Meet Management Guide

Meet Management Guide

MSO Meet Management Guide (Updated Sept. 2019)


A Masters Club planning to host their first Masters competition, a pool meet or open water swim (OWS), needs to know what is involved in such an enterprise. Someone new to the role of Meet Manager could easily be overwhelmed by the myriad of responsibilities required to organize their first swim meet or OWS. Masters Swimming Ontario (MSO) prepared this document, originally over thirty-five years ago, to assist clubs and meet managers decide on whether to host a meet and if so, what is involved. It has been updated several times since to include new training and technologies available to assist you in this task. The Board and members of MSO are most appreciative of those who participate by hosting masters competitions for our members and are always willing to assist you.

In the past, MSO had a close and mutually beneficial working relationship with the Ontario Swimming Officials Association (OSOA) which assisted clubs and Meet Managers in all aspects of running competitions. Clubs hosting meets should contact senior officials in their area for their competition.  All clubs, particularly those hosting competitions, should encourage their members to take officiating courses and involve themselves in officiate to obtain experience. For more information, contact senior officials in your area or MSO.

In 2017, MSO migrated to a new database system that supports meet planning, sanctioning, registration and payment. The system was tested and enhanced during the 2017-2018 season and MSO now requires it to be used for all pool events.  A detailed technical document was developed to assist clubs and meet managers in its use.  MSO also provides technical support from event planning through to results upload.


Although these guidelines may not cover every detail or situation that you may face in running a masters competition, they will give you a good idea of what is involved. You probably have resources in your area, in your club membership, in local Swim Ontario clubs which you will need, both the expertise and the trainable volunteers for such an endeavour.

Is hosting a meet or OWS a realistic endeavour for your club? Do you have an appropriate, safe, pool facility for a meet or lake or river venue for an OWS in your community? Do you have the experienced people to organize and run such a Masters competition, or the capability of training them? Would you be able to attract enough competitors to make such an event financially viable? The purpose of this document is to assist you in making these decisions and in preparing yourself for hosting such a competition.

Please familiarize yourselves with the Masters Swimming Rules for an event, either a meet or OWS which can be found on the website at We suggest that you read OMGR 7.1 under the General Rules which outlines responsibilities of meet management.

Who May Host and Event?

For an event to receive a sanction from MSO, the host club must be an MSO-affiliated club in good standing.  If the event is being co-hosted, all must be MSO-affiliated clubs.

A host club may contract with a commercial organization to assist in organizing the event (e.g., an Open Water event). However, that organization must be under the direction of the host/co-host club(s) receiving the sanction.

An Appropriate Safe Facility

In order for your club to establish that you have the facility or venue to host a completion and the experienced people to do so we recommend that you contact MSO, explain your plans and request their advice. The Competitions Chair at MSO is listed on the MSO website, under Contact Us. In 2018, important changes were made to the pool depth specifications. Please read Appendix A – Facilities of the MSO Rules.

Officials and volunteers

Once you have established that you have an appropriate facility or venue you then need to question whether you have the necessary people available to you to run such a competition. This would include the people to organize the meet, its registration and then run the meet, all of whom would have to be experienced and qualified for you to achieve success. Again, MSO can advise and assist you to achieve this.

Meet Date and Format

Contact the Competitions Chair as early as possible with your proposed date to verify that it does not conflict with other competition in your area. “Two Weeks – 200 km” is a good scheduling rule of thumb. Masters clubs that host annual events are given priority over their traditional dates for a limited time and they should notify the Competition Chair of their intent to host such a meet within 11 months of the event.  There shall be no preference for dates within nine months of a proposed event and dates will be assigned on a first come, first served basis.

Masters swimming is about having fun through training and competition. Be creative in your meet format and events while respecting the rules of competition so that swims can be recognized in the MSO database.


Look at the financial viability of hosting your event. How many people are likely to come, how much should you charge and what are your expenses going to be? How do you make sure that it is financially viable and, if possible, no one loses any money from hosting the competition?


The first two positions you should establish early on are the Meet Manager and the Meet Referee; in fact you may want to appoint them prior to deciding whether to host a competition or not to assist you in making that decision. Both need to be qualified and experienced in masters competition.

