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How to Organize a Swim Meet: A Step-by-Step Approach

Hosting swim meets is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your team or sports organization. You can make a splash—quite literally—by becoming the authority within your region, developing a reputation for high-quality swim meets, and raising funds through entry fees. 

When you can arrange events that meet the standards of national governing bodies (such as U.S.A.Swimming) and the requirements of the LSC in your area, the benefits can be even more significant. However, that reputation and rise in fundraising power need a strong foundation built on a thorough understanding of how to organize a swim meet that everyone looks forward to attending.

Whether you’re a new leader, your group hasn’t hosted a swim meet for a while, or you want to take a more structured approach to running events, start your process by taking a big-picture overview of the swim meet planning process. Learn what the overall process looks like in seven steps. Then, you can zero in and break down complex preparatory steps into a set playbook that fits your needs.

How to Organize a Swim Meet From Start to Finish: Seven Crucial Steps

Hosting any big event can be a challenge, but sufficient planning and support can streamline the process and result in a well-organized meet. As you move through each step, you’ll see how they fit together and why each one is essential.

Step #1: Discuss and Clarify Your Objectives

First, you and other committed decision-makers in your group need to define goals— why you’re holding a swim meet and what you want to get out of the events. Some common objectives are:

  • Hosting “angel events” near the start of the season so new swimmers can learn the ropes
  • Building a spirit of collaboration in your region, as taking turns hosting can help all participants succeed
  • Developing your organization or school’s reputation as a swimming leader
  • Raising funds for year-long financial goals, such as state competitions, travel, entry fees, and equipment
  • Ensuring your team’s participation: sometimes, the best way to help your swimmers qualify for events is to host them yourself, which minimizes transportation obstacles

Depending on the swim meet, you may have one or several objectives. As you lay out your goals, you’ll also start thinking about event size, league requirements, and fees.

Related: The Best Swim Software for Swim Meets: What to Consider

Step #2: Set the Timeline

You’ve clarified goals, so now it’s time to lay down the foundational details for your swim meet. These details include:

  • uncheckedThe event date: Schedule your swim meet for a specific date based on your organization’s requirements, existing or conflicting events, and dates other schools or teams are hosting their own swim meets. Finalizing the date early can minimize the risk of conflicts and poor attendance.
  • uncheckedThe dates and deadlines around registration: Your teams—and your competitors—will need time to arrange their schedules, so be sure to set a registration deadline that gives them that opportunity but also allows you to finalize the number of participants at least two weeks in advance. This will give you sufficient time to plan all the entries, logistics, and volunteer assignments. 
  • uncheckedThe prep work elements: Establish a timeline for completing essential tasks, such as recruiting and signing up volunteers to run the events, securing a pool rental or scheduling the space, getting administrator permission if you work in a school, and so on. Juggling all of these details can be tricky, so create a checklist with specific due dates to stay on track.

Once you’ve built out your timeline, you have a basic plan for what you need to do and when you need to do it. The next step is to get the help you need to see it through.

Step #3:  Build Your Team to Make the Magic Happen

You need a lot of people to run a successful swim meet. Even with comprehensive swim meet management software and fully automated timers to make running your swim meets much simpler, you’ll need people to monitor the swimmers, run the tables, coordinate dozens of different tasks, and check people in and out.

At this stage, start recruiting both volunteers and the people who can bring more volunteers with them. Some strategies include:

  • Encourage a culture of volunteering among your participating families.
  • Have student volunteers from adjacent sports or honors associations sign up, especially if they can log service hours for participating.
  • Reach out to parent organizations to have adult volunteers.
  • Consider what volunteer requirements you might have for entries—for example, you might have entering organizations bring a required number of volunteers based on the number of participants.

Ideally, you’ll be able to start registering specific volunteers, especially for technical or knowledge-based roles like judges, safety marshals, and referees. You can spend the next few phases letting your number of volunteers grow in the background.

Step #4: Book the Venue and Get the Equipment You Need

Ideally, you’re still three or four months out from the event. This gives you ample time to book the pool space you need, either from a municipal natatorium or at a public school. While this task may be simpler if you have access to the high school with an on-site pool, there can still be delays and conflicts—so get your swim meet on the books as soon as possible.

During this phase, also consider the equipment you’ll need. This includes tools such as certified timers, safety equipment, and gear for your own participants. You’ll know approximately how big the event will be at this stage, so you can order accordingly. 

If your organization doesn’t already have swim meet management software, this is also the last opportunity you’ll have to explore different options and commit to the most effective meet management platform. Ideally, your platform will facilitate easy participant signup, real-time push notifications and updates, and the integrations you need to manage results on the day of the swim meet. Consider investing in comprehensive swim league software to streamline the entire process, from registration to results management.

Step #5: Set Up Online Registration for Competitors and Volunteers

Once the swim meet location is booked, you have enough volunteers secured to help manage the various meet elements, and all the moving pieces are in order, publish your event details and spread the word to competing swim organizations around you. 

Related: Meet Maestro Demystifies Meet Day Mania

Give coaches plenty of time to register participants, submit online payments, and organize transportation to your event. The more lead time they have, the better they can plan for your event and bring as many swimmers as possible. As entries start to come in, grow your pool of available volunteers to meet demand. 

Step 6: Review Your Progress to Ensure It Complies With League or Organizational Requirements

Next, take stock of your progress. Get out the current year’s rulebooks for the type of swim meet you’re running and review the requirements to make sure the swimmers are properly qualified, you have certified professionals in the necessary roles, and everything complies with the outlined standards. 

Aim to perform this check at least one month out from the event so you have plenty of time to correct any errors and hire qualified officials. Also, make sure everyone’s entry forms, insurance forms, and membership criteria are in order. This is especially crucial if you’re also a coach; don’t let your own team’s needs fall into the background.

Step #7: Prepare the Schedule and Program

Once the registration period closes, you can lock in the exact itinerary and schedule. Ideally, you’ll have software that can automatically generate the meet timeline for you. If not, give yourself ample time to do this manually, and don’t allow any late entries that will break the schedule.

This is the last real “phase” before the actual event begins. You may want to hold an afternoon or morning before training session for volunteers, so they are aware of their roles and the specific rules they need to follow.

Make the Details of Organizing a Meet Easy With Swim Meet Management Software 

Organizing a swim meet is entirely different from running a swim meet on event day. This introductory guide helps new administrators understand what goes on behind the scenes so they know what steps to take for a successful meet. Start your planning phases well in advance of the swim season and, when possible, before the school year even starts. 

Simplify your planning process by investing in comprehensive swim meet management software. The right tools and top features of swim software can guide you through the entire process and provide the resources you need to register participants, organize funds, record results, and create ongoing records for every swimmer. 

At SwimTopia, our software solutions are built to make even the most complex swim meets simple. Contact us or try it for free and see how it can help your next swim meet be a big win.