Parents Handbook


We would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the Cowichan Valley Breakers Summer swim team.  We are really looking forward to getting to know you and your swimmer.  The summer season is busy, but a lot of fun. If you have not been involved with a swim team before I hope you like our little summer swim cheat sheet we have prepared to help you find your way.

Club Mission Statement

The Cowichan Valley Breakers offer affordable, accessible, quality activity for youth in the Cowichan Valley. We provide an enjoyable, nurturing, supportive family atmosphere for your swimming experience, through the promotion and preservation of competitive and recreational swimming. The Team’s swimmers are encouraged to put forth their best personal effort and to strive to better their individual performance.

Our Mission:

  • To enhance the joy of swimming among CV Breakers’ members.

  • To provide the life-long skill of swimming.

  • To provide an equal opportunity for all swimmers of all abilities to improve their skills and techniques and to progress in the sport.

  • To promote goal setting, sportsmanship, fitness, well-being and self confidence, that will lead to self-esteem through achievements.

  • To provide an opportunity to engage in competition, if desired.

  • To provide affordable swimming to youth in the Cowichan Valley.

  • To provide local coaching opportunities for up and coming CIT senior swimmers.


The Cowichan Valley Breakers is a non-profit, parent run, competitive summer swim team that has been operating for more than 20 years. In the winter we are restricted to a maximum of 2 hours coached swimming per week, but now we have entered our swimming season, your swimmer can opt to swim in as many swim sessions as their level permits. 

We will be hosting and participating in meets all over the Island, starting with our Icebreaker meet here at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre. In this document we will outline a few things to help you negotiate your first season. Meets are completely optional; you can sign up for as many or as few as your family is comfortable with.  We encourage everyone to go at his or her own pace for a personal, successful season.

A bit on the Formalities

The Cowichan Breakers Swim team is one of over 60 clubs affiliated with BCSSA (British Columbia Summer Swimming Association) across 60 communities in BC. These 60 swim clubs are divided into 8 regions.  The Cowichan Valley Breakers compete in the Vancouver Island region comprised of the following swim clubs: Powell River Aquatics, Campbell River Salmon Kings, Courtenay Blue Devils, Nanaimo White Rapids, Salt Spring Stingrays, Pender Island Otters, Juan De Fuca Royals, Oak Bay Orcas, Sidney Piranhas, and Gordon Head Gee Gees.

The Regionals and Provincials are probably the meets you will hear the most about, as those are the most important swim meets of the season for the highly competitive swimmers.  In order to be able to swim at Provincials, swimmers must qualify at the Vancouver Island Regional Championships, also known as “Regionals”.  To swim at Regionals, swimmers must swim one individual race at any other meet during the year (excluding Blue and Gold Meet in house mini-meet).

If you would like to read more about the role of BCSSA for summer swim teams please see:

What Is a Swim Division?

Divisions (Div 1-8) are based on the swimmer’s age and when they were born in the year. Swimmers will typically spend one or two years in each division (depending on their birth month and year). For example, a 7 year old swimmer will either: a) spend 2 years in Div 1 then 1 year in Div 2; or b) spend 1 year in Div 1 before having 2 years in Div 2.

To check and see where your swimmer falls this season, ask your swimmers coach.

Are Swim Groups Based On My Swimmers’ Division?

Swim groups are typically not based on a swimmers age, but rather their ability. Our groups are set up so that swimmers can learn stroke technique and skills at their appropriate level. So while your swimmer may be with swimmers a bit older or younger than them, know and trust the coaches have made the best decision for them and their learning.

What the First Two Weeks Of Training Will Look Like:

Typically, the first few days of swimming look very chaotic and sloppy from afar! Families and parents new to the team often wonder why it looks this way. Do not fret parents! This is what we like to call “organized chaos”. Once the summer season commences, the coaches put their plans into action and see where their swimmers are at in terms of swimming technique, endurance, etc. To make sure every swimmer is in the right swimming group. Once the coaches see where everyone is starting from, things will quiet down and look a lot smoother in the water.

