Your First Year With Orcas

Welcome to the Oak Bay Orcas! Your first year will be of new experiences for swimmers and parents. Here we'll bring you up to speed on what to expect in your first season.


Orcas swimmers need gear for competitive swimming. It's OK to come to the first few practices with just your regular swimsuit and goggles. By the third week your swimmer needs the equipment list provided by your swimmer's coach.

What Happens at Practice?


MiniPod practices are 45 minutes of coached swimming.

Parents are welcome to watch the practice from the pool's public seating.

Practice Locations has addresses and maps for all our pools and directions on where coaches meet the swimmers and where parents collect the swimmers from.

Juniors and Seniors

Junior and Senior practices start with 30 minutes of dryland workout followed by one hour of coached swimming. Dryland is held outdoors in late spring, summer, and early fall as permitted by weather and daylight. The dryland session is a mix of fitness and warm up activities including sprinting, push ups, lunges, and squats. In the pool, swimmers are grouped into lanes by ability. The coach sets the practice plan for their lane and works with their swimmers on skills and technique. All pool lanes are 25 m long.

Parents are welcome to watch the practice from the pool's public seating.

In summer, swimmers are expected to attend at least three practices per week. In winter, swimmers attend two practices per week.

Practice Locations has addresses and maps for all our pools and directions on where coaches meet the swimmers and where parents collect the swimmers from.

How Important are Swim Meets?

Junior and Senior swimmers may participate in the summer swim meets. Meets are the highlight of the season.

Swimmers love participating in swim meets because they are putting their new skills to work to achieve new personal bests, and because they enjoy cheering on and spending time with their teammates. All swim meets are optional. Orcas encourages swimmers and parents to attend as many as will work for their family.

We encourage you to review the swim meet schedule posted to Swim Meets as you plan your summer vacations to be sure that your swimmer can attend the meets most important to them.

How a Swim Meet Works

In the week leading up to the meet, coaches select the races each swimmer will do based on their mastery of stoke technique and their endurance. It is important to be able to perform each stroke correctly. At meets, judges on the pool deck observe every swimmer's technique to watch for incorrect technique that breaks the sports rules. A violation results in disqualification from the race. 

For new swimmers, their first race in each stroke is a 25 m demonstration race. Experienced swimmers compete in 50 m, 100 m, and 200 m distances. Races are either the same stroke for all lengths or a medley, where each of the four strokes is used for ¼ of the distance. All swimmers are timed. The results are sometimes available on a screen at the pool, are usually posted at the pool itself, and are viewable in the MeetMobile app within a few hours of the race.

Each morning of a meet, Orcas parents will set up the club's large tents on the meet's field or parking lot. Swimmers and parents generally hang out in these tents when they are not preparing for or racing in a heat. For most meets we attend, the pools do not have enough indoor space for everyone to be inside at once, so all clubs set up tents outside.

Shortly before the meet begins, the club will receive the heat sheets that show the swimmers competing in each scheduled heat. Every heat is numbered. It's a good idea to write the heat numbers on your child's forearm so that you and your swimmer have these numbers handy. The sheets remain in the tents. They are also posted inside and, depending on the meet, the heats are posted to the MeetMobile app.

About ten to fifteen minutes prior to a heat's schedule start time swimmers gather at the meet's marshalling area. Meet volunteers will sort the swimmers into heats and lanes and lead them into the pool when it's time to race. Parents, siblings, and friends watch the heat from the pool's bleachers.

When the heat is finished, your swimmer will meet their coach at the side of the pool for a debrief before sending them back to the club's tents.

Some meets do a single round of heats. Other meets have heats and finals. The top 16 swimmers from the heats are entered in the A and B finals. These are held after all heats for all events are complete. If your swimmer does well in, say, their 50 m freestyle heat then the final could be six hours later. Be prepared for long days.

In addition to individual events, most meets include relay events. These are usually held at the end of day. Our coaches organize our relay teams.

Coaches track the personal best times for each of their swimmers in each race type. When a swimmer sets a new personal best time the coach will celebrate this accomplishment with an Oak Bay Orcas personal best temporary tattoo.

Meets need many volunteers to run. The hosting club provides the most volunteers. The visiting clubs provide timers and officials. The timer's role is easy to learn and perform. Formal training is required to be a BCSSA official. Orcas will organize parents to fill our assigned spots on the meet's volunteer roster.

Are there regionals? Provincials? Nationals?

The Oak Bay Orcas are in the BCSSA's Vancouver Island region. Our regionals are held in late July. The top swimmers from that meet are invited to represent our club and our region at the provincial championships in mid-August. The location changes each year. Provincials is the end of the competitive season; there are no nationals.

What is Hell Week?

Hell Week is the club's spirit week. It's held in early July. During Hell Week, the coaches lead the swimmers through extra group events like hiking, running, and lake swimming. Swimmers are also encouraged to attend as many scheduled practices as they can manage. It's way more fun for swimmers and parents than the name implies!


Oak Bay Orcas depends on parent volunteers to manage our club, put on our meet, help at other meets, transport club gear, and more! Please see Volunteering for more information on this important role in our club.