By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, October 11, 2017
There are two certainties in every swimmer’s career: 1.) The water will be cold, and 2.) there will be weekend-long, never-ending, forever-ongoing, all-day swim meet marathons.
You know the kind: You arrive at the prelims competition at 7am, and you don’t leave until 2pm. There are 13 heats of the 500 freestyle, and 250 swimmers entered the 50 free. Three days can feel like three years. There is so much down time between events, you swear that you can feel yourself aging inside those natatoriums. You look in the mirror on Day Two, and you don’t recognize the person staring back at you, because that person is 30 years older. After your event, which happens to be first, you have roughly six hours trapped at the pool with no escape, no get-away plan, no way out.
How do you spend time? What do you do? You can’t just stare at the pool deck tiles for 90 minutes. (And if you do, please stop. You’re scaring everyone.)
While there are many, many strategies swimmers employ during these weekend-long marathons, here are the best five…
I know. Not the most fun way to pass the time. But in many ways, swim meets are just like libraries: It’s easy to find a little spot in the stands or on the deck, grab that statistics book, and hammer out your Monday morning homework. This homework strategy usually only works for those swimmers who need a distraction to swim well, or who will worry about an upcoming test so much that it deters from swim performance. But if you can do it, it sure beats doing homework late on Sunday night, or in the car heading home.
Is there anything more glorious than the 30-minute nap post-event? When you’re all done for the prelims, but you’re still at the pool for another hour? Obviously, you shouldn’t nap if your teammates are competing, but if you’re just waiting for other teammates to warm-down, shower, and change, a little prelims nap in the corner of the natatorium never hurt anyone.
3. Swim bag organization
Your swim bag is likely similar to mine: A black hole of chaos where nothing escapes. Digging to the bottom of your swim bag is like a journey to the center of the Earth, lurking with mysterious creatures and wormholes leading to other dimensions. A swim meet is the perfect opportunity to ask yourself, “Do I really need fourteen half-empty hotel shampoo bottles? Should I just throw away this 10-year-old Cliff Bar?”
Euchre probably saved my life as a swimmer. I played euchre every waking minute I could, with friends, with teammates, with strangers from other teams. Then, one day at the YMCA National Championships in Florida, I found out not everyone knows of euchre. If you don’t know what euchre is, just know this: It is the greatest card game ever invented, and it is perfect for swim meets. Look it up, and go play.
C’mon. You knew this was coming. Cheering is the best, and most important, way to spend time at these weekend meets. Just like you’d love people cheering for you during your 500 freestyle, get up and cheer for your teammates. Be loud. Be supportive. And know that the most important part about being a teammate is to just show up, and cheer.