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My kids joined the swim team when they were around age 5-6, and swam year round. Even in the beginning, we had a swim meet every week, and I quickly learned what are some good essentials for swim meets.
Snacks and water
While you don’t want your child eating a lot of food at a swim meet, snacks are good to have on hand for when they get hungry or if there is a lot of time between events, as well as a drink. Be prepared that most meets will offer food for sale as well, so either be prepared as far as bringing food, but also be prepared that your child will ask if they can buy something (and often, there is a lot of junk food).
For parents – coffee can be a good option for swim meets. I have seen a lot of meets with no coffee or just decaf – which was very frustrating. You may want to bring your own!
I have two girls, and I can never seem to have enough hair bands for the pool, so I make sure I keep several in my bag for swim meets. This way I can use one or two at a meet and have more for next time if I forget to refill the ones we used. Plus, there have been many occasions where another swimmer can use a hair tie and I’m happy to help provide one. I have two girls with long hair, and it is a must to have hair in a ponytail, bun, or braid underneath the swim cap.
Swim caps are usually a requirement for meets, but also a great idea for practices – not only do they help streamline and reduce drag in the pool, they coordinate with team colors. Not to mention the benefits of not having tangled hair or hair get in the way during swimming. Swim caps do rip (even Michael Phelps ripped his swim cap right before swimming a race in the Rio Olympics!) – so make sure you have a backup. We keep several on us, and just like hair ties, we seem to lend these out to other swimmers on a regular basis.
Good swimming goggles are essential. We always have our #1 pair, but an extra one or two for backup in case a strap breaks or anything else happens. We have also lent goggles to other kids that lost or broke theirs. I also recommend switching out the goggle straps with goggle bungee cords – they don’t rip and are much easier to adjust. For years there were struggles with adjusting the straps.. go with the bungee cords instead!!
My kids swim in more than one event at a meet, so I make sure we have multiple swim towels or at least a good towel. You learn quickly about the quality of towels! Every time my daughter gets out of the pool, she likes to wrap herself in a towel. I usually keep a backup towel in the car or a backup microfiber towel with me (which folds down small).
Sharpies can be helpful for parents to bring, if you need to help the coaches write events on the kids arms. Warning – the kids do like to write on one another with them, so if you let them have Sharpies, your kid may come home written all over!
Something to do.
Our swim team spends lots of time cheering on teammates, and the kids love to spend time together. But sometimes there can be some (or a LOT of) downtime – like the events are delayed, etc. – it can’t hurt to tuck a book into a pocket of the swim bag.
Change of clothes, something warm.
This can depend on the season or if the pool is indoors or out. For our summer meets, the kids generally dry out in the sun and my daughter wears a skirt or beach coverup robe home, but you may want to bring warmer clothes (sweatshirt, pants) or change of clothes depending on the weather and pool. Plus, we often go out after a meet instead of going right home, so it is nice to be prepared.
I don’t even think I made it through a full swim season before we ended up getting the kids Speedo swim bags. They have used them for every swim practice for four years now, and it holds all their stuff. These aren’t cheap, but they make great gifts, so if you know your kid will be on a swim team, get one for their next birthday, Christmas, etc.
And last of all, don’t forget to bring team spirit!
What are your swim meet must haves?
Also check out What to Buy When Your Child Joins the Swim Team.