College running track and bleachers, Rochester, New YorkEver wondered why the Grandstands and bleachers at your Club Swimming Carnivals and Swim Meets are empty?

Ever wanted to know how to get lots of people to come along to your Swim Meets?

Ever wanted to know how to get the support of Coaches so that they actively support your Swim Meet and send large numbers of their swimmers along to race?

Then design and deliver Complementary Carnivals!


The simple answer to all these question is this: Design your Swim Meet program to reflect the needs of the swimmers and coaches you are hoping to attract: Complementary Carnivals (i.e. as in the dictitionary definition – acting as or providing a complement – something that completes the whole.

Too many Clubs, Regional Associations, State Swimming Associations and even National Swimming Associations conduct swim meets which are designed around the four Cs:

  • Cash – using Swim Meets as Cash-cows and designing a program to deliver the maximum possible financial return rather than the best result for swimmers and coaches;
  • Convenience – making the Swim Meet fit into the schedule of the Administration rather than the optimal fit into the training and competition cycles of swimmers and coaches;
  • Continuity – repeating the same program over and over again, year after year;
  • Committee – doing what the “committee” or Board think is what’s best for swimmers and coaches rather than consulting with them, collaborating with them and asking them what they really need from a Swim Meet.

Too many times we hear these three comments:

From Coaches: “I am not going to send my team to that Swim Meet because it does not work in with our training or competition goals”;

From Swimmers: “I am not going to that Swim Meet. The events are always the same, it’s boring and I get sick of going there every year to do the same stuff” and then…………….

From Swim Meet Organisers: “Why aren’t swimmers and coaches supporting my Swim Meet?”.

Well, duh!

The secret to success in Swim Meet organisation is to design and deliver a program which provides swimmers and coaches with the opportunity they need to enhance their training and competition goals.

There are two ways of doing this.

  1. At Club and Regional level, design and deliver Swim Meet programs which complement the training and competition goals of the swimmers and coaches;
  2. At State and National level, design and deliver Swim Meet programs which reflect the competition schedules and competition formats of the next level meet, i.e. State Level Swim Meets should replicate and simulate the competition conditions swimmers will face at National Level Swim Meets and National Level Swim Meets should replicate and simulate the competition conditions swimmers will face at their targeted International Level Swim Meet.

Swim Meet organisers have to think in reverse to make this happen.

Instead of thinking “let’s put together a program which generates the most possible revenue for our Club or Region or State” , they need to think, “what is it that our swimmers and coaches need from a Swim Meet that can best help them improve and realise their performance goals?”.

At Club level this concept is critical. If the Club’s coach is working hard on developing the swimmers’ endurance, improving their aerobic capacity and building the team’s stamina in training, then it makes sense to help the coach and the swimmers by delivering a Club Night racing program which is based around endurance, aerobic capacity and stamina!

This should be a no-brainer: the Club competition program should reflect and support the Club’s training program. Again…well, duh!

This is not a hard concept to understand folks – so why do so many Swim Meet organisers get it so wrong?

All over the world, Swim Meet organisers are coming together to discuss and plan their next competition program: format, structure, order of events, timing etc etc.

The smart ones have consulted the swimmers and coaches they represent and have designed a Swim Meet program which delivers something of real value and relevance.

The not-so-smart ones have just rolled out the same program they have used since 1961, thrown in 200 extra events to try and milk every possible cent out of swimming parents and created the whole Meet to suit their own timing, own needs and their own agendas.

Smart or Not-So-Smart………..which one are you?

Wayne Goldsmith