Race day do's and don'ts

by James Nock — in


This weekend will be the first 'main' weekend of County Championships 2020 down here in Sussex. We've already completed the 800m and 1500m events and now we're in to the busy weekends.

As a coach I'm quite confident that we're going to go well and despite most of my squad not being into taper for this weekend (as they've chosen the second weekend to focus on instead) I can still see stacks of PB's and medals coming their way. They've worked hard and deserve them after all.

That said, with 31 swimmers and over 300 swims there will always be a few that don't go to plan. Which got me thinking... what are the do's and don'ts for race day? What can swimmers, and parents do to maximise performance?



  • Do eat well and even more importantly hydrate well all day/weekend, including after you've finished swimming.
  • Do keep your chin up and stay positive throughout the whole competition no matter what happens.
  • Do wear team kit on poolside including something on your feet - the last thing you want when you dive off that block is cramp. I recommend trainers over 'flip-flops' (including sliders, sorry cool kids).
  • Do stay involved with the team, chat to other swimmers, they're long days after all.
  • Do always talk to your coach before you race and after you've finished. Be sure to give your coach feedback after the swim rather than staying quiet regardless of how you feel it went.
  • Do try your very hardest - there is no point in diving into a race half-heartedly (unless in extreme cases where you've made a plan to do so with your coach!)
  • Do stick to the plan you've made with your coach.
  • Do visualise your race whilst you are in whipping and/or behind the blocks.


  • Don't eat high sugar food during race day.
  • Don't 'reward' yourself with junk food after race day - you are not a dog.
  • Don't write off any swim as 'BAD', there aren't many truly 'BAD' swims, there are positives in almost all of them.
  • Don't dwell on swims that didn't go your way, move on.
  • Don't spend your day staring into a 'phone screen, stay in the world that you're in... not part of a virtual one.
  • Don't keep leaving poolside - it drives Coaches and Team Managers nuts not knowing where you are and if everyone did that then there would be no 'team'.
  • Don't change the plan before you race.
  • Don't expect your coach to do all the talking after you've swam... it's a two-way thing and what you say is potentially more important than what the coach does - you were the one that swam the race.
  • Don't make up excuses for why things didn't go well. Have reasons that you can back up instead.
  • Don't blame others if things don't go your way or throw tantrums if you're not happy.
  • Don't go into races cold, make sure your heart rate is up before you get on the block.



  • Do be supportive and encouraging.
  • Do help your swimmer to pack high quality food in their bag to take with them.
  • Do stay positive even after a 'bad' swim and help make your swimmer positive if they're down.
  • Do get to the pool at least 15 minutes before warm-up starts.
  • Do try and enjoy it. They're long days and they're hot and your own swimmer might only do a few minutes of racing that session/day but watch the others, chat to other parents etc. make it fun!


  • Don't show any negativity on the way to the competition for any reason, it's amazing how much that can knock swimmers, especially when they're young, even if the negativity isn't even about swimming or them or the day in any way.
  • Don't use any self-fulfilling prophecies such as 'you always swim bad at this pool', or 'your breaststroke is really slow at the moment'. They don't help in any way and only ever make things worse. There's nothing to gain by saying things like that.
  • Don't give your swimmer feedback on their swim. Even if you know what you're talking about they'll hate you for it. You're their parent, not their coach so give them a hug instead.
  • Don't decide on swims that are going to be pulled out of during the competition. Likewise, don't go home early after a 'bad' swim. Both of these things need to be discussed by the coach and swimmer. Obviously discuss things with the coach if your swimmer is very young but encourage your swimmer to talk to the coach as they get older as that's what needs to happen long-term.
  • Don't threaten losing dinner over 'bad' swims (as crazy as this sounds I've heard this happen in the past!).
  • Don't come onto poolside. You're not allowed on without a poolside pass, a Team Manager/Coach will come to you if needed.
  • Don't offer money or gifts in 'exchange' for personal best times or good performances. Your swimmer needs your support all the time, not just when they're doing well and they don't need extra pressure either.

One thing is for sure, we're stronger together and all have vital roles to play on race day.

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