Even though this is your clubs first masters meet you may have a club member or a member of a nearby age group club who is an experienced meet manager. If they are experienced in age group meets but not masters meets it would be useful for them to assist, or at least observe, another masters meet before they run one. If you do not have access to such a qualified person but have a member who is interested in running your meet, the MSO Competitions Chair may assist.

With regards a meet referee, if you do not know one, you should ask the MSO Competitions Chair for advice and assistance in obtaining the services of a qualified meet referee. Your meet referee must be a qualified Level 4 or 5 Official with experience at working Masters meets.


Swim meets can be held in pools that are 25 yards, 25 metres, or 50 metres in length, but only metre pools are eligible for hosting a Provincial Championship. Refer to Appendix A – Facilities for 2018 the pool depth requirements. Pool lengths must be measured to confirm compliance with dimensional tolerances. A survey should be made when the pool is constructed and this should be on file with the pool. For pools with movable bulkheads, surveys by qualified personal are required, as a minimum, before and after the competition.

Regular, ideally continuous, warm-up and warm-downs are required for masters meets, see section CMSW 1.6 of the Rule Book. You must have a safety marshal to oversee the warm‑up and warm-down lanes. Does your facility have adequate deck space, changing rooms and lockers, officials meeting rooms and space for swimmers, spectators and room for socializing before, during or after the event? Is there adequate parking available?

For pool meets, many safety measures (e.g., lifeguards) are set by the municipality with the MSO rules specifying the additional event-related measures. For Open Water Swimming (OWS), the safety plan is the most important element of your preparation. Is there appropriate access to the water for the swimmers, officials and safety personnel? Are there changing areas and washrooms, shelters, facilities for providing refreshments, parking, etc.? Above all, is it safe?


The meet manager and meet referee are the first two positions to be filled. They must be named when the event date is being requested. The meet manager then must choose the most capable people to be responsible for planning, organizing, and conducting the meet. Some of these responsibilities can be combined, some may require sub-committees. The meet referee is often an ex-officio member of the organizing committee. A typical organizing committee for a one day meet might include the following:

  • Meet Manager (chair); in a small meet, meet managers often act in other capacities below. The meet manager is usually responsible for obtaining the meet sanction from MSO.
  • Meet Manager; assist meet manager and responsible for some other items below
  • Meet Referee; responsible for obtaining senior officials
  • Officials Chair; responsible for obtaining other officials, timers, safety marshals, runners.
  • Facility manager; responsible for pool and equipment.
  • Meet Registrar; responsible for sending out invitations, dealing with questions and registration of swimmers. Produce heat sheets for officials and swimmers information.
  • Finance; responsible for revenues, costs, entry fees, money-handling and sponsorship, may include awards and prizes.
  • Social Convener; provide refreshments before, during and after the meet for officials, swimmers and volunteers. For multi-day Championships there is often a social event for the participants.
  • Recording; responsible for results and dealing with records.
  • Publicity; responsible for promoting the meet and where required dealing with accommodation.


Once you have established that your club plans to hold a meet, you have spoken to the MSO Competitions Chair, obtained the services of at least a meet manager and a meet referee, you should then proceed with the following actions, consider the following issues;


The masters club should submit a Step One Sanctioning Application to the MSO Competition Chair requesting a date and briefly describing the competition. The MSO Competitions Chair will review the date to ensure it does not conflict with the priority rules for another club;

  • The proposed date could be approved if it is within nine months and there is no other meet within a reasonable distance. This distance would vary; for instance it might be one hour’s drive in Ottawa, three hours in Sudbury and six hours in Thunder Bay.
  • Two meets are considered to conflict if they are within such a distance and within two weeks of each other and the dates will not be approved
  • If the date is more than nine months away and there is another masters club that has held a meet in at least three of the last five years in a location and on a date that would conflict with the proposed date, the MSO Competitions Chair will attempt to obtain a clarification from the club with the priority status as to whether they plan to host a meet at the proposed time and will report on this
  • Once satisfied that these conditions are met the host club may enter the core information into the MSO database and request formal approval of the date. The event would then be listed on the Meet Schedule. A provincial championship bid requires the approval of the MSO Board of Directors and should ideally be submitted at least a year prior to the event.


Once you have established your Organizing Committee and obtained your competition date you should prepare your Meet Information Package, which shall be submitted to the MSO Competitions Chair for sanction. A Meet Package Template (PDF) has been developed with standard information and phrases. You may download a WORD version for easy editing.

