Ask Swim Mom: Should Meets Be Electronic Free?

by SwimSwam Contributors 9

March 12th, 2020 Swim Mom

Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham

Hi Elizabeth,

I would like to ask you about your thoughts on swimmers using cell phones during swim meets.

At the beginning of this Winter season, our swim club went ‘Electronic Free.’ As the head swim coach, I have personally seen positive changes. There are some older swimmers and helicopter parents, of course, who challenge the rule. Swimmers may listen to music, which I am not opposed to.

I wanted your thoughts on the benefits on swimmers (or team) being electronic free, reasons why club teams are changing or looking into becoming electronic free during meets and anything relevant to why a team should entertain the thought.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.


Coach Edie

Dear Coach Edie,

I think this is a great topic and it will be interesting to get feedback from the swim community. I recently heard about a team that is looking into becoming electronic free. The issue was some of the team’s tweens taking selfies and photos in the locker room, which breaks privacy laws in some states and facilities. The swimmers were being suspended or kicked off the team and new rules about cell phones are being discussed. An electronic free pool zone would definitely solve this problem.

Our kids started out in age group swimming when smartphones weren’t an issue. Most kids didn’t have them, especially when they were young. The kids sat together under pop-up tents and played games like cards, “Catchphrase” and invented word games. They looked so happy having fun together. As they got older and smartphones became more common, I watched as they sat next to their teammates, focused on their phones, but not communicating directly with each other. Cyberbullying occurred on my kids’ high school swim team—and it was all done through smartphones at meets. I miss those earlier days where everyone looked happier and more like a team.

I asked my daughter if they had rules about cell phones during college meets. She said there were no rules against cell phones, but at dual meets they didn’t have time for them. They needed to warm up, race and warm down in a short period. Plus, she said they were too busy cheering for their teammates when they weren’t in the pool. The only time they used cell phones was during longer meets like midseason or conference meets.

Personally, I like the idea of meets being electronic free with the exception of music. But, I wonder how hard it would be to enforce this? The past 10 to 15 years has seen a dramatic change in everyone’s cell phone usage—for both children and parents. I think it would be great for everyone to be more in the moment at swim meets.

Thanks for bringing up this topic.


What are your thoughts on cell phone use at meets? Do you think banning cell phones at meets would be helpful to swimmers and the team? In what ways?

If you have a question for Elizabeth Wickham, please email her at [email protected]

Elizabeth 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.

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1 year ago

Looking at Meet Mobile on one’s phone certainly adds value. It’s especially useful in immediately providing all the splits, helpful in longer races and relays, and in providing accurate score updates.

1 year ago

I would also like to say that the same thing applys to hs swimming (as college swimming). In high school swimming, since the dual meets are about team scores, you dont even really think about using your phone because of how quick the meet is and how exciting it is to watch your teamates race. I feel in club meets, its more common that kids are on their phone because the meet is really long and a lot of the heats do not have their teammates in the race so they dont want to watch. It’s tough to have kids watch 8 hests of 500 frees.

1 year ago

See it’s cool to see this thread. Our coach doesn’t allow phones during a meet for the fact that while you are playing on your phone you could be cheering for your team. I agree with it because it gets us excited to swim seeing our teammates swimming. And not trapped on social media.

crazy fan
1 year ago

When my son was on our club team the swimmers had to put their phones in a coaches team backpack for big meets like Sectionals, Futures, and Junior Nationals. He wanted the kids to cheer for their teammates and act more like a team, instead of a group of individuals. He also wanted to prep them for college racing. At one of their Junior Nat. meets, one of his teammates won an event and broke the pool record (at Texas, that’s hard to do). As that swimmer was being interviewed by SwimSwam and Swimming World Magazine the interviewers asked, “I bet your phone has been going crazy from friends and family after breaking the pool record”, the swimmer replied “I… Read more »

avid swim fan
Reply to  crazy fan
1 year ago

Without even searching for the interview, avid swim fans recognize this as Ryan Hoffer, after his 41.23 100 free at 2015 juniors.

Old coach dude
1 year ago

I guess at the end of the day you need to pulse your team on what they believe they need. Swimming is a sport, but depending on the team it can also be a business. In either regard the parents are paying for their kids’ time with the team so they are your customers. Are you the lone coach who is driving this initiative is your coaching staff displaying a united front? That makes a huge difference in how you would handle it and how you would integrate your new plan into the teams rule book. As one of the other posters mentioned, you can always chose your battles and select certain level of meets to be electronic free. After… Read more »

Todd DeLusant
1 year ago

Oh please don’t get me started on this topic, specifically when it comes to the high school and college swimmers! Electronic devices for music, I’m all in but when those heads go down and those fingers start moving, NOPE!. Nothing worst or more disappointing to me than seeing an event or heat going on and teammates not engaged or supporting each other because they are sitting down and on social media or texting. While some try to be sneaky about it, many don’t. I’m okay with taking a quick look at Meet Mobile for splits or maybe even reviewing a video of your last swim. To me that’s a huge instant benefit and analysis that a coach might not be… Read more »

1 year ago

So in essence;
1. No electronics allowed. Ban them!
2. No tech suits allowed. Ban them!

What’s next? No heated pools allowed (at least I coped with a 70-degree pool as a kid, today’s children should be no different!! Right??)?

There are only two possible explanations your kind of people are allowed to voice your opinion: you are simply put on earth to bore the rest of us to death. Or you had mothers of the kind who forced you to complete a training session in a 60-degree lido.

I don’t know which one pisses me off the most.

1 year ago

Just ask any teacher how hard this is to police when kids are in the same room. It is much harder when they are roaming around a pool deck snapping, tweeting, posting. I did have to laugh when a kid dropped their phone in the dive well once. I think for coaches the phone is less of a distraction and more of a tool (looking up times, checking attendance, checking meet mobile for results, etc). I think a better thing to police would be the warm-up/warm-down pool where it is a safety issue when kids play around or just sit on the wall.