Competition - What's it like?


What is it actually like to race in a gala?  The coaches and volunteers can give you all the advice there is about what to eat, what to take with you, when to show up and how to swim; but we thought, to answer this question, you'd prefer to hear it from fellow swimmers. 

We asked a number of current DCASC swimmers from different squads what they thought about competitions and racing, here are their thoughts in their own words.


Do you enjoy galas?


“Yes!  I did not think that I would though, but that was before I raced in one.  They are a bit boring to watch sometimes, but it is different when you are there to take part.”


Before your first gala what were you worried about?


“I was worried that I might fall in and that everyone would be watching.  I was worried I would make a fool of myself or get disqualified and make the Coaches cross.”


Now you have done some galas, what do you think about those things, did you need to be worried or not?


“No I did not need to be worried, because no one gets cross with you even if you make a mistake.  Every gala has been a good experience and boosted my confidence. 


 If you make a mistake, you just have to learn from it and do it better next time.  The Coaches give you really good feedback and help you find the good things in a race as well as the mistakes.  They only get cross when they need to, like when someone is being annoying and not listening.”


What do you enjoy about galas?


“No matter how many people are there, there is always someone from the Club to cheer you on, Coaches, parents, other swimmers.  I enjoy spending time with other people in the Club.  It gives us time to chat and get to know each other.”


Do you enjoy the racing?


“I get nervous before I get in, then once I am in I just get on and do my best.”  


Do you need to worry about where you have to be when?


“No, the Coaches or a Team Manager will tell you when you need to go and where you need to go.  They send you to Marshalling and the person doing Marshalling calls your name and lines everyone up.  You sit on seats and move along until it is your race.  The Marshalls are really nice and say “good luck” and things.”


What happens if you can’t remember what race you are racing?


“The Coaches usually check that you know what you are racing, there are lots of people you can ask if you are not sure and the Marshalls often tell you as well, just before the race.”


What happens if you forget your goggles or something?  


“There is usually someone who will lend you their spare pair if you are really stuck.”


How do you feel after a race?


“In my first gala I felt really proud of myself for having a go and getting over my fear of galas.  Now I just feel pleased if I have swum a good race, but sometimes things don’t go so well.”


What do you do if things don’t go so well?


“Well, I get a bit upset, but everyone is really supportive so you soon feel better, the Coaches are really helpful, and I just try to do it better next time.”


Lastly, can you tell me one happy memory from a gala?


“In the morning of one gala I had not done really well, but I managed to pull myself together and in the afternoon I got 2 medals and a Chocolate Santa, that felt really good!”



I like galas because they are a great way to get to know not only the other people in your own club better but in the other clubs too. Of course, the main objective is to do your best but that doesn’t mean that you can’t talk to people. Make new friends, improve your times and use your training for what it’s meant to be used for.


Galas are very exiting and the atmosphere is big, at the larger galas it is better. The first gala is always a bit scary but that’s just because you’re trying something new, it’s fun when you have done a race. If you are nervous just relax and think over the race that you are going to do and before long, you will have finished the race and be climbing out of the pool. Your coach and teammates will help you and encourage you if you need it so don’t worry and swim the best you can.


Racing. The one thing we build up to do in swimming. I have been doing galas for a while now and I can tell you one thing for sure, it's one big rollercoaster.

Although, you may of heard all sorts of things about galas I am writing to tell you about my experiences. 


The first time I set foot in a gala was at Durham when I was around 8 years old. Since I had no times I was in the first heat, I sat there on the benching waiting nervously about what might happen such as my googles coming off, doing the wrong stroke or getting disqualified. However, as the start signal went I was off. No googles fell off and I started on the right stroke. My heart was racing and all I could think about was reaching the finish. When I touched the wall and looked straight up to my family, saw their faces, proud of me, screaming and jumping with joy. Even though I didn't get a fast time the joy that my parents showed me made me think that racing isn't all about the times, it's about the experience. 

Not every race will be good but don't worry, every swimmer goes through this, you are not alone. It's all about enjoying racing, learning and improving. I am still racing and still smiling from the things I have achieved. 

Gala's are nothing to be afraid of but to look forward to. The things you can do and the things you can accomplish can start from just one race. The more races you do the more experience you have, becoming faster with every stroke. There is no telling what you can do if you believe in yourself. 


External galas, Sunderland, Tynemouth, Peterlee & Derwentside are not much different from Durham Galas. There maybe more swimmers from different clubs and a strange pool but there is always someone there for you. You don't need to feel lonely or excluded, there is always other swimmers from Durham and a Durham coach to guide you even if it's not your own coach. If you are worried about no one cheering for you while you are swimming, don't be worried because everyone is always up on their feet cheering for our fellow team mates. Everyone supports each other and no one is alone.