  • dates of the meet
  • location: include a map and available transportation/parking
  • description of facility and address
  • course length
  • order of events
  • entry deadline; entry address; contact person
  • entry fee: per swimmer and per relay team
  • maximum  number of events permitted to swim, if applicable
  • events to be seeded and check-in times and place
  • starting times for warm-up and sessions
  • warm-up safety procedures
  • awards format
  • social activities planned
  • accommodation and prices, restaurants, if applicable
  • Don’t forget the Waivers   PDF    WORD  (Entry form and waivers)


During the planning stage you would have spoken to the facility management and dealt with the costs, obligations of booking the facility. This is an important relationship throughout the process, including the day of the competition. You will have established your expectations with them with regards the facilities, including parking, meeting rooms and provision of refreshments with them. Most importantly you would have confirmed the equipment that would be provided for the completion, for example;

The pool:

  • configuration of the pool, lane ropes, back stroke flags, 15m mark, false start rope
  • starting blocks
  • electronics, touch pads, results board
  • watches, with electronics – one per lane, manual times only – three per lane, plus extras
  • starters podium and signal equipment
  • public address system
  • lifeguards, first aid facilities, emergency phone, exits

The deck:

  • adequate and safe deck space for swimmers and officials to move around as required
  • seating for swimmers, coaches, and spectators
  • chairs for timers and if space, some for swimmers
  • tables and chairs as required for officials or announcer, marshaling board if required
  • lap counters and bells if required for distance event
  • post MSO safety rules, MSO records and heat sheets on wall of pool

The recording room or area;

  • for meets using electronics should have clear view of start and finish area of pool
  • tables and chairs
  • one, preferably two computers and printers, copy machine
  • paper, pencils, pens, paper clips, erasers, rulers, elastics, stapler and staples, etc.
  • Current list of records
  • time cards if required for relay

The officials room:

  • adequate space for all officials to meet, to be served refreshments
  • for referee: meet package and heat sheets. They should have their own whistle and Rule Book
  • clipboards, pencils, DQ slips, heat sheets
  • Watches for timers, bells for distance, handed out here

Other space requirements:

  • you will require a space for the swimmers refreshments during and after the competition
  • awards area, to hand out ribbons and/or medals
  • adequate locker rooms, lockers, showers and wash rooms
  • parking


It is the responsibility of the host club to obtain their choice of awards, usually ribbons for a non-championship event. You will require more first place awards than second, more second place awards than third. These numbers can be established by reviewing the results of a previous, similar event.

For a Provincial Championship, the design of the medals and ribbons should be submitted to MSO for approval.


MSO Rules require adequate qualified officials depending on the type of competition. This information can be found in the MSO’s Rules of Competition and should be discussed with the meet referee. The meet referee normally obtains services of the senior officials including referees, starters, turn judges, chief timers and electronics staff. The meet manager or their designate will obtain other officials such as the timers, often from the club. It may be necessary to run Level 1 clinics prior to the meet in order to have adequate qualified timers to run the competition. Officials and volunteers should be informed of time they are required, dress and other issues.

<<<NEW 2019>>>  On July 1, 2019, new rules came into effect through Rowan’s Law, to improve concussion safety in amateur competitive sport.  The Law applies to Masters Swimming Ontario because our membership includes swimmers under 26 years of age.  Please go to the Concussion Safety page for more information and the Officials Confirmation forms.


Once approved, the Meet Information Package may be uploaded to the MSO database. Core meet information from the Package is reflected in the system’s meet details.  These include, start times, deadlines, event list and fees.

Swimmer registration is open once MSO marks the meet sanctioned. The system will verify the MSO registration status of every swimmers and apply the Single Event Registration (SER) fee if necessary. The system will close at the specified deadline, at which time the meet manager may download the clean CL2 file and upload it into Meet manager.

The meet registrar should then be ready to receive entries and answer any questions from potential participants. Not all masters swimmers are able to register online.  A registration form and waiver should be part of the Meet Information Package so that alternate methods of registration are available. For deck entries, the meet manager must verify MSO registration status, obtain the required waivers and apply the SER fees as appropriate.

