How To Keep Timers Awake During Swim Meets

Courtesy of Dave Geyer:

I was at our local swimming championship this past weekend.  My athletes were done for the session and we just had the younger age groups to get through in the last event of prelims.   Then I heard the voice from above “we’re looking for a relief timer in lane 1”.  I figured, well…let’s keep this meet rolling and took a seat.  Shortly after that the voice above boomed “we’re looking for a competent timer in lane 1”.   Funny guys… real funny.

Seriously, we’ve all heard it, we’ve all fought it.  The dreaded “this is our first call for timers”.   If you’re playing host to a meet or visiting a meet, the majority of the time you need to provide timers and it can be a struggle.   We also realize that we can have very competitive parents in the stands that can be better served channeling that drive AWAY from their own children.  Fear no more….with a little creativity and some organization, finding parents for timers will now be the easiest volunteer spot to fill with these simple and fun ways to create a buzz

Quarters:  No…not that game of quarters.   Tell your parents to bring a roll of quarters for the meet or supply the roll of quarters yourself (is it worth 40 or 50 dollars a meet for you not to have to deal with finding timers???)   With two parents behind the block they “bet” on their stopwatch accuracy.  Closest to the pad time gets a quarter.  If you’re on your game and you get the time accurate…BOOM $1.00 win.   The parents can get creative within their own games too.  Feeling confident?  On a streak?  Won 8 in a row…thrown down a double or nothing option.  Puts you up $4.00 or keeps your competition in the game!

Don’t want to go that far, just keep tally of wins and losses for the session.   Loser buys lunch or dinner.  Keep it simple!

Want to take this further you say?  Create a championship for the year to encourage continued timing.   Have the parents keep their win-loss record through the meet and tally that up for each and every meet.  The parent that secured the most head to head wins (against a parent from your club) can win something.  A gift card, dinner out, free meet fees for a year.  Limitless opportunities.

Again…why stop there.  Make an award!  The Stanley Cup of Timing.   Each year, engrave the champions timers name on the trophy, plaque, stein…whatever you use.  At the end of the next season, it gets passed on to the next year’s winner.

Keep on Swimming my Friends!!!

Article originally published in 2013

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patrick w brundage

Awesome ideas. We’ve only tried bribery of cold drinks, shade and free snacks (and good ones!), but it’s still a bear to get timers.


I’ve timed most meets I’ve attended, and that’s uncountable. To all in stands–it really is the best seat in the house. There’s nothing quite like timing fly at a college meet. Give it a try!

Swim dad

We don’t have this problem. Our officials Chair has the meets fully staffed weeks before the event starts. Very well organized.

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