Swim Team Handbook

Table of Contents

    The Charleston Water Rats

    Summer is almost here, and many of our Charleston families have been working very hard to make sure the club is ready for another great season.  We know that joining the swim team creates a lot of questions. We have assembled this handbook to help our new families become more familiar with how the season works. We are also glad to answer any questions that you have!

    Contact Information

    For questions about the swim team, please send an email to swimteam-info@charlestonswimclub.com. That email address is forwarded to the swim team coach and the swim parents.


    • Cindy Passalacqua (Head Coach)
    • Evie Billet (Assistant Coach)

    Swim Parent Committee: 

    • Elura Kish (Ceci’s Mom)
    • Nicole Shilliday (Liam and Keenan’s Mom)

    Tri-County Representative:

    • Ken Billet


    To register for the Water Rats, follow the instructions on the Water Rat Registration page.

    Swim Meets: Schedule and Information

    Our team will have five A meets, two B meets, Cherry Bowl Championships, and Tri-County Championships. See the 2024 event schedule.

    Swimmers competing in Cherry Bowl and/or Tri-County are expected to attend practice up to those events.

    After School Practice (May 28 – June 14, 2024)

    This schedule is in effect while school is still in session

    • Blue Group: 4:30 – 6:00pm 
    • Gold Group: 5:45 – 6:45pm

    Summer Practices (June 17 – August 2, 2024)

    Morning Session 

    • Blue Group: 8:30 – 10:00am
    • Gold Group: 9:45 – 11:00am

    Afternoon Session

    • Blue Group: 5:00 – 6:00pm
    • Gold Group: 5:45 – 6:30pm

    Water Rats in Training (June 17 – July 18, 2024)

    • Monday thru Thursday: 10:15 – 10:45am 
    • Monday thru Thursday: 6:00 – 6:30pm

    Practice Levels

    (New swimmers, on the first day of practice, come to the practice that best suits your ability and age.  The coaches will help guide each swimmer to the most suitable practice group.) 

    • Gold Group: This group will include our younger swimmers ages 12 and under.  The coach will focus on teaching swimmers the four competitive strokes and refining stroke mechanics, starts and flip-turns.  Technique and legal stroke mechanics are the emphasis of this group. 
    • Blue Group: This group will include our older swimmers ages 11 and up and will engage in more serious workouts.  Conditioning, more advanced technique and mental training will be a part of this group’s practice.  Swimmers will be encouraged to volunteer to help with the Water Rats in Training program. 
    • Water Rats in Training: These are our littlest Water Rats just learning to swim and those who might not yet be ready for the swim team.  Our coach will pair each little one with an older swimmer for a private one-on-one lesson 4 days a week.  They also can take part in our B-Meet kick-board races!

    The morning sessions should be attended if possible.  Afternoon practices are for those swimmers who cannot make the morning practices.  Friday afternoon practices before the five main A-Meets will be an all-team pre-meet warm up, followed by a pep rally and team dinner. 

    Swimmers Should come to practices prepared with suits, goggles, and if needed, a swim cap. Our Coach will notify swimmers if they will need appropriate attire for dry land exercise.  Swimmers should be sure to bring drinking water and sunscreen for a healthy and safe practice. 

    Information for New Swim Families 

    Welcome to the Charleston Swim Family!  At Charleston, we appreciate every swimmer and we understand that different kids and families have to work around various commitments. For that reason, our coaches make accommodations for kids who cannot attend practice daily. The most important thing is to communicate with the coaching staff.  Make a point to explain any recurring conflicts to the coaches at the start of the season, and they will help to create a practice plan that works for you.  As a new swim family, the coaches understand that you might not be able to make all the practices and meets.  

    If your kids go to camp during the day, they can come to the night time practices.  Most clubs only have one practice schedule, so our flexible practice schedule is one of the things that makes Charleston extra special!  You can choose on a day-by-day basis which practice your child attends, and there’s no need to alert anyone ahead of time. 