How Come My Swimmer Isn’t Progressing At the Same Pace As Their Friends?

Success in swimming isn’t all gold medals and what their label is - it is about their individual learning and progression. Like with anything in life, children learn and grow at their own pace. Whether it takes a swimmer to learn and perfect a skill in a week, or month, or even a whole season, they are moving at the right pace for them. Do not fret parents - the learning will come as long as they have a positive and fun atmosphere!

Training Considerations:

Every swimming group’s practice looks a bit different in the water, so it is hard to compare their practices to each other. In our Development group, swimmers are learning the basics of freestyle and backstroke as well as dolphin kick. In the Junior group, swimmers learn the basic techniques of all four strokes: freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, and breaststroke. In Intermediate groups, their techniques are put to the test. Faster swimming and harder practice sets occur here to fine tune all four strokes as well as to practice starts and turns. Specifically in Intermediate 2, swimmers are going to learn how to train and get through tougher swim practices. Finally in our Senior group swimmers generally are working on highly advanced techniques of all their strokes, starts, and turns. Since these swimmers are typically closer to puberty, their bodies are able to handle more of a workload then other groups. This means they will be put through vigorous training sets to teach them about advanced technical skills and how to train to succeed.

For more of an in-depth look at group requirements and learning outcomes, check out our group descriptions.

Registration for meets

Meets are optional. A couple of weeks before each meet your coach will give you a form that highlights which races your swimmer would be eligible to compete in.  Each race is held on specific days of the weekend, and the same races are not held on the same days at every meet.  Make sure you are available for the days of the races you sign up for, and complete the form as directed including correct payment.

Junior Development

Swimmers in this group will be:

-   Introduced to swimming in the competition pool for their entire practice time

-   Work on the basics of stroke progressions, including streamlines and on the front and back

-   Be introduced to the basics of freestyle, backstroke, dolphin kick, and butterfly

In order to move to the Junior group swimmers must complete all of the following:

-   1 length (25m) of the pool unassisted of recognizable freestyle, backstroke, and dolphin kick

-   Know understand the basics of the butterfly pull

-   Be able to stay in the competition pool for the duration of their swim time over many practices consistently and confidently

Juniors 1 & 2

Swimmers in this group will work on:

-   Building on basic technique of freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly

-   Be introduced to breaststroke kick and pull

-   Be introduced to basics of starts and legal turns

In order to move to the Intermediate 1 group swimmers must complete all of the following:

-   All four strokes legally

-   Able to complete a 100 IM legally and confidently

Intermediate 1

Swimmers in this group will work on:

-   Polish their technique in all four strokes

-   Introduced to refined open turns and flip turns

-   Introduced to using the pace clock during their training sets

In order to move to the Intermediate 2 group swimmers must be able to do all of the following:

-   Complete all four strokes, turns, and starts legally and with confidence

-   Have appropriate maturity and motivation to complete challenging swim set

-   **Movement into the Intermediate 2 group will strongly be under Head Coach’s assessment and advisement

Intermediate 2

Swimmers in this group are classified as "learn-to-train" according to the Long Term Athlete Development Model. Swimmers will learn: 

-   Advanced swim technique in all four strokes

-   Advanced technique of all open and flip turns, including the back to breast turn, and starts

-   Fully understanding how to use pace times for training on their own initiative without coaches assisting them

In order to move to the Senior group, swimmers must (one or all of the following):

-   Be ready mentally and physically for more challenging and complicated sets

-   Be in the Division 4 (12+ years old) in the upcoming competitive season

-   **Movement into the Senior group will strongly be under Head Coach’s assessment and advisement


Swimmers in this group must will be mentally and physically ready to enter the "train-to-train" phase of the Long Term Athlete Development Model. Practices will be challenging mentally and physically while keeping a high priority of learning how to be active and healthy for life.

