The Pros and Cons of Virtual Meets in the COVID Era

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The Pros and Cons of Virtual Meets in the COVID Era

Athletics in this global pandemic have certainly been unique, with mask-clad athletes and smaller to non-existent crowds. Swimming is no exception to these abnormalities, with the holding of “virtual” swim meets becoming a norm. Rather than two teams sharing the same pool, each swims its races in its own pool, and then they compare times via the internet. This adjusted style of competition is certainly resourceful, and while it is not a particularly ideal situation, most people would agree that anything is better than nothing! 

The Pros of Virtual Meets


With no need for transportation, food and beverage, travel and hotel rooms, or any other costs that come with in-person meets, virtual meets cost substantially less than in-person events. This is a real benefit for teams operating on small budgets. 

Team Culture

While the lack of crowds and opposition certainly dampen the atmosphere, virtual meets can be a great way to improve team camaraderie. As disappointing as it is to not have that normal atmosphere, this new situation provides a chance for teams to rally behind each other and put 100% of the focus into what team members are doing in the pool. Cheering each other on is a great way to build team culture, and this makes swimming a whole lot more fun.

Less Stress

Swimming can often be seen as an individual sport, as swimmers have all the control in the world over what happens in their lane. Sometimes, though, with in-person meets, it can be easy to focus too much on what competitors and even fellow teammates are doing in the race. With virtual meets, it is easier for swimmers to focus on their own race plan and stick to it, with minimal panic. Feeling pressure can be daunting for a lot of swimmers, and virtual meets can help to curb this anxiety.

A Broader Audience

Virtual swim meets may have little to no audiences, but if live-streamed, anyone can watch the footage. Family members who live far away, for example, now have the capability to watch the swim meets while they perhaps never could before. 


While virtual meets have their downsides, they provide safety measures that standard meets could not. Remaining socially distant and wearing masks are crucial during a pandemic, and thanks to virtual meets, both safety and competition are still possible.

The Cons of Virtual Meets

Networking Opportunities

Although swim meets, for the most part, include staring at the bottom of the pool while perhaps keeping an eye on your competition, they can also provide a good chance for swimmers to acquaint themselves with competitors and catch up with friends from opposing teams. With virtual competition, this is simply impossible.

Less Revenue

One of the best ways for swim teams to fundraise is through the hosting of home competitions. Admission fees, concessions, t-shirt sales and more are no longer an option while virtual. Other fundraising opportunities in the community are also limited during this time. 

Lack of Authentic Competition

While it’s nice to be able to have a way to compete against other teams, you can’t simulate the experience of racing someone who is physically swimming alongside you. You are essentially left to imagine your opponent swimming next to you, pushing you to the next lap or finish, all in your head, prior to comparing times. This can certainly be a drag as you can’t have the same adrenaline rush that comes with an epic showdown to the finish with another swimmer. Without that extra push, you may well not reach the same level of performance you otherwise would have.

Lack of Motivators

The absence of supporters is another bummer that comes with virtual meets. Having family and friends in the stands cheering you on can provide all sorts of confidence as you know they have your back. Without having this motivation, mental toughness comes into play as you need to find that hunger in you to still swim a great race. 

An Empty Audience

One of the strangest differences between competitions with fans and ones without is the contrast in atmosphere. When major sports including professional soccer, basketball, football, etc. resumed competition throughout 2020 with new protocols, it was very strange to not hear fans. So strange, in fact, that artificial fan “noise” could be heard across sports broadcasts to avoid the awkwardness of silence. Swimming virtual meets is no different, with its absence of fans.

Just about anybody would agree that having meets in-person with other competitors is far more exciting and enjoyable than swimming in isolation from other teams and supporters. In-person meets are something that we all took for granted until COVID-19 hit. While it may be a strange and disappointing situation, however, it’s crucial to make the most of what’s possible. 

It’s also of utmost importance to show gratitude to our friends, families, and coaches, who are all doing their best to support us swimmers in any way possible during this challenging time. We are truly fortunate that our sport lends itself so well to adaptations to accommodate for pandemic precautions, unlike so many other sports.

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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