Meet 7 Unsung Swim Heroes

Photo Courtesy: Sarah Walter

By Kate Walter, Swimming World Intern. 

Not all heroes wear goggles. Making sure a swim meet runs smoothly involves much more work than you may think. While swimmers physically exert themselves and earn recognition at meets, the effort needed to organize and execute the meet is often unheralded.

Think of a swim meet as an iceberg with the visible top acting as the races themselves, while the hidden body under the surface reflects the time and effort planning the event. With a primary focus on dropping time and beating the person in the next lane, few people appreciate the herculean behind-the-scenes work that goes in to pulling off a swim meet.

Some jobs require designated training and lots of responsibility, while others guarantee a good view of the action and are hardly any work at all. No matter the position filled, each volunteer plays a crucial role in the meet. Meet seven unsung swim heroes below.

  1. Clerk of Course

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Photo Courtesy: Kate Walter

Although not the most glamorous of positions, the clerk of course organizes heats and ensures that no swimmer misses his or her race. As any clerk of course will tell you, getting 40 excited 8-and-under swimmers to sit patiently on rows of benches is no easy task.

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Photo Courtesy: Langley Club Swim Team Newsletter

2. Snack Bar Manager 

No summer swim meet would be complete without a heavenly snack bar. Parents cajole their toddlers to swim a 25-meter freestyle with promises of a Ring Pop or slice of pizza as a reward. However, contrary to popular belief, these decadent snacks do not just magically appear on a card table at 7:30 in the morning.
Snack bar organizers often have to wake up in the early hours to drive to get bagels or pick up snacks before a meet. They also have to attend a training session to receive a health certification. So the next time you pay for a sweet treat, keep in mind the long journey it took to end up in your hands.

3. Meet Marshall

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Photo Courtesy: Kate Walter

An easy way for parents to guarantee a front row view for every race is to volunteer as the marshal. This job involves holding a sign at the beginning of a race to signal silence and supervising the pool deck to ensure proper conduct of swimmers. Volunteering as a marshal is a great way for newer parents to get involved with the team and score a prime cheering spot.

4. Stroke and Turn Judge

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Photo Courtesy: Sarah Walter

No parent wants to ruin some young swimmer’s night by disqualifying him for a one-hand breaststroke touch or illegal kick, but someone has to do the dirty work. Stroke and turn judges have to stay at swim meets from the first event to the last, diligently watching each race. They attend special training and study the various rules for each stroke. Although these officials may seem intimidating, they ultimately want to help swimmers improve their form to become the best they can be.

5. Timers

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Photo Courtesy: Sarah Walter

The telltale watch around the neck and infamous white shirt with navy shorts is a dead giveaway that you’re a timer. Pressing buttons is simple enough, and the spectacular view of the pool makes this job worth it. For many volunteers, timing helps the endless hours of a swim meet pass by faster and forces them to stay focused on events. Overall, if one does not mind staying from the first race to the last (or getting splashed when the 15-and-over boys dive into the pool), timing can end up being a pretty good gig.

6. Team Representative

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Photo Courtesy: Sarah Walter

Although this job comes with a front row seat and designated parking spot, these perks are assuredly earned with all the hard work this position requires. Team representatives attend countless planning and seeding meetings, schedule  meets with other pools, and essentially handle all remaining matters for the team and communication with the coaches. 

7. Data Organizer

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Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Ever wonder how results appear on Meet Mobile right after a race? The data organizers are in charge of accurately recording and entering all swimmer’s times into the meet software. They stay well after the event finishes in order to ensure that the results are uploaded as soon as possible.

In addition, data organizers are responsible for tracking improvements of swimmers over the season and preparing meet sheets. This unsung position is one that requires a lot of dedication and commitment, as well as a willingness to spend hours on end in front of a computer!

Next time you’re at a swim meet, remember to thank the volunteer who made it possible.

Commentary: All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Author: Kate Walter

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Kate Walter is a freshman at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, MD. She swims year round for Machine Aquatics and for the Langley Club Wildthings in the summer.

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