Swimmers in this group will work work on:

-   High advanced swim techniques, which includes learning a varsity-level back to breast turn

-   Physical conditioning such as speed endurance, cardiovascular endurance, speed & agility, and muscular endurance

-   How to train properly to keep all bodily tissues healthy and free of chronic injury

Hosting a Meet

When we host a meet it is a lot of fun, but there are a lot of jobs that need some assistance.  These are:

  • 50/50 tickets – there is always a 50/50 draw and we need people to walk around the area selling tickets.

  • Concession – food and drinks are available and the stand needs to be covered by volunteers serving and prepping and cooking the food.

  • Silent Auction – will need people who can collect items for the silent auction, and also people to help put the items together and monitor the table throughout the meet.

  • Ribbons – all teams leave with their ribbons for the day and people are required to label these and put them in bags for each team, so they are ready to go at the end of the meet.

  • Deck Food – we serve food and drink to all of our club volunteers, the officials, and the timers. We need people to prep and serve this throughout the course of the meet.

  • Marshalling – this is the area where the swimmers go to be lined up properly for their races, so that they end up in the right lane. We need people to organize them in the marshalling area, and to escort them in to the pool.

  • Security – we need people to direct viewers, and make sure that only swimmers and volunteers use the door by the marshalling area.

  • Set Up/Take Down – we need people to help do just that – set up our tents, chairs, tables etc. outside of the building both mornings, and take them down at the end of each day. This is a great job for people who have to work that weekend, but still want to help out!

  • Runner/Posting results – we need people to run errands for the folks doing the timing desk/computer.

  • Shopping/gathering food donations/baking – these are good jobs for anyone who may not be available during the meet, but wants to get their volunteer hours done, as these are jobs that can be done ahead of time.

There will be an information sessions where you can sign up to help.  The success of our swim meets relies entirely on parent and family volunteers.  Parents are expected to volunteer for at least a 2-hour shift each day.  It is a great way to get to know each other. There are many experienced parents with the team, who are more than happy to answer questions, and mentor new parents.

Meet Schedule 2019

BCSSA - BC Summer Swimming Association

VI Region


A swimmer only really needs a pair of goggles and a swimsuit, which is why swimming is so good.  There are however some avenues to purchase swim apparel and gear during the summer season.

  • At the meets - At our own meet Urban Valley Tees will be there to print your team logo onto hoodies, track pants and t-shirts right there on the spot.

  • Team Aquatics - We have a Shark card with Team Aquatics, that you can request and show within their stores, or if you order online you can use the code gobreakers to get your team discount.

  • Breakers Caps - We have a stock of Breakers caps - if you would like to purchase, contact Caroline Storie - these have the logo printed on the them, but will not have your swimmer’s name (we take orders for those in the winter).

What should I bring to a meet?

The meets for Oak Bay and Sidney are at the Commonwealth pool where there is ample seating for everyone to sit inside all day.  For these meets you do not need to bring any of the outdoor gear listed below.  For all other meets, including ours, the team sits outside, as there is limited viewing space.

At all meets apart from those at Commonwealth Pool in Victoria, there will be a team tent set up outside for the swimmers – come and find the Breakers logo.  This is a great way to meet up with the rest of the team.  Meet days can be long so it is good to bring a selection of activities for your swimmer and also some snacks  & water. There is food available for purchase, but you might also want to make sure you have your own supplies – swimmers like to eat!

It is also a good idea to bring extra towels for after each swim, a warm sweater / jacket for if it gets cold and / or a blanket or sleeping bag.

Some like to bring their own pop up beach tent to add to the sides of the team shade, although we encourage the swimmers to mix and mingle together, and also chairs for grown ups.

What do we do when we get there?

When you arrive check in with one of your coaches just to let them know you are there.  There should be a list as to whether your swimmer is required for a relay (if you signed up on the registration form). The relay teams are decided on the day and you are expected to stay until the end for the relays or tell the coach if you can’t make it so they have time to find another swimmer.

