What You Need to Know About Running a Swim Meet


Swim meets can be a great money maker for your facility. If you have a facility that can host meets, you are half way there already.  

In order to host a great swim meet you need two things: timing equipment and volunteers. Swim meets can be run with volunteers using stop watches, pencil and paper, but it requires a lot more volunteers and a lot more work. Adding an automatic timing or semi-automatic timing system to your pool allows you to run a swim meet with fewer volunteers and much less work. It also makes it a lot easier to recruit volunteers.  

A semi-automatic timing system consists of a computer or timing console to collect the times, a deck cable that runs along the start end of the pool, two backup buttons per lane in the pool and an electronic start device. When the start device goes off at the beginning of the race, it starts the timer in the console or computer. At each lap, the two volunteer timers at each lane press a backup button to record the split time in the computer.

At the end of the race, the timers press the button to record the final time. The computer takes the two button times and averages them to get an accurate final time for each lane. That time is recorded in the computer and a place assigned. The times are then sent to the meet management software on a computer to score the meet and create reports.  

An automatic timing system works the same way. However, instead of two buttons per lane there is a touchpad hanging on the end wall under the starting blocks. When the swimmer touches the touchpad, it sends the signal to the computer to record the time. There is one volunteer timer in each lane with a watch for backup and to press the backup button. This allows the computer to record the time even if the swimmer doesn’t make solid contact with the touchpad.  

In addition to timing, you also want to think about a display. Displays range from a lane, place and time numeric scoreboard, to a video wall that allows you to show not just the race results but also videos or advertising. There are also “virtual” scoreboard products that allow you to send the scoreboard to a TV or projector anywhere in your pool. The scoreboard allows the swimmers and fans to track the races in real-time. It’s not required, but it certainly is appreciated.   

By using either a semi-automatic or automatic timing system for your meets, you reduce the number of volunteers required. It will take one to two people per lane, one person running the computer and one person working with the meet management software. The computer does all the work of collecting, sorting and reporting times so the volunteers don’t have to compile the times and places by hand.  

With your own timing system, you can run multiple swim meets at your facility each year, or even rent your equipment out to other teams. A small investment can yield big dividends.

Eve Julian is the sales manager at International Sports Timing (IST). For more information, email eve@istime.com or visit istime.com. 


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