The entry deadline is left to the discretion of the host club, but should allow sufficient time for processing the entries. It is allowable to have a cut-off for the number of entries if this is a concern. The host club can also limit the number of entries in long distance events, say 400m or above. A club may also accept deck entries on the day of the meet. If deck entries are going to be allowed psyche sheets or preliminary programs should not be made public until entries close. Deck entries are not allowed at Championships.

A swimmer may only enter and swim in an “Open” event once. This is an event, for example a 200m event where the swimmer may swim fly, back, breast or IM. The swimmer will be judged on the stroke that they swim. If there is a separate 200m free event a swimmer cannot swim free in the open event, also cannot swim other strokes in the free event. The swimmer need not designate his stroke in an open event until he swims. Timers must be instructed to record the stroke for each swimmer in their lane in an open event. Results from open events must be separated and clearly marked as to stroke.

For Championships the deadline for relay entries is 4 days after the deadline for individual entries.  The system requires that relays be entered by a registered coach or a designated person on the coaches list.

Swimmer Eligibility

A swimmers age is determined by their age on December 31 of the current year. The swimmer must be 18 on the first day of the meet.

All swimmers are welcome to participate. Swimmers not registered with MSO must pay an additional Single Event Registration Fee which provides MSO insurance coverage for the event.


On the day of the competition the meet manager and meet referee should arrive at the pool or venue at least half an hour before the official start of the meet, that is, the start of warm-up. It is important to ensure that the venue is appropriately equipped, that the officials and volunteers are checked in and ready to carry out their duties. Safety officers should be assigned and MSO Safety Rules posted before warm-up starts. It is useful to mark the direction that each lane should swim on the starting blocks of each lane.


Once entries are closed, either before the meet or deck entries prior to the start of the meet, the registrar would print programs showing the individual events in order. The seeding is always slowest to fastest and usually at most meets by time and gender. It can be by time only and at Championships the shorter distances, 50m, 100m and sometimes 200m, are by age, time and distance. A copy of the program should be given to representatives of each club and posted on the wall of the pool. The meet referee will require a copy as soon as they are available to time out the meet.

The officials will also require copies of the program. If possible the timers should be given a printout showing only the swimmers in their lane and with space to show the manual time for that swimmer.


The meet manager should then ensure that the facility is ready and the officials and volunteers are available to run the competition, including checking with facility staff to ensure all required spaces are available and all equipment is in place and operating. It is useful to check in officials as they arrive, this could be done on a posted list of positions with assigned officials. The meet manager or referee should ensure that safety marshals are in place and doing their job at the start of warm-up. This is the most dangerous part of the meet. Ensure that volunteers are prepared to provide refreshments to officials and swimmers before, during and after the meet.

There should be a pre-meet meeting with officials, the meet referee should review the protocols for the meet and the rules for all events been swum, explain the difference between MSO and SNC Rules and the procedures for disqualifications. The chief timer will explain the timing process and if necessary have a watch check to start the meet. Officials should be clearly identifiable.

If necessary there could be a pre-meet meeting with club representatives or for those who have them, coaches.

Once these meetings are complete the officials should take their positions, ideally five minutes before the start of the meet. The swimmers should be asked to leave the water at this time.


Clubs participating in smaller meets should be encouraged to enter relays and teams can be put together during warm-up. Usually these are done on time cards which show the name, gender and age of the swimmer, the club, the total age of the four swimmers and a projected time for their swim. These cards should be returned to the relay team prior to the start of the relay event who will then hand it to the timer in their lane. Relays at such meets should not be swum until at least an hour after the start of the meet to allow this process to happen. Once a relay card has been submitted the team may change the swimmers or their order however they may not change the age group of the team. All swimmers on a team must be registered with the same club. A mixed team consists of two women and two men. At small one day meets, teams that cannot comply with these criteria may be allowed to swim “Exhibition.”


Prior to the meet a minimum forty-five minute warm-up must be provided and also a fifteen minute warm-down after the completion of the last event. Ideally there should be continuous warm-up, cool-down during a masters meet. If a separate pool is not available one outside lane of the pool may be used for this purpose. If this is not practical there must be a fifteen minute break for warm-up every two hours during the meet. It is most important to read, post and comply with Appendix F of the MSO Rules which covers warm-up.


