Gala Advice

A Parents & Swimmers Guide To Swimming Events

This guide has been put together to ensure swimmers and parents are prepared for various swimming competitions they may be involved in throughout their swimming career.

The guide explains each type of swimming gala, how to prepare for it and what to expect.

At Leamington Swimming Club we do expect our children to attend all squad sessions which will then ensure the children are at their best for entering the competitions that have been chosen for them. We also expect the children to attend all swimming events they are eligible for.

Each year the coaches select which galas they wish each squad  to enter and these are published on our website.

What types of swimming events are there?

Open or Graded Meets – These are events hosted by other clubs and will be held over a day or even a weekend. Entry forms for these meets are available on the club website. The closing date for these meets will be several months before the actual gala. It is the parents responsibility to enter their child in these galas> under no circumstances are late entries accepted.

League Galas – These are team galas which are held throughout the year. They are the Mercian League, where only swimmers without Midland qualifying times can be selected, Junior League for 12 and under age group and National Arena League. They generally take place on a Saturday evening (lasting approximately 2 hours). It is the coaches policy to select the fastest swimmers from the rankings to swim the individual events in these galas. All relay teams are selected at the coaches discretion.

County, Regional and National events – These are for top swimmers starting with County and going up to National events.

Open or Graded Meets

There are many different Open or Graded meets of varying standard and they are a great opportunity for your child to compete in a wide range of strokes and distances.

These galas are hosted by other clubs and your child will be swimming in an event with children from other clubs from all over the county.

These are the best way of your child to improve on their personal best times and show that all the training is worthwhile.

Only times achieved at Open galas recommended or sanctioned by the coach will be added to the club rankings.

Swimmers race according to their entry time (previous personal best) in an event not by age.

Open meets are generally ‘age on day’ for a one day event or ‘age on last day of event’ for weekend events. Swimmers 9 and older can enter these events as long as they have achieved the qualifying times set by the host club. These types of events are listed below:

‘L2/3’ events – These are for developing swimmers and are excellent galas for those at the start of their swimming career.

‘Level 2/3’ events – These events can have upper and lower qualifying times. This event is the next step up from a L2/3. Swimmers must have an entry time between these limits.

If your child does not a time for an event please speak to your squad coach who will arrange to time them during a training session, but please do not leave this to the last minute, as these timings need to be scheduled. Under no circumstances should an entry time be invented. If you enter a gala with a time outside the qualifying limits, the entry will be rejected and no refund will be made.

Any queries please speak to your child’s coach for confirmation of which events to enter or let them know of any problems regarding attending this meet.

‘Level 1’ – These are the highest level of meets and only have lower qualification times. These are suitable only for the top swimmers.

If you have previously entered a gala that you no longer are able to attend please inform a member of the coaching team as soon as possible so that the event organisers can be informed in advance.

Open meets are generally held in sessions. These can generally be a morning and an afternoon session with warm up before each session. All swimmers must complete the warm up.

The night before the Swimming Event

Swimmers should pack their bag ensuring they have everything needed for the next day including costumes, Leamington hat and racing goggles. Swimmers should also have club kit being a club t/shirt to wear on poolside. It is a good idea to bring spare costumes and goggles.

Swimmers should know what events they are swimming the next day.

Food should be packed and ready in case of an early start. Food required for the day should be easily digestible and suitable for grazing throughout the day. Suggested food and drink should be:

  • Pasta/Rice
  • Bread, pitta bread, bagel or muffin
  • Rice cakes
  • Popcorn
  • Banana
  • Breakfast cereals or cereal bars
  • Sports drinks
  • Weak squash
  • Water

Parents should ensure they are aware of the time needed to get to the event and the correct location. Don’t forget to pack food and drink for yourself and possibly a cushion for sitting on. Parents should ensure that swimmers get an early night before the gala and that they arrive in plenty of time.

On the day of the Swimming Event

Please turn up at least 15 minutes before the warm up.

Swimmers should already be aware of their warm up.

Once they have warmed up swimmers should then dry off and keep warm in suitable clothing (some swimmers will change into their racing costume).

All swimmers should be aware of what events they are swimming in that session and then sit with the other club swimmers in the Club's designated area and wait for your coach to tell you when to go to the waiting area.

All swimmers should speak to their coach before their swim for final preparation and then go the appropriate waiting area before the event.

Whilst waiting swimmers should ensure that their costume is tight enough and they have their hat and goggles.

