The recent huge success of Michael Phelps at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing has led to a surge of interest in swimming for competition. Adding competitions to your lineup will increase interest in all of the other activities you offer at your facility. If you've already got a swim team practicing in your water, more than likely the facility has been inspected and complies with the requirements set forth by the ruling body. Specifically, there is a water depth requirement around the starting platforms to ensure safe water entry for competitive swimmers.
The official ruling organizations will help guide you in facility preparation for hosting a competitive event.
Q: We'd like to start hosting meets and other competitions at our pool. What should we add to our facility to make this work?
A: First, your facility must meet compliance of the ruling body for the sanctioned meet. To get ready for a competitive swimming event, you'll need to invest in several poolside elements that will enhance swimmers' performance and the spectators' experience of the event. Most important are starting blocks, anti-turbulent racing lanes and pennants to mark lanes for backstroke swimmers. If you are planning to host many events and have room for spectator seating, you also might want to investigate adding a scoreboard designed specifically for swim meets.
If you want to go beyond swim competitions and also add a diving team or water polo team, you'll also need to look into approved diving towers and boards, as well as water polo goals. Look for products that meet the standards associated with these events. For example, you can find a wide range of diving towers and boards appropriate for competitive use at a range of costs and that meet various site requirements. If you're planning to host water polo teams at your facility, look for adjustable water polo cages that are easy to add and remove from the pool.
Q: Why do we need racing lanes and pennants?
A: Racing lanes and pennants indicate where swimmers should be whether they're performing a backstroke or a butterfly. Competitive swimming requires racing lanes not only to separate the lanes, but also to decrease turbulence, which will speed up the competition.
Tensioning devices will help you tighten your lanes. Also look for a storage reel, so you have a place to keep your racing lanes out of the way when the meet or practice is over.
Q: What should we look for in starting platforms?
A: Well-designed starting platforms will help competitive swimmers improve their training, technique and performance.
First, be sure the platforms meet the requirements of the relevant governing bodies of the sport, including FINA, NCAA, NFHS, USMS and USAS. You also need to consider the following: size of the platform top (all ruling bodies call for a minimum of 20 inches by 20 inches); choose single or dual legs; select the anchor style and then choose color and graphics.
A sand finish top on the platform will add traction and enhance performance. Swimmers will be able to take off fast and feel secure with this type of finish. You will likely also be able to find these tops in just about any school colors you could desire.
The less time you need for setup the better. When you can quickly set-up and remove your starting blocks, you can more quickly switch from competitive to recreational use, maximizing the programming potential of your pool. Look for starting platforms that can be easily slipped into the poolside anchor sleeve and centered on a taper-lock base. This will provide secure and easy setup without the use of tools.
When not in use, you should cover your starting platforms. They are not meant for use by anyone other than trained competitive swimmers. Covers prevent unauthorized use of platforms and protect them.
Q: We switch back and forth between competitive uses and recreational uses quite often. How can we be sure our starting blocks are safe and secure?
A: A new anchor is now available that combines a patented taper lock base with a new dual acting wedge design, eliminating front-and-back and side-to-side movement of the platform. The assembly has an adjusting knob that can easily be turned by hand to install or remove the platform. This eliminates the need for tools and makes setup and removal quick and easy. An anchor cover is also included, which prevents debris from getting in the anchor when the platforms are not in use.