New Season / New Parent Orientation FAQ

There is a ton of information on this website including additional FAQs.

If you have any questions about this information you can ask your coach or reach out to other Waterloo parents. We have a wonderful group of parents and they are a great resource.


How come some people seem to know everything that’s going on but I’m always having to ask questions?
Swim meets are complicated until you understand the flow. There are a lot of moving parts to understand. Relax and you will be a pro before you know it. One thing that will help is if you read the meet information that is posted on TeamUnify for each meet. It’s usually an attached .pdf or .doc listed right below the date/time/location of the meet. This document will explain exactly how the meet will be organized. Try to ask the coach your questions before the day of the meet. Once the day comes, the coaches are focused on the swimmers and aren’t always available to answer questions. Also, try to sit near other Waterloo parents and ask them for help. It’s more fun that way and you get to meet other really cool parents too!
What is Team Unify?
The portal through which you register for meets. You will receive notifications when meets are “open” for registration and reminders about deadlines. You can make changes to your selections up to the deadline date. You are responsible for paying the meet fees for the events you registered for whether you actually swim or not. Meet fees include per event costs as well as additional team costs. Meets can cost anywhere from $50-$100+ to enter and they are billed to your WLOO account.
Our year round program will provide a positive environment for your child to learn and grow. When you register for lessons, we hold that spot for you every week. If a change is needed, please let us know and we will do our best to make that happen, based on availability. We do ask that you limit your changes to four times per year.

For children, we recommend once per week lessons. Consistent attendance and repetition in the lessons are crucial for success. Of course children attend more than once per week, but it is not critical for their learning to swim.

What events should I register my swimmer for?
If you are on the Waterloo Swim team your swimmer is ready and able to swim any event available to them at registration. It is recommended that swimmers try every event, short and long, even if it’s not their favorite stroke. If you ever have questions about what events to pick have your swimmer talk to their coach about it and get their input. You can always email the coach or submit a comment during registration.
What do I bring to a meet?
A lot of it depends on the venue. For outdoor meets you will need a tent and lawn chairs. Indoor meets may have stadium seating available, however some places don’t have enough so tents and chairs outside are still needed. The meet information will give details about the venue, but veteran parents are the best to ask about a pool that is new to you. Be sure to pack healthy snacks and drinks for your swimmer. There may be a concession stand for you, but it probably won’t have much to pick from, so pack some food for yourself! Your swimmer will need deck clothes and shoes to wear between events to keep their muscles and feet warm. They need multiple towels as well. The coaches will explain this to the swimmers. You will not be allowed on deck with your swimmer and in some cases your swimmer will have a hard time getting off deck, so now’s the time to start training them on meet eating.
Does my child have to show up for warm-up if their event is several hours later in the meet?
Yes, unless their coach gives them specific instructions to show up at a different time.
What are the different time standards and what are the used for?
There are different time standards for different meets. The typical standards used are the USA Swimming Motivational Times. B, BB, A, AA, AAA, and AAAA. These standards allow for meets to be catered to swimmers of like abilities for time purposes as well as competitive purposes. It is important that you pay attention to the time standard requirements in the meet information. All of the current time standards can be found on the WLOO site under Helpful Swimming Forms and Links.
Should I register my swimmer for every meet?
Short answer is yes, if possible. Long answer is if your schedule permits it is best to swim at as many meets as you can to achieve better time standards. As the seasons progress the time standard requirements get higher and higher, therefore if you haven’t swam any of the early meets you won’t be able to register for the later ones. More importantly, your swimmers practice really heard nearly every day and the only way they see the fruits of that labor is to race!


What is circle-in or positive check-in?

Some distance events (typically 400IM, 400/500Free, 800/1000Free, 1500/1650Free) require the swimmer indicate if they are indeed swimming that event on the day of the event. This is done by circling or initialing next to their name on a list posted on deck in the morning of the day that event is scheduled. Why is this required? It helps the admin create a true heat sheet for the sake of filling all lanes and potentially saving time in the meet. There is always a deadline time to circle-in/positive check-in which is typically in the morning during or shortly after warm-up. It is a good idea to do this as soon as you get to the pool so you don’t forget after warm up. The meet information will say what the deadline time is. Do not rely on the coach or another teammate to do it. And…it’s usually on deck so the parent cannot get to the table to do it. It is 100% the swimmer’s responsibility.

