They are used for record attempts, and last minute qualifying for certain higher level meets.

What does it mean that a meet is sanctioned?

A meet is “sanctioned” when Swim Ontario has given its stamp of approval on the competition or time trial. Race times are only official if they are swum at a sanctioned competition.

How is it determined which swimmers participate in relays?

The coaches will generally try to create the fastest possible relays, starting with the “A” team and working back. Usually life time best times and times done at the current meet are used for selection. Ultimately, relay teams are selected at coaches' discretion, as other factors such as current training and racing times, swimmers event load at the given meet, etc will be brought into account.

What is a DQ?

This is a disqualification. A swimmer may be disqualified from an event for a start, turn, or stroke infraction. Disqualifications may be brought to the attention of the coach by an official, or announced after the race, indicating the type of infraction. Although this is done to help the swimmer learn the rules of the strokes, it is often a very emotional event for the young swimmer, so it is important that you let them know that this happens to most swimmers, and can happen at every level.