How to Prepare for a Swim Meet

Swimmers racing at a swim meet

Swim meets are big moments for new and young swimmers. Your child has practiced for weeks, or even months, to get their fastest times, and a swim meet is their chance to show exactly how fast they’ve become. The tricky part is that meets have their own community and quirks, so it’s important to know how to prepare for a swim meet.

Getting ready for a swim meet involves not only exercising and helping your child make sure their body is ready, but also making sure that they have the right gear, food, and mentality to make it through the hours-long event. 

What to Eat Before a Swim Meet

You are what you eat, and what you eat before a swim meet—or what your child eats before a swim meet—can impact the energy that they have to swim. Eating healthy and smart before they compete is a must so they can feel their best and not be worried about being hungry or having an upset stomach. 

Your child’s dinner the night before should be something that is filling, but not excessive. You might hear advice about carb loading, or any other specific diets, but that is only helpful at the highest level of swimming competitions and aren’t typically useful for new swimmers going to their first meet. Instead, focus on getting your child healthy food that they are accustomed to and enjoy. The night before the meet is not the time for you to get adventurous and try out the new spicy curry that you’re family’s never had before. 

What to Do the Night Before

Most meets start early in the day and last for hours. If you have to drive to the meet, you might have to help your child get up before the sun is up, which means you want to make your morning as easy as possible. There are a few things you can get ready the night before your child’s first meet to help both of you prepare. 

Pack Your Bags

Make sure to double-check and pack all bags. You should include at least two towels, two goggles, and two swim caps. It’s always a good idea to double up on these essential items in case something goes wrong and your child needs a backup. With towels, more is always better. Some people will bring more than five towels to a meet just to make sure they always have a dry towel ready to use.

Pack your child’s competition swimsuit in their bag, or set it aside so they can change into in the morning if they aren’t going to change at the meet. You don’t want your child to have to walk around in a tight competition suit for hours, so pack them a pair of comfortable sweats to wear on the trip to and from the meet as well as between events. This will help your child stay relaxed and warm between events and will keep their muscles in peak condition. 

You should also consider what your child will do when they’re not racing. You might want to bring them some music to listen to, a book to read, or a movie to watch to keep them relaxed and entertained between events. 

Protect Yourself

There is nothing more painful than sitting in the sun all day and turning into a tomato. If your child’s meet is at an outdoor pool, bring sunscreen and consider how you are going to protect them (and yourself) from getting burned. A hat or umbrella can be a good call, and depending on the pool’s facilities you can even bring a small tent or shade structure to protect you and your child while you wait for their race. 


Your child will get thirsty (and so will you). and drinking fountain tap water won’t always hit the spot. The night before their first meet, put a few bottles of water or sports drinks into your freezer. These will defrost throughout the day and stay cold during the entire event. 

Avoid energy drinks. Drinks that are full of caffeine will only cause energy levels to rise and then crash, which will mess with their performance during the race. 

Prepare Snacks

Set aside snacks that your child likes and that will sit well in their stomach. These should also be snacks that will give them sustained energy rather than sugary spikes of energy which will make them feel sick and crabby. Crackers, nuts, and fruits are always a good start as you pack your cooler. 


The night before a meet, your child might feel nervous or anxious, but they need their sleep. If you both need to wake up early to get to an early morning meet, try helping your child go to sleep earlier to get a full night’s rest. 

What to Do the Day of the Meet

On the day of your child’s meet, make sure to go slow and don’t rush through anything. If your child feels rushed or worried at any point, take the time to help them relax. If the two of you are stressed or rushing you put yourself at a bigger risk of making a mistake and forgetting something important. Take the extra time to go slow so that you feel comfortable with what you’re doing as you help your child prepare.  


Make sure to have your child eat a healthy breakfast the morning of the meet. Don’t weigh their tummy down with eggs, hash browns, or a stack of pancakes with a side of bacon and sausage. Instead, serve a simple breakfast of cereal and fruit. 

Set Up Camp

When you get to the pool, find your child’s team and coach. Oftentimes each team will set up a home base where everyone will stay together in one corner or at one part of the bleachers. Check-in with your child’s coach and help them get comfortable so you can cheer them from the sidelines.

If you are at an outdoor meet, help your child apply their sunscreen (and don’t forget your own). Remember to reapply it throughout the day so you’re both protected from the sun. 

Stretch and Warm Up

Before your child gets into the water, they will need to stretch. Your child’s coach will likely help them stretch and get ready so they don’t have stiff or sore muscles before their race. If they have the opportunity to do warm-up laps they will want to go slow and use it as a warm up so they don’t tire themselves out. 

Get to Know the Meet

Each meet has its particular rules and order. Some meets will have pre-assigned lanes and heats for swimmers, while others will require your child to go to a clerk to be assigned their lane assignments. Help your child find out what they will be required to do to get to their race. If you are totally lost, talk to their coach or teammates. If your child is very young, the coach will likely help your child throughout the meet. 

Race Time

When it comes time for your child to race, they will get a heat and lane assignment. When they get to their lane they will stay back from the water until it is their heat. They need to make sure they stay out of the water until the heat before them is completely finished and out of the water. When the gun goes off, your child can dive in and begin their race. 

Once they are done with their race, your child should stay in the water until all racers are finished. Even if they’re doing a long-distance race and have to wait for a few minutes in the water, it is polite to wait in the water until all racers finish. 

Pack Up and Go Home

Once your child has finished their last event, you can choose to stay and cheer on their teammates with them, or you can pack up and head home. Some events will provide results at the end of the meet, but at some meets you don’t get official results and prizes until a week later. Make sure to check with your child’s coach about what they would like the team to do. 

When it is time to go home, clean up everything that you brought to the pool. Be sure to throw away any food, drink, or snack wrappers, and make sure to take all clothes, electronics, books, and water bottles home with you. 

If you need help getting your child ready for their first swim meet or want to introduce your child to the wonderful world of swimming, contact SwimJim today and get started.