12 Tips for Parents about College vs. Club Meets

by SwimSwam 39

November 06th, 2016 Club, College, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

After 15 years as an age group swim mom, this is my first year as a parent of a college swimmer. I love both roles, but there are big differences between the two. Especially at swim meets.

I’ve discovered 12 things that are different at college dual meets:


Parents sit in the stands above the pool. There is no way down to the pool deck.


They won’t ask you to time.


You aren’t driving your swimmers to meets or staying with them in hotels.


The meets are really, really short.


You can’t ask your swimmer after each event, “How did that feel?” or “What did the coach say?”


It’s rare to see parents make spectacles of themselves.


There’s no snack bar and no breakfast burritos.


You can’t check on your swimmer to see if he gets to the blocks on time. Or needs water or gatorade.


You’ll watch your “too cool teenager” enthusiastically yell during the team cheer.


Your focus will be on team scores. Not your individual swimmer’s times.


No parent volunteers are required. No set up or tear down, either.


You won’t even think about talking to the head coach about how your swimmer is doing during a meet.

What differences do you see between college and age group swim meets?

Elizabeth WickhamElizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog: http://bleuwater.me/.


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6 years ago

You forgot about tailgating!!

6 years ago

Be prepared to coordinate parent T-shirts, swimmer gifts, and signs for the championship meet and don’t be surprised if you are asked to wear body paint for finals!

6 years ago

All true! As a former college swimmer from the 1980’s, I had not attended a conference dual meet in 20 years prior to taking my then Age Group swimming kids to an event at my Big 10 alma mater few years ago. I was stunned to find the stands full of parents & fans from both teams all dressed in school colors leading cheers. In my era, we were lucky to get a half dozen friends – mostly from other “Olympic” sports to show up! All the parents were very polite and made us feel at home.

6 years ago

I agree with all except being asked to time. Our booster club gets money from the university for every timer we come up with for a meet. Oh and the last meet I was at I paid $4.50 for a diet coke, so I guess #7 should say there are no “cheap” snack bars!

Jeff Olsen
6 years ago

As a former college coach and swimmer, I would say 5, 7 and 12 aren’t necessarily true.
5) Though time between event sis shorter, there are breaks during which I would encourage parental support for their swimmers.
7) Team scores are a result of — not a replacement for — fast individual and relay swims.
12) A coach’s time is VERY limited during the meet, but relationships with parents are VERY important and a mom or dad should always feel like the coach is available to discuss a swimmer’s progress.

Just my 2 cents’ worth.

6 years ago

Depending on the level of the meet, you may/will be asked to help as a button timer, or order of finish assistant — our dual meets usually have four licensed/hired refs, and even at conference championships each team is asked to provide a couple timer volunteers for each session.

6 years ago

#12 false

6 years ago

And a complete apples to oranges comparison.