Explanation of Galas, Open Meets and other competition events


10 Commandments for Swimming Parents

by Rose Snyder, Managing Director Coaching Division, USOC Former Director of Club Services, USA Swimming (adapted from Ed Clendaniel’s 10 Commandments for Little League Parents)


I. Thou shalt not impose thy ambitions on thy child.

Remember that swimming is your child’s activity. Improvements and progress occur at different rates for each individual. Don’t judge your child’s progress based on the performance of other athletes and don’t push him based on what you think he should be doing. The nice thing about swimming is every person can strive to do his personal best and benefit from the process of competitive swimming.

 II. Thou shalt be supportive no matter what.

There is only one question to ask your child after a practice or a competition – “Did you have fun?” If meets and practices are not fun, your child should not be forced to participate.

 III. Thou shalt not coach thy child.

You are involved in one of the few youth sports programs that offers professional coaching. Do not undermine the professional coach by trying to coach your child on the side. Your job is to provide love and support. The coach is responsible for the technical part of the job. You should not offer advice on technique or race strategy. Never pay your child for a performance. This will only serve to confuse your child concerning the reasons to strive for excellence and weaken the swimmer/coach bond.

 IV. Thou shalt only have positive things to say at a swimming meet.

You should be encouraging and never criticize your child or the coach. Both of them know when mistakes have been made. Remember “yelling at” is not the same as “cheering for”.

 V. Thou shalt acknowledge thy child’s fears.

New experiences can be stressful situations. It is totally appropriate for your child to be scared. Don’t yell or belittle, just assure your child that the coach would not have suggested the event or meet if your child was not ready. Remember your job is to love and support your child through all of the swimming experience.

 VI. Thou shalt not criticize the officials.

Please don’t criticize those who are doing the best they can in purely voluntary positions.

 VII. Honor thy child’s coach.

The bond between coach and swimmer is special. It contributes to your child’s success as well as fun. Do not criticize the coach in the presence of your child.

 VIII. Thou shalt be loyal and supportive of thy team

It is not wise for parents to take swimmers and to jump from team to team. The water isn’t necessarily bluer in another team’s pool. Every team has its own internal problems, even teams that build champions. Children who switch from team to team find that it can be a difficult emotional experience. Often swimmers who do switch teams don’t do better than they did before they sought the bluer water.

 IX. Thy child shalt have goals besides winning.

Most successful swimmers have learned to focus on the process and not the outcome. Giving an honest effort regardless of what the outcome is, is much more important than winning. One Olympian said, “My goal was to set a world record. Well, I did that, but someone else did it too, just a little faster than I did. I achieved my goal and I lost. Does this make me a failure? No, in fact I am very proud of that swim.” What a tremendous outlook to carry on through life.

 X. Thou shalt not expect thy child to become an Olympian.

There are 250,000 athletes in USA Swimming. There are only 52 spots available for the Olympic Team every four years. Your child’s odds of becoming an Olympian are about .0002%.

Competing at Galas Introduction

Some parents, especially those of younger swimmers, and those new to the club and competing, might find the following information about galas useful.

Before the event

Coaches decide which events competitors should be entered for. If you decide to enter then you must complete the relevant form and pay the required fee by the due dates.  Hand the fully completed entry form to the Team Managers  – Deborah Harouma or Michelle Panyandee – with cash or cheque in an envelope marked with swimmer’s name and event title; note:  cheques should be made payable to ‘Newham & UEL Swimming Club’. Watch the web site Fixtures Page for details of galas/meets and entry/payment deadline dates.

If payment is not received by this date then the swimmer will not be entered. No late entries will be accepted and all squad fees must be up to date to be able to compete.

Most galas only accept one cheque per club so we cannot make any exceptions; if your payments are not in by the closing date your entry will not be submitted.

On the day

Remember to take enough towels and costumes/trunks and poolside shoes (usually flip flops). Being wet or cold will not help you swim your best. Also as poolside seating is limited you can take a small fold away chair to sit on when you are not racing (subject to event organiser’s conditions).

Make sure the swimmer has enough drinks (no fizzy drinks) for replacing lost fluids during races. Water is best but some swimmers prefer sports drinks or squash.

The Club swimming hats,  t-shirts etc are all available from the Club. All N&UEL swimmers must wear the clubs uniform to all galas.

Signing in

Swimmers have to enter for races by a signing-in process. There are usually lists set up on tables or on the wall either at the changing rooms or at the pool entrance. Each race is listed individually and has the swimmers names listed. The swimmer has to just tick, sign or highlight their names next to their printed name to confirm they are racing.