Why do I need to be a timer?
Swim meets can’t run without volunteers. Every pool and every meet requires dozens of different volunteers. Different from summer league, most clubs do not have a sign up process so it is incumbent on the parents to volunteer at the meet. A team is usually assigned a number of timer volunteer slots based on the size of their team. You don’t have to time the whole meet. You can group up with several parents and take shifts. The slot just has to be covered or the meet won’t run. It is known and widely discussed which teams don’t volunteer and often times that will impact what meets teams get invited to what meets.
What is a Chase Start or Flyover Start?
Chase Starts are used in long course meets to help speed up the meet. Swimmers will start from both ends of the pool in a staggering pattern. The deck referees and starters at both ends work closely together to orchestrate this format. What the swimmer needs to know is which end of the pool to report to and to exit the pool immediately upon finishing to get out of the way of the swimmer behind them who will be turning. Fly-over Starts are also used to speed up a meet. Swimmers in the previous heat stay in the water until the next heat has started. Then they exit the pool. This format is not used for backstroke events. What the swimmer needs to know is to stay in the water and stay still under the blocks until the swimmer after them dives in.
What is a Finals Only Event?
Often in Prelims/Finals meets, certain events will be designated as Finals Only events. They are typically relays and long distance events. The meet information will list all events that are Finals Only events for that meet. Finals Only events are usually contested during the Prelims (morning) portion of the meet, however, some meets offer the option for the top seeded (usually 8 or 16) swimmers/relays to swim in the Finals(evening) portion of the meet. It is Waterloo policy that if your swimmer or relay team has the opportunity to swim in the evening finals they will, unless otherwise discussed with your coach.
What else is different about distance events?
Aside from the event usually being a Finals Only event and having the requirement to circle in or positive check in, distance events require that the swimmer provide their own timer AND counter. The meet information will explain which events require these. Before the day of the meet the swimmer needs to have identified who will do these jobs for them. Do not wait until right before the event to round up these people. Identify who will count and who will time. Discuss with the swimmer what type of counting they prefer (low to high, high to low, in the middle, left or right side of the lane, etc.). If they haven’t used a stopwatch or counting cards before, watch/shadow the previous heats to learn. Make sure those folks are in their positions ahead of time and are ready to go. Not having a plan in place ahead of time causes unnecessary stress on the swimmer(and the parent).
What if something external happened to cause my swimmer to mess up, miss or get DQ’d from their race?
If you believe there was external interference affecting your swimmers performance, have the swimmer notify the coach immediately. In some circumstances, a heat can be repeated or a swimmer allowed to swim again depending on the level of interference. It’s important that the swimmer tell the coach what happened right away because sometimes the coach is not aware of the interference. The coach must be notified because they are the ones that will advocate for the swimmer. The parent cannot do it.
Some examples are:

  • The timer made a mistake and told them not to swim or to swim early
  • The speaker on their block wasn’t working
  • There was a flash or loud noise that caused the swimmers to startle or pause
  • The starter called out the wrong event/heat
What are time trials?
These are events typically scheduled after the regular session or between prelims and finals. They are separate from the regularly entered events and are paid for on deck the day of the time trials. To register for time trials the swimmer must show proof of membership with USA Swimming by either having their DeckPass Ap open to their badge, their actual USAS badge or the official coaches roster with the USAS ID. Time trials are usually used to try to attain goal times right before championship season starts. The meet information will have all of the different requirements for the time trial session and each meet will have different rules. Please note that time trial events usually require the swimmer to provide their own timer (and counter for distance) for each of their trial events. They are run very fast and with many different events combined.
Why can’t I go on deck just to talk to my child for a minute?
This is a USA Swimming safety rule and insurance restriction.


