Parent’s Guide to Youth Meets

We’ve all been newbies at one point when it comes to competing in youth track meets. This guide should help answer many of your common questions. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Generally speaking, how do track meets work?
Youth track meets offer all events in multiple age groups. Typically, all the age groups will compete in a certain event and then the meet will move to the next event; that is, they’re not organized such that all Bantam, and then all Midget and then all Youth events are held. It’s possible that your child may compete in the first and last event of the day.  Track meets typically run on a rolling schedule, meaning that upon completion of one event the next one closely follows. Because of this – and the fact that events may take more or less time than expected – it’s impossible to tell at exactly what time your child will compete (unless he/she is participating in the first event of the meet).

In which age group will my child compete?
Generally, USATF competitions use 2-year age groups. AAU meets generally use 1-year age groups. Though ‘age’ group may suggest an athlete’s age at the time of the event is used to determine his/her group, both track organizations consider only the year in which the athlete was born. In other words, a child born late in 1995 (a sub-youth) may actually be the same age as a child born early in 1996 (a midget), but must compete in the sub-youth group. You can find more information here.

What’s a “qualifying” meet?
Qualifying meets are those meets at which your child must be in attendance and achieve certain performance criteria in order to qualify for the next higher meet. JATC competes in two qualifying-meet chains – one AAU and one USATF. The AAU chain starts at the district level (which is somewhat of a misnomer, since it’s really a state-wide meet) and moves to the regional and then national level. The USATF Junior Olympic chain begins with districts (Tulsa/Northeast OK region) and then moves to state, regional and national competition.

Please note that the USATF Youth Outdoor T&F Championships is not part of the Junior Olympic chain and is a separate national-level event for which athletes qualify simply based on qualifying standards/times. If your child is eligible to compete in the USATF Youth Outdoor T&F Championships, the JATC coaching staff will inform him/her/you.

How long do meets last?
Track meets are several hours, sometimes all-day events. And some of the larger meets JATC will attend – regional and national competitions, for example – are spread over two or more days. Make sure you check the meet schedule on the website to determine which day(s) you need to be in attendance.

How early do we need to arrive at the meet?
It’s a good idea to arrive an hour or so before the meet is scheduled to start. This allows time for you to complete the registration and/or check-in process. (Even if you’ve pre-registered for the meet, athletes typically must check in upon arrival.) It also allows time for your child to warm up on the track and to orient him/herself with the complex (e.g., location of heating tent, restrooms, etc.).

What must I have to complete the registration process?
You’ll need to know two things – (1) the event(s) in which your child will be competing and (2) your child’s AAU or USATF number (depending on which organization sanctions the event). Please also make sure Coach Julia Barber has on file three copies of your child’s birth certificate. She brings these to the meets and may be asked to present them.

How much does it cost to register?
Each track meet is different. Amounts may be fixed or may depend on the number of events in which your child will be competing. Generally, meet registration costs between $5 and $20. Your child also will need an AAU or USATF number. It’s suggested that you purchase his/her AAU and USATF membership prior to the meet.

Does JATC’s coaching staff ever register club athletes?
It’s best to operate under the assumption that you must register your own child at meets, though in some cases – namely, national competitions – team coaches may coordinate with you and ultimately be responsible for submitting a single registration form.

In which event(s) should enter my child?
Generally, your child has either been training as a sprinter (Coach Cooper) or a distance runner (Coach Barber) and coaches will have worked with your child to determine the optimal running events for him/her. During early-season meets, however, athletes and coaches may still be working to determine the event(s) in which athletes are strongest. If your child has been working out with the sprinters, it’s best to place him/her in sprint event(s) – 100 meters, 200 meters and/or 400 meters. If he/she has been training with the distance group, middle- to long-distance races – 800 meters, 1500 meters, 3000 meters – are preferable. If a change subsequently needs to be made regarding optimal running event placement, coaches will work with the athletes accordingly. Hurdlers and field athletes – jumpers, throwers and vaulters – should be placed in the event(s) in which they have been training.

What about signing up for relay events?
Athletes should know prior to the meet if they’ll be competing on one or more relay teams. You will need to enter your child in the appropriate relay just as you would enter him/her in an individual event.

How will I know when it’s my child’s turn to compete?
First, you’ll have to know in which age division and event(s) your child will be competing. Then, you’ll listen for the announcement of a “first call” for that event. For example, the announcer will announce over the public-address system, “First call – bantam girls, 100 meter dash.” If your child is signed up to compete in this event, she should then make her way to the heating tent.

What’s the heating tent? Where is it located?
The heating tent is where all the participants in a certain event gather prior to the event. Heating tent officials determine the presence of all expected athletes, make lane assignments, hand out hip stickers or other identification materials and escort the participants to the starting line when it’s time for the event. Parents generally are not allowed in the heating tent. The heating tent will be located in different areas at different meets. Some heating tents are located on the infield, some are outside the track and some are in the bleachers. Please help your child locate the heating tent upon arriving at the meet to ensure he/she knows where it is and how to get there.

I think my child earned a medal/ribbon/etc.? How and where does he/she get it?
The distribution of medals/ribbons/etc., as well as the number of participants receiving them, varies by meet. Some awards are presented to athletes immediately following each event, some meets include podium ceremonies for each event and some meets hand out all awards in a centralized location throughout the day or at the end of the day. Just keep your ears open for instructions.

What should I bring to the track meet?
Track meets are hours-long events, so it’s important for athletes to come prepared (after a good, carbohydrate-rich breakfast, of course). You should bring proper foods and drinks for your athlete (e.g., water, pretzels, fruit, bagels, trail mix, crackers, orange slices, raisins, etc.); weather protection (e.g., canopy/umbrella, sunscreen, blanket, hat, sunglasses, etc.); comfort items (e.g., portable chair, pillow, cooler, seat cushion, insect repellant, etc.); and stuff to keep everyone entertained (e.g., books, puzzles, games, iPods, homework, etc.). Concessions typically are available at track meets.

How can I help ensure my child achieves peak performance?
You can help ensure your child performs at his/her best at meets by providing a carbohydrate-rich breakfast to begin the day. It’s also important that while at the venue he/she remains in the shade and engages in minimal physical activity when not stretching, warming up or competing. And most importantly, encourage and support your child – not only the day of the meet but throughout the season.

Does JATC have a team tent?
Yes, but it may not be raised at every meet. Look for our uniforms, ask around, eyeball the place. If it’s there, you’ll see it.

Can we leave the meet after my child competes in his/her event(s)?
Assuming your child is finished with his/her events and is not an alternate on any relay team, you may leave. But you’re encouraged to stay and cheer on JATC if your schedule allows.

Where can I find the results from the meet?
Results will be posted on the web site. During the meet, official results typically are posted in a common area as the events are completed.

Are pictures typically available following the meet?
Sometimes. Third-party providers may cover certain meets and will provide information at the meet regarding options to view/purchase photos. In addition, Brad Church may be capturing photos of JATC athletes at certain meets and will upload photos for viewing/purchasing following the meets. Plus, Brad will donate 50 percent of the photo-sales proceeds back to JATC. In both cases, links to the galleries will be posted on our website.