Some galas like you to sign for all races at the first session and some like the swimmers to sign in per session. There are usually volunteers at the signing sheets who help the more novice competitors but if there are any problems the swimmer should see their coach. It is the swimmers responsibility to sign in for their own races. They are not to sign for anyone else and parents should not sign in for their swimmers!

Each event will be divided into heats with the slowest going first. The winner is decided either on times (Heat Declared Winner/HDW ) or a final when the fastest 6 or 8 competitors will swim for their places. Medals are usually awarded to the top 3 or top 6 or 8 depending on the gala. 6.

Before leaving home, make sure you have your entry cards (if needed), your kit, 2 towels, 2 costumes, N&UEL hat, plenty of drink (very important), a couple of pairs of goggles- tightened ready to wear, snacks for poolside (not chocolate or tonnes of sweets !!) On poolside you will need your N&UEL T-shirt and poolside shoes.

Always arrive in plenty of time to sign in. 

Signing in sheets are usually situated by the entrance to the pool or by the changing rooms If you cannot find them, ASK someone.

What to do if you forget to sign in?

Tell your coach ASAP who will then take you to the organisers. If the events have already been sorted out and there is a space in the first heat you will normally be offered that space.

If there are no spaces you will not be able to swim in that event. If the event has not been sorted out you will be placed in the correct position. However this is at the discretion of the organisers. Your best approach is not to forget to sign in!! Swimmers are NOT allowed to sign in for anyone else.

What Next?

Get yourself changed and go onto poolside. You will need to look for the N&UEL Team and coaches. Don’t worry if you can’t see them straight away, keep looking and you will find them. Report to the coaches.  You must not leave the poolside without informing your coach.

The coaches will organise you for the warm-up and tell you when your swim is coming. Keep an eye on what is going on and help cheer for your team mates during their swims and they will cheer for you.

 Your Swim

The announcer will call your event usually two events before you swim and the coaches will send you to the marshalling area.

Do not wander off or mess about, as you need to pay attention to everything that is going on. All swimmers must let their coaches know if they are to leave poolside.

The marshals will put you into the right order and tell you lane. Don’t worry there will be adults there to help you. If you are worried, ASK. Sometimes there will be an experienced swimmer with you to show you the ropes. You’ll soon get the hang of it.

The marshals will then call your heat and send you to the blocks.  Your heat and lane number will be told to you again, but if you forget them, keep calm – the time keepers will help you. Go to your lane.  There is usually a box or basket to put your pool shoes, t-shirt and drinks bottle in, so you can collect them after your race.

Get ready……

Put on your hat and goggles

Once you are on the blocks, focus, nobody else matters.

Swim as FAST as you possibly can.

Do not attempt to look around.

Concentrate on your own race.

Sometimes your swimming does not go as well as you want or expected, don’t worry. There is often a good reason for that. Don’t get upset, just put that swim behind you (learn from it) and then concentrate on your next race.

Collect your belongings from the blocks and stand still when the next race is about to start. Go back to your coach to go through your race and find out your time.




After all of your hard training – we wish you all GOOD LUCK!!!


Galas tend to be a series of competitions involving the same clubs within a league, such as the Essex League, 6 Host Boroughs Championships where the swimmers swim as a team. We can also have friendly galas that are just arranged between local clubs where the swimmers just swim for times and again compete as a club.

Open Meets are competitions that are usually organised by one club and held as a single event on one day or over a weekend. They are not part of a League, and they sometimes have qualifying times. This means that the organisers can restrict who enters by setting a time that the swimmer must have achieved to be able to compete. Some Open Meets also have upper limits so that very fast swimmers cannot enter, and it lets others have a chance.

They usually have medals awarded in each event for either top 3, top 6 or top 8 places. They can be HDW, which stands for Heat Declared Winner, or they can swim in heats and the fastest swimmers go through to swim against each other in the final.

In Open Meets, the main difference is that the swimmer is swimming as an individual, representing their club.   For example, if the swimmer enters an Open Meet, and swims the 50m Freestyle, they could find that there are 50 other swimmers in that event, from 12 different clubs. They would swim for Newham & UEL, but be placed as an individual swimmer. The events are all swum in age groups as well.

Open meets are usually good fun, and are a good way to get times and swim for Personal Bests (PB’s) They can seem more competitive than galas but it’s a good experience for the swimmers to have a go. The rules of swimming really count in these, and swimmers have to make sure that they finish each stroke correctly etc. or they will get disqualified (DQ’d).  It may seem strict, but if they listen in training and concentrate, they should all be fine!

