What does my child need for practice and swim meets?

All swimmers should have their swimsuits, towels, caps and goggles at every practice. You can never have too many pairs of goggles, so buy an extra pair if you can. (They break at the worst possible time.) For both home and away meets, team apparel is required. The team “uniform,” which varies by practice group, is available by special order once or twice a year. Swimmers should always have a water bottle at practice and swim meets. They will need nutritious snacks in their swim bag for meets and – depending on the facility – they might need folding chairs to use on deck.

How many practices should my swimmer attend per week?

Each practice group has a minimum number of weekly practices, based on the age of the swimmers and objectives of that group. Check the Program page for specific requirements. Of course, children get sick, have a soccer game, or forget that their social studies report is due. Don’t worry! Simply contact your child’s coaches and let them know.

When does my child move up to another practice group?

This is a decision made by the coaches and will depend both on the child’s age, abilities, experience and commitment.

What is the difference between short course and long course?

Competitive swimming began in London in the 19th century and the sport quickly became popular in North America. At the beginning, all competition pools were 25 yards long. Later, as technology improved and swimming became popular around the world, the 50-meter Olympic pool became the international standard.

Now, American swimmers are trained to compete in both venues. The short course season runs from September to April and swimmers use a 25-yard pool. There are short course time standards, which apply to all meets during this season. The long course season runs from April to August. Meets are conducted in a 50-meter pool and time standards are based on this longer distance. The Water Rat Swim Team is a full year program. Children will compete in both short course and long course meets. (Note: 8/unders compete in a 25-yard pool all year long.)

How does my child sign up for meets?

The team currently uses a “negative registration” system that requires swimmers, or their parents, to opt out of meets. Swimmers inform coaches that they plan to skip a meet, or part of a meet, using Team Unify.

What is Team Unify?

Team Unify is an online system which the coaches use to manage the team.

What are USA Swimming and CT Swimming?

USA Swimming is the national governing body for competitive swimming in the United States. It sets the rules and policies and conducts regional and national championships. It also oversees the growth and development of the sport by offering insurance, workshops and swim clinics to swim teams.

Within the United States, there are 59 Local Swimming Committees (LSC). They are responsible for administering USA Swimming activities in a defined geographical area. Connecticut Swimming is the LSC for the state of Connecticut and it is responsible for the conduct and administration of swim events within the state. A majority of meets on the Water Rat meet schedule are held under the auspices of USA Swimming. Many meets are “qualifiers,” which means swimmers are competing to qualify for one or more championships at the end of the season. Qualifiers, which include many teams, do not have time standards for participation. We also participate in “invitational” and championship meets. These have strict time standards for participation.

But aren’t we a Y team?

True, although we follow USA Swimming rules, we are a YMCA team. That means we participate in Y swim meets. Most of these are “dual” meets in which we compete against another YMCA in Connecticut. We also send our team to the Y State Championship. Some members of our team qualify for the New England YMCA Swimming Championships or the National YMCA Swimming Championships, which are held at the end of the short course season.

Are there differences between Y meets and USA Swimming meets?

There is one big difference (which can be confusing): The leagues use a different system to determine an athlete’s eligibility to compete. Your child can swim in a USA Swimming-sanctioned meet if she is the right age on the day of the meet. For example, a 12-year-old girl can swim in a meet for 11-12-year-olds if she is 12 when she competes, or 12 on the first day of a multi-day meet. If she has a birthday (even a day before) and turns 13, she will be ineligible to swim with the 12-year-olds.

The Y uses a fluctuating cutoff date based on the age of the swimmer at the annual Connecticut Y State Championship. That meet is usually held in January, but the date varies from year to year. You should note that the difference in eligibility rules between the Y and USA Swimming might cause your child to compete in two different age groups during part of the year. (Don’t worry; the coaches will let you know when your child must compete in a different age group.)

What is the Parents’ Club?

When your child becomes a Water Rat, you automatically become a member of the Parents’ Club.

The Parents Club supports the activities of the team by raising funds, arranging travel, and organizing social events for parents and swimmers. Most important we run all Water Rat swim meets and we assist other teams at away meets. We support the coaches and promote competitive swimming while promoting values of the YMCA.

When does the Parents’ Club meet?

The Parents’ Club Board of Directors meets monthly and all Club members are welcome to attend. Meeting dates and locations are listed on the front page of this website. We have a Planning and Evaluation meeting in February and an Annual Meeting in June, when new board members are elected. Parents are strongly encouraged to attend these special meetings.

What are the team fees?

Swim team families are assessed four types of fees:
1. Family YMCA membership fees: All swimmers must be current members of the Y.
2. Family YMCA Program fees: These fees cover pool time, use of the facility and coaches’ salaries. Payment can be made in September at registration or you can set up a 6-month payment plan.
3. Parent Club Dues (PET WRAT): The “Parent Encouragement Tax” supports the Parents Club annual budget. Families commit to the club for a full year of swimming and payment is due in full at registration.
4. USA Swimming Fees: These fees are put into an escrow account for each swimmer and cover annual membership in USA Swimming and meet entry fees. Each event is $4.00 or $5.00. When your swimmer’s account is nearly depleted, you will be billed to top it up.


PET-WRAT stands for the Parent Encouragement Tax of the Water Rat Swim team. This annual financial assessment is the Club’s major source of income and it allows us to support the team.

In addition to the financial contribution, every family is required to help run the Club and our swim meets. More than 4,500 parent volunteer hours are needed to staff a year of Water Rat swim meets. Off the pool deck, we need volunteers to run fundraisers and to chaperone parties for the swimmers. There’s a job (or two) for everyone. You can find more information in the Team Handbook.