Monday, April 14, 2014

Get Ready for the Meet: Marking Swimmers' Arms

Once upon a time at a summer meet, I helped out a mom with three little swimmers by writing event/heat/lane numbers on their arms. This meet ritual is to help kids keep up with their events. By the time I had finished with the third child, a line of anxious new swim moms and their children had formed down the pool deck. They thought I was in charge of marking all the swimmers! So I said, "next" and kept going.

This tutorial is dedicated to swim newbies going to their first meet.

Step 1: Mark the heat sheet.
Heat sheets list every event in the meet in order. It includes the number of the event as well as the distance and type of event (for example 50 yard freestyle). The number of heats and the names of the swimmers will be listed next. Typically, heats are swum from slowest to fastest. If it is the first time a swimmer has swum the event, this will be indicated by “NT” for “no time” and they will swim in the earliest heats. Finally, each swimmer is assigned a lane. Use a highlighter to mark your swimmer’s events. Don’t forget to check to see if they are swimming in any relays.

Step 2: Write down the information for quick reference.
Younger children and those new to the sport often have meet information written on their arm (or thigh) with a Sharpie to help them keep track of their events. (Swimmers will also use the permanent markers to write slogans on the backs of teammates!) 

Some parents prefer to write the information on a list to keep handy rather than writing on their child. This is a personal preference but most new swimmers want to look the part and choose the Sharpie on skin method.

Step 3: Help keep track of your swimmer. 
Just because the information is written on their arm, don’t depend on them to keep up with their events. Swim meets can be very exciting and new swimmers easily lose track of time. Fortunately, summer meets have a “clerk of course” to help alert swimmers when their event is about to take place. This brave parent volunteer calls out each event in advance and lines up the swimmers in the correct order. 

As they become more experienced, swimmers usually give up this ritual. I remember when JT no longer wanted me to write his events on his arm. It would have been a sad day if not for those other little swimmers waiting in line for me to mark their arms. And that is a happy ending.


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