How a Synchronized Swimming Figure Meet Runs
Your first few figure competitions can seem daunting. You’ll naturally be feeling nervous about competing, which is normal. But, you also have to worry about which panel to be at and make sure you don’t miss your turn.
This guide will shed light on the mystery of figure competitions. Hopefully it allow you to focus more of your mental energy on your figures, and less on running around trying to find out which one you’re supposed to do next.
What to Wear
During figure competition, everyone is expected to wear a black suit and a white cap — nothing that could identify you with a certain team. The point is to make everyone seem anonymous so the judges don’t form any opinions based on which club you might be from.
As for the goggles and nose clip, neutral colors are best. Pick a nose clip that’s close to your skin color, and go with gray, black, or clear goggles. If the meet is outdoors, consider mirrored goggles.
Order of Draw
Every competitor will be assigned a number that is chosen at random by a computer. The list of those numbers is called the “order of draw.”
The meet manager or assistant manager will post the order of draw at various locations around the pool deck before competition begins. If you think you might have trouble remembering your number, write it in the palm of your hand with a marker.
A fun way to get familiar with the way a figure competition runs is to have a mock meet at practice. Give everyone a number and rotate through the panels of each figure in order. Your coaches or teammates can even pretend to be the caller or judges.
Four judging panels will be set up around the pool. You’ll recognize a panel as a row of chairs on the edge of the pool deck for the judges. Behind that row will usually be a table with a few more chairs behind it for the scorers. The panels are numbered one through four. One of each of the four figures will be performed in front of each panel.
The list of competitors will also be divided into four groups. The first person in each group will start at a different panel. Even if you aren’t number one, know that you might still go first at your panel!
After finishing a figure, go to the next one in numerical order. For example, if you just finished a figure at panel two, go to panel three next. If you just finished at panel four, go to panel one.
When Your Number Is Up
Slip into the pool when there are still three or four swimmers ahead of you that still haven’t gone yet. Jumping in and making a big splash is considered rude, so be discreet!
Wait on the wall quietly for your turn. After the swimmer in front of you has finished and is on their way to the side, you may eggbeater out. The caller will ask you to verify your order number by saying something like, “Swimmer number 43?” If this is correct, nod.
Next, the caller will announce to you the name of the figure (even thought you probably already know which one you’re about to do). You may then start to layout.
Wait until you hear the center judge say, “Go,” before you begin. After you finish, sit up or come up gracefully. Breaststroke or eggbeater to the wall on the opposite side of the panel from where you lined up.
Hot Tip: Competition Speed
Some figures take longer than others to complete. You might wait 20 or 30 minutes between some panels, and you may have to rush between others.
If you miss your turn, they will shout out your number. Everyone will watch as you run across the deck and try to calm down before you start your figure. Totally missing it means you get a zero!
Figure It Out
Eventually, you will get the hang of how figure competitions are organized. Until then, don’t be afraid to ask your coach (or experienced teammates) for help when you are feeling lost or confused. Soon you’ll be the one helping the newcomers find their way around the panels!