How to prepare your child for a swim meet?
Getting your child ready for a swim meet can be stressful, especially if it’s your first time. Not only do you have to help your child prepare mentally and physically for the competition, but you also have to make sure you have everything your child will need for the big event. The good news is it’s not as overwhelming as it sounds, or at least it doesn’t have to be.
With a little preparation, you can rest easier knowing that your son or daughter will be ready, and your child can focus on what’s important—having fun! Here are our top tips on how to prepare your child for a swim meet.
Packing the Night Before
The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out what your child will need for the swim meet. Coaches can provide more specific guidance, but here is a list of items you’ll generally need.
- Goggles, swim suits and team caps are a given, and you should always carry extras of each just in case.
- Carry at least three towels—two for between races and one for after the event. Pack a few extra if you have room.
- If the event is held outdoors, you’ll want to pack sunscreen/sunblock and a sun hat. Even on a cloudy day, your child can end up with sunburn or even windburn. Make sure that sunscreen/sunblock is applied before the meet starts and reapplied between events. Most sunscreen/sunblock will wash away during competition.
- Keep in mind that your child will be out of the water more than in, so you’ll want to pack proper attire for the downtimes. Wrapping up in a towel won’t be enough, especially if the meet is held outdoors on a breezy day. Pack something warm and comfortable, like a sweatshirt, sweatpants and maybe even a jacket. Make sure your child has appropriate footwear, such as flip flops, sandals or some other slip-on footwear. And don’t forget a dry change of clothes for after the event!
- Find out if the venue has seating and if not see if you can bring a fold out chair. This will give you somewhere to sit and watch the events, and somewhere for your child to sit and relax between races.
- Be sure to pack plenty of water or other hydrating beverages. Water should be your first choice, but sport drinks and diluted 100% fruit juice can also work to maintain blood sugar, replenish muscles and boost stamina. Avoid sodas and other artificially sweetened beverages, as these can actually dehydrate your child.
- Keep your snacks healthy. While packing candy bars and potato chips may be easy, these aren’t the best items for your kids. They take longer to digest and can slow your child down. Instead, pack high-carb, low-fat snacks—fresh fruits, whole grain crackers, cereal bars, yogurt, rice cakes, whole wheat cereal etc. These foods not only ease hunger, but also provide nutrition.
Bonus Tip: Talk to your child’s coach and get a full schedule for the event so you know exactly where your child needs to be and where. Make sure your child understands the schedule, too.
Eating Right Before and During the Event
Nutrition plays a huge role in your child’s success as a swimmer. While a balanced diet is essential year-round, it’s important to boost carb intake several days prior to an event, and especially the night before.
But this doesn’t mean your child should engage in “carb loading.” Loading up on cookies, candy bars and french fries won’t give your child a competitive edge—more likely, it will make him or her feel sick. The simple sugars found in most junk foods provide a quick boost of energy, but not one that is sustainable. And since most of these foods are high in fats and low in nutritional value, they only serve to slow your child down.Instead, focus on foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and nutritional value. These include starchier foods, such as vegetables, pasta, whole grain cereal, rice, bread and beans. For example, the night before a meet, you could serve your a child a whole-grain pasta dish with vegetables.
It’s also important to fuel up the morning before the event. A light, high-carb breakfast, such as whole-grain cereal, toast or bagels is a good starting point. If there isn’t time for breakfast, or your child is feeling too nervous to eat, you can also pack something and carry it to the meet. But do try to make sure they eat with enough time to digest and don’t skip breakfast completely. They don’t want to be swimming on an empty energy tank.
After an intensive competition, your child’s energy level will need boost. It is best to refuel within 15 to 30 minutes after finishing to repair muscles and replace energy. A great after competition snack is a whole wheat sandwich with peanut butter, chicken breast, tuna or beef.Remember, this isn’t the time to try new things. Make sure your child is eating foods that he or she is familiar with, foods that agree with their systems. You definitely want no surprises come swim time!It’s also important to make sure your child stays hydrated before, during and after the event. Finally, make sure your child has a fun time. If they love what they are doing then they are more likely to perform well and be motivated to train hard.