Warm up

Before any races begin there is a period of time for each team to do warm-up swims.  Your coach will tell you what time your team is booked for their warm up swim.  Warm ups are important as they allow the swimmer to become familiar with the host pool and get a chance to practice details such as dives and turns. These details can be sensitive to changes in the facility, such as block slanted at a different angle, a wall textured differently, a higher or lower pool edge, or a ceiling or lack of one for navigating backstroke. Swimmers warm up and wake up their bodies

Important information is given out to swimmers at this time regarding specifics of the meet, such as changes in the event numbers and the time and location of the team meeting.

Coaches take attendance to see who has made it to the meet.  They will use this information to make deck entries, scratches and to modify relay teams.

Warm up times are emailed prior to each meet by your Head coach and posted to the Cowichan Valley Breakers Facebook page.  Swimmers are expected to be ready for Activition (dryland stretching and warm-up) prior to the warm-up swim, 15 minutes prior to the posted warm-up swim time. This will be reflected in the coaches’ communications.

Around 30 mins before your swimmer's race listen for announcements regarding marshalling for your child's division. What is "marshalling" you ask? There will be a marshaling tent to send your swimmer to once they call out their race.  Your swimmer must check in with the organizers so they can check him or her off the list and seat them where they need to be seated. Your swimmer will move down the seat lines as the race get’s closer until they are at the front where they will be told when to enter the swimming pool area and what lane they are racing in. Please note that while you can walk your child to the Marshalling area if necessary, you are not allowed to enter it. Please head off to the stands once they are safely inside the marshalling area. Marshalling is a very busy place, and we don’t want any swimmers missing races due to unnecessary crowding by parents.

What if I place?

Most meets are timed finals, meaning the race is only run once. If your swimmer finishes in the fastest 6-8 swimmers (depending on the number of lanes), they will receive a ribbon. Nanaimo and Sidney both run Heats and Finals meets. This means that the swimmers swim their races once, and then the fastest 6-8 swimmers (again, depending on number of lanes) get called back for the Final, where they swim the race again. Keep an eye on your app or check in with your coach to make sure you don’t miss a race.

Relay Team Formation

Relay events are a favourite among our Breakers swimmers (including the coaches!) Typically at the beginning of the swim season, our relays are set up so that the maximum amount of fun and team building can occur at our meets. However as we progress throughout the season, particularly right before our Regional Championship meet, all of the coaches will sit down together and compare everyone’s progress and best times throughout the season to create the best and fastest relay teams possible. Formation of the relays usually tends to be by swim division as well as best times 


Ribbons are handed out by your coach after practice, usually sometime during the week following the meet. There will be an email sent out saying which day this will happen. Most clubs have the ribbons ready for all the teams right after the meet, but sometimes the coaches have to wait until the following weekend, at the next meet, to get them.

What’s this Hell Week I keep hearing about?

You may hear reference to “Hell Week” around the pool.  This is a booked week of activities organized for your team with your coaches, and is designed to have the swimmers have their hardest training week at the right time for them to “peak” at Regionals. Your swimmer will be put into a team and they will receive points for the activity and attendance.  At the end of the week the points will be totaled and the team who has the highest points will win a prize and everyone who participates in all of the activities will receive a Hell Week shirt.  This is a great way to get to know people in the whole team, to bond with your coaches, get some skill training and have a laugh. Hell Week always kicks off with a Swimathon during Monday practice, which helps to raise funds to offset the cost of the activities and shirts.

End of Season Presentation

Sometime after Regionals, but before Provincials an end of year celebration, awards night and AGM is held at a local park.  Date and Place will be emailed closer to the time. This is a potluck event with a BBQ provided and a chance to sign up for future roles in the club for the next year.  Any swimmer who has swum with the Breakers club throughout the year is invited.