    Helpful hints: 

    • Prevent Swimmer’s Ear: Use drops every night if you think this will be an issue
    • Pre-meet Stress: New Swimmers are often very anxious before their first meet.  Assure your swimmer that it’s their participation that counts, not their speed. They will have contributed to their team simply by swimming. If your child is having trouble, let a coach know! They have all been there and have helped others through their worries.
    • Pay attention to your child’s nutrition: Swimming is an endurance sport, both during practice and during meets.  If there were ever a time to stress healthy eating habits and proper hydration, this summer is it. 
    • If you have no idea what you are doing, ASK.  Other, more experienced parents are always willing to help.  

    Fun Fridays and Pep Rallies/Dinners

    Fridays before A-Meets

    Each Friday, before a swim meet, the coaches put together a special “Fun Friday” practice for our swimmers during the morning sessions. Friday evenings before meets (start time usually 5PM, but always be on the lookout for coaches’ instructions) include a short practice, a pep rally, and a team dinner.  This is an important time for kids to bond with teammates, and to meet with our coaches to learn what events they will be swimming during the next day’s meets.  The swim parents take turns purchasing and preparing simple dinners for our team. 

    Fridays are the days when our coaching staff makes up the  “Meet Sheet:, which is the schedule of which swimmers swim which events in the next day’s meet.  If your child will be missing a Saturday swim meet, it is imperative that you check in with the coaches and let them know what meets they are missing as soon as possible

    Friday dinners

    Our Friday night team dinners are a simple dinner for the entire swim team prepared by our volunteer parents.  We always need more people to help serve the food to our kids, so if you plan to be at the cub with your child, we would appreciate your assistance. If your child has any special dietary needs, simply let us know and we’ll be sure to keep those needs in mind.  Keep an eye out for a sign up sheet and instructions on how to host a Friday dinner.

    How meets work and how you can help

    Keep an eye out for the Charleston Sign Up Genius email and sign up sheets posted in the breezeway.  This will be a one time sign up for all parent/adult volunteer jobs that entail during a regular A meet.  It takes a lot of parents to run a swim meet.  We are here to help new parents learn how to be a timer, stock Della’s Cafe or any of the other volunteer jobs on the list. We expect each family to volunteer for at least one job during each meet. We can’t do this without your help. 

    Food donations

    Each family begins the season with a $20 donation to cover the cost of food to be sold at swim meets.  The Swim Committee stocks Della’s Cafe and uses the proceeds from each meet to stock the next week’s meet. 

    In addition to the $20, we ask that every family brings a case of bottled water along with a case of a soft drink listed below. 

    • 8 & under: Coke
    • 9-10: Sprite
    • 11-12: Diet Coke
    • 13-14 and 15-18: 20oz Gatorade

    Simply bring these beverage donations at any time and leave in Della’s Cafe to the left of the refrigerator. 

    Home meets

    • Arrive on time (or even early to help set up)! Arrival times are communicated at Friday pep rallies and via our Remind service.  
    • Have your child ready for their events. If you need help, just ask!
    • Welcome the opposing team, their coaches, and their families. 
    • Bring cash and support our snack bar.
    • Be part of the Charleston spirit.  That means cheering, learning your child’s teammates’ names, and encouraging kids to show the opposing team good manners and good sportsmanship.

    Away meets

    • Arrive at Charleston parking lot at the announced time and caravan with us! Or drive on your own and meet the team in the parking lot for a group entry.
    • Chairs are sometimes hard to come by at away meets.  You might want to bring camp chairs to put in our “Charleston Area” so that you and your kids have a shady place to wait for events. 
    • Help your child show our Charleston spirit by cheering on our teammates during events. 
    • Bring cash and support their snack bar. 
    • Take pictures and videos for our team video show at the banquet at the end of the year.

