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What to expect at a competitive gala

There are always lots of questions about galas.  Below sets out the most frequently asked questions split into a) Entering Galas and b) On the Day.  If you have any further questions talk to your squad rep or coach.

Entering Galas

Q:  It’s my first Gala what should I expect?

Both parents and children may be very nervous at the prospect of swimming for the first time at a gala, most likely because they do not know what to expect. With luck, this quick guide may help to answer some of the most common questions and settle some of the nerves.

Q:  How are teams selected for galas?

Coaches select the teams for inter-club galas, for examplethe  Kent Junior League or National Arena Swimming League.

Q. What does age on 31st December mean?

Most galas are run for swimmers of different age groups such as Under 12, Under 14, Under 16 and Open. If a gala is run on an ‘age on 31st December’ basis, it refers to how old the swimmer must be on the 31st December in the year of competition. It does not necessarily mean the age of the swimmer on the day of the competition. Thus under 12 on 31st December 2007, means no older than 11 on that date and so the swimmer must be born in or after 1996. Similarly, Under 11 on 31st December 2007 means no older than 10 and so the swimmer must be born in 1997 or later. Some events are ‘age on the day’ and this is self-explanatory.

Q. What does U12, U14, U16, Open mean?

Most galas are run for swimmers of different age groups such as Under 12, Under 14, Under 16 and Open though some galas refer to 11/U (11& Under), 13/U (13&Under) 15/U (15&Under) and Open. Both mean the same thing.

Q. What competitions can I enter?

Your coach or squad rep will be able to advise you as to what events would be most suitable for you.  It is very important to start small, probably with a BSC club competition or our 'Rising Stars' galas. Many cometitions will have 'QTs' (qualifying times) to ensure that swimmers entering the gala are of a similar standard.  

Q. What are Open meets?

Open Meets are swimming galas or competitions which can be entered by members of any swimming club (or even individual ASA registered members). Most Open Meets will have a time qualification regulating which swimmers can enter. The idea behind this is to give opportunities to all levels of swimmers to compete against swimmers of a similar ability at that time. In addition, Open Meets usually contain age bands within which the swimmers can compete for medals – usually the higher the level of gala the fewer age bands and number of medals on offer.

Beckenham Swimming Club usually holds three Open Meets each year, and we would love to welcome you and/or your swimmer(s) to any one or more of them. Click here for more information on Beckenham Swimming Club Open Meets.

Q. What times can I use for entry into Open Meets?

The only time acceptable for most Meets is an official time - this can either be a time recorded at a Licensed Meet which is recorded in the National Rankings or a time recorded by the official timekeeper at an Unlicensed Meet such as a team gala. Sometimes especially in Novice Events it may be acceptable to enter an estimated time particularly if a swimmer has no previous time for that event, but this is only rarely the case and should be done in full consultation with swimmer’s Squad Coach.

Times recorded by parents in the stands or even by the Coaches on poolside are not official times. Only the official timekeeper can see when exactly a touch has been made. Relay splits cannot be used as entry times except the lead off legs of a freestyle or medley relay.

Many meets will require a time from another Meet within a certain period or at a certain Level e.g. Regional Times can only be achieved at Level 1, 2 or 3 Meets so the Club Championships as Level 4 Meets would not be sufficient. Often the entry forms will require the date and name of the Meet to be entered on the entry form so that the organisers can check whether the times are acceptable for their Meet. Failure to meet the requirements will most likely result in rejection of the swimmer’s entry.

Q. What does ‘Licensed meet’ mean?

Licensed Meets are Open Meets which have been sanctioned by the ASA as being either a Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4 Meet. To be licensed the Meet organisers have to meet certain criteria imposed by the ASA. The Meet is Licensed by a Regional Licensing Authority so for instance the Club’s Rising Stars Meet was licensed by the London Region Licensing Authority.

The most obvious benefit of licensing is that all times recorded will be shown in the National Rankings. Consequently, if a swimmer needs to prove a time for entry into a certain Meet he can do so by reference to the National Rankings which is open to everyone to see. This is particularly important for qualification into Regional or National Events where qualification can only be achieved at certain Levels of Meet e.g. for Regional events only times at Levels 1,2 or 3 Meets are acceptable.

Level 1 and 2 Meets must have a minimum set of qualifying standards which is set down by the ASA. No upper limit time is required. Level 1 and 2 Meets are generally aimed the higher level of swimmer such as National and Regional qualifiers and the better County Level swimmers.