Competition Information & Licensing Levels at Open Meets

Mission Statement:  “Every swimmer must have the opportunity to swim in appropriate competition to enable them to achieve their true potential”.

Levels of Open Meets

Open Meets are licensed according to the purpose of the Competition.

There are four tiers of structured competition.

Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4

In order to try and provide “quality competition” at all levels, British Swimming have introduced a system of “Meet Licensing”. Licenses will be granted at different “Levels”. This requires all Licensed Meets to have entry “Qualifying / Consideration” times. Levels 2 and 3 Licensed Meets should also have “Upper Limit Cut Off” times as well. By the correct application of these Qualifying and Cut Off times Licensed Meets at the different levels become only available for entry to swimmers of the appropriate ability. For more details of Meet Licensing refer to www.britishswimming.org.

Level 1

Level 1 Meets are swum in 50m pool (LC=Long Course), and are aimed at National qualifiers, or swimmers close to National qualification, looking for opportunities to achieve National qualifying times for National and Regional events.

These meets will have qualifying times for entry, minimum standard equivalent to the “A” graded qualifying times as published on the British Swimming website.

For Girls 11, 12, 13 yrs and Boys 11, 12, 13, 14 yrs – No 50m events are included.

National qualifying times are accepted from meets licensed at Level 1 & 2.

Regional qualifying times are accepted from meets licensed at Level 1, 2, 3 & 4.

Level 2

Level 2 is aimed at Regional qualifiers and will have qualifying times (“no slower than”) and upper (“no faster than”) limit times. Access to the ASA ranking information could be used to enable meet organisers to verify that entry times submitted fall within the stated range.

Swimmers who achieve a National qualifying time at a Level 2 meet may use that time for entry into National competitions.

These meets will have qualifying times and upper limit qualifying times – upper limit qualifying times should not be faster than ASA Age Group & Youth Qualifying Times for their respective age group.

For Girls 11, 12 and 13yrs & Boys 11, 12, 13, 14yrs – No 50m events are included.

National qualifying times are accepted from meets licensed at Level 1 & 2.

Regional qualifying times are accepted from meets licensed at Level 1, 2, 3 & 4.

Level 3

Level 3 is for club swimmers who are looking to achieve Regional and County qualifying times and again would have qualifying and upper limit times set at an appropriate level.

Regional and County qualifying times are accepted from meets licensed at Level 1, 2, 3 & 4.

Level 4

Level 4 meets are intended for club swimmers, those beginning competition and those swimmers wishing to achieve a Regional or County qualifying time.  Level 4 Meets frequently do not have minimum entry times, but do have ‘upper’ cut-off ‘(no faster than) times.

Meets include Development meets, Club Championships and sometime Swimming Leagues. No minimum age.

If electronic timing is used, the times can be submitted for ranking purposes.

Regional qualifying times are accepted from meets licensed at Level 1, 2, 3 & 4.

County Championships

Also known as The ECASA Age Groups held once a year over 4/5 weekends in February/March, and Essex Winter Long course Championships held once a year on the last week end of November, are open to all the clubs in East London and Essex. To be able to swim at these you must have “County Qualifying Times” in the events you enter. Swimmers who have qualifying times for several events can get BAGCAT points (which are points according to age and time swam in a certain combination of events) and are added together and at the end of the championships with a presentation to the top 8 swimmers in each age group.

Regional Championships

Age Groups Championships’ for under 14yr olds boys and girls, these are held once a year in June (long course 50m pool). For older swimmers 15yrs olds boys and girls the ‘Youth Championships’ are held in May (long course 50m pool), also on the  first week end of December (short course 25m pool or 50m pool depending the availability). Both are usually at Chrystal Palace, and are open to the whole of the London Region.

The qualifying time you need to get relates to your age in mid- June (Age-Group), mid-May (Youth);  the one in December qualifying time (London Winter Region) are related to seniors (17 yrs old and above) and Junior (16yrs old and under). All qualifying times are reviewed/changed each year by the ASA. They have to be achieved at a Licensed Meet (i.e. licensed by the ASA at Level 1, 2 or 3).  The entry time must have been achieved in the 12 months immediately preceding the closing date for the Championship.

Entry into these Championships will be one of the criteria for any swimmer to be selected for any Overseas competition and/or camp organised by London Swimming in the 12 months following these Championships.

National Age Group and Youth Championships

Held once a year in July, usually at Sheffield.  Qualifying times for these are extremely difficult to get (approx the top 10 swimmers in the Country in each age band and each event). Qualifying times have to be achieved at a Level 1 or 2 Licensed Meet only.