What is the difference between a Finals meet and a Prelim/Finals or championship meet?
Finals only meets are set up as simple meets where swimmers come, swim and leave. Some meets are set up in a Prelims/Finals format. These meets are typically championship meets. That means that the top swimmers (usually 16 but may be a different amount) in the Prelim round of each event are invited back to swim the race again for a chance to get a better time and to earn points for their team. These are a big deal to the swimmers, coaches and teams. They get their name called out and lots of recognition for making the finals. They are very exciting and fun to watch.
What is the difference between A and B Finals?
When 16 swimmers are invited back, the top 8 are placed in the A Final. The next 8 are placed in the B Final. Swimmers in the A Final are seeded based on their times from the Prelim race (same for B Finals). Swimmers in the A Final are awarded places 1-8 based on their results in the A Finals race. Swimmers in the B Final are awarded places 9-16 based on their results in the B Finals race. NOTE: Even if a swimmer in the B Final gets a faster time than a swimmer in the A Final, they are still placed in positions 9-16. In some larger meets there will be A, B, C and D finals. The posted meet information will describe the exact format of the meet.
How do I know if my child made the Finals?
If your child placed in the top 16 (in a meet structured with A and B Finals) then your child qualified for the finals. A new heat sheet with their heat and lane will be published before the Final events begin. This heat sheet is usually posted in a common area where swimmers and coaches can look at it, not where parents can see it. It is the swimmer’s responsibility to find their finals heat and lane. Where it gets tricky is with the swimmer who placed 17th+ place. All qualified swimmers have a specified time (usually 30 minutes from the time results of that event are posted) to declare if they are scratching. During this time as swimmers scratch, the swimmers from the bottom slide up. A swimmer who finished 18th or 19th or even 25th place may be “SCRATCHED INTO FINALS”.
What are Finals Alternates?
Swimmers who placed 17th or 18th are considered alternates for the B Final ONLY. That means that if a seeded swimmer from the B Final does not show up to swim, an alternate my jump on the block right then and swim the event for an official time and a chance to win points for their team. A swimmer who finished 19th+ place in the Prelims may be scratched into Finals as an alternate (or higher!). NOTE: last minute vacancies in the A Final are not filled with alternates.
What is a swim-off?
Basically, it’s a race to break a tie. The swim off is typically when there is a tie for 8th place or a tie for 16th place. The winner will get the spot in finals and the other swimmer will be moved down either to the B Final or the 17th place as alternate. The swimmer’s time in the swim off is an official time but it is not used to seed them in the finals. The time from their preliminary race is used as the seed time in the finals event. And there could be a swim-off needed for a swim-off race…so swimmers need to win the swim-off.
Does my child have to swim Finals?
YES. Waterloo’s policy is that all swimmers who qualify for Finals OR are scratched into Finals are expected to swim in Finals unless their coach has given them permission not to.
Does my child have to show up for Finals if they are an alternate?
If you are selected as an alternate it is Waterloo’s policy that you show up and swim. If you do not want to swim as an alternate you need to make sure to scratch before the deadline in order to give another swimmer a chance at the alternate spot.
How do I scratch from Finals?
It is WLOO policy that if you make finals you swim finals, unless there is an extenuating circumstance. Please discuss with your coach BEFORE the meet if there is a reason you cannot stay to swim in finals. If you have permission from the coach, the swimmer must fill out a scratch form, have it signed by the coach, and turn it into the scratch table before the deadline (usually 30 minutes from the time the results of his/her event were posted). This can be tricky because coaches are difficult to access during a meet. Don’t wait until the last minute to decide or you may miss the deadline (it is a hard deadline). The scratch table is usually on deck at the clerk of course so parents do not have access to it. It is the swimmer’s responsibility to take care of their scratch. NOTE: If your swimmer placed 17th+ place in the Prelims AND you are NOT swimming in Finals, YOU MUST SCRATCH. It is possible that your swimmer could be scratched into Finals and will be expected to swim. Read the meet information for the exact rules for scratching for a particular meet.
Why can’t I scratch my own child from finals?
It is actually a USA Swimming championship meet rule, so the non-championship meets try to run that way to get swimmers, coaches and parents in to the habit of doing it correctly during regular season. And, the scratch table is usually on deck and/or inaccessible to parents.
What if I don’t show up to Finals?
There are harsh consequences for missing a Finals race. They usually consist of a fine (minimum $50) AND being pulled out of their next Prelim event in that meet. If it is on the last day of the meet then the fine is usually a lot more. The meet information will list exactly what the consequences are for missing Finals. DO NOT MISS A FINALS RACE!
What if my child gets sick/injured before Finals?

Inform your coach immediately if your child is unable to swim in the Finals due to an illness or injury. The coach may be able to talk with the meet director and work something out. Do not no show or you will be held responsible for the consequences.

When can I leave a meet?
You can leave a meet after all your events are complete and the swimmer has notified their coach.
How do I know if my swimmer got DQ’d and what they got DQ’d for?
The judges will do their best to notify the swimmer immediately after the race. If they are not notified the coach can ask the Admin official or person running the computer to find out the reason. If you are using the Meet Mobile app the letters DQ will be next to your swimmer’s name. The time for a DQd race does not count.


How can I look up my swimmer’s official times?
There are several apps available.

  • Deck Pass is the official app of USA Swimming and holds all your child’s times achieved in sanctioned USAS meets. There are other neat features in that app as well. It is free with your registration. Deck Pass Plus has a small one time fee with a few more features.
  • Meet Mobile is the real time app that is used by most swim meets to post real time results. It will show you meet results for past meets but most effective on the current meet. It will also display the heat sheet (most of the time) so you don’t have to print it out. There is a small annual fee for this app.
  • is a website created by a local swimmer that stores all your child’s best times and how far away they are from the next cut. It will quickly become your favorite tool! There are other bells and whistles in this tool as well. This is free.
  • Other apps or websites….there are many so you just need to find what works best for you.
What is the difference between Long Course and Short Course?
Pool length and conversion time. (SwimSwam Conversion Tool) Long course is what they swim in the olympics. The distances are measured in meters in long course and yards in short course. The long course pool is 50 meters long. The short course pool is 25 yards long. Long course times are typically slower than short course because you have fewer turns which means less push off the walls and less rest time during underwaters.
What are the seasons for Long Course and Short Course?
The swim year is considered to begin in September with the short course season. The SC season culminates with STAGS (South Texas Age Group Championships) and TAGS (Texas Age Group Champs) in February/March. The long course season generally begins in late March or April. The meets during the LC season are usually in 50 meter (Olympic size) pools. The shortest races in a LC meet are 50m, or one length. The LC season culminates with the STAGS/TAGS in late July/August.