Level 3 Meets require Upper limit times and qualifying times whilst in Level 4 Meets Upper limit times are required (except for Club Championships.) and no lower qualifying time is required. Level 3 Meets can attract a wide spectrum of swimmers. The upper limits are usually set at or about the national qualifying Time for each age and event so that faster swimmers are generally excluded. The qualifying times can vary widely from times which are equivalent to County qualifying times to those which can enable inexperienced swimmers to compete.

Level 4 Meets are intended for either Novice events or Club Championships to enable those Meets or Championships to proceed as Licensed events with the minimum of red tape.

Level 1 Meets must be held in a 50m Pool and must include at least one distance event of 400m or over in each age group and sex. Entries are not acceptable on a first come- first served basis. Level 2 Meets must be held in a 25m Pool. Level 3 Meets can either be in a 25m or 50m Pool and Level 4 must be in a minimum of 25m Pool.

Q. What does ‘short course’ and ‘long course mean?

Short Course’ means events held in a 25m pool and ‘Long Course’ means a 50m pool.

Q. What is a 'squadron relay'?

Usually the last race of a gala. A freestyle relay consisting of one swimmer from each age group or one swimmer of each sex from each age group. There are usually eight swimmers in a squadron relay.

Q. What does ‘sign in’ mean?

The majority of galas require the swimmer to sign in once you have arrived at the pool. On arriving the swimmer should ask where the signing in desk is, check their name against the lists on the desk and sign, if your name is not on the list and should be see your coach immediately. If a swimmer does not sign in they will not be able to compete.

On the Day

Q. How do I find out what times I have achieved?

After each gala or club event, individual times and positions of each swimmer will be displayed on the Results section of this web site. Please do send swimming gala results and reports to the webmaster.

Individual times from licensed meets can also be found on the Swim England website:

Q. What is a PB?

PB stands for personal best. It is the best time an individual has achieved for a particular stroke at a given distance. The club does its best to record swimmers’ times and PBs though swimmers are encouraged to keep a log book if they can.

PBs in Licensed Meets are recorded on the National Rankings Database. Each swimmer’s ranking in their County (for Beckenham – Kent), Region (London) or Nationally can be found for each event.

Q. My name is on the result sheet but has a DQ by the side, what does this mean?

Unfortunately, many competitive swimmers are DQ’d sometimes, this means disqualified. At the end of a pool will be time keepers, recording a final time achieved by the swimmer, by the side of the pool walking up and down are Judges. If a Judge feels that the swimmer has not touched properly performed a stroke incorrectly or false start i.e. entered the water before the starter gun/whistle this will result in a DQ.

The club results reports note cases where a swimmer has been disqualified and, where possible, includes details of the reason for disqualification. The fact of disqualification is usually indicated on results pages by annotating the result with ‘DQ’ or with a more specific disqualification code.

If a swimmer is disqualified, then he will be given no time on the results. Any time recorded by the timekeeper will not be treated as an official time and cannot be used as a qualifying time for any event. This a bit akin to goal in Football being disallowed for offside in that although the ball crossed the line no goal is counted in the actual score.

Q. What does DNC or DNF mean?

A swimmer’s name at the bottom of a result sheet with DNC or DNF next to it, this will mean that the swimmer DNC (Did Not Compete) or DNF (Did Not Finish).

Q. What does Heat Declared Winner (HDW) mean?

If a gala states HDW, (Heat Declared Winner) this means there are no finals, Therefore if you have 30 swimmers competing in a 50-metre freestyle race the winner will be the swimmer with the fastest time regardless if the swimmer swam in the first or last heat.

At many meets including our Club Championships all the swimmers in a given event will swim in heats together regardless of age, starting usually with slowest in the first heat and the fastest in the last heat. This does not mean that the 9-year olds are actually competing against 16-year olds or older as once all the heats are swum the swimmer’s times are sorted into the individual age groups and medals awarded accordingly. Where an event is Heat Declared Winner there are no Finals.

Q. Why does the official time on the results sheet differ from that recorded by the timekeeper?

At a Meet where there is no electronic timing (AOE) such as the Club Championships the only official times are those decided on by the referee having first considered the time recorded by the timekeepers. The placing recorded by the finish judges and the referee and approved by the referee take precedence over the manual times of the timekeepers and as a result it may be necessary to adjust the times to fit in with the placings.

Often one will see two or more swimmers with official times which are identical, but this does not (unless the result sheet specifically states) mean that the swimmers finished tied with the same time. It merely means that the manual times recorded by the timekeeper showed the swimmer who finished ahead of the other as having a slower time - so in order to make sense of the placing the difference between the times is averaged so that the faster swimmer will be placed ahead of the slower swimmer albeit with same time.