The Conference Meet Survival Guide

Photo Courtesy: Big East Conference

By Caitlin Daday, Swimming World College Intern

While the first wave of collegiate conference meets has already passed, many more conferences still have yet to hit the water. For swimming fans, it is one of the most exciting times of the year.

For athletes too, the conference meet has an amazing atmosphere. Everyone is hyped up and ready to swim fast. At the same time though, everyone is balancing the nerves that come with the end of the season.

As I enter the third conference meet of my collegiate career, I have learned a few things I would like to share to help other athletes make their meets as enjoyable as possible. So, here are some tips and tricks to help you survive your conference meet:


Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

1. Stay in the moment.

One of the best things I have ever been told is to focus on what I am doing in the moment rather than thinking ahead or behind. When it comes to big meets, everything you are doing has a purpose. If your mind is some place else, you are not preparing yourself in the best way possible. For example, every piece of your warm-up is important, and staying in the moment means focusing on what you are doing rather than letting your mind wander to other things.

Staying in the moment can help keep you from overthinking, which is something that can be very damaging to your performance. Overthinking can psych you out for your future races or keep you dwelling on your past ones. If you keep focused on what you are doing in the here and now, it will help you to be the most prepared for the upcoming races and help you get over the previous ones.

team cheer-kate-smarjesse

Photo Courtesy: Jack Hiniker

2. Remember why you are there.

You are there to swim fast. But are you there for yourself or for your team? In my opinion, I would say a mix of both. For me, one of the biggest changes in coming to college was swimming for a team rather than just myself. To be honest I still struggle with putting team performance over my own. At the end of the day though, you are there to swim fast, and if you do the best you can, you will be serving both goals.

The one thing to keep in mind though is that even if you are swimming slow for yourself, you can still do something for your team. You can still have a good finish that gets you in the A final instead of the B. Sometimes even just being a good cheerleader is enough to make a difference for someone else. Remembering that there is something outside of you that still matters as well is important to making the best of the conference meet.


Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

3. Keep your routine.

Sometimes conference meets can be overwhelming. There are a lot of moving parts, and it can be easy to get caught up in everything. The best thing you can do is to keep what you can under your control. If you like to have a certain snack before your race, bring it with you. If you do a specific warm up, do not change it. Do not begin to try new things. In this instance, your comfort zone is the best place to be.

There are times, however, when some things may get a little thrown off. For example, your bus may not arrive at the venue enough in advance of when you prefer to start your warm up. That is annoying, but it is beyond your control. In situations like that, you just have to do what you can to make the most of it and not let annoyances or inconveniences affect your performance.

2016 Big East Swimming and Diving Championship on Feb. 26, 2016 at Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow, New York.

Photo Courtesy: Villanova Athletics Media Relations

4. Stay in your lane.

Racing is important. But at the same time, remaining focused on what is going on between your two lane lines is what is most significant. As much as you want to beat the people next to you, you can only control what you are doing. Worrying about the people around you is not going to make you swim faster.

You never know how someone is going to swim their race. If they are a body length ahead at the first 50, you do not know if they can hold that or if they will just die. You have to do what is best for you, and often times that just means letting other people do what they think is right and sticking to your own plan.


Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins-UVM Athletics

5. Have fun.

Above all, having fun is what is most important. Believe me, it is not fun when you are miserable. You have worked all season for these few days, and you deserve to enjoy yourself. I have always believed in the idea that happy swimmers are fast swimmers.

While having fun should not come at the expense of your performance, at the end of the day it is generally not your times that you will remember. Conference meets have a very exciting atmosphere, and it is important to take a step back and enjoy that.