One of the “big things” in gaming right now is virtual reality gaming. Virtual reality has existed, in one form or another, for decades. Since the term was coined in the 1980s, virtual reality has been used to train pilots, assist doctors, and help patients with PTSD.
For swimming meets, we may not be at the stage where swimmers are racing against each other via sitting on their couches at home nor are they entering a wild and weird virtual world as depicted in the 2018 Stephen Spielberg movie “Ready Player One”. However, with LSCs around the United States trying to figure out how to conduct meets in the era of Covid-19 while balancing the health and well-being of swimmers, coaches and fans, one alternative that may become more of a “norm” than an outlier is clubs hosting virtual meets.
A virtual meet is where each team swims at their home pool while comparing times and scoring the meet against one or more other teams. Virtual meets allow teams to hold a meet with fewer people on deck, even allowing you to spread the meet over time (i.e. dividing meets up on different days or times based on age group). These types of meets still allow swimmers the opportunity to improve and have fun. Virtual meets can include as many teams as you need or want. Teams can be located in the same LSC or a different LSC. If your team wants to compete against another club team in Texas, virtual meets allow this to happen without the requirement of a team having to travel.
Virtual meets are not a Covid-19 creation. In past years, the YMCA has held virtual national meets as have many other teams and LSCs in different parts of the United States. Virtual meets have also consistently been a trend in Masters’ Swimming.
USA Swimming has developed guidelines that allow club teams to compete against each other or compete against teams from different LSCs. The USA Swimming guidelines, for virtual meets, are specific and incorporate the application of the USA Swimming technical rules for items such as timing and officiating.
These rules include establishing a “host team” that is required to:
- Develop a meet announcement;
- Order of events;
- Fee structure, if applicable;
- The merging of the meet for scoring and awards, if applicable; and
- Submitting the meet file for uploading to SWIMS after merging and scoring/placing.
For virtual meets, swimmers may not swim more than three (3) events per day in a preliminaries and finals meet, or no more than six (6) events each day in a timed final meet. At each site where swimmers are competing in the same virtual meet, each site must use the same event information for age group, distance and stroke (i.e. Event 1, 10U, 50 Free).
The results at each site are reported and uploaded to a master database. For a full reading of the complete guidelines related to virtual meets, you can see all of the USA Swimming guidelines here (Virtual Swim Meet Guidelines).
When something is outside of the “norm” some will react with a rolling of eyeballs and start complaining. As Jason Kravitz has said, “[b]e infinitely flexible and constantly amazed.” Whatever the short-term outlook is for swim meets, we all need to remember swimmers will be fine and the sport of swimming will survive.