Why Small Swim Meets Have Major Value

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Why Small Swim Meets Have Major Value

By Josie Wise, Swimming World Intern

Everyone loves to talk about the huge meets in swimming: The Olympics, NCAAs, World Championships, state meets. However, those meets are only once a year, or once every four years. The majority of a swimmers racing experience comes from smaller-scale meets that don’t get any sort of national coverage. When in high school, swimmers may have two meets a week at tiny natatoriums without any bleachers. College swimmers experience dual meets and small invitationals that occur in the middle of their heaviest training cycles and for which they get little to no rest. These smaller meets are not ones where swimmers are often seen setting records. These meets are not contested for the excitement factor or catered toward spectators. Nonetheless, smaller-scale swim meets are just as vital for a swimmer as championship meets. 

Here’s why.

Great Practice for the Big Meets

How an athlete practices will often translate into how they perform when the important times come. If a swimmer breathes off every wall in practice, they will probably continue to breathe off the wall in their races. However, if they work on a habit in practice, it becomes second nature in the race. Practice doesn’t completely make perfect. You have to practice perfect if that’s what you want.

On the same note, how you race in small meets will affect how you race at the big ones. This is why a swimmer should always race their hardest when they’re in the water at a meet. It doesn’t matter how sore you are from training, or what kind of competitors are in the race with you. At these meets, the times you go will likely not be PRs every time. That may not matter quite so much as long as you are racing your absolute hardest. Every time you dive into the water, it is an opportunity to get more comfortable with racing. When you get to the championship meet, you’ll have experience from dozens of meets backing you up. Your body will know what it’s like to push itself to the limit because, by the time you get to championships, it’s become second nature. The only difference will be your beloved taper.

A Good Time to Get to Know Your Team

Small meets are a great opportunity to get closer to your teammates. Without time cuts or qualifications, these meets are often where your whole team can compete together regardless of age or speed in the water. You may get to talk to teammates that you don’t know very well or cheer for someone you don’t usually get the chance to cheer for. When you’re tired and training hard, sometimes the only people who truly know how you feel are your fellow teammates. Small meets are an opportunity to spend time together and share unique experiences.

When competing at the larger meets, it’s very easy to get caught up in only your own races. You get too nervous and worried about your own performances and your times. At these meets, sometimes the team aspect of swimming can be put on the back burner. That’s why at the smaller meets, it’s good to take the time to truly be a teammate. Maybe you swim your off events because that’s where your team needs points, or get down to count for someone’s 500 even though you swim two heats after them. You can really take the time to put focus on your teammates in ways that aren’t always achievable at bigger competitions.

Try New Things

A small meet is a great time to try something new with how you race. It can be an opportunity to switch up your pre-race routine. Maybe you want to start listening to music behind the blocks, or you have a new stretch to warm you up. These are things that you don’t want to change right before a big race, but that you can definitely do at a little midseason meet. You can also choose to swim your off events. Backstrokers can get experience doing breaststroke, and a sprinter can attempt the mile. Doing different events no doubt makes well-rounded swimmers.

Small Meets Have a Wide Reach

No matter the size of a meet, as an athlete it’s important to put effort into every race. There are officials that woke up early so that you could have a starter. Your coaches planned out warmups, highlighted heat sheets, and formulated race plans. You may have a teammate who is trying to set a PR. There are parents and volunteers who chose to stand on their feet for hours to time. All you have to really do is show up to your race and try your hardest. It will only benefit you in the long run, and you might have some fun along the way.

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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Larry (a swim dad)
8 months ago

Incredibly useful perspectives for all swimmers. Thanks for sharing!