Kids are different these days. The world they live in has changed and accelerated. Instant gratification is the norm. Globalisation is a fact. However, often when I look around at the world of swim meets not much has changed… We still expect our swimmers to enter and endure 2 to 3 day meets, which run from dawn to dusk and include every event from 50m to 1500m and every age grouping, never mind those that include heats and finals too. The modern family is resource rich, but time poor. The average time spent at Saturday morning sport is 2 – 3hrs. Perhaps we can learn from this… When planning my annual calendar my goal for most of our events (excluding Major Championships and National titles) is that we can complete the meet in one 3 to 4hr session. Here are 10 great meet ideas you might like to try at the club, local, regional or even International level. If you host it, they will come!
The American High School and College system thrive on these. Invite one other team to your pool for a head to head meet. Both coaches agree a sensible number of events (4 – 6 usually and ALWAYS relays) and then go at it. Short and sweet, these meets build great rivalry and friendships. You can host on an alternating basis.
Single Stroke Meets
Host a series of four small meets instead of one massive one. Offer only 1 stroke at the event. E.g. At the Freestyle Meet you can offer 25m, 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m Freestyle only.
Mini Meets for 8 & Unders
For swimmers in these age groups the worst introduction to swim meets is an event where they swim once then wait for 3hrs for their next event. Host their meets separately. Four 25m events, a novelty event or two and a 4 x 25m relay then head home. You can get it all done and dusted in one morning session.
Seniors-Only Meets with a Social Afterwards
Host a sprint and relay meet for swimmers aged 13yrs + (No Swim-ups Permitted). Swim under lights, crank up the tunes, give out non-medal prizes (cash/iTunes credit/goggles) and finish with a pizza party or a dive in movie.
Host a standard meet but award the 1st, 2nd 3rd medals to the biggest improvers not top 3 finishers.
Five events; 4 x 50’s + 100m/200m IM for Juniors and 4 x 100’s + 200m/400m IM for Seniors). Swimmers compete for points and prizes are awarded for the combined high point winner in each age group. Great for age groupers as it reinforces long term athlete development and guards against early specialisation.
Open Mixed Seeding
Hy-Tek’s Meet Manager™ is a powerful tool and allows you to structure events as Multi-Age/Gender for results and scoring purposes but swim as Mixed and Open for seeding purposes. This means fast, homogenous heats and a chance for Boys and Girls to race against one another. This approach also saves times.
Never under-estimate the power of getting on a bus (or plane/boat/train) as a team (coaches, managers and swimmers only) and competing away from home. Travelling, eating and staying away from home together builds bonds and lifelong memories. You don’t need a big budget either. If need be you can car pool, camp and self-cater.
Online Virtual Meet
Host a time trial (this works great for Long Distance Freestyle events) and partner with a club/team in an exotic far flung corner of the country or globe. All times are submitted and collated in the virtual world and prizes can be team caps for the brother/sister club. This is the new age version of the postal meet and pen pal.
It’s a fact that as the world has become more “connected” we are less likely to be actively engaged in our local community. Why not host a meet whereby no awards are given out and instead entry fees are directed to a local charity group. You can also engage sponsors, hold raffles, a bake sale and invite your beneficiaries to be there. Giving back is a great example to our children and a meet focused on “times and smiles” rather than “medals and point-scores” can produce some great results.
So when you are writing your next annual plan or helping to plan your regional meet calendar do consider something that’s a little “out of the box”. Better yet ask the swimmers themselves – they’ll be sure to tell you what they do and don’t enjoy.
This article has been previously published by the Australian Swimming Coaches & Teachers Association.