Monday, December 8, 2014

Timers Needed! The Importance of Volunteering at Swim Meets

Swim mom and blogger at has a knack for telling it like it is. Her honest observations about the sport are refreshing. In a recent post, titled Hey You, she addressed a major problem with the sport. There is a chronic problem with getting parents to work as timers at meets.

We all know it “takes a village” to run a meet. From starters and stroke-and-turn judges to runners and timers, swim meets require a lot of manpower. The specific issue addressed Hey You blogger was parents who sit on the sidelines and refuse to do their part as timers. I’ve personally witnessed this. It is frustrating to watch parents trying to look invisible when there is a call for volunteers.

As a genteel Southern swim mom, I’m going to approach this problem from a benefit-of-the-doubt perspective. Perhaps there are good reasons a swim mom or dad sits idly by as the meet director announces “We cannot start the meet without more timers!” So here I offer some possible excuses for not working as a timer, and most importantly, solutions.

Excuse #1 Swim parents are intimidated by the task of timing. I can actually relate to this because when my son first started out on a summer swim league, timing seemed like a huge responsibility. What if we miss little Johnny’s 25 yard freestyle time by a hundredth of a second? It could scar him forever! If someone is overly conscientious about being an accurate timer, this could be the reason they avoid it.

Solution: Before every meet, a timer’s meeting is held in which an official explains the procedure for timing. Swim parents can practice with the stop watch to get comfortable with it. Also, there are typically two timers per lane and possibly an electronic scoring system. There is also a head timer who starts several stopwatches at the beginning of each heat. If something goes wrong, a timer can switch out stop watches. It only takes one meet to become a pro. If you feel more information is needed on how to be a timer you can always watch this 7 minute video, Swim Meet Volunteer Timer Training.

Excuse #2 Swim parents have been burned working as timers. These are parents who approached timing with gusto until they had to work one too many 5 hour meet. Parents should not have to risk trench foot for being a loyal timer!

Solution: Officials should establish two sets of timers, one for the first half of the meet and one for the second half. If a swim parent is willing to time throughout the whole meet, great! But some people do need a break after standing in soggy socks for more than a couple of hours. If officials don’t do this, parents can work it out between themselves to switch off halfway through the meet. This arrangement works well for loving couples and trustworthy BFFs.

Excuse #3 Swim parent has multiple swimmers to keep up with. The same can be true if they have young children that need to be closely supervised near a swimming pool. These parents are doing us all a favor keeping an eye on their own children so volunteers don’t have to.

Solution: Wait a few years and when the kids can fend for themselves, volunteer to time. 

Excuse #4 Health problems or personal reasons. Of course, some parents may not be able to time due to a number of issues that are none of our business. That being said, I’ve seen grandparents step up to time and thoroughly enjoy themselves. Timing gives a whole new perspective on the sport.

Solution: If you cannot work as a timer, volunteer in some other way. There are lots of ways to help out a swim team.

This swim granddad looks like a pro timer behind the blocks!
The bottom line is to do what you can to help out at meets. There is a lot to be learned about the sport when you are working up close and personal as a timer. And it feels much better than trying to look invisible while others do the job.

1 comment:

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