    Anatomy of a Swim Meet

    Swimmers are divided into gender-specific age groups as follows (see our policy of non-discrimination) :

    • Girls: age 8 and under
    • Boys: age 8 and under
    • Girls: age 9-10
    • Boys: age 9-10
    • Girls: age 11-12
    • Boys: age 11-12
    • Girls: age 13-14
    • Boys: age 13-14
    • Girls: age 15-18
    • Boys: age 15-18

    Event types at a every swim meet

    • Individual Medleys (one swimmer swims a race, which includes all four strokes, always swum in the order Backstroke, Butterfly, Breaststroke, Freestyle)
    • Medley Relays (a “relay team” of four swimmers swims a race, in which each swimmer is assigned one stroke as a leg of the relay.  The order of the strokes will ALWAYS be 1) Backstroke; 2) Breaststroke; 3) Butterfly; 4) Freestyle).
    • Freestyle (one swimmer swims a race, entirely using freestyle)
    • Backstroke (one swimmer swims a race, entirely using backstroke)
    • Breaststroke (one swimmer swims a race, entirely using breaststroke)
    • Butterfly (one swimmer swims a race, entirely using butterfly stroke)
    • Free Relays (a “relay team” of four swimmers swims a race, in which all four swimmers swim freestyle).

    Reporting time: TBD, but is typically 7:30am, for home meets. Kids report to the pool for warm-ups and a team meeting with the coaches. 

    Meets always start at 9am and run about 2.5 hours. They follow this pattern: 

    • Individual Medleys (IM) only age groups 13 and up, starting with Girls and alternating with Boys. 
    • Medley Relays
    • Freestyle
    • Backstroke
    • Breaststroke
    • Butterfly
    • Short Break/Team Cheer
    • Freestyle Relays

    Each meet is made possible by volunteers. It takes many hands to make a meet possible. Luckily our families are eager to help and willing to teach new volunteers the tricks of the trade. Here is a list of jobs we cover during swim meets. To volunteer to help, please ask Nicole Shilliday or Ken Billet.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Swim Meets


    Your child should have connected with the coaches prior to the swim meet to learn what events s/he is swimming. With that information in mind, along with the above schedule, it should be somewhat easy for parents to predict when their child’s event will be occurring.  We often write small children’s events on their hands/arms in marker, just to remind kids and parents what events that child has been assigned.

    Also, we use the “card system”: about 20-30 minutes prior to your child’s race, you or your child will be handed an index card that shows your child’s name, the race they are in, and the lane of the pool in which they are swimming.  Your job is to make sure your child is available and visible around the pool deck for our card distributor to find, and to make sure that your child is behind the starting blocks in the lane indicated a few minutes prior to his or her race. An adult official will also be standing behind those blocks to collect that index card when it’s your child’s turn to swim.

    *If your child is swimming in a relay race, the card will have four names on it – your child, and their three relay teammates. The team of four will be asked to assemble and stay together, keeping in mind that for younger swimmers, two of the four relay teammates will start their legs of the race from the shallow end of the pool (and not from the starting blocks). The order on the card is the order they must swim.


    The race will proceed without your child. Swim meets move very quickly, and anyone who fails to appear at the starting block at race time will simply miss the event.  Our older swimmers and experienced swim families are very helpful to new swimmers.  As long as you and your child are visible and near the pool deck, we’ll help make sure no one gets lost in the shuffle!


    Most likely, your child will swim 2-4 races at each swim meet.  Our coaching staff assigns swimmers to races based on a variety of factors to help our team do its best as a whole.  Because Charleston’s team is relatively small, our swimmers are all necessary components of the team’s success. No swimmer is left out. Ever.  Everyone swims.  Every time. That’s the Charleston way.


    Cheering! Helping! Bonding with teammates! 

    There’s always a lot of waiting at swim meets.  But swimmers’ interaction with each other is the most important part of the summer swimming experience.  Swimmers are expected to stand poolside and cheer on their teammates.  Older swimmers are expected to help new and younger swimmers get to the blocks on time.  And everyone is expected to be part of the Charleston family and work together to host great meets.  


