Swim Meet Etiquette for Parents

At swim meets, swimmers and coaches have to follow certain rules and guidelines. But did you know that there’s swim meet etiquette for parents, too?

While some of these are actual rules that swim parents need to follow, others are helpful guidelines to be a better swim parent. And help you avoid any blunders that could otherwise make people annoyed with you.

Related article: Parents Guide to Swim Meets

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Image with a grayscale background of a pool with swimmers racing in lanes. A faded blue box with a black border is in the middle of the picture. White text reads: Swim Meet Etiquette for Parents

1. Don’t go on the Deck

We will note that this rule has its expectations based on the type of pool the meet is at. Please check the meet information for details on this rule.

At most swim meets, parents aren’t allowed on the deck unless they’re volunteering to time. This is to help limit the number of people on the pool deck, which is usually pretty crowded as is. And it can also be for safety reasons, too.

If the pool area doesn’t have separate seating for spectators, you may be allowed on the deck. However, you’re not allowed to stand or sit directly behind the starting blocks.

2. Be Quiet Before the Start

This isn’t just proper meet etiquette for parents (and swimmers). It’s also a rule. 

Swimmers and officials alike rely on hearing the electronic beep for the start in order to start their race. If a swimmer can’t hear this, they’ll either leave the block late or in some cases, early. 

Because of this, it’s crucial that you’re quiet the moment the official states: ‘Take your mark.’ It’s even better if you’re quiet when the swimmers step up on the block.

While noise is allowed, such as conversation and shuffling around, you shouldn’t be shouting or cheering. If it’s too loud just before a start, the officials will hold the race and ask for everyone to be quiet.

3. No Flash Photography before/at the Start

Much like the first two items on the list, this is a rule at all swim meets.

While photography is allowed (except behind the blocks), flash photography before the start is prohibited. Starts use a combination of sound and light to notify the swimmer of the start of a race.

As you can imagine, using flash photography can cause problems before a start. 🙂

Most meets allow flash photography following the start when swimmers are already in the water. But a good rule of thumb to follow is to turn off the flash whenever swimmers are on the block.

For swimmers, this rule can be the difference between a clean start and a false start. So please be sure to check your camera setting before snapping that picture.

4. Don’t Stand in Front of the Railing

Part of swim meet etiquette for parents is being respectful of those around you. This includes before and after the meet, and during the swim meet as well.

One thing to be aware of is where you’re standing when you’re watching a race or videoing it. If you’re up in spectator seating and are standing by a railing, you might be blocking the view for the parents behind you.

Related article: 9 Words Swim Parents Should Know

If you can, try to stand and watch from the very top part of the bleachers. This will give you a wider and better angle when filming. And it also keeps you from blocking the view for everyone else 🙂

Some pools will post signs about standing in certain areas in the spectator section. Be sure to look for this if you plan to stand up and video a race.

5. Watch Your Kids

Both swimmers and non-swimmers! 

Kids can get excited and energetic at swim meets. Especially if it’s their first one! But that doesn’t mean that you should let them run wild and unsupervised. 

Pool decks are slippery and leaving your kids unattended can lead to injury. They can also cause distractions or get in the way of other swimmers or parents if they’re playing around. 

And while some swimmers, coaches, and parents might find this behavior cute or even funny, others might not. It can make it hard for some swimmers to focus on their race if your child is running around.

6. Respect Other Parent’s Belongings 

It’s not uncommon for swim meets to be crowded. And depending on the pool area, space can be limited. For parents and swimmers alike! 

But limited space doesn’t give way for parents to be disrespectful of other’s belongings. 

Don’t move belongings or chairs that aren’t yours. And don’t take a spot that’s been saved. Take the time to ask if a seat is saved or if you can take it. It might seem frustrating, but staying respectful of other swim parents and their belongings makes for a more enjoyable swim meet.

You wouldn’t like it if someone moved your bag or took your seat. So don’t do the same to someone else 🙂

7. Give the Officials Space

Volunteers and officials are the unsung heroes of swim meets. And while we like to dog on the officials for how seriously they protect the area that they watch, they have an important job. One that swim parents should respect.

If the pool allows you on deck, be sure to watch the areas that are marked off for the officials. Typically, this is a rope barricade near the edge of the pool.

Even with a rope barricade in place, you can always cheer and video your swimmer from over the roped-off area whenever the official isn’t near that spot. But when they come back around again, make sure you move out of their way. 

8. Don’t Argue with the Official

No one likes to have their child get a DQ (disqualification) for a bad turn, false start, or an illegal stroke. But it happens, unfortunately.

And it’s tempting to want to argue with the official who made the call. But resist and ignore that temptation. Arguing with the official doesn’t change the results and can actually get you removed from the swim meet if you cause too large of a scene.

That said, let the coach do their job and speak with the official regarding the DQ. 

9. Practice Good Sportsmanship 

It should go without saying, but as a swim parent, you should put your best self forward. Good sportsmanship isn’t just limited to swimmers and coaches. Parents should act on it, too.

No one likes watching or listening to a parent with an inflated ego or someone who constantly puts down others. It’s in bad taste and it’s lousy swim meet etiquette for parents. 

Instead, practice good sportsmanship as often as you can. Some ways to practice good sportsmanship are:

  • Congratulate other swimmers for good swims
  • Be cordial with other swim parents, even if their swimmer beat yours
  • Don’t be negative 
  • Steer away from trash talk
  • Stay humble 

These are only a few examples of ways that you can be a better parent at meets. And while you might think that no one will notice, we promise you that more people notice when you realize. 

Related article: How Can I be a Good Swim Parent?

You’re also setting an example for your child, too. So be sure to show good sportsmanship and model a humble attitude 🙂

10. Thank the Officials, Timers, and Volunteers

We feel that this isn’t done enough but thank everyone who helped the meet run smoothly. Make it one of your New Year’s Resolutions!

Let the timers know that you appreciate their efforts and thank the officials for their time. Without them and others, we wouldn’t be able to run our swim meets.

It’s a little gesture but it’s still an appreciated one!

11. Clean up After Yourself

At the end of the meet, do everyone a favor and pick up after yourself. That means that you recycle any plastic water bottles (better yet, bring a reusable water bottle!) or heat sheets, pick up anything that you brought with you, and throw away your trash. 

Not only is this good swim meet etiquette, but it’s the right thing to do. At the end of each meet, someone has to clean up and you shouldn’t make their job harder for them. Especially as you’re a guest at the facility. 

As always, to happy swimming!


Bonus Content

Healthy Swim Habits for Parents: As a parent, it’s easy to want to get involved in your child’s swimming. But it’s important to develop healthy habits as a swim parent.

Things You Learn as a New Swim Parent: It’s your child’s first year of swimming and you’re feeling lost. Welcome to being a new swim parent! Here are 16 things you’ll learn as a new swim parent.

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