As their heat gets nearer swimmers should start to get focused on their swim and mentally think how they are going to swim it. By the time there are 2/3 heats to go swimmers should be ready with their hat and goggles on.

Once the swimmer has finished their swim they should then report back to their coach immediately for comment on the race.

When you have finished all your swims please ensure you let the coaches know you have gone as some Open Meets have finals.

Please clear up any rubbish and make sure you take your entire belongings home with you.

Medals are available for the first 3 places and some clubs issue ribbons up to 8th place. These can be collected once the final result has been published.

Some lower grade meets operate ‘speeding-ticket’ for swimmers who swim faster than the upper cut-off times. This means the swimmer is not eligible for a medal but it should be considered as a positive as their time has improved dramatically.

Parents who stay to watch may find a pen or pencil to mark your programme useful as well as praise and encouragement for all swimmers representing the club.

League Galas

Please check the web site regularly to see if your child has been selected for league (or team) galas. You will be asked to confirm whether they are availble by ticking their name. Please do so promptly. Then make a note in your diary where and when.

On the day of the gala (usually Saturday evening) early morning training will be as usual unless stated before by their coach.

Transport to the gala is either by coach or own transport depending on the distance. Swimmers should inform the coaches if they have difficulty in getting to the venue so an arrangement can be made to lift share and not just say they are not available to swim.

Swimmers should arrive at the gala fifteen minutes before the warm up and report to the coach in charge.

The coach will advise the swimmer of what race/s they will be swimming and a short warm up will take place.

Swimmers must report to their coach before and after each swim.

The team will be expected to wear full team kit.

The swimmers should cheer and encourage all swimmers and show good team spirit throughout.

For parents this is a good opportunity to meet up with parents from the club and if possible a group seating area is good to boost the swimmers with plenty of cheering and encouragement from all. What more do you want on a Saturday evening!!

Club Championships

Once a year Leamington holds their club championships.

All club swimmers are eligible to enter and this is the only opportunity for swimmers under the age of 9 to take part in competition.

Swimmers compete according to age at the end of the calendar year. However within these age groups, heats are based on entry times.

Medals are available for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The club gala is run entirely by volunteers from within the club. The club always needs more volunteers and these are requested before each club gala. Please help by getting involved !!


Results from all recommended galas are input onto the ranking system. These results are used by the coaches when picking the team for league galas. The fastest times are able to be seen by swimmers by looking on the website.


British Age Group Categories of Bagcat points are a system of points which are awarded for different swims. When a swimmer competes in a Bagcat event, their time is converted into points that take into account a swimmer’s age and sex.

A swimmer can take part in as many events in a season as they choose to, but only their highest points score in each swimming category will count towards their final Bagcat total.

For an event the overall position of a swimmer is the sum of the BEST point score in each of the 5 categories (50m events, 100m, FORM, Distance and IM being 100m for 9-11 year old and 200-400m for older swimmers).

It is therefore advisable to enter every category in the Age groups if you can achieve the qualifying times. (NB, Boys 12 and below and Girls 11 and below do not swim the 100m individual events).

Glossary of Swimming Terms

Consideration or Qualification time – the slowest entry time for a particular event that the organisers of a gala will consider.

DQ or disq – Abbreviation for disqualified on result sheets and time cards.

Entry Time – The time submitted by the club for a swimmer being entered in a gala. If entries are made well in advance, the entry time may not be the swimmers current PB.

Form Stroke – One of the 3 strokes having specific requirements (i.e. 200m backstroke, butterfly or breaststroke). Freestyle is not a Form stroke but is used for distance events, such as 200/400/800/1500m depending on the swimmers age and sex.

Heat Declared Winner (HDW) – When no final is swum and the winner is declared on the times swum in the heats.

Individual Medley (I.M.) –– The competitor swims all four strokes in the following order:- Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle.

Licensed Meets – These are the only meets via which you can qualify for national competitions.

Long Course – Events held in a 50m pool.

Lower Qualification Time (LQT) – The slowest entry time for a particular event that the organisers of a gala will consider.

Medley Relay – Four swimmers each swim a different stroke. The order is always Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly and Freestyle.

Personal Best (PB) – A swimmers personal best time for a given event.

Upper Qualification Time (UQT) – The fastest entry time for a particular event that the organisers of a gala will consider.

Short Course – Events held in a 25m pool.