    Your child is encouraged to talk with coaches about his or her preference and enthusiasm for specific events.  Communication is key!  But the coaches’ decisions are final.  Assure your child that the coaches know what is best for the team as a whole, and that every swimmer is very important.  


    If you have a vacation planned, or your child is ill, missing a swim meet isn’t the end of the world.  HOWEVER, direct communication with coaches is extremely important.  Your child’s absence may mean that his or her entire relay team misses its race – and that can mean disappointing other children.  The sooner the coaches know which swimmers will be missing from a meet, the better.  Please keep coaches’ phone numbers handy and call in absences as soon as possible.

    Team Swimsuits

    Swimmers are encouraged (but not required) to purchase a Charleston Team Swimsuit. They are available online over at NL Aquatic Center Pro Shop. For practice suits, there are great deals available at Costco, TJ Maxx, and www.swimoutlet.com. Swimmers should have good goggles — and the staff at any sports store can show you how to tell if goggles fit your child. Swimmers are also encouraged to wear swim caps.

    Cherry Bowl

    Cherry Bowl is always the last Saturday in July

    July 27, 2024 at Erlton Swim Club.

    Cherry Bowl is a very special event for Cherry Hill Swim Clubs.  All 12 Cherry Hill clubs participate in this all-day event (think super-sized swim meet). Cherry Bowl is held at a different club each year, and it is an intense and fun experience for everyone involved.

    Unlike our regular meets, in which every child is included, not every swimmer is chosen to swim in Cherry Bowl.  Only one child per age group may participate in each individual event, and only one relay team per age group may participate in each of the two relays.  During the week leading up to Cherry Bowl, the team converts its practices to “taper” practices, where kids will race more and often make incredible improvements to their swim times.  Whether or not your child is planning to swim in Cherry Bowl, he or she is expected to participate in practices that week.

    During the week leading up to Cherry Bowl, we will also announce our Team Theme.  Our team will then create easy costumes in accordance with that theme for the Cherry Bowl Parade.  This quick parade is the first event at Cherry Bowl and includes all members of every team.  Parents watch as kids parade around the pool to show their team spirit.

    On July 29, 2023, Charleston Swim Club hosted our first Cherry Bowl in the 62 year history of Cherry Bowl! The event was a massive undertaking and was a huge success for our little club.

    What to expect

    For newcomers, Cherry Bowl often feels like a giant, overwhelming circus of swimming and candy.  In reality, it is well-organized event in which kids can set and break swim records, compete at top levels, and have a great time.

    Important locations

    There are five basic locations at every Cherry Bowl that your swimmer will need to navigate:

    • TENT CITY: A designated home-base for each team away from the pool.  Every team has a tent and lots of chairs.  In between events, kids will hang out in the tent, rest, snack, play on iPads, and ask their parents for candy.  Pack like you’re camping.  Bring lots of chairs, towels, and drinks.  
    • POOLSIDE/BLEACHERS: Parents and kids will sit and watch the exciting races taking place.  It will either be unbearably hot or disgustingly rainy.  And the bleachers will not be comfortable. So pack accordingly.
    • STAGING/POOL: About 30 minutes before each event happens in the pool, the kids swimming in those events are “staged” in an area near tent city.  Volunteer staffers will line the kids up according to their heats, and will walk the kids through a corridor over to the poolside.  Parents’ jobs are simply to pay attention to which event is being staged and have their kids nearby.
    • VENDOR AREA: Around the outside of the host club (or in the parking lot) will be various vendors selling food, snacks, drinks, candy, T-shirts, and other fun stuff.  Bring cash, because it’s a long day and your kids will want everything.
    • BATHROOMS: They will be port-a-potties. Prepare your kids, and break out the hand sanitizer.