Minimum Age for Competition

Licensed meets shall be swum as “age on day” (i.e. age of the swimmer at midnight on the day of the event or the final day of a series of events forming part of one competition whichever is the later).

Level 1, 2 and 3 meets – minimum age for competition is 9 yrs, see above definition.

Level 4 meet – no minimum age for competition, see above definition. Events can be restricted to members of one club, e.g. Club Championships.

Qualifying Times and Upper Limit Times

These are times set by meet organizers for each event in the programme in order to control the number of entries in a meet.  A qualifying time is the time that a swimmer must have already achieved in order to enter the competition.

However, some meets will also have an upper limit time for each event, which means that swimmers who have previously achieved times faster than the upper limit time are not eligible for this event. The effect of having qualifying times and upper limit times for a meet is to target swimmers in a particular time range.

Qualifying times are set for National and Regional competitions and these also provide a standard which coaches can use to indicate the level of their swimmers. For example, within a club, swimmers may be selected for particular training groups if they have these times.

The requirement of having achieved a qualifying time in order to enter for an event relies significantly on the integrity of coaches, swimmers and parents to submit correct, truthful information. However, with more times being submitted into the National ranking system it is also possible for times to be checked.

Acceptance Criteria for Entries

Even with qualifying and upper limit times, some meets will be over-subscribed i.e. there will be too many swimmers for the pool time available.  If there are too many entries, or for other reasons decided by the specific gala organiser, entries that are not accepted are termed “rejections” and those swimmers will not compete in all or some of the events.  (Refunds will be processed by the gala organisers and individual clubs as soon as possible).

All meets are required to make a clear statement regarding acceptance criteria for entries.

This could include one or more of the following:

– Top (x) number taken in an event, based on the submitted entry times. This is a standard procedure for regulating the number of swimmers in an event, even if some of the other options below are adopted.

– Entries only open to swimmers from a restricted area (e.g. Region) then the remaining places filled from outside the area.

– First come – first served. This ensures that an individual swimmer is accepted in all the events for which they have the qualifying time, even though they may be slower in some events than those who are rejected.  This is a useful procedure with the younger swimmers who are being encouraged to compete over a range of events.

National Ranking Lists

All times from Regional and National competitions together with those from Licensed Open Meets are included in a national database from which ranking lists are produced.  These can be viewed on the British Swimming website. www.britishswimming.co.uk

Head Coach Guidance

The guidance on entry is intended to help direct swimmers to enter the events best suited to their competitive development.

It is acknowledged that where there may be siblings in different squads, it may be more practical to enter a meet to suit two or more swimmers.

There may also be instances where the entry times for the individual events at the advised appropriate Level Meet, are such that a swimmer may actually need to enter a different Level event supported by the Club, in order to comply.

If there are additional queries about which open meets are appropriate to enter, these should be directed to the coaching team.

On about four occasions during the year, the Club runs sprint nights at the East Ham Leisure Centre. Although swimmers compete in a “heat”, they are in effect competing against themselves, the main aim being for individuals to strive to improve on their previous times, with good style and keeping to the laws of swimming.

This is the first level of inter-Club competition and is aimed at the u-13 age group.

To encourage novice competitors, the league operates a time-faulting system.

For each event, a standard time is set, and if swimmers break that time, they score no points. Each club is involved in a series of galas with a grand final (Jubilee Gala) at the end of the season.

This is a higher level of competition, which provides opportunities for U-11, U-13, U-15 and Open groups. Clubs compete in three galas with the team’s place in each determining the level of competition in subsequent galas.

From time to time we enter trophy galas, which involve six clubs in competition for trophies.

The championships, which are held on two occasions each year, offer the chance for all swimmers to compete as individuals. The vast majority of entries are from the Club so the atmosphere will not be unfamiliar to our younger swimmers.

This is a new addition to our competition structure, this was held for the first time in 2002 to celebrate the Queens Jubilee. This requires all entrants to Swim all four strokes without disqualification, and the times added together to obtain the fastest overall in each age group.

These are for individual entries, with the organisers deciding, on the basis of entry times, which of the applicants will be admitted. Open galas are often big events, with hundreds of entries and competition spread out over two or three sessions in one day, or even over two days.

The Essex County ASA championships are restricted to swimmers who have attained the county qualifying times. The Club’s Development Plan assumes that our top swimmers will be aiming at this event in future.

Click here for the Essex County ASA Age Group Championship Qualifying Times for 2014.