During the competition the referee is in charge and the role of the meet manager is to assist the referee in all ways related to the operation of the competition, in particular that the equipment is operating properly, spaces provided for support functions are adequate and staff functions are been carried out appropriately. On the very rare occasion that a Jury of Appeal is required it is the meet managers responsibility to set it up. See OMGR 7.3 in the MSO Rule Book


Results for each event should be posted as soon as possible after the event is completed. These are usually posted on a wall outside the pool area which is accessible to the swimmers and facilitates their viewing of them. If there is an error found later in the results the results for that event should be corrected and reposted; it should be noted as “Revised.” Any swimmer with a DQ in an event should be listed last without a time given. Any potential World record must immediately be brought to the attention of the meet referee and meet manager.


All results will be uploaded to the MSO database. Only MSO registered swimmers are eligible for Ontario records.  All swims will be reviewed by Christian Berger who tracks the fastest swims in Canada.

If a program is used to compile results that does not flag records this must be done manually for the fastest time in each age group in each event, including relays. A current list of Ontario and Berger records, is required for this purpose. If an Ontario or Berger record appears to be broken a record application form should be filled in and sent to the Ontario recorder. Applications can be found on the MSO websites. Provide as much information as you can as to times backing up the official time for the swim.

If the pool has not been used for a masters competition before a copy of the survey carried out at completion of the pool should be included with this record submission. The survey should have been done with the pool in the same condition it was on the day of the meet. For example if touch pads were used at the meet this should have been noted on the survey or space allowed for them. Most pools have been used before for masters’ competitions so a survey is not necessary. This is not the case in a pool with a movable bulkhead; a survey should be taken in such a pool by a competent official ideally prior to and after the competition.


After the meet thank all those who helped you, ensure that the facility is reasonably clean and help your committee to finish their tasks and clean up. Subsequently return all borrowed equipment, prepare a meet report and send it to the Competitions Chair..

A PDF copy of the results and the CL2 files exported from Meet Manager should be sent to the MSO Competition Chair and the Records Keepers.  MSO, and not the meet manager, will upload all results into the database.  Alternatively the meet manager can send the entire MDB file to the Records Keeper (preferred).

All record applications with their documentation should be sent to the Ontario Records Keeper.

It is useful to hold a meeting with the members of the Organizing Committee soon after the meet to evaluate how well the meet was conducted. Record important comments and suggestions for future meets. These can also form the basis of the MSO Meet Report, and also be useful to the next Meet Manager and Organizing Committee for a subsequent meet the club hosts. Prepare the written report for MSO and send to the Competitions Chair.


Open Water Swim competitions are popular during the short summer in Ontario from early July to early September. If your club is near an appropriate venue, a river or lake suitable for such a swim, you may want to consider hosting such an event. A number of the same issues you have to deal with for meets in pools apply to OWS. It is important to review the MSO OWS Rules and ideally speak to someone who has hosted such an event and if possible get them to assist you. It is most useful to view the SNC Open Water resources at Other considerations:


Safety of the participants, officials and safety personnel is of paramount importance. The course should be designed with this in mind. Steps should be taken to prevent random boat traffic entering the course. All participants should be in sight of an official or safety personnel at all times during the competition. Protocols to deal with removal of swimmers from the water must be established. All participants must be accounted for at the end of the competition. Adequate shore locations, boats or rafts for officials and rafts, kayaks or surf boards for safety personnel must be provided and manned throughout the race.


An ideal course is one that is visible from the start point at all times and is easily accessible in an emergency. A rowing basin in a canal, a quarry or the side of a lake where a triangular course can be formed with the start and finish by the shore and the course going out and back around the course, however all points of the course are relatively close to the shore. The start and finish both take place in the water and the start and finish line can be established by lining up to points on line or using a rope which the swimmers hold onto until the start signal is given.


The race should be swum in accordance with MSO Rules. All swimmers should have been seen to have completed the whole course which requires a turn judge at all turns and finish judges and timers at the finish. Drafting off or interfering with another swimmer is not allowed in MSO sanctioned events. All swimmers must be accounted for, they must finish or withdraw. A swimmer who withdraws must report to the finish judge. Be prepared to assist those who may need it from the water and those who are cold, from their swim, to warm up.


Results from an OWS should be submitted to MSO for posting. Swimmers who complete the course in a stroke other than free should be noted. There are no records for OWS as every course, including length, and conditions, is different. A course may keep records from year to year, including for different strokes.


Posted: August 8, 2018

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