7 Swim Meet Tips for Spectator Cheering Squads

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7 Swim Meet Tips for Spectator Cheering Squads

By Gigi Picard Swimming World College Intern

For any swimmer’s cheering squad, and maybe especially for parents, there is nothing more thrilling than stepping into the viewing gallery of a competitive swimming pool, breathing in the chlorinated atmosphere, and catching the first look of your swimmer warming up. Unfortunately, coronavirus put an end to that…for now. The balconies have now become ghost towns. There are only those unfocused, glitchy live stream cameras to rely on. Once cheering squads are allowed back in the stands, everyone will be overjoyed. 

In preparation for the inevitable return of live action, here are some reminders for all members of the cheering squad about what to expect at swim meets. 

Swimmers can’t hear you

Hopefully, this is not breaking news to anyone who has ever actually been in the water. While swimmers appreciate all your enthusiasm and embarrassing face posters, they are more focused on their race and the sound of the buzzer. The millisecond swimmers dive into the pool, the water will drown out all of the cheering squads. 

Clear your ENTIRE calendar


Photo Courtesy: Kyle Staggs

Swim meets can take a loooong time. A number of factors influence the session time, but consider the number of teams, and number and length of events and heats before you settle in. Your swimmer may swim four events – but the meet may take four hours and they may be in the pool for four minutes. Oh yeah, and there could be morning qualifying sessions and afternoon finals. So plan ahead and buckle in – maybe bring a bleacher-softening cushion, some sort of tablet and a couple magazines. Please be patient for the swimmers. They will appreciate you even more for sticking around all the way through.

You have to be quiet sometimes

This is standard swim etiquette. Once swimmers step onto the blocks, any chatter and cheering must stop. If you must stay in the spirit of the action, try holding your breath. Swimmers must stay in the zone and react to the buzzer. And if your swimmer gets disqualified, don’t blame the officials. They don’t like to eliminate swimmers. And, remember, they are a lot closer to the bubbles than you are.

Swimmers eat, a lot

There is a classic myth that says, after eating, people have to wait an hour before swimming. But swimmers need fuel: they absolutely crave turkey sandwiches, protein and granola bars, bananas, peanut butter bites and so on before and after racing. And, please, don’t judge swimmers when they go for third helpings post-meet. They may bite. 

Let the coach, coach 

Coaches have typically had extensive training and most had serious competitive swim careers at some point in their lives. A coach’s job is to make sure the swimmers dominate in the pool. The last thing coaches and swimmers want are helicopter parents. Your job is to cheer and compare with others as to how long you’ve been at the pool. Better yet, use your time to volunteer as a meet timer!

Any stroke qualifies in freestyle 

Yep, it’s true. Strokes are optional for any freestyle swimmer. If a swimmer wants to swim, say, butterfly for their 200 freestyle, they can. As long as they touch the wall, their time will count. It may seem odd but it could be fun. Imagine Katie Ledecky doing butterfly instead of the usual freestyle her Olympic 800 (she’d probably win) meters.

Swimmers need support

during an NCAA swimming and diving meet between Saint Louis University and The Wash U Bears at the Millstone Pool on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. (Photo: Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos)

Photo Courtesy: Danny Reise

Like any competitive athletes, swimmers may not always have a good race or meet overall. Competitive swimming can be cruel and unpredictable. When this happens, they don’t need your critique, they need your support. Do not be negative with the athlete saying “you should’ve done better!” or “you’re walking home today!” It’ll make the swimmer feel worse and worse about their performance. Positive vibes keep spirits afloat!

As a swimmer, I am heartbroken when I think of even my high school swim team having no spectators at meets. Hopefully, with proper procedures, the stands will be filled again. 

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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